Stop Doing Weird Shit to Yourself in the Name of Strength Sports, Part 2

Did you read part one? Read that first. Continued from there…


DO YOUR GODDAMN ACCESSORY WORK FFS. Yes, I know it’s not as fun. But hear me out: the squat, bench press, deadlift, snatch, and clean and jerk are all extension-based exercises in the sagittal plane. Our bodies are not their happiest doing the same exercises in the same direction, over and over and over again – so it’s important to change it up and do some different things to stay healthy and strong and pain-free. 

I know I’m going to rustle some jimmies by saying this stuff out loud, but here it is: I see WAY too many people paying WAY too much money for lifting programs that include little to no variety – it’s easy to design a shitty program and then write off the athlete as just not dedicated enough when they end up riddled with overuse injuries and mental burnout. I also see too many athletes training their competition lifts, ignoring the rest of their programs, and getting injured. There’s a pretty simple solution to this problem: like that annoying codependent couple in your social circle who does every little thing together, you need some time away from the barbell. Come up for air, for crying out loud!


dog and cat

So play. Have some fun. Make sure your program includes some wacky stuff like calisthenics, frontal plane motion, and rotation. If you get injured, seek treatment but make for damn sure that whoever you go to (or your coach if they know about that stuff) gives you some work to do to make sure you come back stronger, and then DO THE WORK. 

When you make your comeback, you’re going to want to go balls-out right away. I get it; you feel awesome and you did all that work and you’re ready to jump back in right where you left off…but slow down there, sailor. You’re a little de-conditioned. Barbell work is HARD on your body and you need to get all warm and slippery and slide back in there gently. 

Finally – and this is going to be hard to hear for all the bros and young-ish athletes, but: stop chasing pr’s all the time! Technique counts. Speed counts. RPE counts. And also, max lifts are a calculated risk – they aren’t for every day, so make sure your intensity levels are appropriate for where you are in your competition year. In the last couple of months before you compete, go ahead and lift all the heavy stuff and ignore everything else…but you know how you’re going to feel right up until the last week before you compete? If you did it right, you’re going to feel like a rusty bucket of burnt-out bumholes. Going to that place more than a few times a year is not that fun. 

DON’T PUT EXTRA SHIT IN YOUR BODY. It’s actually physically painful to have to type this because it should go without saying. Argh. You should not need drugs to keep doing something you enjoy. Recently a friend of mine (a great coach who runs a small gym) asked me how much ibuprofen I take each day to continue training as a masters athlete. I was a little taken aback by this question because in all honesty I don’t remember the last time I took any over-the-counter painkillers. It was probably a couple of months ago, as I was getting peaked up to go to World Masters Championships. He was surprised at this response; he said every single masters athlete in his gym takes non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) before they train, and most of them are popping pills daily. My jaw hit the floor – because seriously? Every day?? Every one?? I mean, in that last couple of weeks before competition when everything hurts, it’s pretty normal to take some NSAIDs…but DAILY? That’s bad news, and it sounds to me like there are some dietary or programming interventions that could take care of that problem much more effectively (remember what I said about accessory work), and would put much less mileage on your liver and kidneys.


Now. Should I call out the elephant in the room? Because I know you are all waiting for  it…okay then: let’s talk about anabolic steroids. Lifting culture is historically pretty steeped in steroid use and I could go on and on forever about it, but in the interest of brevity: putting extra drugs in your body in order to get a competitive edge is cheating, unless you’re competing in an untested powerlifting federation (and if that’s your jam, go ahead…but know the risks.) If you get caught cheating, you’ll get banned. If that’s not deterrent enough, the long term health implications of steroid use are emphatically not worth the risk, if you ask me – not for anyone, but especially not for a recreational athlete. Nothing there but trouble. Don’t do it. 

We all lift because we love it. Pitting our strength against the barbell keeps us going and feeds our souls in ways that we can’t imagine living without…so in the interest of not ever having to live without it, remember:

  1.  you are good enough just as you are – you don’t need to change your weight to show up and train and lift well
  2. Don’t get co-dependent! Do other things – I know you love the big lifts but time away from the barbell is important too.
  3. Don’t pickle your insides with drugs to perform better, no matter how old or creaky you are. 

Now look after  your rad self and go wrangle that incredibly attractive yet emotionally unavailable crush of yours and make them into long-term relationship material!


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