Note: This is a special edition of the blog, courtesy of John Greaves III of Garage Gym Life. Enjoy!
Casual savagery to me is the ability to express your athletic ability without going through a ton of arousal techniques. Let’s try to imagine doing everyday life the same way we approach our workouts. Do you have to foam roll before moving a box at work? Imagine how ridiculous you’d look sniffing ammonia before helping your neighbor move their washing machine. Imagine getting your headphones and finding your favorite jam before you unload the groceries from the car. Would you hit your chest and get hyped up to type up a report at work?
Lose the crutches.
I’ve spent ever-increasing amounts of time recently training without wraps, a belt or other supportive gear. On my off days, I do spend more time on mobility specific to my injury history, but it’s paying off big time. I haven’t worn elbow sleeves since I improved my shoulder mobility. Knuckle pushups and forearm work are helping my wrists handle greater loads. A pliable IT band means I don’t have to wear knee sleeves until I get within 80 percent of my max. My loads went down initially but I’m finding that my numbers are going back up as I clean up technique and get used to training in just shorts and a T-shirt.
I train without ambient noise: no music, no television. I can hear it now! “I can’t train without my music on!” OK, meet me halfway. Chad Wesley Smith, a former thrower and current powerlifter and strongman, says he created The Juggernaut Method because he trained for years in a corner of a CrossFit box where no one was strong enough to spot him and he had no control over the music. So he learned to perform without arousal techniques that most powerlifters feel are indispensable. It’s too easy to start just mindlessly moving weight when you have music on. If you need to lower the weight temporarily to be able to train this way, so be it! As you get stronger, the load will increase. Plus you won’t be spending 5 minutes between sets scrolling through a playlist for just the right song so you’re likely to benefit from shorter, more productive workout sessions.
Natural high only.
Drop the pre-workout and coffee. If you sniff ammonia and you’re more than six weeks out from a meet, put it away. I realize that I probably just lost most of you, but Richard “The Ant” Hawthorne is pound for pound the strongest powerlifter alive. At a shade over 130 pounds, Richard regularly deadlifts 600lbs. For reps. Ant says that he doesn’t use pre-workouts because he believes that you need to train your will. There is the possibility that you’re going to be dragging without your coffee at first; I’m going through that now while working 12-hour night shifts. But that’s where training your will comes in. I’m coping by increasing my water intake and keeping my sessions short and focused. Regardless, the point of this exercise is to develop who you are when it’s just you. Embrace the suck, lighten the weight and train your will.
0-60 Real Quick.
Performing Strongman Bud Jeffries says slapping yourself or playing music is akin to the first level of meditation. But over time, you need to develop the ability to move fluidly in and out of the performance flow state. What’s the benefit? Multiple powerlifting world record-holder Suzanne Hartwig-Gary told me that she can go from a random conversation to a successful world record attempt and back to the conversation in the time it takes to walk to the bar!
What’s that have to do with us lesser mortals? Many of us have kids and they will interrupt you. Accept it. Your set won’t last forever (and the kids honestly need to learn to respect your time anyway). But how do you prevent the inevitable interruptions from ruining your session? You use it as the opportunity to get into the flow state. How to do this is beyond the scope of this post but I’d recommend checking out IronMind: Stronger Minds, Stronger Bodies and Winning Ways: How to Succeed in the Gym and Out both by Randall Strossen. Again, if this means lowering the weight on the bar temporarily, so be it.
Put It on the Shelf but Don’t Throw It Away.
I’m not saying that having your workout music on, sniffing ammonia or even getting a buddy over to motivate you don’t have their place. I still have my knee sleeves and wrist wraps. I’m just saving them for when I’m six weeks out from a powerlifting meet. Right now, I challenge you. At least one workout a week find out what you can do when your technique and the muscle you’ve built are all that will move that bar from where it is to where you want it to be. That confidence you’ll build from doing this over and over will translate into someone who’s ready for whatever but thinks it’s no big deal. That’s a casual savage.
John Greaves III trains as a physical culturist and has competed successfully in amateur kickboxing and powerlifting. In 2000 John left the small commercial gym where he worked and began exercising at the foot of his bed with two 70lb dumbbells. He later moved it into a shed and finally into a small garage. A published writer who contributes to various print and online publications, John’s current focus is on building the Garage Gym Life brand and using whatever tools are necessary to make himself faster, stronger and more durable for decades to come!