Monthly Archives: February 2012

This could save your life.

In every discussion about what to do when the zombies come, you have a person here or there who isn’t quite thinking straight. Not thinking straight includes those who would choose to do battle with swords, chainsaws, and flame throwers.

Let us consider the flamethrower first. To do this, we must go beyond the “cool factor” of demolishing a group of zombies by burning them alive. Well, not quite alive I guess, but you get the picture. We must look at the true capability of the flamethrower. The M2-2 flamethrower of the US military weighs about 43lbs empty, and with full tanks of gasoline and nitrogen it weighs 68lbs. If course, one tank of gas has a total burn time of 10-12 seconds only, so you are gonna be needing to carry a LOT more gas, and probably extra nitrogen tanks also. Of course, even if you have that gas and nitrogen to spare, do ya’ think you might ever be facing more zombies at once than a 12 second burn will take care of??? Cause ya’ know, if you ever are, your screwed. Do you know how long it takes to refill an empty flamethrower gas tank and maybe change the nitrogen bottle? Well I don’t know either, but I bet it’s gonna be longer than you will have.

But ok, let’s assume that you somehow get around a few zombies carrying your 100lbs of gasoline and gear. Everyone can get lucky a few times. When you are out there laboring under the weight of all that gasoline, what kind of target are you going to look like to other HUMANS? I suspect gas will be something in short supply, and people can turn ugly in extreme situations. Since at least some of these people will have been intelligent enough to have rifles, which can kill you at 100 yards easily, and your flamethrower tops out at 40 yards, well, congratulations, you just served as a gas transport service for the guy who is gonna shoot you dead and take that gas. No big deal, the post apocalyptic world doesn’t need misfits like you anyway.

Now, it is hard to find a stupider choice of weapon to take out into a zombie infested world than a flamethrower, but those who advocate a chainsaw have succeeded in doing so. A chainsaw is, definately, even stupider than a flame thrower. It’s range is about, what, 2 feet? It is gas powered, enough said about that. And, how many of you idiots choosing chain saws have ever actually operated one? Well, I have, extensively. Let me tell you a few things about a chain saw. First, they spray whatever you are cutting all over you, in this case it would be infected zombie blood. Second, sometimes they dont start right away. Sometimes they stop running for odd reasons and you have to tinker with them to get them going again. They run out of gas. The chain gets loose and has to be tightened, or it comes off. You know, when the zombies come, I hope there are a few people around me with chainsaws, cause everyone knows that when one person goes down, zombies converge on them to eat them. This will take some pressure off me when I am trying to get to safety. You know, the more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the zombies might, in the end be good for humanity. Lot’s of inferior genes wont be getting passed on.

Now, a sword is not quite as stupid as a flamethrower or a chainsaw. Most people seem to go with a katana. There are some good points. It is light, can’t really malfunction, and won’t run out of ammo. But come on guys, cool as it would be to go all ninja on a bunch of zombies, let’s get real. If you only have a sword, you are limited to killing a zombie when he is literally right on you. Do you really want to get that close to them? And what do you do when there are 10 of them in a group? Have you never watched “Ultimate Warrior”? Slicing through a zombies neck is not gonna be like slicing through warm butter. And what if your aim is slightly off or you dont swing quite hard enough? What happens when the blade gets stuck in a shoulder, or a spinal cord? Cause that kind of shit is gonna happen, mark my words. And have you thought about what would happen if we get the worst case scenario, the Rage type zombies from “Dawn or the Dead”, instead of thew Walkers, as seen in “The Walking dead”? Yeah, with the Rage type, you can barely shoot fast enough if 10 of them are coming at you from 20 yards away, if you are swinging a sword, man, you are GOING DOWN. Yes, I think Walkers are more likely, but you have to prepare for anything, and if the Rage zombies do come, some sort of firearms is the ONLY thing that will have any chance to save you.

This is important stuff guys. Going out to meet the zombies without some type of firearm is like going to a weightlifting competition without weightlifting shoes. Yes, we may have various opinions about what brand of weightlifting shoe, or what caliber of firearm. But it would be just as stupid to take a sword out to fight the zombies as it would be to wear a pair of these…

in a weightlifting competition.

When the zombies come…

Yesterday in training, we started talking about what we will do when the zombies come. Of course at some point we ended up arguing about what gun a man should pick if he could only have one gun with which to survive the zombie hoards I posed the following question as a poll on the livestream of our workout.

If you had to pick only one of these things to have when the zombies come, which would you pick?

A) A clip fed semi-auto rifle chambered in 22 long rifle, and all the ammo you could carry with you.

B) An M-16 and all the ammo you could carry with you.

c) A pump 12 guage shotgun and all the ammo you could carry with you.

C) A large caliber bolt action sniper rifle with a good scope, and all the ammo you could carry with you.

D) A crossbow, with all the crossbow bolts you could carry with you.

Let’s discuss those choices, starting with the crossbow. The two advantages of the crossbow are that it is silent (and noise attracts zombies) and that you can retrieve the bolts and re-use them. I do question the value of the retrievable bolt though. There are many, many situations that would not allow you to retrieve, you would still inevitably run out at some point.

The disadvantages of the crossbow are more serious. For one, they would be of limited value compared to a gun of any kind when in an emergency situation. You are not gonna get off many shots in an emergency with 20 zombies coming straight at you (you probably wont be retrieving your bolts in that situation either). A crossbow doesn’t have much range compared to a firearm either. And, when you compare the velocity of a crossbow bolt to the velocity of a bullet of any kind, you realize that although a crossbow can be reasonably accurate when fired at a stationary target, it is gonna be VASTLY less accurate than a gun at a moving target. And one thing we know about attacking zombies it is they are a moving target.

So, with a crossbow, we have a weapon whose only real advantage is silence, but falls way short in any situation other than the small percentage that put a premium on silence. A weapon with a slow rate of fire, limited range, limited accuracy, with a projectile that is heavy enough so that you could only carry a limited amount, and the ability to re-use that projectile is questionable. So, if you choose a crossbow as your weapon of choice, you have FAILED in a way that will likely kill you, and your genetics will not be part of the gene pool when your wiser brethren rebuild civilization after all the zombies have been killed.

A sniper rifle is of course a better choice than a crossbow. The advantages of such a weapon are that it can, of course, kill accurately and at a long range. This could be, in some situations, very very valuable. But, that is its only advantage. It is going to be the heaviest weapon of any of the choices. That will matter when you are walking all day in search for food, or, getting as far away from the hoards of zombies in the cities as you can. Such rifles also usually fire a larger caliber bullet, which are more bulky and heavy, and limit your ability to carry many rounds. For instance, a 300 Winchester mag round, popular for sniper rifles, weighs more than twice as much as a 223 Remington or 5.56 NATO, the round used in the M-16. This means you could carry only half as many rounds. And who knows when and where you will find more ammunition than you originally carried? Then there is the rate of fire, better than a crossbow but still inadequate if you are suddenly in an emergency situation faced with many zombies, coming fast. Like the crossbow, the sniper rifle is really a one trick pony, and you need a good quarter horse, able to do many tasks reasonably well. Those who picked the sniper rifle will likely go the way of the crossbow users and cease to pollute the gene pool.

Next we have the shotgun. A good pump shotgun is reliable, can shoot quickly, and should offer a better chance of hitting what you are aiming for in a close range emergency situation. Seems like a winner, right? Wrong. Reliable, yeah, so are all the other weapons listed. Shoot quickly? Yeah, you can get off 5 or 6 quick shots, but if those 5-6 shots are in an emergency situation where there are more than 5 or 6 zombies facing you, then you will likely be screaming while being eaten alive by zombies in short order because pushing shotgun shells one by one into the tube magazine of a shotgun is a little different and a lot slower than changing clips on a semi-auto rifle. Better chance of hitting what you are aiming at? Well with only 5-6 shots available before a slow re-load, this is small consolation. And the effective range of a shotgun? Well I hope you enjoy being close up and personal with brain eating zombies, cause you are gonna have to get that way to kill them with a shotgun. I guess the fact that shotgun shells are heavy and bulky is of little concern, because you aren’t likely to use many rounds before you get eaten. The person picking a shotgun is likely to be a big aggressive “macho” guy with more balls than brains, and a limited ability to reason things out. That type will likely be attracted by the “cool factor” of blowing a zombies head clear off from 4 feet away by a bad-ass looking shotgun, without the ability to see the downside. There are uses for such people, but not many. And that works out just fine, because there wont be many of that type left when we finally defeat the zombies once and for all and begin to build a new civilization.

An M-16 is a good general purpose personal weapon. It better be, because it is the standard rifle issued to the US military. It’s effective range is not as good as an sniper rifle, but it can effectively engage targets out past 500 yeards. And really, if a zombie is out past 500 yards, how life threatening is it? It’s rate of fire is excellent, fires as fast as you can pull the trigger, and a clip holds 30 rounds. And your next 30 rounds isn’t far away, takes only a couple of seconds to change a clip. And, US Marine Donny Shankle estimates that a man could pack as many as 1000 on his person, much more usable ammunition than a shotgun, sniper rifle, or crossbow. So we have a weapon with a high rate of fire for close, emergency situations, a good effective range, and the ability to carry a large amount of ammunition for the weapon. It is clearly the weapon that most logical people would pick. And this is good, because those are the people who rebuild after the apocalypse. The Human race will have a bright future after weeding out the inadequate genetics that led to sniper rifles, crossbows, and shotguns.

A clip fed semi-auto rifle in 22 long rifle caliber is a bit counter-intuitive. But, it does have a faster effective rate of fire than a shotgun, sniper rifle, or crossbow for emergency situations. And it has a longer range than a crossbow or shotgun. The obvious question is that of power. But let us remember that these are zombies we are talking about, not large animals or humans. No matter HOW big a hold you put in them with any gun, they are not going down unless you shoot them in the head. And, at any range close enough to be considered an emergency, a hit in the head by a 22 caliber will be just as deadly as if you blew the head off with a shotgun. Now, these are all great reasons to pick a 22 rifle over everything but the M-16. But there is one more advantage to the 22 rifle. The weight of the ammo. If you can carry 1000 rounds for the M-16, you can probably carry 5000 for a 22 rifle. Remember that we are planning for the rest of our lives here. We might not get more ammo for years. A man who chooses a 22 rifle is choosing a gun with a fast rate of fire for emergency situations, but that gives away power and range to carry much more ammunition. This is a man who is willing to take a little more risk in order to plan for the future, risk just a bit more in the short term to make sure that he isn’t set upon by 10 zombies a year from now with only 5 rounds of ammo left. This man is a planner, a thinker. A man who is confident he can use his mind to avoid emergency situations instead of depending on the power of his gun. We will need guys like this when we rebuild, and, we will have them.

I hope you consider these things carefully when picking your weapon, and good luck to you all.

Cooking for a Weightlifter

Those who follow this blog know that from time to time, I like to post about a great meal I have cooked and eaten. I do love to cook and I do love to eat! Well, this one post is a little different. Today I came home from the gym about an hour after Donny, and he had dinner almost done. Tri tip, potatoes, asparagus, and a salad. Sounds like a pretty standard dinner, doesn’t it?

It wasn’t standard. It was one of the best meals I have ever eaten in my life. He cooked the tri tip absolutely perfectly. Absolutely perfect. I am not sure what seasoning he used, but whatever it was it was just right. The meat was perfectly cooked, it simply could not have been done better. He said 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then 30 minutes at 300 degrees, if you are interested. It was better than any prime rib I have ever eaten.

The potatoes were like candy. Cream, butter, who knows what else. Whatever was in them, they could have been served as dessert. The asparagus was perfectly cooked, with just the right amount of salt. The salad was three kinds of lettuce, along with some baby spinach leaves, dressed with olive oil, red wine vinager, parmesan cheese, and course grated pepper.

It was a standard meal, meat, potatoes, and vegetables, but it was done to perfection. About 15 minutes after I ate, I just had to come back downstairs and fixed another plate, and made Donny sit by it for a photo. Perfection should be remembered. And so here it is, a simple meal of meat and potatoes and vegetables, that was PERFECT.

Got tendonitis?

No, it probably wont CURE tendonitis. But Lindsay Taylor referred to it as “black magic” even before I told her that Kelly Starret called it voodo. Had a football player preparing for the NFL combine that had been inhibited by tendonitis in his knee for a about 6 months go totally pain free with a greatly improved range of motion in the less than 5 minutes that it took to do this. From what I understand, this originally came from Donny Thompson. It works, try it.

The Razor’s Edge Part II

Yesterdays blog was about the razor’s edge, that very very thin line between no progress and disaster that an elite athlete has to balance on. I thought I would describe the three times I have witnessed this balancing act done the most skillfully.

Caleb Ward came back from his first semester at Northern Michigan university with a mission. He had put almost 7 years of work into the sport of weightlifting, and wanted the Junior American records badly. So he quit school, and came back to Texas to train full time. Things went well. Caleb has always been consistent, but I noticed that he was getting REALLY consistent with weights very close to his maximums. He was training heavy, but, was still showing up fresh and feeling good almost every day. His morning workouts, which were supposed to be just working up to 90% weights, were feeling light and easier than normal. Things were going well, but not quite magical, yet. Then we made one little adjustment that brought everything together. Instead of two workouts a day, lighter in the morning then heavy snatch, clean and jerk and squatting in the afternoon, we split up the afternoon workout, to do snatching and squats in the afternoon, then rested for a couple of hours and came back a third time in the evening for heavy clean and jerks and more squats. What was it about that change that made everything come together, that really put him on the razor’s edge and led to maybe the best period of training in his life? I am not sure but that one little change sure did it for him. And it didn’t last forever. But it was fun to watch a good athlete doing everything right, and becoming great. He clean and jerked 203kg for a new American Record a short time after that period.

Jon North had a run like that, in the snatch in particular, not long after i moved to California. I helped him make a major change in his snatching technique immediately upon beginning to coach him. At first it didn’t seem to make much of a difference. And then you could see things start to click. You couldn’t quite see the kid hiding in there who would be snatching over 160kg and cleaning over 200kg a year later just yet. But something special was going on, and even with weights in the 135/170 range on the snatch and clean, you could see the wheels turning in his head when he started to hit a lift here or there that was just way too easy for the weight on the bar. Jon ended up going even further with the technical changes to his pull than I had advised, creating his own personal style. He has now snatched 166 and cleaned 205 using his own, unique style of pulling, and those lifts are over 70 and 90 percent of his best back squat. Unreal efficiency, truly one of the most efficient lifters in the world. It was fun watching it happen, watching him evolve as a lifter. Watching ordinary become extraordinary, normal become great. The razor’s edge for Jon was mental, not physical. It was him becoming more and more confident going under weights that were more and more unreal compared to his actual strength level. Nurturing that confidence along, that apple cart could have been upset very easily, but somehow he prevented that and did something very special.

Right now Donny Shankle is balancing right on the edge of a very sharp razor. After 9 years of training we have stumbled upon a training template that seems to be allowing him the kind of progress that is not normal after that many years of training. Whatever it is, the training, the mental outlook, the lifestyle, the rest, the food… whatever it is, right now its working. And, I hesitate to change even one little thing. Straight ahead is the Olympics, if we can just move forward along that think edge without getting cut. One misstep, and failure is on one side, injury on the other. Chad Vaughn told Donny recently what was, in Donny’s estimation some of the best and most important pieces of advice he has ever recieved. He simply said, “take it one lift at a time”. In the spirit of the words of Chad, one of the lifters who I most admire, that is basically what we are doing, taking it one step at a time, trying to move forward just a little more along the razor’s edge.

The Razor’s Edge.

Sometimes in training, things just go your way. Everything is working. The rhythm is just nice and steady, your working hard, your feeling good, your weights are moving up. You are consistent. Tired, but not too tired. Sore but its a good sore, it doesn’t quite hurt. And because your consistently making your weights, you get confident. Maybe a bit cocky.

You are on the razor’s edge.

When you are a beginner, that edge is wide. A damn 4 lane highway. You can veer right or left a bit and still stay on teh highway, moving forward. Easy to train a bit too much, or not near enough, and still progress. Do the wrong exercises? No matter, you are training, you will make progress. Dont sleep or eat right? Don’t worry, your snatch will still go up.

When you are more of an intermediate, its a bit different. Go out drinking one night? Your training is gonna suck tomorrow most likely. Do too much? Progress will most likely stop, and you will be hurting. Do the wrong exercise? Your technique will get less efficient, and your lifts will slowly become harder.

When you are Caleb Ward, or Jon North? You are not walking on a balance beam, you are walking on a rope. You are finally really on the razor’s edge.

And one little push either direction and you will fall from that rope. You will fall from the razor’s edge. If someone pushes you to one side you will get hurt. If someone pushes you the other way, you will cease progress.

The longer you train, the thinner the edge becomes, and the sharper it gets. And eventually, it’s very hard to balance on, and very easy to cut yourself. At the highest levels, all athletes seek to balance on that sharp edge… they know the risk, but it’s the place they want to be.

I have seen 3 people in 20 years of coaching balance on the razor’s edge. The thin edge, the one that can cut you. Caleb Ward, Jon North, and Donny Shankle have all done it.

The man who does it for the longest time is the one who will be the greatest weightlifter.

I hope you are reading this, Jon and Donny.

He would have been a hell of a weightlifter

Mithridates the Great would have been a great weightlifter. For one thing, he was evidently a very big guy, well over 6 feet tall. Some estimate 3 or 4 inches over. Some say more. Plus, he evidently was a great eater. Legend has it that he once challenged his whole army to an eating contest, and beat them all. Then challenged the wrestling champion of his army to a wresting match, and beat him. He was apparently impervious to poison, and, the best looking guy around also. Women loved him.

Some say that he once strapped a large knife to his “manly parts” to hide it when going into what was supposedly a peaceful negotiation, then was able to pull it out to counter his opponent who also smuggled a knife into the negotiation. Could you do that?

A big guy, a bad dude, with a great appetite. Good looking and quite the man. How much could he have clean and jerked? We will never know.

Hills and Valleys

The road to becoming a great weightlifter is a long one. And the ending point is not an impressive snatch or clean and jerk. The road is traveled by becoming a true student of the sport, of reaching an understanding of the sport, of mastering and molding your own body and mind. And, this road really never ends. No matter how far you go, perfection is not reached, there is always one more way you can build your body, your mind, and your soul into something better, gain some small increase in your understanding of the sport and the training process, always some new insight waiting ahead of you out there where the road disappears just beyond the horizon.

A difficult part of traveling this road is the hills and the valleys. There are always hills and valleys, and the road is never straight, there are always bad times along with the good. How you deal with the hill, valleys, and curves often determines how far down the road you will go. One lifter I know who has vastly improved his ability to handle the hills and valleys is Donny Shankle. I can remember multiple competitions years ago where his courage, work ethic, and dedication worked against him, and made a valley into a canyon, difficult to climb out of. He would deal with a bad day, especially near a competition, by just working harder. Because of his courage and work ethic, he would make what should have been a shallow valley deeper and deeper. The deeper he got the harder he would work. More squats, more and more attempts at a snatch he had already missed 10 times. Pretty soon he was at the bottom of a canyon and digging a hole. He allowed his mental strength, his work ethic, his courage and heart to work against him. He used them to turn one bad day into two bad weeks, or a sub-par competition result. Contrast that to last week, he felt “off” on Wednesday. A little extra tired. A bit of inflammation here and there. The old Donny would have practically killed himself to make decent lifts anyway, then if he didn’t, would have come back the next day even more tired, and dug the hole even deeper. The present day Donny cut things a bit short on Wednesday, then trained very light Thursday and Friday. And walked into a competition on Saturday and made a lifetime PR total of 373kg. Then set two huge PR’s on Tuesday and Wednesday of this week. Donny has learned to make the valleys shallower and the next hill easier to climb.

Everyone is different. The road is different for everyone, the challenges are different for everyone. Not all the Valleys have to do with training. But for everyone, moving forward on the road requires that you gain more understanding of the process, and more mastery of your own body an mind. As you do this, just like for Donny, your valleys become more shallow, the hills less steep, and easier to climb. Stay the course my friends. Keep moving forward. And by all means, become a student of the sport, learn from your own mistakes an successes, as well as those of others. Aim to become a GREAT weightlifter!

Ya’ gotta eat!

You can’ quite see it in the picture, but Donny is just about to threaten Tom Sroka with his knife if Tom moves any closer, or keeps staring at his plate. We don’t screw around at lunch time, and Tom, at 290lbs, is not one to to ignore. Tom is trying to gain weight, and is always a threat at mealtime.

When you are really training hard, you have to eat. A lot, and all of it good food. Nutrient dense, and much of it calorie dense. Meat, and lot’s of it is what is on the menu at Cal Strength between morning and afternoon training sessions. I have to say, I can grill the hell out of a steak or tri-tip, and we keep a grill at the gym just for this purpose.

But seriously, if you are not able to train hard consistently, or don’t recover well, look to your diet, right after you look at your sleep patterns. If you sleep well, it is usually your diet. Eat more meat. Everyone feels more manly with a belly full of beef. As we say here, Ya’ gotta eat! When there is meat on the table, Ya’ gotta get in there!!!

Ripping the head off a goddamn LION!!!

This needs little explanation.  It is a demonstration of the mindset of Donny Shankle.  An awesome thing when seen from 20 feet away.