On Lifting, Part 1

Big and Strong?

The fitness industry is full of lies, bizarre ineffective advice and poz. Just, garbage. You cannot get away from the empty promises made by those hawking various powders, social media posts, etc. Quite a few of the “strongest” among us are accused of fakery on the regular. Still, lifting, especially the powerlifting variety, is a fruitful meme in the Right-O-Sphere, firmly planted in our minds to the point of obsession. Seriously, this has got to be the most popular hobby in the Dissident Right. I come in contact with it constantly.

Why?

I have been working out two hours a day for the past three years, so I am not asking the question out of contempt for fitness. Why strength though? Why, specifically, barbell strength – the squat, deadlift, and bench press? I doubt the answer truly boils down to “well I like Nietzsche so I lift.” Most people can figure out that strong doesn’t mean big, and big doesn’t mean strong; neither will, by themselves, make you an Alpha or an ubermensch. Back to the question, why strength as opposed to endurance, mobility, muscular development, healthy hearts and lungs, etc.?

Maybe the idea is maximization of potential. Some might say that powerlifting is the best bang for your buck, so to speak. Lifting heavy accelerates your heartbeat, builds muscle, develops neurological conditioning, and the quantifiable results (PR numbers, rep counts, etc.) help measure your progress. It also stays simple – only three to five lifts are needed, so you will never be overwhelmed by complex routines. I’ve heard it said that you can do away with cardio entirely this way, and you will not even have to stretch – “just warm up with light sets, man, light sets achieve the mobility you need.”

Here’s the first problem with that. Powerlifting meets consist of those who survive the injuries. Seasoned powerlifters, just like any other professional, will have to contend with the consequences of their hyper-focused style as much as the Crossfitter will have to contend with the consequences of his totally unfocused style. When you become an acolyte of the powerlifting craze, you end up being just as annoying as the Crossfit guy– and just as injured. Billy got rhabdo from too many kipping pullups and Jeff ripped his bicep from deadlifting at mix-grip one too many times – what’s the difference? Both end up being injury cults for the over-enthused, and powerful lifestyles for the wise – and all adherents claim that theirs is the best, screw all the rest.1

Meme Fitness

This insistence that you go to one particular style, or only-way-to-work-out-ism is a function of our neoliberal order. Do away with it. Savvy advertisers taught you that the only way to keep up with the Joneses was to buy a Kirby vacuum. Mehdi taught you that the only way to compete with other Chads is to stick to his 5×5 plan. Camel tells you that brand loyalty is the only way to go for obtaining cancer-elite status. This isn’t fitness we’re talking about here – it’s capitalism, and it sells you a dream. Life will be perfect if you only buy into the right crap.

See those fitness models? Those Mr. Olympia winners hawking protein shakes and pre-workouts? They’re selling the same dream. Even if one of these guys is 100% steroid free, he still spends six to eight hours a day in the gym to achieve the dream body you wish you had. Like Ronnie Coleman, he’s still going to end up with a messed-up spine and will probably die young. You, with your 10-hour workday and family, will not be able to achieve his results without amazing genetics or serious – and let’s face it, untenable – lifestyle changes. Can you get big? Sure. Can you get fast and/or strong? Shredded? Sure. But you, friend, will not be Kali Muscle without living like Kali Muscle. Also, please don’t live or be or think like this guy – not worth it, friend.

But SuperLutheran,” I hear you say, “I want to get stronger and Powerlifting is the best way to do that. I want to be better at exerting my will on the world.” That’s fine. Go ahead, I commend you. But if you become a powerlifter through personal goals, your own vision for how you want to be, then you will achieve far greater results than if you did it because advertising (or memes, for that matter) tells you to. If the whole powerlifting thing doesn’t work out and you start wondering about a change in your methods, here are some ideas from my own experience.

Common Sense Fitness Advice

1. There are a million ways to get fit. Like I said, fitness gurus (or brahmin in our circles) will sell you one specific way to achieve their goals, while lying about their methods. In all honesty, you can obtain a good physique, decent strength, and excellent flexibility mastering Swedish Gymnastics – also known as “yoga” to the latte crowd. Seriously, Willem Dafoe had the same scrappy, explosive power for 20 years from yoga and powerwalking alone. You can be fit just sticking to jogging, pushups, and situps, military-style, or go for something more complex for different results. If you set a physical goal, there will be many ways to achieve it; the trick is to do what is feasible for you and to do so safely. Having humble goals is also totally fine. Shedding a few pounds, getting a bit more flexible, being strong enough (a $10,000 word right there) are completely valid reasons to work out the way you choose.

Here’s an example. I wanted to do one-armed pushups. To get there, I did Pavel Tsatsouline’s Naked Warrior method, greasing the groove with easy versions to slowly, every other day, lower into real chest-to-ground reps. It worked, but it took 8 months to get there and my shoulder started bothering me. Later on, after a long break and switching to high-volume pushups with different variations, I found myself able to do one-armers with much less difficulty. Some guys haven’t had the same problem; they’re also weigh a lot less than I did at the time. Regardless, there was more than one way to go about it.

2. All exercise is “functional.” Your body can assign function to it. God is omnipotent; man, being made in His image, is thus potent. While we cannot create ex nihilo, nor perform miracles on our own, we can modify our own abilities and bodies to have a greater effect on the world. Even if you’re a fedora or materialist or whatever, who can really tell you what your body is “supposed” to do? Who made Functional Patterns the authority over what you can or can’t do?

If you are a bodybuilder and like to do leg extensions, ignore any guru that says your time is better spent doing pistol squats on a bosu ball. The question is, what function do you believe your exercises will serve? With some experience you can ditch exercises that don’t work and add in ones that do.

3. Find your Passion. This sounds like some Jason Alexander self-help cliché, but it is true. Consistency in working out produces the greatest results. If you would exercise every day to reach your goal of doing the perfect one-armed 360° handspring, go for it and have fun with your gymnastics. If you want to build a home gym and crush out heavy deadlifts and squats, by all means. Once you have found something that gets you up in the morning, something that excites you, you will be able to motivate yourself past the soreness, occasional boredom, and unwillingess to learn that plagues so many. At this point, teachers and coaches become an asset to meeting your goal by giving you ideas, rather than snake-oil liabilities demanding your loyalty.

4. Take the Long View. One day you will be… wait for it…old. Or you already are. Just throwing it out there, that making your safety and health a priority is a good idea. Safety wraps for barbell exercises, joint/tendon work, and stretching, always stretching, are good starters for a safer workout program. Real world example: let’s say as a total beginner you just achieved a 135lb bench press. Is it safe to rack up three more plates on each side? You’ll snap your arms off before you could get one rep in. Even if you could handle the weight and squeeze out a rep, your body is not going to adjust well, and injuries will occur over time. Yes, you should challenge yourself, but slow and steady wins the race in self-improvement over the long haul.

5. Share it. Building relationships with friends over exercise will give you two major perks. First, you can bounce ideas off of them, get constructive criticism, and become better while helping them as well. Second, the team-building aspect and bond of friendship will be an excellent starting point for a mannerbund. I will discuss this more in the second part.

What I do…

Someone might want to know what I do on a day-to-day basis, maybe as a way to get ideas or to give some (hopefully) constructive criticism. I practice calisthenics and kettlebell exercises, six days a week with nightly yoga sessions.

-The calisthenics, done Monday-Wednesday-Friday, involve 90 minutes of practicing the following progressions: pike pushups, sliding chest flies, planks, Dragon Flag training, body curls, inverted rows, air squats, and hip raises. Each exercise is done for ten minutes, one set per minute, with jogging or sprinting as rest. Every week I add two reps per minute to the total, and once I hit 10/min I switch to a harder variation of the exercise. From 7am to 3pm I do pushups and V-ups every two hours.

-The kettlebells, done Tuesday-Thursday-Saturday: After warming up, I have the same time/rep scheme for one-armed swings and snatches. I follow it up with 5-10 Turkish Getups per side and then throw in burpees for time at the end. I use 35lb, 53lb, and 70lb kettlebells to get the job done. I tend to take it easier on these days, as our mannerbund tends to come over and do boxing and mace training soon after. For greasing the groove every two hours, I do gymnastic bridges and situp-standups.

-The yoga: after foam-rolling, I practice the arm-behind clasp, the noose, child’s+cobra+pigeon poses, and the warrior to triangle progression, followed by isolation stretches. It takes about 40 minutes a night. Every other day, I also use a 5-lb body bar to work on my joints.

The idea is to get the best all-around fitness possible. I won’t be as strong as the powerlifter, I won’t be as conditioned as the Crossfit guy, and I won’t be as big as the bodybuilder, but I’ll have some of all of their perks. This plan incorporates strength, explosive power, cardio, flexibility, and endurance in more or less equal proportion. This beat out a long period of dynamic tension (think Charles Atlas, Solitary Fitness, that kind of thing) due to having more measurable results: knowing how many reps you can do or how much weight you can sling is better than measuring minutes held in isometric positions.

The next article I write will be on the corporate use of fitness in one’s mannerbund, and how to use it to test and build the group.

1Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking powerlifting as a strategy for gaining some strength. I’m knocking the religion of powerlifting, the idea that it is the end-all-be-all of fitness. That is what gives people their injuries and failures.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. khanmilivoj says:

    Have you read Starting Strength or anything else of Mark Rippetoe? He makes the claim that lifting heavy and with correct form is the best way to avoid injury and chronic pain. Joints suffer less when the muscle around them is stronger and the best way to increase muscle strength is lifting big – natural movement without machines. He explains it greatly in the book using science(tm) and he is a serious coach with decades of experience.

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  2. esoterictrad says:

    The biggest meme from the online lonely hearts club of guys who lift is that you need to be doing the powerlifting movements to get strong.

    Unless you plan to compete in PL competitions you shouldn’t really care about religiously following those exercises. Flat benching has never worked for me so I don’t do it, incline benching and accessory work is fine. I can pull more weight with a trap deadlift bar and as I’m not trying to compete against fat losers looking for participation medals on a stage it doesn’t matter it’s not a technical competition movement.

    If you like those movements by all means do them, I love barbell squatting. I truly believe the measure of a gym going mans strength and character can be determined from the squat. It shows you who you are and how seriously you take you training. But for someone who struggles or has bad movement patterns there are alternatives.

    As the guy setting fitness standards for group interested to hear your thoughts on that in the follow up.

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  3. GeorgeGlasswell says:

    Keto is another one of these things. It has some major drawbacks and our guys won’t shut up about it. A balanced diet and caloric restriction requires too much discipline and effort for some.

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  4. Seax says:

    Apocryphal, but I tend to focus my regimen around areas I wish to develop.

    I favour deadlift, overhead press with barbell and dumbbells, pullovers with kettlebell, dumbbell bench press, and increasingly as I pass age thirty, yoga to retain and build flexibility.

    When I tax my CNS I do the Tsatsouline bit or I go back to hypertrophy for awhile.

    It’s worked for me so far.

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