Tuesday, December 3, 2013

The GZCL Method is Not a Program

It was never intended to be.

I have simply laid out the tiered structure, the correlating intensities, as well as the volume gradients attached to each tier. I have given suggested exercises as well as suggested exercise pairings. I have written about all kinds of things relating to training, in the general sense, in order to avoid making a “GZCL Program.”

The guidelines or "soft rules," oversimplified.

It is not a program. It is a method.

Of course I have created programs from it. Programs that are found on TheSquatRack.com, found in the original body of the text, and various other places. Hell, I have emailed excel files to people; programs that I have used previously. But those are only examples of what can be done with the GZCL Method and the road doesn’t end with those.

Hell, most of them are not perfect. No program is. Most of them weren’t made for you.

Unless you made it, chances are it wasn’t made for you. That means you will probably have to make a few small changes- that is your program.

Think of it this way, my method is simply a map. The programs I have put out there using that map are only routes. How you navigate that map is entirely up to you. It is your efforts that will take you from Point-A to Point-B, and getting there- even if using the exact same route, could have very different experiences from lifter to lifter.

A map is what every lifter needs. Lacking a map is often what keeps people from starting an adventure- and that’s all training is, and should be. An adventure. I’ve published a map and it is up to the owners of that knowledge to use it as they deem fit. If they put it on a bookshelf to collect dust so be it. But I am genuinely honored to hear about everyone who has taken my map and wore it out in their back pocket.

Making their journey, under their drive, and to their destination.

Whether or not someone has used my map and routes doesn’t mean I’ve somehow magically gifted to them their destination. Helpful information is nothing without action and it is action that causes reaction. That reaction is newfound strength.

Now for a small new addition to my map...

A new addition to the “soft rules” or guidelines I’ve put out.

The Priority Continuum

Consistency: Are you training often enough?  
Frequency: Are you training your T1 movements frequently and consistently?
Volume: Are you programming with adequate volume in all tiers, frequently and consistently?  
Intensity: Are you moving intensities with adequate volume in all tiers, frequently and consistently?
Diet: Are you adhering to a diet that guarantees your continued performance in the above four?
Drugs: Are all above matters in order?

More on this in a later blog post.

Again, use my method as such, and never think it to be strict sets-times-reps-times-weight-times-whatever. Because that is not what it is. If something isn’t working out for you along your route with this map, guess what, stray the path and go bushwhacking. Murder a few oxen in a river crossing and maybe get stranded in a blizzard and eat your family.  

Because all that matters in this adventure is whether or not you end up stronger at the end of it.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Training Update: Getting Stronger

It has been a while since I've posted an update about my own training. Well, where do I begin?

Since the American Cup I've done the following:

- Brought my conventional deadlift up to 505 lb.

Easy peasy.

- Nearly doubled 500 lb. in my weightlifting shoes.

- Brought my five rep max total to 1,115 lb., two pounds greater than my first powerlifting total.

- Squatted 435 lb. in wraps.  I very rarely train in wraps and so throwing them on and getting a 30 lb. PR was expected. Haven't trained in them since that day I think.

- Got a 295 lb. touch and go bench. 

- 290 lb. paused bench.

- Made pause squats my bitch. 

- As of today took my squat 8RM from earlier this year and turned it into my 13RM. Then followed that up with a lifetime PR for beltless sumo deadlifts- 500 lb. easy. 

But what is more important are the people who, as a result of my method and their hard work, have gotten stronger. In one more week it will have been one year since I published my method online. In that time, greatness has happened. 

- User Flowersandrink added not only reps to his bar, but more weight too. Much much more. Took his bench from 240x4 to 250x6, squat from 340x3 to 350x5, deadlift from 365x5 to 405x3, and OHP from 145x6 to 155x6. In three months. 

- User Jevanses had a 35 kg increase on her total, not solely because of my method. But she was following a "lower volume version" for her squatting. 

- User Frak8757 using my method for 4-5 months put 65 lb. on her meet total. 

- User Mrthedon put 108 lb. on his meet total using my method in conjunction with a run of Coan/Phillipi for his deadlift. 

John let me know on Facebook, "So I borrowed your general training methodology for my own personal training and its working great so far."

An anonymous lifter messaged me to say, "Went from 310x2 TNG bench the first month and managed a 305x3 paused bench this time around. Hit a 415x2x2 squat and hit a 15 lb. PR 460 squat today."

From a lifter on Fitocracy, "After seven months, I broken through the 300 lb squat, and now I'm on the verge of 400s. I've started deadlifting, and I've gradually made my way to 435lb. I just joined the 1K club. I did my first meet today placing 2nd in the raw open 148 lb weight class."

There are many more. Not enough to please me, but the numbers are growing. I love helping others get stronger, their PR's feel like mine. Their drive. Their determination. Their results. Although the effort was theirs- it still motivates the hell out of me. But most important of all, is user

Always_Positive_Guy saying, "GZCL Method might have changed my life."

And that, is nothing short of amazing. 

When I first put out my method nearly a year ago I never expected that it would take off in the way it has. Not like it is anything huge like Cube Method, Juggernaut, or 5/3/1. But as of today, it is much larger than I ever imagined it being- and it is growing. Why is it growing? Because it works, and people like getting stronger. 

As of right now, The GZCL Method for Powerlifting blog post has 24,929 page views. 

Not too shabby for a little guy.

I want to thank everyone who helped me write out my thoughts and convince me to put my training method onto paper, to share with other lifters. Especially you Matt. 

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Twenty Thousand Reps Under the Bar: A Journey into CrossFit

The adventurers in Jules Verne’s science fiction classic hunted a giant narwhal across the sea and after a battle of ship and sea beast three men survive after being taken into the belly of the Nautilus. There they discover that it is actually a leviathan submarine piloted by an eccentric genius, Captain Nemo. The narrator, Professor Aronnax, an expert French marine biologist embraces his capture and learns to enjoy the odd Captain, along with his submarine. However, Ned Land, a Canadian harpoonist who was also captured with Aronnax is consumed by a desire to escape. 

Our current fitness community, especially the strength and conditioning population, are much like the master harpoonist Ned Land.  They see the beast that is CrossFit and hunt it, to unknown lengths, until the creature’s demise; ideally drowning in a sea of its own sweat, blood, chalk, and bound by leagues of Rock Tape. They hunt the beast because they fear it. They fear it because they do not understand it, and they do not understand it because it is different.

This is not about the story of Ned Land. That story is well known across the seven seas. Most recently, Land’s horrific encounters with rhabdomyolysis (1) has caused turmoil across all things fitness related. However, therein lays the problem- on the surface everything is a leviathan to a master harpoonist. This story is about Professor Aronnax, and much like him my understanding of CrossFit was known from a perspective above the surface- in fact, much like Ned Land; I hunted that leviathan for leagues and years. But now, once aboard the Nautilus and after befriending its captain, I have become like Aronnax.

My perspective has changed. I have embraced the beast known as CrossFit. Not because it is less of a monster…

But because I understand it better.

A few years ago I started lifting, and then I started learning about it. Once I started learning about training, I started to apply what I learned to my own efforts. Since that day I now have a number of certifications, a small amount of competition experience, a few records, and daily emails asking for training advice.

That’s how my journey began as a marine biologist, or rather, a “coach.” After wrapping up the last of a certificate package in March I knew it was time to apply this knowledge in the field. It was time to venture out into the sea and test the skills I have studied and experimented on myself, and a few others, against the masses. Unbeknownst to me the Nautilus had room aboard and like any great scientist I saw the danger and taboo culture it permeates as oddly appealing and exciting.

And after some consideration, I decided that I should not fear the beast, instead I should learn it. Initially my mindset was that with luck the mantra “know your enemy” would prevail. Whether it is Stockholm syndrome or genuine appreciation, my mindset has changed.

From day one I was brought aboard warmly. The community immediately saw value in my past efforts and knowledge as a powerlifter. They asked questions and were intrigued as to why I did not CrossFit. I explained my focus as an athlete and the community by and large accepted it. Already the stigma of being populated entirely by vain and narcissistic know-nothings was dispelled. I saw that they accepted foreigners and yearned for their knowledge; if not to only understand it, but to also apply it to their own lives.

Days turned into weeks and weeks into months.

Unlike Professor Aronnax I could surface at any time. Once there I could look upon the Nautilus beneath the rippling tides and again be reminded of the horrifying nature which exists in any beast. Also on the surface I could stand perched atop the Nautilus and see land, and those walking upon it, for what it, and they, really are.

Different kinds of beasts. Still carrying with them an instinctual horrifying nature.

Since April I have been “coaching” at a CrossFit gym. I put coach in quotations because I still feel tied to my old life and revere the word with honor and respect. Yet I am beginning to realize the silliness in those feelings as there is a litany of people unassociated with CrossFit, or even athletics, who rightly use the word as a title. Fundamentally coaches are individuals who teach and train others how to do something and whether or not someone agrees with CrossFit, that’s exactly what they are doing. Fighting against the title “Coach” is a battle my old self is losing. As the members aboard the Nautilus get stronger and faster through my instruction it is apparent that I am coaching them towards improved abilities.

This does not mean I liken myself to Dan John or Chad Wesley Smith.

Judith Sheindlin is the rightful owner of her title, Judge. She is not claiming to be Antonin Scalia.

As I continued my journey, escorted by my own Captain Nemo, I learned the ways and whys of CrossFit. There were workouts where I questioned the reasoning. Why squat, box jump, and run against the clock? Why do you move this like that? Why reps, time, weight, etcetera? Often the answer could be summed up as, “because we can.”

Ah ha! At last, an unscientific justification for a scientific process.

But wait… I too have used the excuse “because I can” when defending my actions against others. Why high rep squats? Why sumo and conventional deadlifts? Why zerchers? Why reverse grip bench? Why thumbless? And many more.

Because I can.

I began to realize that sometimes we do things for no other reason than because we can, or want to, regardless of what it is we are doing. There should not always be a scientific necessity behind everything inside or outside of the gym. Why do I behind the neck press many times per month, with variable loads and volumes, when most “scientific” research says that it is unsafe? Why does Konstantin Konstantinovs deadlift with a rounded back? Why did Bob Peoples deadlift with a form most modern day experts would cringe at? (2) Why do strongmen competitors carry sandbags through knee deep water before many other events? (3)

Because they can.

To me, there is a bit of beauty in that mentality.

Still to this day the argument “but that isn’t proper” comes to mind. Not proper form, reps, load, exercise pairings, or periodization. Not proper for what? Weightlifting? Powerlifting? Criticize a man’s deadlift form on YouTube and if he were to respond, “I’m training for strongman.” Then, according to the athletic gurus, all would be forgiven. Save the sake for a few individuals.

Of course there is an optimal and suboptimal way of doing something. But in moving things from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ all that matters is that they are moved. That’s what CrossFit is- moving things from here to there. And isn’t it odd that strongman is that very similar beast; often populated by actual leviathans.

See, the Nautilus has shown me that CrossFit, much to its moniker, is everything I already know- only slightly different. In strongman the winner is determined by time, distance, or load moved. And that’s a measure CrossFit has taken and turned on its head. Captain Nemo measures the performance of his crew by those very same measures. Except their times are often longer, the distance is greater, and the load is significantly lighter. Moreover, in powerlifting and weightlifting the chosen lifts must be completed within a defined set of rules, within an acute margin of technical error. CrossFit dumps this and largely has “complete the lift” policy; like strongman. There are things as no-reps, but outside of a competition that sort of judiciousness is rarely seen.

When the first weightlifters began to move away from the split snatch in favor of the squat snatch there was dissent. (4) Yet now it would seem that the squat snatch is king, as it is the most commonly accepted form of the movement. I’m not saying Captain Nemo and his ilk are superior to weightlifters, powerlifters or strongmen.

I’m saying they’re different.

And in that difference they shine. Captain Nemo sought refuge in the depths of the ocean, away from imperialist governments and oppression. It was his brilliance, and unarguable madness, which led him to build the Nautilus and recruit faithful followers; once built they took to the sea to hide away from governments and fight against enemies. CrossFit is fighting against the monotony of the treadmill, the lackluster of Planet Fitness, and the social backwardness that tells both men and women barbells are bad. CrossFitters are excited about this. Many of them tell everyone about it. Many of them want everyone to try it.

Which some would say is likening to a cult.

Well, from the surface it would appear that way. But as a powerlifter who coaches CrossFitters multiple times per week and has flatly told many of them, “I do not do WODs.” I can say with absolute certainty, they could not care less. All that matters to them is that I’m healthy, improving myself, and helping others, safely. Contrasted against that are my very own people, powerlifters, who shun away different training methods, styles, and programs. Westside vs Smolov vs 5/3/1 vs Cube… the list goes on and on. With the infighting between powerlifters it is clear why CrossFit may appear cultish- there is no harmony between the former as there is the latter.

There is absolutely a surface appearance of cult like behavior among CrossFitters. They are excited about their new strength, stamina, appearance, and simply want to tell everyone about it. Some will shun away outsiders, but that behavior is not unique to CrossFit.  

The fears and contempt I had for CrossFit before I came aboard the Nautilus were justified by many things and still to this day I walk within it’s hull and see things I have never seen before. The difference is now, subsurface and after many days at sea, I am beginning to understand the ways and whys. The genius of ‘Fran’ and the stupidity of ‘Murph.’ (5, 6, 7.) Yes there are better ways to get stronger. Yes there are better ways to get more conditioned. 

But there is no better way to keep things interesting. 

And that is what keeps people coming back to CrossFit- curiosity. I can do one hundred pull ups, I can run one mile, I can do two hundred push ups and three hundred air squats. But can I do them altogether, and then add a mile at the end? That curiosity leads some men to the Mariana Trench and some to the top of Everest… and some to their death.

That’s the curiosity, which is the heartbeat of CrossFit.

Curiosity may have killed the cat, but the inherent challenge within the wondrous question “can it be done?” is what brought climbers to the top of Everest, runners across the desert floor of Death Valley, and mushers and their dogs across thousands of miles of frozen emptiness. CrossFit aims to push the limits of the human ability in their own direction. The direction is the only difference. The reasoning is the same.

All things can be scaled down to the novice. Everest to a nearby hill and Badwater to a lap around the block. Which leads me to the single greatest lesson I have learned since coming aboard the Nautilus.

The most important thing I have learned at sea is this, piloted by a dim and malevolent captain the Nautilus quickly becomes a machine of destruction and will ultimately lead itself into maelstrom. The good and the bad, they are all CrossFit; because CrossFit is an idea- it is not a thing. What it is has been around for a long time. The name is the thing that gives it publicity. Ideas can be corrupted, good intentions can have bad results, and great theory without practice can easily become dangerous. It is entirely dependent upon the Captain and his crew. I am lucky in that I was brought aboard a vessel that so responsibly cruises the sea.

That responsibility of captain and crew is my single guidance to anyone considering setting off aboard a submarine. Go on skeptical and withhold your trust, keep close your life vest and breath deep, because it is not until your captain begins to dive will you be able to determine whether he is a cruel rogue who measures progress by pain- or a benevolent steward who understands progress means nothing if stolen by perilous action.

Aronnax embraced his capture by Captain Nemo aboard the Nautilus because as a marine biologist he saw value in it. Like him I have embraced CrossFit because as a powerlifter, I see value in it. 

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Not Fitting In

The other day I was out trying on jeans... I'm sure you know where this is heading. And to answer your question, yes, I found a really nice pair that I liked a lot.

And no... they didn't fit right in the thigh.

Tom Platz understands our struggle.

Defeated, I came home to shower, change clothes, and prepare for the night. I had an evening out with some buddies planned. Nothing too crazy. Just some beers and pizza at a local brewery/pizzeria. I put on my only pair of fitting jeans, a large tank top, and my favorite Brixton hat, then headed out the door to meet my "friends." 

I show up early and wait outside for them. Friend-A shows up with his girlfriend. A thin girl with heavy eye make up, sporting a Slayer t-shirt (one of my favorite bands) and some skinny jeans. 

Me- "Oh you like Slayer?" 

Her- "What? Oh, this? No. I got it at Urban Outfitters because it looked edgy."

Me- "Oh."

Awkward silence. 

Isn't it like, so ironic and edgy?

Then Friend-B shows up with two of his buddies who I've never met. They're all dressed in the local usual- loose fitting v-necks and bahama shorts with Sperry TopSiders. 

I'm sticking out like a sore thumb to say the least.  

Our number is called and we go inside to have a seat. We all decide on a simple pepperoni and order our individual beers. Instantly the biting questions come my way.

"You sure you can eat this stuff?"

"Is your beer diet?"

"Won't this affect your gains?"

Jokers. All of them. 

Casually I brushed off the comments as much as I could. Acting as if they were chalk dust powdered lightly upon my tank top. I know that many of them were all in good fun, especially those coming from the only two guys I knew. Then one of the strange fellows said something that struck me like a tiger uppercut.

"Isn't Brixton a surf company? I didn't know meatheads could surf." 

That hurt. I'm not good yet... yet. But I am trying to learn. And I do call myself a surfer... because hey, I am trying to. Sure I'm not the greatest. But I believe I have the right to self-identify with whatever social group I decide. Who cares about whether or not I'm good at it- at least I'm freaking trying!!!

Eventually a swole man will be this gnarly. 

After that comment I finished my beer and a slice of pizza. Looked at my phone. Made a quick excuse to leave early and paid my fair share- even left the tip. 

On the lonely walk home it made me realize something. Not only am I unable to fit into the clothes I like. I also cannot fit in with the people I like. 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

New Science Proves Surrounding Yourself with Heavy Things Makes You Stronger

According to researchers at the University of Helsinki, Finland people who live in the presence of heavy surroundings are measurably stronger than those who do not.
Dr. Kalevi Korhonen and his team of researchers collected a sample group of roughly 100 Finnish men and women, split evenly 50/50. Of these men and women the average bench press was 120 kg for men and 92.5 kg for women; the average deadlift was 200 kg and 140 kg. 

Now, within these two groups of 25 there were some stark differences between the top 20% and the bottom 20% in terms of lifestyle. To gather this data Dr. Korhonen created a 100-question survey asking a broad range of questions within three different categories: Architectural, Dietary, and Musical.

It was found that of those 50 men and women the strongest 20%, as measured in bench press and deadlift, lived and worked in mostly stone masonry and/or steel buildings. (1) Conversely the weakest 20% lived and worked in wood or modern composite material structures; which are far lighter compared to the former.

Going further the researchers in Helsinki found that those who ate “heavy” meals, such as loaded baked potatoes, cheesecake, and the American cheeseburger were also notably stronger than those who ate foods more associated with being “light.” (2) Men and women who ate more salads and rice cakes were found to have bench presses at least 80kg less than those who did not.

A stark contrast came to light when Dr. Korhonen discovered the largest difference between the strongest 20% and weakest 20% was largely dependent upon musical preferences. Those men and women who preferred alternative rock, pop, electronic, or other genres were markedly weaker than those who preferred the more traditional Finnish musical influences of metal, black metal, death metal, thrash, and other various forms of rock and roll composed of screaming guitars, machine gun double bass, and monster voices. (3, 4) Most notably was the strongest man polled who could deadlift 430kg with ease while the weakest could barely manage 65kg; their respective musical favorites being Wintersun and Beyonce.

Due to these remarkable findings Dr. Korhonen and his team have been granted $5 million euros to pursue further research in this vein of study termed “Strength Osmosis” by Sauli Niinsit√∂, the President of Finland. The University of Helsinki hopes to find further proof of the strength enhancing properties of geological, economical, and transportation influences.

In anticipation, Finland has ordered one third of its citizenship into recently opened iron ore mines. Startlingly the Finnish Parliament just last week passed a directive requiring all currency be made of lead and polonium. And in an even more baffling move all motor vehicles within Finland are now required to weigh no less than 1,445kg, leaving most Fins either without a vehicle or in ownership of a 1972 Mercedes 300 diesel.

When asked about these decisions, backed by the science of Dr. Korhonen, President Niinsit√∂ stated, “I will make my people strong. And when my people are strong. So will be my country.”


1.   Biosorption of Heavy Metals, Bohumil Volesky. CRC Press, 1990.
2.    The Daily Meals of School Children, Caroline Louisa Hunt. Library of Michigan, 1909
3.    Heavy Metal: A Cultural Sociology, D. Weinstein. Lexington Books, 1991.

4.    Heavy Metal Music in Post-Dictatorial Brazil: Sepultura and the Coding of Nationality in Sound, L. Avelar. Journal of Latin American Cultural Studies, 2003.