James can be reached at TwinFreaks CrossFit, where he is an owner and trainer. James coaches barbell lifting classes and CrossFit classes. Contact him by email at james@twinfreakscrossfit.com or by phone at 720-204-2631.

Monday, April 1, 2013

One Week

As far as I can remember, I hadn't been sick for five years.  So when I got sick last week, it sucked.

I stumbled through a couple lackluster training sessions early last week, before I was either sleeping when possible or wishing I were asleep when it was not actually possible , and before my nose was leaking first clear shit and later green shit.

So, reluctantly and under advisement from my coach I stopped training.

I still went to the gym and watched some good kids squat and dead lift.  I paid a lot of attention to the triangle formed between the thighs, back, and arms on the dead, and between the thighs, back, and the imaginary line dropped from the barbell to the foot on the squat.  Then I asked myself if any lever arms could be shorter in each lifter's triangle, made corrections, and helped the good kids be better kids.

That's the kind of shit I do, and I do that because I do it.  In other words, I do this stuff.

I started training again today, and after six days it felt great to be back.  I think that's because I do this shit, and if I didn't, I'd do something else.

And I realized some trainers don't train, and they wouldn't miss it because it's not what they do.

And that makes me sick.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Stimulus and Adaptation

Saturday night, Sunday, and until 2 pm today I've been lost in post meet reflection.  Our guys did great which made me wonder why some guys do great while some wander the labyrinth of "fitness" for years with no discernible improvement.

I wanted to show Mike how much better his ugly first double body weight squat was than mine, so I tracked down a video of mine.  I was mildly surprised to see that the video was from 2010, and while that's actually two years and a few months ago instead of three years ago, it seemed to me as though it was only some months ago.

And so I was forced to realize not that I gained 80 pounds on my squat in some months, but rather that it took me me two years and a few months.  I can of course cite as many excuses as necessary to explain what took me so long, and some of them are even quite good like the one about how I was lifting with a hernia for way too many of those months and constantly fearing that perhaps my intestines really would fall on the floor through my nut sack.

But maybe I need not defend my 80 pound gain.  It's something less than stellar, and yet it's probably in the top few percent among people who claim to train.

So I did this thing which was less than stellar and perhaps to some not even very good but which still compares favorably to so many people I know or have heard about second hand, and with my deep love for Humanity I was compelled to meditate on what so many people insist on fucking up.

At length I grew frustrated in my fruitless meditation, so I turned on facebook.

And there, on the road to Dumbassness, the scales fell from my eyes.

Most people, it became apparent, are focused on the brutality of their work outs.  This is understandable because I have noticed that posting my actual normal work loads garners nothing, while posts about prodigious volumes ending with the trainee dissolving in blood and vomit get three "likes" and two comments.

An appropriate stimulus, on the other hand, gets a desired adaptation.

And oh yes, I have been guilty of three like, two comment seeking behavior myself.  I just decided somewhere I would rather improve even if it's not a dramatic process.

Ah, and at 2 pm today?  I did a rather banal bench and press session.

It's not comment worthy.  It's merely calculated to give me an adaptation for my August meet.

I'm not stellar, but I have to improve my positioning on the Top Fifty List.

I don't know. To me being there feels better than posting about how I'm going to get there.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Colorado State Championships

Saturday, 3/2/13, I went to Denver with Barney, Mike, and Ricardo for the NASA Colorado State Championships.  I had planned on handling these three guys, but I also picked up two orphans, Ben - who trained with us last summer - who ended up pulling 622 weighing 212, and Adam who benched 303 at 181.

Mike and Ricardo had too many PRs to count, six I think, and along the way they both got their first double body weight squats.

Mike with 165 Kg.

Ricardo with 200 Kg.

They both made it look much easier than I did when I did it on the same platform three years ago.

I'm excited to be part of this small but motivated group that is working to raise the floor on what constitutes a good lift.  We're in a good position to push and pull each other, and over time we might get a few more to join.

We also have a couple women who will be in a good position to challenge state and even national records in the next few meets, and they further strengthen our collective efforts.

I was proud of Barney who failed to meet his potential this time around, but who made a credible attempt to increase his own state records.  He narrowly missed his state record squat attempt on depth even though it looks great from our camera angle.  He and I had been working over the past few weeks on the speed of his descent, and he looks much closer to a 16 year old than a 66 year old here.  Barney will be back lifting much more than this in August.

I had a fun if exhausting day sweating 33 lifts by five lifters.  Of necessity our guys will take a week off now, but the women and I will be hammering it again today or tomorrow getting ready for May when I will coach again and August when I will finally get back on the platform.

Friday, March 1, 2013

2 pm, Squat Doubles

With five months to train, my heavy day is just starting to get heavy again.  I wanted to get some video early on and see if there are any glaring holes in my form.

To anyone I've ever invited to "come back at 2 pm," this is what the work sets look like.

375 x 2

390 x 2

405 x 2

Yes, the last rep was getting heavy and there is some adult language.  I don't care.  I'm not trying to be a modern man.

And too, it's still only 98% about me.  If I didn't train, how could I expect my trainees to?

Kaitlyn breaks 200:

Tuesday, February 26, 2013


Last Sunday, 2/24/13, I went with Audrey Burgio to the USA Kettlebell Lifting Bolt competition in Denver.  I went only in the role of spectator and cheerleader because Audrey doesn't need my coaching with the kettlebell.

I would have had a great time just watching, but it was even better because Audrey won her division.

After driving back to Longmont along a very slushy I-25, we decided post competition eating was in order.  We kept it paleo until dessert when Audrey decided to get a Jack Daniels whiskey cake.  After forty minutes of work with kettlebells, I figured Audrey would be okay loading some dirty carbs.  I couldn't really justify the half cake I ate, but I did it anyway.

Audrey was back in the gym working Monday, but that shit went straight to my hips.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where I'm Going

As will happen sometimes, I was asked recently how much I squat, and I gave the only answer that makes any sense, "ask me in August."  If that's not a good enough answer, I would estimate I can probably do between 400 and 480 now.

I'm competing next at the NASA World Cup of Power August 3rd and 4th in Denver, Colorado, and I will answer all relevant questions then.

By the way, the only relevant questions are: how much I can squat; how much I can bench; how much I can dead lift; and most importantly, how much does all that add up to?

Fitness has been given many definitions, and that is largely so that more people can sell more stuff that will give you "fitness."  The definition I use for fitness is the ability to do a task.  So yes, zumba and ecstasy will assuredly give one the ability to rave all night, and under some circumstances that may be fitness worth paying for.

There are some people preparing for the unknown and unknowable.  That certainly is a laudable goal, but when I meet these people they seem to actually be obsessed with a zombie apocalypse  and it seems that their prepared response is to distract the zombies with a jump rope demonstration.

Look, I'm not making fun of the zombie apocalypse.  I also have an inner twelve year old comic book reading fat kid that knows said apocalypse is inevitable.

I'm just choosing to prepare by getting lifts judged in competition and recorded forever in Internet land.  Those real, verifiable numbers are what the zombies mine when they compile their list of People You don't Want to Fuck With.

So then, I'm training hard and regularly, making actual gains in the parameters I monitor, and getting on that fucking list.

You too can go wherever you want.

Monday, February 18, 2013

How I Got There

In my last blog I detailed, briefly, how I hit a huge squat PR last November.

It occurred to me that probably no one will derive any real pleasure from walking around talking about how they know the guy who got a big PR, but there is a small though real chance some readers would like to do it themselves.

I had succeeded in August in overcoming the psychological block at the 400 pound level, and I did that simply by assiduously following a basic beginners' linear progression.  In theory I was not a beginner, but I had had a two month lay off due to injury, and I thought a linear progression would allow me to build both strength and confidence in my repaired body.  I suppose it's possible that it should not have worked, but it did.

Following a linear progression to near death allowed me to squat 407 in August, but I knew that my gains on simple programming had dried up.

Once you get past the bullshit, and the bullshit is the stuff promulgated by skinny-fat geeks asking primarily for money, there are two broad schools of lifting.

There is the Old School which has been around forever and has been deeply studied for over a century, and there is the Eastern Bloc School which has been around for decades and has been studied deeply enough to attract both geniuses and skinny jackasses whose main goal is to post to facebook about accommodating resistance and rate of force development.

Okay.  It's my blog so I'll admit that I have flashes of genius, but I can't sustain it.  I also hate facebook more everyday since it is mainly used by weak jackasses who post incessantly about their genius training.  They usually leave out any data about any results they might get though.

So, while having great respect for the few but brilliant Eastern Bloc guys, I decided to be an Old School guy.

I used an intelligently modified 5x5 program which is popular with the Old School guys at 70's Big.  As with most or all 5x5 programs, this one had a medium day, a light day, and a heavy day.  I simply worked this program so hard that within a few weeks I had a horrible day, a fun day, and a terrifying day.

The secret then was as any non-jackass will tell you, hard consistent work.  I worked through a revolving cast of characters and weather that varied from lake of sweat on the floor to hands frozen on bar.

And that was it.

One horrible day, one fun day, and one terrifying day made a week.  Four weeks made a month, and so on.

And I've seen that nobody likes the hard, sustained work secret.

So I have another secret.

I tried so hard to squat 440 when it was impossible that when it was possible it became easy.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Where I Was

It's been so long since I've blogged that even I noticed.  I didn't overly care, but a few people who are smart enough to know told me I should be writing, so I thought I'd give a brief account of October until now.

I trained hard, and like I set out to do a long time ago, I squatted 200 kg / 440 lbs.