It was the Fall of 2007......
Interesting story from today while training a crew of wrestlers and football players....
Two high school kids stopped by the gym while we were outside flipping tires, pulling and pushing sleds, carrying kegs, sandbags and Kettlebells. One of them looked to be 220 lbs of drugged up muscle. How do I know? Because this same kid attended a speed & strength camp that I ran 3 years prior when he was a freshman weighing 130 lbs. Three Years later, he's 220 and puffy.
The designer steroids of today give that puffy look and get you jacked without heavy lifting. Unlike the simplicity of the 60s and early 70s when bodybuilders DID lift heavy and took dbol (dianabol). Back then, even with drugs, you had to EARN it.
This article was originally written in 2008 or 2009. It's interesting that it still gets hate because I mention drug use. Today (2023) drug use is commonplace and I can say things have changed because I grew up in gyms going back to 1989. I have seen the changes.
Back to my story.......
This athlete was arrogant and delusional at the same time so it struck a chord with me. He was telling me how he was going to enter MMA and it kind of broke my heart. He was 5'5" and looked like he wouldn't be able to move like an athlete one bit. There's a difference in being "gym strong" vs performance ready.
I had seen this kid maybe 3 years ago and he was 130 lbs. It truly broke my heart to see he took the path of chemical enhancement when he was just a young teenager. He will never know what he was able to accomplish his own. I am not a believer in drugs when I have seen for decades what hard work and proper nutrition can do drug free.
At the time of my update to this article (Summer 2023) I am reminded as I train my high school football team and watch a new athlete struggle. The new athlete is entering 11th grade and has a very impressive physique but every training session I see the difference in a bodybuilding pump up physique vs a physique that was built through performance based training.
Trap Bar Deadlifts with 135 and this athlete with a great physique struggles; knees caving in, back hunching over and no understanding of moving like an athlete. Bench Press; the bar can't (does not want to) touch his sternum. "I've got bad shoulders". When incline DB benching, elbows are flared wide and when told to DB bench with palms facing in, "I can't, it hurts my shoulders."
The entire session today reminded that the pump up training gets you looking good yet moving like shyt.
The video below with Dr. Ken and Mike Gentry is an example of training for performance outside the weight room. I believe you should merge the two styles together when the time and place is right.
I used to be the pretty boy bodybuilder myself. And although I was natural, the bottom line is that I trained the wrong way. Louie Simmons regularly says, "There are two ways to train; a right way and a wrong way." I was training with light weights, doing lots of volume per body part and focused on squeezing the muscle, forced reps and negatives. I trained slow, nothing with speed and power. I had no clue how to train for performance, unfortunately.
Here's where I used to learn my training from:
I thought this style of training was over for athletes but walk into a gym and you'll see teen athletes doing slow motion machine and cable exercises. You'll see them doing 4 day bodybuilding splits. You will see forced reps and excess machines. I wrongly assumed that with all the information available at their fingertips, teens today would be training smarter.
The reality is, most freshman can't do 10 push ups. Most high school kids have a flabby belly and boobs. This is a combination of poor training and ultra processed foods. Still, the information is out there on how to do this the right way but teens are weaker today than ever before.
When I was in high school, I LOOKED big and strong but when it was time to compete for sports, I was NOT strong. I would fatigue early in wrestling matches and it frustrated and confused me tremendously back then. This would then effect me psychologically and emotionally. My confidence would crash and burn. If you're a Coach, you hopefully understand how the mind drives the body. Nobody told me to do anything differently because they saw me working hard and training often but still, hard work on the wrong exercises helps no one!
I still remember reading way too many articles telling me to "squeeze the muscle" and "feel the muscle". I didn't read ANY articles on getting Strong, Tough, Explosive. Those 80s and early 90s magazines did not share sports performance training.
I could have used some Bill Starr training from The Strongest Shall Survive. Powerlifting USA was nowhere to be found and if I did see a Powerlifter, they were fat and weaker than most bodybuilders. Imagine if I came across some Louie Simmons and Westside Barbell training methods back then. It would have been a game changer for me, as it is for the athletes I train today.
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The wrong training will decrease your performance in sports. ALL Show, NO Go.
Beach muscles are completely different than muscles that are needed to perform and dominate in sports.
I used to be impressed when I saw athletes who were jacked, until I started seeing many of those bodybuilder looking athletes getting their a** kicked. I've seen this in Wrestling & Football quite often. The strongest guy in the weight room is not always the best athlete. The guy who looks imposing without a shirt is not always the best athlete.
The right exercises must be the ones you focus on. You need Transfer of Training.
Listen to the Louie Simmons STRONG Life Podcast below:
I had to explain this to the wrestlers when one of them told me how he got intimidated when he saw how his opponent was all jacked up, BUT, he said the kid did NOT feel strong when he wrestled against him. Luckily, it didn't psyche him out too much and so he was able to get out there and dominate.
The kids we train at The Underground Strength Gym..... They have become BEASTS and they are ready to compete in the REAL world.... their training has served a purpose beyond just "looking good" or getting 6 pick abs. Looking good is a side effect, of course.
If you want to build a Gladiator's physique, or maybe you want to dominate in your sport, or maybe you just want to walk tall and have the confidence knowing you strong in the gym AND in life, then you MUST stay FAR away from today's fancy training methods.
The fads, the gimmicks, the short cuts.... Don't avoid the tough work, the hard work.... chase it and embrace it! I don't care how many drugs a guy takes to look jacked, once it's "Go Time", the fake muscles will not get the job done.
We can call this building "Functional Muscles" or what was coined decades ago, Transfer of Training.
Does your training have a transfer to your sport, career, life?
The basics will never let you down and often times you need to get away from the pump up, squeeze and feel the muscle style training.
Train to Look Strong AND BE Strong....