The critics and peanut gallery can be harsh. Do something for fun and pure enjoyment - it's useless and you don't even lift. Try a new exercise variation that isn't guru approved - it's useless and you don't even lift.
Why We Don't Even Lift
Reason #1 - Your Explosive Back Movements Are UselessExplode a 500 pound squat out of the hole for multiple reps, you are a champ. Drive a 260 pound bench press off your chest for 20 reps, and the masses cheer. Knock out a dumbbell row set using 150 pounds for 30 reps, using driving power and lightning fast speed, and you are a freaking idiot.
A. Freaking. Idiot. An idiot who is clueless, and shouldn't be lifting or coaching. Apparently.
To the bros, there are only certain pet lifts that you are allowed to explode. Squats from the hole. Bench presses off the chest. Deadlifts off the floor. If you explode dumbbell rows or other major back exercises, the belief is that they become useless.
The idea is that while training back, strict mind muscle movements are the only thing that builds muscle. Nonsense. Exploding a row off the ground using proper form - meaning driving the shoulder and elbow back at the same time rather than pulling or tugging on the dumbbell - will yield a quality contraction and plenty of back gains.
If we apply this same (poor and misguided) logic to the bench press, then gym rats shouldn't be driving the barbell with force off of their chests. They should drop the weight substantially, and baby it up using the mind muscle connection.
Forget that. Give me heavy weight on back day. I'll take my risks. Even if it means I don't even lift.
Reason #2 - Your Block Pulls Don't Count and Are UselessThe other day I hit a 660 pound deadlift block pull for three reps from 4 inches. This was a personal best. But... Whoop! Whoop! Whoop! The Internet police came hard after me, proclaiming:
"I've never seen you perform a deadlift rep off the floor. This lift doesn't matter and you're a weak pu$$y!"Perhaps, but there is a reason I don't pull very much from the floor. First, it places less wear and strain on my lower back, allowing for better recovery from week to week. Second, block pulls allow me to pull heavier with a greater frequency.
I like to train the deadlift heavy, but have found that when using weights above 90% of my one rep max it actually hinders my progress and fatigues my lower back. What I have noticed is that when I raise the bar just a little bit off the ground I am able to use heavier weights with a greater degree of frequency, and make better overall progress.
When I was a 346 pound powerlifter I was able to hit a 735x4 low rack pull (on YouTube). I built this strength using strictly elevated pulls. My deadlift max was pretty close to 775 or 800 at that time.
As I lost 100 pounds, I used block pulls and rack pulls to develop strength. My best contest max after weight loss was 660 pounds (on YouTube). For a 48 year old lifter who lost a ton of weight, I was very happy with this pull.
Now, am I saying block pulls are the only way to train? Nope. Not at all. What I am saying is that block pulls work great for me, even though they prove that I don't even lift.
Reason #3 - Your Slingshot Bench Press Work is UselessTime to be honest. I've been benching for 31 years, but for 24 of those years my form was awful. I had no idea what a proper bench press setup looked like, and I beat the living snot out of my shoulders.
True story, bro.
So in 2007 I started using Mark Bell's bench press Slingshot. This assistance device has allowed me to now only train without shoulder issues, but it also provides consistent overload allowing me to work my lockout.
But alas, the e-experts hate that I never train without it.
I've been told that it will impact my bench press, or that I use it only to "show off" and impresses the masses with using a weight I couldn't lift without one. Well, duh... Of course I couldn't lift the same weight without a Slingshot. That's the point of using one.
Overload, bro. Overload.
A few things. First, using the Slingshot exclusively hasn't sent my bench press max into a ditch. Quite the opposite. I hit 388 last year, which was an all-time max, better than what I hit 100 pounds heavier. Second, my shoulders are healthier than ever. This allows me to train the bench press with a great degree of intensity and frequency.
Lastly, I train smart. Knowing that the Slingshot doesn't work the bench press as much off the chest, I perform chest assistance exercises that bolster this part of the movement.
Life and lifting are rather simple. Unless you use the Slingshot and don't even lift. Like me.
Reason #4 - Your Straps Are Cheating, and Therefore Are UselessStraps - or Versa Gripps - are cheating, and are therefore useless. Remember kids, back training day is ALL about improving your grip strength even if your back strength and development suffers.
I'm being facetious.
At some point during years of training your ability to row or pull a weight should far outshine your grip's ability to hold it. If not, you probably aren't challenging your back enough.
At my peak I was able to perform one arm dumbbell rows with 270 pounds for 10 reps. I was also able to perform Pendlay rows using 405 pounds for 5 reps. There is no way in heck I could have knocked out these feats without straps. And I'm OK with that. My goal is to build back strength, not grip strength.
If your grip strength is an issue, train it after back. Never let a small or weak body part hinder the development of a larger muscle group. This is backwards thinking.
Unless you don't even want to lift. Like me.
Reason #5 - Your Power Shrugs Are a Joke and UselessI'll be the first to admit it. Uber heavy power shrugs can look more like full body twitches than a traps development tool. But sometimes how an exercise looks and how it feels are two different things.
I love to perform power shrug hell. This is basically a method where I start with an empty bar and perform 5 to 8 reps. I add a plate to both sides and knock out another 5-8 reps. I continue this pattern of adding plates and hammering out reps until the weight gets so Herculean heavy that I can barely even perform a quality shrug.
While this last set of power shrugs gets sloppy, it's not without benefit. My traps are already toast, so at this point it's simply a test of will. Also, and let's not forget this point, the simple act of just holding 750 pounds at arms length works the traps even if you don't try to shrug the weight.
One of the functions of the traps is to keep your arms attached to your body. They perform this function well, and are one of the strongest muscle groups in the human body. It takes a lot of weight, stress and strain to challenge the traps. And I like to have fun doing so.
Fun? Did I say fun? Are you even allowed to have fun in the gym? Well apparently only if it doesn't involve 750 pound power shrugs. The last time I posted a video of me performing a set with this weight I was told to give up coaching.
I would, but I don't even lift.
Reason #6 - Your "Cheating" Triceps Work is UselessElbows. Elbows. Elbows. They MUST be locked at your side or you're in deep trouble and will lose all gains.
Unfortunately, I don't perform my triceps work like this. Here's why...
First, strict triceps movements tend to create elbow inflammation. For me, maybe not for you. Second, one of the functions of the long head of the triceps is arm rotation, not just extension. So a little elbow travel allows me to feel the long head better, and to use more weight. It feels more powerful.
Don't believe me? Try dumbbell or machine pullovers. A back (or rib cage expansion) exercise, right? Notice how your triceps feel worked after these movements. It's because the long head is worked hard during rotation of the arm down towards the torso.
But, alas, just like back work only strict mind muscle connections count. Everything else results in a loss of gains - and you don't even lift.
The Bottom LineI wrote this article to remind of you of something important, and that is the value of both personal experience and fun. Trying new and unconventional things in the gym carries with it an inherent value. You learn a lot, and find many things that do - and do not - work for your goals and your body.
Also, let's not forget the value of fun. Not everything we do in the gym has to be efficient or perfectly effective. Sometimes life is just about enjoyment. I often challenge myself in crazy ways, or try unusual exercise variations, just because I want to.
You have the right to have fun. You have the right to experiment. Never let anyone steal these rights from you. At the end of the day it doesn't matter what others think, even if it means that if their eyes...
You don't even lift!