The Thinking Strongman

What about Bob?

For my debut competition, I selected the NAS Sanctioned Allegheny Valley’s Strongest Man. I began seriously training for this competition in March of 2008; in July, I won the Master’s Class.

I typically train by myself, in my own home gym. The garage is filled with weights and equipment; tires, kegs, Fingals Finger, Conan’s Wheel litter the driveway.  I’m pretty content with the solo training thing; like anything, there’s pluses and minuses, but I think my success shows that you don’t need to train with a group.  That doesn’t mean solo training is for everybody; there’s definitely a group dynamic I miss.  If I was healthier, and able to train with more “intensity” on a regular basis, I think that being part of a crew would be a help.

Looking back

In a broader context:  I’ve always found release and growth in lifting.  I lifted as much as I could in high school, given that the school I attended had only a multi-station Universal machine.  When I was threatened with being banned from the gym, because I steroids for sale was lifting during a girl’s basketball practice, I took matters into my own hands.  There was a room off the main gym which was filled with basically junk; it was stuff that nobody had used in 5 years or more.


I cleared out that room, and took the Universal machine apart, carried it piece by piece into the small room, and re-assembled it.  Then, I was able to lift without catching sight of a girl, and making the girls feel uncomfortable.  Sure, that’s fair – but whatever.  It’s the way the world works.


Suddenly, that little room became pretty popular.  Since now the guys were able to lift all the time, there was an actual possibility of a strength program that would help team sports.


As time carried on, I trained as I could.  In the late 80s and early 90s I trained hard and often, and in 1994 I put together my first home gym, because we lived in a rural area and finding a gym was hard.  I actually like the gym scene quite a bit, and missed it:  I had made many friends there, and enjoyed being in the company of other lifters.


As I devoted more time to career, I lifted less.  Finally, by 2004, I was commuting via 737 on a weekly basis; a regular work week was 80 hours.



In fall 2005, I realized that I had to make some changes. My waist was 52-54″; I weighed in the 340lb range; it was becoming increasingly difficult to hike or to do virtually any physical activity. I began simply, eliminating the worst food from my diet, and made a commitment that I would start to lift weights and do some cardio again. So, in November 2005, I started.


In May of 2006, I was diagnosed with a spinal disease (DISH), as well as severely degenerated discs, and spinal and hip arthritis and arthrosis. After researching my disease and my options, I decided that the best strategy was to aggressively work on strengthening my back muscles, developing as much flexibility as possible, and losing bodyfat.


One thing became clear:  nobody really knows much about this disease.  Essentially, all my connective tissue is turning to bone.  It can’t be stopped; it can’t be reversed.  The most I can hope for is that some of the things I do will slow the progress of the disease.


But here’s the rub:  the disease is primarily of the disease of the elderly, diagnosed what is tren
secondarily when other symptoms can’t be ignored.  A typical scenario:  suddenly, grandpa can’t swallow his food.  A lot of tests are run, and finally x-rays are taken, and it’s discovered that DISH has created so much excess bone that it interferes with swallowing.


So nobody knows how fast the disease will progress.  There are no markers.  Everything is a guess.


As I write this, in 2014, all we can do is predict that within 7 years, those secondary symptoms will define my life.


The standard AMA course of treatment for the disease is to engage in minimal activity and to take anti-inflammatories.  Which sort of makes sense if you’re talking about a 70 or 80 year old person.


But it doesn’t make as much sense for a 50 year old.


So, for better buy anavar online or worse, I took the approach of saying “Fuck it, I’m maxing out.”  I want to enjoy my life while I can, not do nothing while waiting for the chance to do nothing.


Having this disease has shaped my training:  it’s a constant struggle to understand what is changing in my body.  I have no mobility in the thoracic region, because my spinal ligaments in the thoracic region are now bone.  That has consequences in every motion:  from simple walking to overhead pressing, my body moves differently, defying conventional wisdom.


This compensatory motion has consequences:  as my lumbar region moves in order to compensate for a frozen thoracic region, nerves are impinged.  As nerves are impinged, muscles in my lower body stop working.


As muscles stop working, other muscles take over, resulting in more compensatory motion.  The cycle continues.


This has given me a unique perspective:  since a large part of my training is focused on understanding how to train, it’s as though I am in perpetual rehab mode.


The result is that I’m getting a lot better at understanding what rehab mode is all about; how to best use it; how to structure rehab blocks for best results; and how to read body language and cues to determine what the body is actually doing – I never approach a body with a pre-conceived ideal kinematic model.  This enables me to see an athlete’s movement patterns in a new light.


Find opportunity.  Don’t acknowledge defeat.  Keep pushing.

The Rehabilitation Process:

I know.  That’s a controversial statement.

Let me begin in the trenches.  A top-ranked USAPL/IPF heavyweight skyrockets to the top of the charts.  He’s known for his deadlift.  Suddenly, he stops setting those PRs.  Without a doubt, he’s still one of the strongest men in powerlifting.  But meet after meet, training cycle after training cycle, his deadlift is at best stalled.  He has some minor tweaks.

He consults with me.  I go over his training, and recommend that he take time off from lifting – that he needs to do a rehabilitation cycle.  We talk it through, and he finally agrees.  He hates its.  He notes, repeatedly, in his training log, that he’s frustrated, that he wants to dianabol pills for sale lift heavy.  To his credit, he sticks to the plan.


He comes back to full-bore training, and shatters personal records.  He sets new world records.

A lifter who is a much sought after coach has a lifelong dream of getting stronger.  Everytime he tries, although he has an excellent coach, he experiences an injury in his lower back.  He works with his coach for months, and finally decides that he’s going to give up on his dream.  He’s consulted with doctors, physical therapists, ART specialists – nobody has helped.  His coach has him consult with me as a last resort.

I watch his deadlifting and squat videos – the good ones, the bad ones.  I ask for more videos, from different angles.  I think I see what the problem is.  We talk on the phone.  A pattern begins to emerge.  I have him spend a couple weeks doing just a few exercises, very low key.  More data is collected.

Finally, we start to form a picture of the issue, and talk it through.  He goes to a physical therapist with my thoughts, and sure enough, deep in his upper back musculature, there is a large adhesion.  This adhesion is causing him to have a limited range of motion; the limited ROM is causing too much stress to be placed on the low back.

The medical professionals start to work on the adhesion, and I prescribe a 6 week course of rehab exercises, working with his full time coach, to make sure that we’re on the same page and progressing to the athlete’s goal.

After 4 weeks, the athlete is able to start moving heavier weight, and feels like for the first time in years, he’s back on track.

This starts to hint at how I approach a problem:  first, we – the athlete, his coach, and myself – go through a data collection process.  I analyze how the athlete  is moving.  I identify weaknesses, limits, and start to appreciate the problem.  I encourage the athlete to get a medical diagnosis; I’m not a doctor, a PT, and what I do can’t be substituted for sound medical advice  This process can take a while, but it’s nothing compared to what the athlete will go through later.

I then put together an appropriate exercise program to help address these limitations.  Again, this is discussed and integrated into the athlete’s current training and schedule.  Unless there is a complete inability to train, I don’t want to completely disrupt progress.

The athlete has the hard part:  (s)he has to work the plan, and report back.

Working the plan is no fun.  It often means backing off the weight, so as to not aggravate the existing condition.  I tell athletes – and I believe this – that this is the hardest thing they will ever have to do.  It’s up to them – they can blow it off, half-ass it, and end up right back where they started, or worse.

It takes a certain kind of strength to accept this challenge, to see the opportunity for improvement, and to really apply yourself to getting fixed.

A beginning powerlifter suffers a spinal ligament injury – medically diagnosed.  He’s having a great of trouble figuring out what to do, how to move forward.  This is, after all, a potentially devastating injury.  If that ligament doesn’t heal properly, recent research shows that he’ll be prone to arthritic conditions in the spine later in life.   As the kids say “This shit is real.”

We review his form.  I watch video after video.  I identify several issues with his form.  We work on correcting those issues.  Curiously enough, a couple of the movements he thought were problematic actually look fine, and are fine.  We talk through getting on, and sticking with, a program that emphasizes form and technique over weight.  This fits in with his medical recommendations; everything we discuss is cleared through his PT and doc.

Most importantly:  he has a process, and a way to measure progress.  This is key.

As athletes, we’re all goal-driven.  How many times do you think “If I’m not hitting my goals, I’m moving backwards”?

To tell a motivated athlete that they have to do rehab, and to not give them a process whereby they can set and achieve goals, is just committing that athlete to failure.  The athlete will fail to comply.  The injury will not properly heal.  Suddenly, that one injury has turned into a string of injuries lasting a year or more – all because of compensatory movement patterns being setup and practiced.

Proper rehab is the single most challenging phase an athlete will have to go through.  It’s also the single most important phase to get right, as doing otherwise destroys the athlete’s foundation, and sets them up for future failure.

One of the tools I employ through the rehab process testosterone for sale is autoregulation.  Normally, as lifters, we think of autoregulation as being a way to manage intensity through the perceived difficulty of moving a given weight.  We manage volume (stress) using autoregulation by tracking total fatigue.

However, we can also use autoregulation as a means to evaluate our pain, our technique, our form, or any number of other variables that we encounter in the training process.  By employing autoregulation in a rehab setting, we make sure that the athlete stays within bounds for proper healing and recovery, but yet we have a measure that provides the athlete with a goal.

Having found a way to make the process goal oriented is a significant part of the battle.  However, it’s key to recognize that this is a difficult time psychologically as well.  I encourage the athletes with whom I work to view this period as an opportunity.  How many times in their career will they presented with the opportunity to practice technique and form, and to learn more about their bodies?  The lessons which can be learned during rehab are priceless.  Learn them well, take them to heart, and you will make more progress as a lifter later in your career.


For more information on how I structure the rehab process, drop me an email, and request the “Oz presentation.”


Get your order shipped anywhere in the United States in 5–15 business days.


Protect yourself in case your orders are not delivered or you receive counterfeit goods.


Our loyal customers can take advantage of additional specials, including special offer discounts of up to 50%.


We provide free erectile dysfunction pills with every order, no matter the order size.