Sunday, April 3, 2016

Road to Nationals - Week 21 and 22: You break because you're broken.

This is going to be a relatively short post today because it's been a pretty sluggish last two weeks. Training has been rough simply because the rest of my life has been a whirlwind. It's just what happens when you chase chaos. Sometimes you're the hammer. Sometimes you're the nail.

What I'm getting at is this: If you don't take care of yourself, you're going to break down. More importantly, if you don't know what, "taking care of yourself" means, then you're in even bigger trouble.

What I'm learning is that as I grow older, there is far less room for error. You can't train on 5 hours of sleep. (Well... you can, but it won't be as productive, and you're far more likely to eventually get injured, yah dig?).

Moreover, as you grow older, you sure as hell can't fool around as much. Things like bracing during movement have always mattered, but when it's harder for you to recover, it matters even more.

See video 1:

This is 345 for 5. It felt great. I was well rested and I was under my competition weight. Life was good. I was eating clean. I have no complaints about this (aside from getting used to getting the bar lower on my back).

Now take a look at this:

This is 10 days later. I'm 4 pounds heavier, and this is my second set at 355 for 3. In the other video the barbell only has 10 pounds less on it.

In both videos, I feel like my movement is pretty fluid. I also feel like my speed is consistent. However, after the second video (the red-shirt video), I felt like my lower back was going to explode, and I was exhausted. That 355 might as well have been 405.

I've attributed the shit feeling of the movement to 3 things: (1) Lack of sleep. (2) Poor nutrition (I had been on a steady diet of Reese peanut butter eggs, and that weekend we were out until 5 AM in DC with friends), (3) A lack of bracing.

I get into conversations all the time about why people "don't train like they used to," and they blame it on getting old. They blame it on "life." They make excuses. The truth is, they don't really want to get better - and they will continue to break because they are already broken. Because it's hard to get 8-10 hours of sleep when you're 31 with a mortgage. And it's hard to eat right when you're "always out." And it's hard to brace and stretch and cool down because "it takes too long."

... But as long as you're broken, you'll continue to break.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Road to Nationals - Week 19 and Week 20: All Aboard The Struggle Bus

This is what failure looks like... wait for it:

The worst part about this lift is that most people can't see what's really wrong with it, and a lot of it has to do with glute activation (an inconvenient truth I was, at first, reluctant to admit). All in all, the first rep looks pretty damn good. It's at 405, which is 80% of my 1RM. The goal was to pull all 5 reps without a belt...

That didn't happen. Here are the final 2 reps of the 2nd set:

They both felt really good in teh second video, but I'm sure you're seeing what I'm seeing. The back rounds slightly (or at least it appears to because of the belt).

I've always felt this way: I'm good for a single pull off of the floor. Because I struggle with glute activation, I tend to use a lot of lower back. With a belt for a single pull, I'm still pretty good for big numbers (if I can hit 525 by June, I'll be happy). However, put 455 on the bar and ask me to pull it for 3 and we're going to have a problem.

I finished the first week of the second phase of my 10 week squat cycle, and I'm pretty happy with where things are going. Thanks to a crap ton of T-Spine mobility work, my low-bar squatting has been feeling great (I was worried when I first started).

In other news, these exist:

Here's to another week-long struggle. Looking forward to what's ahead. 30 weeks out from Nationals in Atlanta, and I'm looking to total 1300# by the time it's all said and done. Let's rock and roll.

Be well,

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Road to Nationals - Week 17 and 18: What it takes to be a journeyman

... as per ole' faithful, Wikipedia:

"journeyman is an individual who has completed an apprenticeship and is fully educated in a trade or craft, but not yet a master. To become a master, a journeyman has to submit a master work piece to a guild for evaluation and be admitted to the guild as a master."

I've been searching for the right words to define this experience, and it was only recently that I stumbled upon something that resonated with me.

Last night, a buddy of mine smoked a personal best in the clean and jerk. For those who have taken up weightlifting as a hobby or serious sport, the quest for 315 (the sacred 3 plates), is an elusive one.

Josh is a hero of mine.

And as a tradesman by day, I couldn't help but think of how much I liked the idea of being a journeyman. It's a good one.

We're all on that journey. And when I think about that "education in a trade or craft," I can't help but think that many of us, especially the savages I train with week to week, are very much so in the thick of that sacred conquest for medals and records and glory. We're all Journeymen.

Here's the video (It's a thing of beauty.).

Journey Notes: 

I just finished up week 3 of my new program. It's looking week 4 is going to be pretty miserable; lots of 4x4 work at about 80%. My coach's notes say RPE should be somewhere around 8/9. I'm excited to see how, exactly, my body responds to low-bar squatting at 80%. So far, it's felt pretty good. Moreover, it's been beltless, and I'm planning on hitting this 80% beltless, too.

The following week is looking like a de-load week, and then I'm back on another 4 weeks to finish off this squat cycle.

Then, I've got a 10-week bench cycle. That cycle should run me right into my meet on June 5th. After that, I'll be hitting a 10-week deadlift cycle, and that should put me 2 months out from Nationals in Atlanta.

Established goals (subject to only get more aggressive):

National Total: 1300 (should place me top 10)

Squat: 450
Deadlift: 535
Bench: 315

That's all I got for you, folks. Follow Josh on Instagram HERE.

Be well,

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Road To Nationals: Week 16: This is why you're weak

When I first started Crossfitting back in 2010 at Crossfit Tribe (Rest In Peace), we used to meet up every Sunday to work on our weaknesses, and we always had such a grand old time.

I remember looking in the mirror before leaving the house and thinking, "I suck at overhead squats. I suck at snatching. I suck at... everything?"

And I can't help but think about how much I've grown as an athlete since then.

Because when we talk about "weaknesses," sometimes it can become a labyrinthian quest of sorts.

Because there is a difference between having a weakness and being weak.

I'm writing it again:

There is a difference between having a weakness and being weak.

Truthfully, life is pretty easy when you're plain, old fashioned weak.

Ultimately, what it means is that you just have to sack up: Push more. Pull more. Follow (literally) any program. You'll be fine (and dare I say that maybe this is some advice for life, too?).

Think about it:

If you can't squat double your bodyweight. You just need to squat more; you don't need a coach to tell you what's wrong with your squat.

If you can't clean your body weight. You just need to push and pull more. You don't need a coach to tell you what's wrong with your clean.

Your only weakness is that you're weak...

Looking back, I remember beating myself up about my clean for a while in those early years of my training.

"Why can't I clean 225?"

Insert Inner Monologue: You're having a hard time cleaning 225 because you can't even front squat 225. Idiot.

Now, I only clean maybe 3-4 times a year (#strugglesofpowerlifting), and I weigh the same...

But I can clean 225 from the hip for a triple because my front squat is 330 and I can deadlift 500lbs.

Life gets easy when you're stronger.

... until you start to realize that you have legitimate weaknesses...

Note: I also know how to clean.

The Truth 

After several email exchanges with my coach, despite making great strength gains as we work through programming leading up to 2016 Nationals, he dropped some pretty serious news on me:

I'm broken.

I don't mean to sound melodramatic, but it's true. I am. It's why my chest falls in the squat. It's why my lower back rounds in my deadlift. It's why I'm not very strong overhead.

I'm not weak by any means, but it's very apparent that I have weaknesses that need correcting.

With that being said, over the next several weeks, expect to see videos like the one below:

The first depressing thing about starting a new program after two weeks of eating whatever I want: My belly is back. And it sucks. However, it's to be expected. I could focus on dieting down and hitting cardio and doing whatever else I need to do to look better in front of a mirror, but it's a slippery slope, and for right now, I'd rather focus on the OTHER weakness...

The focus here is on the lower back. Coach Kev more or less told me that despite pulling that 500, I'm a time-bomb if my back keeps rounding. Because of this, you can expect to see me resetting in my deadlifts and performing A LOT of mobility/preactivation/isolation work.

Note: It's not fun, and it doesn't look cool. Nobody cares about how well you pull 70%. And nobody cares about working on glute activation or T-spine work.

But my body cares; and I can't set a record or podium at Nationals if I'm out because a disk exploded or my pec came unglued.

Welcome to the next 33 weeks, folks.

Here's to being weak and fighting weakness.

All Best,

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Road To Nationals: Week 14 and 15 - About Resting, Writing, and having fun.

When I first started The Poet and The Platform, I took the time throughout several early posts to discuss my journey so far as a writer, hence the "Poet" portion of the title. Last week, on Radio 104.5 Philadelphia's PODCAST with Wendy Rollins and Paul Nance called Alter Natives, I had the opportunity to talk a bit about what that title means, why I write, and what it means to be a writer (I also got to geek out about the Pop Punk scene).

Apparently, I'm not just some power-lifter bro who likes to yell and lift things...

But let's be fair; a large part of me is still very much so just that haha.

So yeah, about writing:

I've been doing it for a VERY long time, and as I have recently just rounded over the age of 30 and gracefully made my way to 31, what I've realized is that I've been a writer for half of my life.

From fiction to creative non-fiction to slam poetry to pop songs to hardcore, I think it's safe to say that I've dabbled in just about all of it. Hell, I've even had the opportunity to write copy for various brands (*shadow high five to Don Draper* - SEE: Heavy Rep Gear ). Overall, it's been a great run.

But when people ask me about writing, there's always that question of, "So what have you been up to?" and then I say, "Writing," and then there's the question of, "About what?" and then I have to be self-absorbed and slightly pretentious and say, "Everything."

But it's true.

Because that's the only thing that can really keep you writing and motivated and optimistic. You stop, you die. It's that simple. When I say that I write about everything in every way, I mean it. It keeps the blade sharp. No one wants to stake a fighter who hasn't thrown a punch in years. So I write. Even this thing right here, this blog, has some work thrown into it. I write this to keep me sharp. I play around with sentence structure and diction and commas (or the lack thereof), and I try to keep a mental note. (Craft and structure matters, people. It's an art). And when I'm not writing, I'm reading. I'm reading blogs and articles and reviews and fiction and nonfiction and poetry and whatever else I can get my hands on.

Because no one wants a fighter who hasn't thrown a punch in a few years.

Writing is an aggressively messy practice, and if you're too afraid to get dirty, then it's not for you. But if you're down to make a mess like nobody's business...

... then full speed ahead.

When I did the pod cast two nights ago (Again, here is the link: ), I spent some time talking about a band called The Dangerous Summer, and I felt like I needed to share their first record with you all. I'd forgotten about it for a while and then picked it back up again for one reason or another... what a great decision that was:

This is the only song I could post to YouTube for some reason, but give it a listen and then check out the rest of the album.

As for the Podcast, Wendy and Paul will be doing shows weekly, and I cannot stress this enough: Listen to it, especially if you're a fan of music. I can promise you that you will find a few pieces of yourself buried in the awesome discussion that happens on that show.

A few notes on training:

Over the last two weeks, I've been having some fun with my training. I'd originally attempted to hit a workout called King Kong with a buddy of mine, but that fell through (#bourbon). Take a look at the video below to get an idea of what the workout entails. It's a throw-back video of Josh Everett doing it in like 3 minutes...

"I snatched 255 and clean and jerked 335 earlier today, so I guess that's like... a warm up."

Shut up, Josh.

A few notes about personal highlights: I managed to do strict FRAN in 10 minutes (my PR is 7:30). The video below isn't of me, but if  you have no idea what I'm talking about, it gives you a decent idea of the workout. It's 21/15/9 reps of thrusters at 95# and strict pull-ups.

I felt like I was dying in a fire by the time I was done, and I was coughing for the next two days.

The following day, me, my coach, and a few buddies did an assault bike workout, too. That was miserable. Note the worst 3 minutes of your life: Max rep bench press @ your bodyweight. Then, 30 seconds max calorie on an assault bike. Rest 2-3 minutes. Repeat for 3 rounds. My buddy first suggested 10... then 5... but we eventually pulled the break at 3 rounds because we legitimately didn't want to die.

In other news:

I cleaned 250# for 3 singles. That was nice.
I snatched 155# for a single. That was cool.
I fooled around with a low-bar back squat and managed to smoke 295# for 3 with a 2-second pause in the hole.
I hit a 3 position clean at 225#.

A  bit about de-load/off weeks:

At the end of the day, I train because I like to move and I think it's fun. If I wasn't making a run at nationals, I would probably do more of what you see above. It keeps the mind, body, and soul fresh. It also makes me feel like a god damn savage when I can carry a heavy, 30-inch bathroom vanity by myself from my car into my house alone. #reallife

I should be getting my program on Monday. Coach is changing things up a bit. It's looking like a 10-week squat cycle is on deck. See you all on the other side.

Be well,

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Road to Nationals - Week 13: Maxing out

Hey all,

Below you can find some videos from this week's max-out attempts:


I was very disappointed with my squat performance. I "opened" with a 395 squat that felt pretty light, but for some reason, things fell off the rails shortly after. Below you can find the 405 attempt. Though I make the lift, it felt way heavier than I would have liked it to be...

My chest falls forward and then I have to correct myself. What a mess...

The next two videos are at 415. I don't want to consider these "made" lifts (especially not the second one, yuck), because of my brother's help about mid-way out of the hole. Maybe (especially for the first video below), I could have gutted it out without him there, but who knows...

Ultimately, I've got work to do. I think my stance was a bit too narrow (causing the falling chest), and I really do need to do something about how high that barbell is on my back. I'm not an Olympic lifter... so it really is unnecessary. All things consistent, if I just switch over to a more low-bar style and I can put some pounds on my total, so be it.

Squat = 405.


I don't have any video of it because I had to lift at my high school's weight room (scheduling to lift was crazy this week). However, the good news is that I was able to PR. I am now proudly a part of the 500lb club. It's a far cry from what a lot of the top-tier lifters are pulling (close to 600) in my weight class, but I'm getting there.

Deadlift = 500.


I'm really proud of these bench attempts. When I first started on this journey, I knew that my bench was my limiting factor. In a little over a year of serious training, I've been able to put almost 75lbs onto my bench. With that being said, I understand that the road ahead is going to be brutal. I don't think I'll be making jumps like that anymore (I've settled into thinking that putting on 30lbs a year would be great). I'd only hoped to bench 275, but it felt really light, so below you can see videos for 285 and 290.

Bench = 290.


Squat: 405
Bench: 290
Deadlift: 500
New Unofficial Total: 1195

A few words:

Things like this are bitter-sweet. I didn't make my squat attempts at 415, so that's a bummer, and though I now have those numbers under my belt, they weren't all done on the same day and the lifts sure as hell weren't all done during a meet. I don't care about what anyone says, on the platform under the lights is WAY different from lifting with your buddies at the gym up the road.

The new goal, now, is to make these numbers at the meet on June 5th. However, it's going to be a grind. In a perfect world, with the right programming, I'm hoping to put another 10lbs on each lift by June, so we'll see how it goes. Had I totaled this in the fall at Nationals, I would have placed 15th, so I'm excited to see what's to come of me by October. Though I'm fairly certain a 1300lbs total is a bit of a longshot, if I want to place top ten, that's where I will need to be. Moreover, if I want to podium for 2017, it's looking like I'll have to be damn close to a 1400lb total.

Next week is looking like a rest week, so I'll be taking a week off from blogging as well (unless the spirit catches me).

Be well,

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Road to Nationals: Week 12 - Knowing when to bow out, and knowing when to dig in...

What's good, people!?

No videos. No Competition. No nothing.

I know; riveting. Let me explain:

About two months ago, I signed up for a competition in North Jersey, The USAPL New Jersey Winter War. I was looking forward to a mid-year competition in an attempt to better improve my overall national ranking going into Nationals this Fall but, as many of you are well aware, Mother Nature had other plans.

The blizzard that wreaked havoc all along the North East more or less put New Jersey to a standstill. Though I had every intention competing, and after a long afternoon and an early morning of shoveling out my car (for the second time), and after an offer was made by the meet director to carry my registration (and anyone else's) to another meet because of the state of emergency, I decided to bow out and take him up on his offer.

When I woke up at 6:30AM this morning, I still had every intention of competing, despite being pretty exhausted; but after another hour of shoveling (thanks, winter), I realized something pretty profound:

You're an idiot. 

Wait. I mean... I'm not talking to you, the  reader. What I meant was that I was talking to myself (It was one of those introspective, self-talk sort of things).

But about why I (and maybe you?) may be an idiot...

It's not all that complicated.

To think that you can put yourself into a caloric deficit, dehydrate yourself in an attempt to lose weight, and THEN shovel snow for several hours, sleep (poorly), wake up early to shovel again for an hour, sit in a car for two, and STILL be able to pull off personal bests in a competition is out-right foolish. What I realized was that I would rather save my body, eat a little, and then head to the gym to smoke some PRs, especially since I can save the $100 and put it towards a meet in the summer (fingers crossed for no blizzards) than risk bombing out, hitting disappointing numbers, or getting injured.

I could have easily said screw it, hopped in the car, and made it to the meet, but for what? Pride?

Was it a national level meet? No.
Have I already qualified for nationals? Yes.
Was I going to break a state record? No.
Could I have potentially gotten injured / overtrained / bombed out: Yes.

Had I won the meet (and beaten the OTHER guy... meaning that there were only 2 of us in the weight class), I would have had, more or less, a participation trophy. This isn't a Tough Mudder. No one cares about the guy who "showed up and tried really hard."

For most people, this is a non-issue. Of course. Don't go. Who Cares?

But for people who like to compete, this quite the heartbreaker.

At the end of the day, though, putting pride, desire, and spite aside, this is a marathon, and you can't buy days on the calendar. Every day you don't make the most of what you need to is another day you fall behind.

NOTE: Sometimes, bowing out is smarter than digging in.

Be well, Warrior Poets.

All best,