In a recent interview I was listening to between Mike Robertson and NFL Strength Coach Joe "House" Kenn, Joe was asked an interesting question.
He was asked what he would like to see more of AND what he wishes he focused on in his younger years.
His answer was......
MORE Bodyweight Training, More Playground Workouts and the ability to Move your Own Bodyweight.
I've personally deadlifted over 500 lbs, squatted 455 for reps, benched over 300 lbs and at 220 lbs can perform 25 pull ups at any time.
Impressive, right? WRONG......
Here's when I REALLY learned what counts.
There was a time when My back was hurting BIG time and I couldn't play with my kids without burning back pain.... and some stabbing knee pain thrown in for good measure.
I remember struggling to stand up after giving my daughter a bath when she was a baby. It was pathetic.
It was a time when I would wake up with pain and walk down the stairs in pain.... hand pain, foot pain, back pain and the pain of feeling like a useless clunk of NOTHING.
While everyone saw me as some "big, strong guy" that was what they saw. That was the surface. There was a different story happening behind my big muscles.
I remember having dinner with Dave Tate many years ago in Syracuse, NY and he was telling me the first thing he does when he wakes up is go to the jacuzzi. Without the jacuzzi, he told me he can't move his body. I was scared I was heading down the same path.
After getting fed up with the endless aches and pains I remember Dave seeking out the help of Alwyn Cosgrove, aka Uncle AC.
Uncle AC helped Dave rebuild himself not just for the sake of getting rid of aches and pains, but for the sake of Dave being able to become healthy again, able to play with his kids and operate his business without feeling like he played a Football game day in and day out.
I'm nowhere near as strong (or as cool) as Dave Tate but I feared I felt just as shitty as he was feeling back in the day and I was determined to do something about it.
When you're no longer living home with Mom and Dad and you actually have to work for a living, support a family and do your own cooking and laundry, feeling sore and unable to walk without pain day in and day out loses it's "cool factor".
No matter how much you squat, bench and deadlift, you're NOT impressing anyone when you're always in pain and walk around like a car just ran you over every morning.
This goes for the athletes I train as well.
I've learned time and time again that just because someone can dominate the gym workouts does NOT mean they can dominate in sports.
You MUST be able to move. Agile, Mobile and Hostile.
That achey, breaky body USED to be me. Key words, "Used to..."
Strong as all heck.... but as useless as a bike without wheels.
I wanted my health back.
I wanted to play with my kids.... pain free.
I wanted to wake up and go to sleep pain free.
The magazines from the early 1940s were spot on with their training methods.
Heck, even the title of the magazine, Strength AND Health made complete and perfect sense.
There is NO strength without your health. Without your health, you have NOTHING.
We've ALL been hurt before. Most of the time you're told to rest and come back when you feel better, "work around the injury" they tell you.
You come back eventually, weaker than before and your injury is still there, the only difference is your injury took a "rest", a mini vacation so to speak. As soon as you increase your training intensity again, your injury will end his mini vacation and come back to haunt you.
Each injury will lead to a downward spiral, causing poor movement patterns in your body, leading to more injuries. I've been there and done that.
You have two choices:
1) Keep living with the pain, ignoring the issues and continue to do damage to your body.
2) Address the injuries, rebuild your weak areas, fix your mobility issues / poor movement patterns and turn them into strong areas.
After feeling like complete shit, both physically and emotionally, I wanted to rebuild my body and be a better Dad and a better husband.
I also wanted to be a Strength Coach that could walk the talk, not sit behind a computer telling people what to do while I got fat, weak and made excuses for not training.
Men should "live the code 365".
In essence, as a man, you need to be strong AND healthy. You need to have a blend of strength, conditioning, flexibility and power, also known as athleticism.
You need to balance your body, get away from focusing on your strengths while ignoring injuries and weak areas. Go on and focus on attacking what will make you healthy AND strong in the long run.
Be brutally honest with yourself. Are you as healthy as you can be or are you avoiding doing the necessary work to help you move better and live a better life for yourself and those you love.
It's time to go back in time.... again.... what's old is new again. The men of the past were strong, agile, mobile, conditioned and athletic. They had physiques that men of today worship and they were healthy.
Strength AND Health, inside AND out. Live the Code 365.
This is How I Live the Code now, a Far Cry from What I used to do.... Click HERE for Details on My Preferred Training System, Bodyweight Bodybuilding.
even though I’m training regularly right now, and my body is totally pain free right now (thank god), I tried to train a few times in the past and I stopped all theses times because of musle injuries. the reasons: not warming-up thouroughly, improper technique, etc., and just when I thought it healed, those injuries acted up again as soon as I took up my trainning again, and they didn’t disappear until after adressing them with total focus and learning a little about some tips to help the healing process. just wanted to check something, man: when you used to have those pains, was it because of the same reasons as mine, or where other issues involved? I’m asking because there could be other factors unknown to me (and to others) that impact our health and we don’t even suspect. sorry if my email is too long
zach even - esh says
@zoubair: bro, sooo true, the warm up becomes THE workout, dan john said it years and years ago!
So true. It makes no sense to be big and strong for the sake of being big and strong. Exercising should be a means to allow you to enjoy your life more and be active (outside the gym). I’ve personally added Yoga and other mobility work into my routine and have been amazed at how much better I feel.
zach even - esh says
@Mike: Navy SEALs do Yoga and I’m gonna try and get more in as well, mobility ALL day!
Dustin W. says
Buddha says, “Living is suffering.” Being trapped in the physical being allows us to experience pleasure and pain.
With that said I have learned to live with the aches, and to be aware of the pain. Evaluating the pain and making changes to eliminate the pain. Understanding that the aches will be there, and they have not progressed to the point of pain.
Sometimes it is a matter of bucking up and moving on! Sure I have aches but I’m not going to let that keep me from playing with my children or living life.
At least by suffering I know I am alive!
I agree there are a lot of people who are strong but are worthless bags of crap because they’re not flexible and mobile. I used to see it all the time in construction, big brawny guys that were useless . I’d rather have one of your new wrestlers working for me than one of these big useless always in pain bags of crap. Little harsh but true.
zach even - esh says
@ben: Ben, ha ha, I remember the guys who were moving our furniture, they told me ALL the big guys quit in 1 or 2 days.
ALL show, NO go!
as we get older, diet and sleep became much bigger factors than they were in our 20’s. not only do we have to look at training style, we have to evaluate recovery and how we fuel and replenish our body.
Mike G says
Strength is truly mind, body and spirit. When these are all working together I can move mountains. Hopefully without shoulder pain. HAHAHA! Stay strong and be smart. Zach, keep up the great work!
You really nailed it Zach. Being able to just lift weight, but not healthy enough to enjoy it is as useless as tits on a turtle. Keep up the great work!
I feel your pain! I just turned 52. I switched to bodyweight/kettlebell training about six months ago; best training decision I’ve ever made. I can’t move as much weight, but I’m much more athletic.
Matt Schifferle says
I started my Strength journey believing that getting stronger meant beating myself up. Within 6 months I had blown my knees so bad I had trouble walking and a shoulder I could hardly move.
This progressed with bad back, hip, another shoulder, and pulled muscles left and right. And this was when I was supposedly young and indestructible!
Now I’m finally back to 100 percent. I refuse to compromise my healthy for “strength”
Unless you are a professional powerlifter or strongman there really isn’t any good reason to be excessively strong at the expense of being able to live a “normal” life (playing with the kids, properly functioning at work, (mostly) pain and injury free (there is always something that hurts or happens), etc.). I know people are more impressed with me by that way I interact with my kids and other kids I work with at church, not my maxes. If they were they would be asking “what can you bench” or “what are you pulling these days” lol. How many times do you really get asked those type of question? Rarely or almost never.
I often think/notice, when I go to the playground with my kids, why are other parents not playing with their kids??? They sit on the benches or just follow the kids around (huh?). Even the ones who look like they are in shape. The old school physical culture is just about lost in our country and the world as a whole is following suite. Sad.
Zach, I know you have lots of products out, but I would love to see one solely focused on mobility/flexibility/prehab/rehab. Can you suggest any that are already out there???
Most of my training revolves around functional strength. If what I am doing won’t enhance my funtional strength I usually give it a miss. Hence the reason I refuse to do exercises such as tricep kickback, leg extensions, pec deck, concentration curls..the list could go on but you get the picture.
Scott Bertrand says
Yo zach this hits home for me! I competed in powerlifting and had the sole goal of getting bigger and stronger…before I knew it I was a 242 pound fat ass who was only good for waddling up to a squat bar or pulling a heavy deadlift. I woke up about 2 years ago when I was doing some yard work with my dad who is 50 and works with his hands all day doing real work, he kicked my ass and made fun of me the whole time “come on I thought you were strong?” “didn’t you just squat 500 but your about to have a heart attack planting a fucking tree?” Thats when I realized that something had to give! I still lift heavy… I always will, but now I am way more rounded and at 220 im working and pushing towards the goal of being agile, mobile, hostile, and strong!
Thanks for all you do,
Important words. In my opinion, any form of resistance training should be about improving one’s life quality. Muscle and strength without that – what are they good for?
Robert MacIntyre says
I don’t comment on articles. But this is different.
I’m 34, and have lifted since I was 14 years young. I also served in a special branch of the Army for many years, and I also work as a contractor. Also I have faught many MMA bouts. In short I’ve beat the shit out of my body. Nowadays the only weight training exercises I do are Deadlifts variations, push pressses, bench presses, rows, pull ups. Bodyweight training, yoga, and BJJ training have helped me tremendously. My body feels good, athletic and very strong.
Zach Even - Esh says
Robert, You’re an ANIMAL. I am doing the lower body powerlifts now, soon I’ll be back to clean variations but upper body will be mostly bodyweight
The Bodyweight Basics make me feel athletic and Strong
Jake Toney says
Going on 52 Busting Bricks & Doing Back Flips (sorta rhymes, GRIN!) and feeling like a million bucks… Cause of the way I train, used to be heavy on the strength and getting size, but that’s a dead end road when it comes to performance, if you don’t have speed, agility, quickness, balance, coordination and timing. Everything is about balance.
Enjoyed the Article! Great Job Zach!
Zach Even - Esh says
Jake I have seen your videos, you’re an animal and inspiring me!!! Thank you!
Love it! I am only 22 but 4 years of highschool football left a lot of little shoulder issues that really got highlighted now that I got a desk job sitting in front of a computer all day. One thing that I find helps a lot that allows me to keep pushing heavier weights while actually making me feel better is barbell front squats, I find the heavy weight in the rack position forces my shoulders back to where they belong. I might just be crazy but I hope this can help somene out there who has nagging shoulders!
Zach Even - Esh says
Yes, good call. A PROPER front rack SQUAT gives the shoulders a solid position.
1 of my earliest athletes who trained w/ me back from my house is now also at a desk job in his mid 20s
He does a longer warm up and shows up early to do hip mobility, kettlebell windmills and foam rolling.
He gets better every week.