“Strong people are harder to kill than weak people, and more useful in general.”
– Mark Rippetoe
Times have changed. I’m no longer a kid. I’m a married man with a dog. Incredibly, I actually own furniture I didn’t assemble myself with an allen wrench. I just moved into a real house with a real mortgage. I’m pushing the big three oh. Yikes! Where did the time go?
While I’m a still a bit young to win the curmudgeon sweepstakes, it’s time enjoy a glass of bourbon, look back in anger and get a head start on gettin’ all cranky and irascible while shootin’ the shit about strength trainin’ y’all. ( I now live in Georgia, so I can get away with talkin’ like that. Just sayin’…)
Today’s we’ll talk about how to build real world strength (in every way) and why too many of today’s men fall short.
P.S. Are you ready to build bone-crushing, functional strength without all the aches and pains? To cut through the fluff and build Grown-Ass Man Strength, download:
When I was a swill drinkin’ 20 year old…
When I was 20 and in college, I held a second job as a landscaper. For a college kid, the money was good.
How good? Good enough to pay my for my protein powder and bar tabs while allowing me to stay get jacked and tan all summer. Gym, Tan, Laundry (GTL)… Wisconsin style. ;).
The rough part?
Well, I was the rookie. The noob. Still, I was in good shape and strong. Kinda. But maybe just “gym strong.” Which may — or may not — be the real thing. It depends on who you ask.
My co-workers would not have been impressed by my gym PRs had I been dumb enough to mention them. They were more interested in whether I could carry my weight on the crew. Like every newbie since the beginning of time, I was relegated to doing what was called the “bitch work.” Here’s how it went down. The older guys on the crew kicked back to nurse a hangover, take a water break, or fly around in a Bobcat. Meantime, as the “designated bitch,” I carried heavy stones up hills. I also got to carry cinder blocks down embankments.
On especially lucky days, I pushed rickety overloaded wheel-barrels up damp, dewy embankments at 6:00 am. If tipped a barrel or messed something up? I had to buy everyone a case of beer, which in college days was a small fortune. As fate would have it, young Eric tipped a few barrels but had a fake ID and was able to oblige.
(Editor’s note: there go Eric’s Presidential ambitions. The damaging admission of fake ID will doom him! Just kidding. Did you see who’s in office?) Hey, since when does the editor get to make jokes? Let’s get back on track here. The point is…after the long days, I was dead tired.
I still made it to the gym once during the week, and once on Saturday after work.
Yet with only two workouts per week and tons of manual labor, I was soon the strongest I’d been both in the gym and in real life
I started to develop what my buddies and I called grown-ass man strength.
You know what I’m talking about. This is the strength your grandpa used to crush your hand and whoop your ass despite being half your size and three times your age.
Not to sound grouchy before my time, but let me make offer this observation:
Many members of the current generation of men are pathetically weak, both physically and mentally.
As I’ve written before, that’s because, for most people in most developed countries, life in 2017 is easy. The hard physical labor of the “good old days” is mostly gone. More importantly, so is the mental grit — born of war and the struggle for survival — that was the hallmark of past generations.
And capturing, killing, and preparing our own food? Well, we live in a day of excess where too much food — not too little — is the problem that is killing us.
Without a struggle in sight, we bitch on social media about the horrors of #firstworldproblems.
Still, many people at least hit the gym to build some real world strength.
Well, kind of.
They hit a few functional movements to activate the psoas, then avoid hard work like the plague because they’re scared of over training, adrenal fatigue, or building legs because they might stretch out their precious Lululemon joggers.
Workouts end with the ritual snapping a few selfies that include the “Gym or Die” T-shirt” slogan. Next up: posting #Beastmode on Instagram, only hours after the oblivious-to-irony #firstworldproblems post.
Back in the day (say 2003) most gyms were still gritty. Think plastic coated concrete weights and training in a second-floor gym without AC. They were places of hard work, pain, brotherhood, perseverance, sweat, and at the end of the day, self- improvement.
Today? Meh. Not so much. Going to the gym is more of a fashion statement than a place to get hard work done. Quite the microcosm of our society, isn’t it?
We have forgotten to dig in and focusing on what really matters: hard work for a cause and dedication to self-improvement.
We don’t take action to fix our own problems, much less help anyone else or address society’s larger problems.
Nope, we’d rather bitch in the echo chamber of social media than be a person of action.
Physically? Well, most lifters are well read and educated on how to train. But they never put in the effort to dig deep and do the hard work.
And while there’s nothing wrong with vanity, most dudes are too concerned with whether the lighting is perfect to show their biceps peak on Instagram. Too few are concerned with whether they’re improving or (gasp) can do 12 pull-ups without flailing like a fish out of water.
“Knowledge isn’t life changing. The application of knowledge is.”
― Todd Stocker
The Hard Truth on Real World Strength
Brutally hard work, such as manual labor and heavy strength training, is the only real way of making physical progress. Further, I believe physical challenge (here are 9 of them) and physical progress is one of the best ways to make mental progress and become a better person with the confidence to seek out new challenges.
Without a challenge, there is no growth in the gym or any avenue of life worth pursuing. Without taking your body to the limits both inside and outside the gym, it’s damn near impossible to build a powerfully strong and functional physique, let alone the mental fortitude to help others change their lives.
Not Seeing Results? Get Strong First
The first step is to get strong. Rare exceptions and injuries non-withstanding, if you’re not hitting the following numbers with some variation of the big lifts, then you need to make this your focus.
Fancy fat loss and muscle building routines won’t work well until you build a base of strength. Train three times per week using a 6×3, 5×5, or 4×6 workout scheme until you reach the following “average” numbers:
Squats: Get to 1.5x your bodyweight for two reps. If you weigh 150 pounds, you should squat 225 pounds. Everyone can fake one rep. If you hit two reps, there’s a good chance one was deep enough.
Deadlifts: Get to 1.5x your bodyweight for two reps
Bench Presses. Get to 1x your bodyweight for five reps.
Lunges: 1/3 of your bodyweight in pounds for ten reps. Thus, 150 pounds= 50 pounds/hand x10 reps.
Rows: ½ body weight in pounds for ten reps. If you weigh 170 lbs, row 85 lbs for 10 reps.
Pull-Ups 8-12 reps. No kipping.
With sound training, this can be done by a newbie lifter in 4-6 months, max. Don’t overcomplicate it
If your conditioning sucks every other aspect of your fitness will suffer.
You won’t have the work capacity to endure and recover from high volume, muscle building training. You won’t have the athleticism to transfer your hard work from the gym to the real world.
Your energy and health will suffer as you wheeze your way through the airport to catch your flight. And as important as anything else, you’ll get soft mentally.
Trust me, I hate conditioning. Back in my high school football days conditioning was used as a “punishment” for being late, mental mistakes, or some other reason. Still, pushing your body to the limit when you feel there’s nothing left in the tank builds the strength to endure.
Ideally, you’ll perform two hard conditioning workouts each week. Don’t wither away on the treadmill before training unless you want your strength to plummet. Instead, do hard conditioning as a separate workout away from lifting is best, but if needed, hit it hard right after training.
Don’t make it too complicated either.
Hill Sprints: Set a timer for 15 minutes, run up a hill as fast as you can, then walk back down. When your heart rate calms down, repeat.
Barbell Complexes: Pick 4-8 exercises and move through them without putting a barbell down. Rest 60 seconds, then repeat 2-3 times. Here are a few examples.
Jumping Rope: Jumping rope is one of the best conditioning workouts you can do.
First, you’ll probably be terrible. This is good. You’ll be inefficient, meaning your body will burn more fuel to figure out what you’re trying to do and burn more calories.
Second, jumping rope is a self-limiting exercise. If you mess up, the exercise ends. All of this makes it extremely unlikely you’ll overdo it and pop a hammy.
Third, jumping rope is a low-impact movement, despite a high number of foot strikes. For skinny runts, the low impact doesn’t create a hypercatabolic environment that erodes your precious biceps.
This means yes, you’ll get shredded without dropping lean muscle. Keep it simple. Take 15 minutes, two days per week and get after it.
Weighted Carries: Farmer’s walks work, but don’t rule out Zercher carries, loaded barbell walks, sandbag carries, or car/sled pushes. Load up a heavy object and carry/push them as far as you can with good technique. Rest until your heart rate calms down, then repeat for 15-20 minutes.
How to Build Real World Strength
To build your best body and the toughness needed to become the boss of your life you need an expertly designed program to eliminate the fluff and help you focus on what truly matters: getting stronger.
The fitness industry is clouded with gimmicky gadgets and fix all programs.
At the end of the day, it’s best to stick with what’s proven to work: getting strong at the basics.
This gives you the work capacity to build muscle.
This gives you more muscle, so your metabolism stays higher and helps you burn fat even at rest.
Keep it simple. Do less but better and get strong first.
“Difficulties strengthen the mind, as labor does the body.”
Challenge your body.
Challenge your mind.
Set yourself up for growth.
It will pay off in every aspect of your life.
P.S. Are you ready to build bone-crushing, functional strength without all the aches and pains? Download your FREE Six Week Sheer Strength Plan here.