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14 August 2017

Like A Phoenix Rising From The Ashes- How To Fuck Shit Up When Coming Back After A Layoff


The last two years of my life have been, as I've mentioned in prior articles, about as outlandish and hyperbolic as two years could be.  Amidst all of the partying and my subsequent incarceration, I took a number of layoffs... which was a bit of a shock after about 20 years of training in which I never took a week off.  When I was asked a few years ago how best to come back from a layoff I was as mute as I would have been if someone cut off my fingers and tongue, because I had no clue- I'd never come back from a layoff.  Now that I've been a colossal shitbird / party animal, however, I have a damn good idea because I've done it a number of times- where I wouldn't respond previously for lack of knowledge I now am equipped to lay out a plan for anyone interested that will have them rising from the ashes of their layoff like Dark Phoenix to lay waste to everything around them and slay weights like they're Pygmies and you're the Congolese Army.

"Every fuckin' beatin' I'm grateful for. Every fuckin' one of them. Get all the trust beat outta you. And you know what the fuckin' world is."
- Al Swearengen

Every now and again, life hands you an ass whipping the likes of which haven't been seen since Wandy kneed and soccer kicked Rampage Jackson half to death in Pride 28, and your training necessarily has to take a back seat.  Even if that doesn't happen, you are more than likely going to get burned out on training at some point and just sit your ass on the couch for a month or two.  You'll spend the first couple of days thinking about how you're going to lose all your gains.  Maybe a week later you'll hit the gym to discover your lifts haven't really suffered, and then your lifts will space out a little further, and a little further.  Here's the cool thing- unless you go on a starvation diet and dive-bomb Rich Piana-style into a medical coma, you're not going to lose too much strength.


That last statement assumes you have a few years of aggressive training under your belt, and that even in your layoff you're still at least as cognizant of getting adequate protein as a cat is that a cucumber may not be a snake.  Should either of those two facets of your layoff fail to materialize, you might experience different results.  Provided you have those two things, however, after a month or two off you might be looking at a 10-15% drop in your typical top end strength numbers.  While that seems massive, it's really not- getting that back takes two months, tops.  Frankly, as I surge in strength and then get bored again (repeatedly), I lunge closer and closer to my best top end numbers even without dieting like a maniac or killing myself in the gym.  It's weird- although it was insanely difficult to get a 415 bench, I can train my ass off for two months and see 415+ at the end of the tunnel without even really trying... and when I say without even really trying, I mean that to get that 415 bench in the first place I was training 6 days a week, sometimes twice a day, and I can get within shouting distance of it again with 4-5 intense (but not eye-bleedingly intense) workouts a week.


"Ummm... wait.  So it's like, not broscience?"

The reason for this is the bit of bro science we all know as "muscle memory"... which as it turns out is actual science.  According to one study:
"Even if subsequently subjected to grave atrophy, the higher number of myonuclei is retained, and the myonuclei seem to be protected against the elevated apoptotic activity observed in atrophying muscle tissue. Fibres that have acquired a higher number of myonuclei grow faster when subjected to overload exercise, thus the nuclei represent a functionally important 'memory' of previous strength. This memory might be very long lasting in humans, as myonuclei are stable for at least 15 years and might even be permanent" (Gunderson).
If you went full blank-faced, wide-eyed Lindsay Lohan when you saw the word "myonuclei", the TLDR is that muscle memory lasts at least 15 years and might be permanent, which means you'll be able to regain your peak level of strength with far less effort than it took to achieve initially when you finally decide to pick the barbell back up.  That's fucking epic, but I suppose it makes sense- once you've climbed to the peak of a mountain, hunting around for the best access point to the peak, each subsequent effort will go much more quickly and smoothly because you've already been there.

You're gonna have to get pumped the fuck up to get your gainz back in short order. 

Bringin' It Back
Your return is going to consist of two sections- machines and free weights.  If you lack access to machines, I've got you covered, but in my opinion the best way to recondition yourself for the gym is two weeks of machine work.  The reason for this is mostly narcissistic, but there's a practical component as well- you're prepping your muscles to handle free weights without exposing yourself to the possibility of injury.  I realize that doesn't seem to fall in line with my general mindset, but I can explain my logic in two parts:
  1. To me, having anything but elite strength is embarrassing in the same way that shitting your pants at your own wedding is embarrassing, and I'd like to whet my teeth on some machines to feel out weights and build a little baseline strength before I potentially embarrass myself on the bench or in the squat rack.
  2. I know myself- I will want to max out as soon as humanly possible to see where I stand and how far I have to go.  With no physical preparation, this is fucking stupid- your body has lost its rhythm, you don't have good bar paths, your ligaments and tendons are totally unprepared to handle heavy weights, and all of the tiny support muscles, like the supraspinatus, are totally detrained.  Even if you don't hurt yourself physically, you're likely to hurt yourself mentally by hitting the free weights and getting stapled by a weight that should be easier than finding a Nazi in Charlottesville.
Machine- and dumbbell-only workouts seem to have worked pretty well for Chick.  Insofar as I recall, he never lifted a barbell unless it was to get it out of the way of his Smith Machine.

The First Two Weeks
As I stated, the first two weeks of this program will be done entirely on Hammer Strength machines, cables, and the like.  This is just a physical preparatory period designed to get you back to moving some weights without exposing yourself to injury and to prep your muscles for the DOMS nightmare looming on the horizon.  The reps here will necessarily be a bit higher, as the volume just gives you a bit of time under tension and is going to induce some soreness without killing you.  Lest you worry that your time will be wasted in these two weeks, consider the guys who famously based their workouts heavily on machine work- Big Ramy, Casey Viator, Bob Cicherillo, Mike Mentzer, Phil Heath... and the list goes on.  Machine work, according to most bodybuilders, results in far more hypertrophy than free weight work, which means you'll get a bit of your size back while you're getting a pump and flushing your musculature with enough blood to feed a family of ravenous 30 Days of Night vampires for a week.  On top of that, you're sort of "greasing the groove" as Pavel says- you're allowing your body to be led through the motor path for various exercises to sort of jog your muscles' cellular memory without exposing yourself to undo risk of injury that could occur with a wonky bar path (Krakauer).


In the 1960's and 1970's, guys like Roger Estep actually had an offseason, wherein they'd either not train or train very little.  That didn't stop them from rocking physiques that would have had the Hulk shamefully masturbating in the corner.

Move like you're Chris Kattan on an eight ball of coke during this first fortnight of training- you're not in the gym to chat up the insanely hot guy/girl/trans person you're ogling from across the gym, and you likely don't look good enough to pick them up anyway.  So walk your jiggly ass quickly to the water fountain after each set, get a quick drink, then go right back to your next set.  It's not like you're in the kind of shape wherein you're gonna pick up anyone at the gym anyway, so keep it fucking moving and burn off some flab while you're getting back in the swing of things.


Don't even bother chatting the hardbodies up until you've got one again yourself.

Week 1 and 2

Day 1- Chest and Shoulders
Chest Press- 3x8; 3x6; 1 death set with 80% of the weight you used in your first 3 sets (death set is a set done to complete failure [i.e. death])
Incline Chest Press (or Incline Smith)- 4x10
Pec Deck/Cable Crossover-3x12
Machine Shoulder Press- 2x10; 5x8; 1 death set with 80% of the weight you used in your first 2 sets
Lateral Raises- 5x10
Real Machine Laterals- 4x10

Day 2- Back
Hammer Row / Dumbbell Row- 6x8
Pullups- 4xAMRAP
Cable Row- 2x10; 2x8; Death set with one plate lighter than your first two sets
Face Pulls- 3x20

Day 3- Legs
Leg Press / Squat Machine- 3x10; 3x8
Leg Curl- 5x10
Leg Extension- 4x10
Calf Raise- 3x50 (yeah, sets of 50.  I believe I picked this little tidbit up from Tom Platz and told my last training partner about it.  They hadn't been able to grow their calves for shit using any method, and this method blew them up fast)

Day 4- Arms
Rope Curls- 6x10
Rope Pushdowns- 6x10
Dumbbell Curl- 4x8
Dumbbell Skullcrusher- 4x8 (these are done laying on the floor, legs out straight, bringing the dumbbells down just above and outside your ear.  Rest the dumbbell on the floor for one second, then return to the starting position.)

Day 5- Potluck for 45 minutes
This is a fill in the blanks day- I just bounce around the gym for 45 minutes getting a pump on.  If you want to ogle that chick you've been side-eying all week, go work out near her.  I'd recommend doing more calves (your calves can never be too big), some forearms (your grip is going to need work, as are your callouses), and more shoulders.  Shoulder strength seems to have the most carryover to other lifts, in my experience, and jacked shoulders will make you look bigger than you are while you're training to refill those shirts that have gotten a little loose on you.  Really, though, what you do on this day is entirely up to you.  Just get your ass into the gym and train like breaking the dry spell that has you rocking a half gallon of yogurt in your pants depends on it.  Because it does.

Days 6 and 7- Off


Doug Young wouldn't have done machine work if you ran into his gym and stuck the barrel of a pistol in his eye.

Now, as I mentioned, I realize some of you lack access or have some horrible allergy to machines, which I have to say is lamentable.  Nevertheless, it is of course possible to rise out of your indolence utilizing only barbells, though you won't have the same hypertrophy that the machine users use, in all likelihood, because you will be forced to use light weights while you relearn your bar paths, and you'll likely be far more sore because you'll have to utilize far more stabilizers than the machine users would.  For non-machine users, I recommend the following (because I had to do this in the past year as well):

Day 1- Chest and Shoulders
Bench Press- 3x10 (12RM); 3x5 (8RM); 1 death set with 90% of the first 3 sets' weight
Champagne Press- 4x8 (10RM)
Incline Flies- 3x8 (10RM)
Strict Military Press- 4x10 (12RM)
Lateral Raise- 3x10 (12RM)
Rear Lateral Raise- 3x10 (12RM)

Day 2- Band Work
Tricep Pushdowns- 10xAMRAP
Curls- 10xAMRAP

Day 3- Back and Shoulders
Pendlay Row- 5x8 (10RM) (pull explosively into your solar plexus to the point that you're bruised)
Pullups- 6x AMRAP-2 (so you're stopping just short of failure on every set)
Face Pulls- 4x20
Lateral Raises- 6x8 (10RM)

Day 4- Band Work and Bodyweight Work
Pullups- 75 total reps, in as many sets as it takes
Dips- 150 total reps, in as many sets as it takes
Tricep Pushdowns- 5xAMRAP
Curls- 5xAMRAP

Day 5- Legs
Squat- 5x5 (10RM) (going light on these because you're going to be fucking sore, and getting back in the groove on the squat is by far and away the hardest thing you're going to have to do in this month)
Stiff Leg Deadlift- 5x8 (10RM)
Calf Raise- 3x50

Days 6 and 7- Off

"I fought like I didn't deserve to live."
- Jake LaMotta

Now it's going to be time to pick up the pace a little bit.  Stay on top of knotting- self massage is as essential as protein during the initial month of training.  Neglect it at your peril.  Time to fight like you don't deserve to live and give the weights a bit of the old "what for."  You've fucked about long enough.

Day 1Chest and Shoulders
Bench Press- 4x4 (6RM); 2x2 (4RM); 2 death sets with 60% of the initial weight
Close Grip Bench Press- 4x8 (10RM)
Weighted Dips- 4x4 (6RM)
Lateral Raise- 3x10 (12RM)
Face Pull- 3x20 

Day 2Back 
Pendlay Row- 5x8 (10RM) (pull explosively into your solar plexus to the point that you're bruised)
Shrug- 5x8 (10RM)
Pullups- 6x AMRAP-2 (so you're stopping just short of failure on every set)
Cable Row- 4x15
Face Pulls- 4x20

Day 3Shoulders and Arms
Strict Military Press- 4x8 (10RM); 2x3 (5RM); 1 death set with 90% of your first sets' weight
Lateral Raise- 5x10 (12RM)
Rear Machine Laterals- 5x10 (12RM)
Dumbbell Skullcrushers- 4x6 (8RM) (these are done laying on the floor, legs out straight, bringing the dumbbells down just above and outside your ear.  Rest the dumbbell on the floor for one second, then return to the starting position.)
Hammer Curls- 4x6 (8RM)

Day 4Off

Day 5Legs
Squat- 5x5 (7RM); 2x3 (5RM) 
Leg Curl- 6x10
Leg Extension- 5x10
Calf Raise- 3x50

Days 6- A Little Bit Of Everything
Bench Press (1 and a half reps)- 3x10 (you do these by taking the bar to your chest, pressing halfway up, returning the bar to your chest, and exploding to the top)
Strict Military Press- 3x3 (5RM)
Cable Row- 4x10 (12RM)
Pushdowns- 3x20
Rope Curls- 3x20

You're not coming back off a layoff and dropping right into a Tom Platz leg routine, brotato.  Settle the fuck down.

Now, you might think that this program is light on legs, and it is- this is because in the last year I have discovered when you come back off a layoff nothing gets as sore as your legs.  Your legs are going to be more sore than a porn star's vag after a world record gangbang.  It's obnoxious, but it's true.

So there you have it- you can come back harder than a diamond in an ice storm if you just put some will into it.  There is no sense in beating yourself up for lost time, lamenting what could have been if you hadn't taken time off, or bitching about the current state of your strength or physique.  All you can do is put your head down, attack the weights like a rabid dog attacking an old lady, eat as much fucking protein as you can fit down your gullet, and watch the gainz pile up.  If it were any easier, it'd be basketball.  

Get out there and fucking kill it.

Sources:
Gundersen K.  Muscle memory and a new cellular model for muscle atrophy and hypertrophy.  J Exp Biol. 2016 Jan;219(Pt 2):235-42.

Krakauer JW, Shadmehr R. CONSOLIDATION OF MOTOR MEMORY. Trends in neurosciences. 2006;29(1):58-64. 

05 August 2017

Hillbilly Chili Hacks- Backwoods Stewroids To Fit The Tiniest Budget


A Short Aside for Those Who Think They Cannot Cook

Before we get started on another food blog, I figure it bears mentioning that I'm aware that some of you refuse to accept the fact that cooking is in your DNA.  Literally. Homo Erectus began cooking food at least a million goddamned years ago.  So, before you begin your bullshit, pre-baked, lazy nonsense about how you cannot cook, acknowledge the fact that IT'S REALLY NOT ROCKET SURGERY.  I realize, however, that trying new things is daunting, and there is a high cost to fucking up expensive recipes.  Frankly, there's a high cost to simply filling a spice cabinet.  There's a higher cost to you, however, if you simply eat bland, awful crap all the time, because  


Yeah, eating food that tastes good is more important for your mood than anything else, and if your mood sucks, so will your sleep, training, and life in general.

Now, I am horrified to get messages like the one I did yesterday, wherein one of my friends informed me he was reduced to eating prison food (top ramen with canned tuna) because he's broker than a cokehead bouncer working in a strip club.  This sort of thing just cannot happen- friends don't let friends eat ramen.  So, I sent him a tub of protein and am writing this gem.  I'll post an article soon with kind of step by step instructions for beginning cooks, but in the meantime, just remember the following:
  1. Salt is your friend.  It's possible to overdo it, so just add it gradually as you go.  Don't go all fucking Mrs. Dash on me- there are better ways to get your potassium and salt tastes WAY better.
  2. Heat is your friend.  Everyone's afraid to cook on high heat, but provided you actually pay attention to your food rather than fucking around on Facebook, you'll get a nice crust on your steak and it won't taste like grey horsemeat.
  3. Make a list of four dishes you fucking LOVE (and that fit your macros) and practice them until you can make them without much measuring or looking at the recipe.
Creepy does not even begin to describe this picture, but this even this weird fucker can cook.

Trust me when I say that cooking is way easier than you think it is- you just need to apply the same discipline to it that you do lifting and you'll be more golden than Dusty Rhodes' son.  So, with that, let's get on to the good stuff.

Stew-Roids- The easiest food man has devised
Stew is literally the easiest thing on Earth to cook this side of my hyper-delicious hyperbulk favorite, frozen Banquet fried chicken (and if you've never had it, it makes KFC taste like a fried troll that had lived its life on a diet of doghit before dying of syphillis), and stew has the added benefit of not putting cellulite on your face if you eat too much of it.  It's the just about the oldest method of food on Earth, second only to roast meat.  Seriously, the cauldron, soup pot, whatever the fuck you want to call it, basically marked the divide between the man who spoke in grunts and hopped around like a pack of retards in a McDonalds Playland and the man who shot monkeys into space.  So not only was it integral to living, but the cauldron was the mainstay of every kitchen around the world until just recently.
"There emerges a picture of plain living society scattered over much Europe north of the Alps, dining most days on bread, water, or ale, and a companaticum (that which goes with the bread) from the cauldron, the original stockpot or pot-au-fait that provided an ever-changing broth enriched daily with whatever was available.  The cauldron was rarely emptied out except in preparation for the meatless week of Lent, so that while a hare, hen, or pigeon would give it a fine meaty flavor, the taste of salted pork or cabbage would linger for days, even weeks.  Except in really hard times, this system meant that there was generally something hot and filling to eat, even if it was no more than a soup thick with shreds of past dinners" (Tannahill 94-95).  
"But the cauldron remained the central and essential feature of the northern kitchen until the eighteenth century, and it was the cauldron that dictated how the majority of everyday foods should be cooked.  In America the cauldron (known as the 'kettle') was still the single most important and expensive item in the settles' baggage during the westward expansion of the nineteenth century" (Tannahill 97).
So I think by now, I've made my point- stew is the engine on which humanity runs, and the best part is that it doesn't matter if you're poorer than a Thai ladyboy hooker who only wants to fuck devout Mormons in the Tabernacle or if you can't cook for shit.  Viking berserkers lived on stewroids (their staple stew was called skause), and as I've mentioned before, it's practically all sumo wrestlers and Icelandic strongmen live on.  The best part is, even if you're a fucking hobo or you're just a bro who spent his last $10 on preworkout drinks at the gym, you can make a badass stew out of nothing but possibly-gone-bad leftovers and a little ingenuity.  Here's how.



Roadkill Soup aka Kentucky Burgoo 
Something called Roadkill Soup is exactly what I expect most of us would think people in Kentucky would eat.  While banging their sister, playing the banjo, and doing that weird backwoods tapdancing.
Yeah, I don't get it either.

In any event, the origins of Kentucky Burgoo are pretty much shrouded in mystery- I spent a considerable amount of time researching it and it basically boils down to the fact that there were a lot of really poor Kentucky work crews in the mid 1800s who wouldn't be able to work if they fell facedown from starvation.  So, someone invented this thick-as-fuck belly buster to get their asses moving.  You can make a burgoo (which has to be the most disgusting word in the English language and is apparently predates the stew itself, somehow) with literally anything, but the Confederate army cook Gus Jaubert, who's considered to be the father of burgoo, said this is how he did it:
"The making of good burgoo... is even more difficult than the roasting of the meat and requires more time.…Its ingredients are 400 pounds of beef, six dozen chickens, four dozen rabbits, thirty cans of tomatoes, twenty dozen cans of corn, fifteen bushels of potatoes, and five bushels of onions." 
No two burgoo recipes are the same, and some people even throw in dead shit they find on the side of the road.  One thing they all have in common, apparently, is a healthy dose of bourbon... which makes sense given Kentucky's known for the stuff.  Some people apparently simmer their burgoo for a full 24 hours, but that's just fucking silly- what kind of overall-wearing, washboard-playing maniac wants to wait a full fucking day to eat a meal?  In any event, the way I made it ended up tasting a lot like chili, which is fine by me because I could live on nothing but chili and die with a smile on my face that'd make it look like I died fucking twenty porn stars.  So here's what I did:

Ingredients
1 lb 90% lean ground beef
1/2 lb stew meat
Some leftover pulled barbecue chicken
1 can of corn
1 can of red beans
1 can diced tomatoes
15 oz can tomato sauce
1 diced potato
Couple of pinches of salt
Couple of pinches of red pepper
Couple of pinches of ancho chili pepper

Directions
  • Brown the meat in a frying pan using a couple of tablespoons of olive oil.  I chop my ground beef as finely as possible, because it gave a nice contrast to the size of the stew meat.  
  • Dice your potatoes however you like them- I wanted mine small because I had some rice to throw the stew over and I figured it'd all just meld nicely.  The whole point of this recipe is that you make it however you like it, so you can experiment and find out how you like it best.
  • Once that's done, just dump all of the ingredients in a pot and simmer it for an hour.  If you're new to cooking, just put the temperature dial on 2.
  • Rock out with your cock out and eat.  I threw some diced jalapenos and habeneros on top and then threw the whole thing over rice.  Everyone does their own thing with burgoo- doesn't matter if you top the stuff with a dead blackbird you found in your backyard... which is incidentally one of the legends of the origins of burgoo.



Mulligan Stew / Hunter's Stew / Trashcan Chili
Hobo stew.  It can't get any easier than that, can it?  This doesn't differ greatly from burgoo, and a lot of people think that Mulligan stew was the inspiration for burgoo... but frankly, who gives a shit?
Basically, I'm just including this one to show you guys how easy it is to cook up something decent on the cheap.  All of the recipes for this one involve a couple of kinds of meat and some veggies, usually onions and green peppers.  The following recipe, to which I obviously added red beans for more protein and texture, comes from 1906 and was literally written by a hobo.  Apparently back in the day there were hobos who worked as typesetters to pay for their whisky and Mulligan Stew while they rode the rails from town to town, which is about as ridiculous as it is cool- the only thing that could make that cooler is if Ashley Blue was riding the guy's face as he typed.  In any event, here is the authentic recipe:

  • Chicken, young or old
  • Beef, tender or tough
  • Salt pork (plenty of salt)
  • Mutton (made from sheep)
  • Potatoes (commonly called “spuds”)
  • Carrots, turnips, tomatoes, green corn (and other vegetables)
  • Take an ax (or similar device) and chop all into fine particles (more or less), throw entire mixture into a large receptacle and coil until all the ingredients are tender (the meat especially). Serve while steaming hot.


Who in the fuck wants to look at hobo porn?  Who even knew such a thing existed?  Well, now we all do.

Obviously, salt pork is not easy to find, so I used bacon.  For the veggies, I used jalapenos, green onions, and corn.  If you want to be hyper authentic, you've got to find a big tomato can and cook it over an open fire surrounded by hobos who are probably going to get you drunk on grain alcohol and then gang rape you, so I'd just use a slow cooker.  Clearly, using ground pork and ground beef makes more sense than chopping the shit up with an axe... and if you have an axe in your kitchen you are probably adding human flesh to this mixture anyway.  In any event, hobos liked this stuff because you could literally make it out of anything you had handy, and you should like it because it means you can bulk on literally anything.

To sum things up, you have no excuse for not making gains.  Just get out your crock pot and throw in whatever the fuck you have handy- it'll taste better than being small.

Here's a little eye cleanse, because even I'm a little disturbed by the hobo porn.

Sources:
Anderson, Jean.  Kentucky Burgoo.  Epicurious.  Web.  5 Aug 2017.
Sparber, Max.  Irish-American Dining: Mulligan Stew.  Happy Hooligan.  27 Aug 2014.  Web.  11 Jun 2017.  http://www.happyhooligan.co/2014/08/irish-american-dining-mulligan-stew/
Tannahill, Reay.  Food in History.  New York: Broadway Books, 1995.