Weightlifting Hacks: Inside the Matrix

In my youth I thought the idea of a computer hacker was pretty neat. I can recall one of my first experiences on a PC playing a heated game of Number Munchers, when the computer switched away from the game and showed a series of numbers and letters. It is very likely that the computer crashed, but to my 8 year old mind, I had hacked the computer system like I was Matthew Broderick in War Games.

Hacking a computer is a work around, a barrier which was set up is broken down by some clever trick. While I have heard of the sheer force of thousands of computers trying to hack through a computer security system, the neat ones that we read about are the ones that are just so clever as to say “why didn’t I think of that”

While life has not led me down the path to computer hacking, the idea of the shortcut, or work around that breaks down barriers is still something I am pursuing. The web is full of ideas on how to “hack” your everyday life, to make your experience in the kitchen, with your tech, and your job even easier.

Weightlifting hacks also abound. These are simple tricks that just by their nature correct technique. They are independent of training, they don’t make you stronger, they just make weightlifting easier. If you want the red pill, read on, if you want the blue pill just return to your normal daily routine.

Squat more, Lift more: Olympic lift ratios

I have said it here and many other places that “squatting is the life blood of Olympic lifting.” As your squat goes so do your lifts.

I should be clear, the primary part of your program should consist of the competition movements or a variation, probably 60% or more of your total reps, but the remainder of the program will be a lot of squats, with just a small amount being pulls of some sort and pressing.

A certain level of technical competence is required for the “squat more, lift more” motto to be in effect. For me this is seen when my lifters have been in a few competitions, but in general after an athlete has been in the gym for a year or more. We have to remember that lifting is a skill and that skill has to be learned well for strength to carryover to the platform.

The Natural Athlete

I work with really smart people. Like the post from Rod Root (Depth Jumps), I have turned to another one of the awesome coaches on my team to explore an idea that I love. Matt Myers is a MovNat certified trainer and the head coach of our adult training program at Force. Matt just so happens to specialize in things that make him look like a ninja (black costume withstanding). I asked Matt how to train athletes to move naturally, freely, and BETTER. He came up with this awesome piece.  

Throughout all of history, stories of athleticism have helped to define our human heritage.  There was Milo and the first Olympians – legend has it that Milo trained by carrying a bull on his shoulders everyday.  As the bull aged, Milo became stronger (this may be the first known example of progressive strength training).

In his book “Born to Run”, author Christopher McDougall highlights the fossilized footprints of early humans whose stride-length suggests sprinting speeds faster than that of Usain Bolt.

There was Pheidippides, who ran 150 miles in two days to beg the Spartans for help against and invading Persian force, who landed in Marathon, Greece.  He then ran 25 miles to Athens to announce the victory, and fell dead (the modern “marathon” takes its name from his legend).

Even in modern times, athletes like Bo Jackson are famous not only for their unrivaled athleticism (including the fastest ever 40-time at the NFL combine, 4.12s), but for the seeming lack of modern strength and conditioning we associate with such feats.

These stories are not only a part of our collective history, but our own personal histories as well.  My great-great-great-grandfather, John R. Murphy, was strong as a bull.  Even after getting hit by a train, which disfigured his arm, he was called the “strongest man in Fairport (NY).”  Legend has it that he used to win all kinds of bets down at the railroad station showing feats of strength such as moving hundreds of pounds casks from one platform to another with one arm.   He routinely carried railroad ties home 1.5 miles at the young age of 65, and boasted that he would’ve beat John L. Sullivan for the heavyweight boxing crown if he had two good arms.  These were the types of stories my father told me as a young child, and shaped my understanding of what it meant to be an “athlete”.

Obviously, athleticism was a part of our humanity long before the advent of barbells and bumper plates.  Which begs the question:  put in their situation, how would you perform? 

With all of our modern knowledge, but without modern conveniences, how would you train your athletes?

Demystifying Depth Jumps

leg_press_musclesOne thing I have done in the past couple years is really work to surround myself with great coaches. One of those great coaches is Rod Root. Rod has become more than my right hand guy, he has become my go to guy. When it comes to all things, I ask Rod for his opinion before I finalize my own.

Rod has led the charge in developing our programs for basketball players and has helped to create multiple division 1 prospects and was the strength coach for the Indiana State Champion Girls basketball team that trained in our gym all fall and winter.

If you know basketball players like I do then you know that there is one thing on their mind at all times, jumping higher and dunking. When it comes to jumping higher the king of movements is the depth jump.

Below is a post about everything depth jumps, from Rod, be careful though, this program of depth jumps has gotten one of our 7th grade basketball players dunking. This stuff works, almost too well….

Two Hard Strength Complexes

Complexes have really morphed for me recently.  Two years ago, I would turn to complexes to work on conditioning, and quite honestly for aesthetic purposes. More work in a little bit of time meant that I was able to stay really lean. Today my complexes are shorter, with no eye on conditioning.

As I have gotten back into weightlifting more and more, the complexes I do today are about strength. Maximum weight for up to few reps. They provide a great opportunity to work on my weak points in the lifts, and on busy days provide the best bang for my buck.

My new strength complex focus should not make it sound like these are easy. They are still extremely hard, but for entirely different reasons than the marathon complexes I used to do.

Recently I put together 2 complexes that fit right in this mold. Strength based, ball busters. Check them out.

Partial Reps: The RDL

“Dude, I squat 500 lbs,” that was how he first addressed me. “Dude” and then the statement that he squats a weight that not many people on the earth can imagine. FIVE hundred pounds, ¼ of a ton.

Most people would actually crap themselves under that amount of weight. I don’t think this guy, or most others are much different. My immediate response to the monster squatter was this, “Okay, but how low.”

I imagine it would be the response of anyone that spends much time in the weight room.

If you hang around the right people you know that not squatting to full depth is for low level bodybuilders, guys who “exercise,” and any other form of low life that walk into the local gym. Full range of motion on everything

“Talk is cheap, squat deep”


I want to establish this first, I love full reps. Hell I love reps from a deficit. I have my weight room credentials and have seen enough lifts to know to always squat deep, do push ups to a full range of motion, and I always do chin ups until my sternum touches the bar.

In short, I do not cheat in the weight room. Lets get that idea off the table, because I am about to break all the rules and tell you that sometimes you need to cheat.

You probably need to cheat when you are doing the opposite of the squat: the hinge.

I do partial Romanian deadlifts (RDL) all the time and I coach my athletes to do partial RDL’s.