Under the Bar - There is no substitute

With the huge surge of training and nutrition information available on the internet it's easy to deem oneself an expert with little practical application.

One can think they've mastered the squat without spending ample amount of time under the bar. One can think they know the psychological struggles of a physique contest prep without doing it. 

"Well, I've never actually done a contest prep, but I have seen someone go through it on YouTube."

The concepts here tie well into a past article where I discussed our obsession and dependence with training equipment.   

"Under the Bar" is simply an analogy for experience.

I want to make one thing clear, there is no substitute for getting under the bar. You can read articles online, get coached by an Olympian and watch all the YouTube videos you want and none of it will help as much as experience. 

This concept can be applied to nearly any skill. Let's take squatting for example. 

I can teach someone how to squat in a few days. Teach them how to descend and explode out of the hole. Explain why it's important to stay upright. Have them practice bracing hard. 

But none of this will really click until they descend too slowly and get stapled. Until they good morning their squat and have sore erectors the next day. Until they forget to breathe properly and suddenly 70% feels like 95%. Then, and only then will they learn and appreciate what I've taught them. 

I think too many people in my generation think they can just read and follow strong people and they'll get strong by osmosis or something. They want to squat like Bryce Lewis, but don't understand Bryce has had hundreds of practice sessions. He's probably changed his original head position, bar position, foot position, belt position, etc. He's probably changed them from original, changed them back and then changed them to something else. Not because he read a new article, but because he's spent so much time under the bar that he knows what feels good. 

Compare my lifts from the short period April 2013 to May 2014. I say short period, because during this year I estimated an average of squatting and benching 2.5x/week, deadlifting 1x/week. In 12 months, that totals about 130 squat and bench sessions, 52 deadlift sessions. You may be thinking that's a ton, but think of lifters who have been training for 5-10 years. That's 500+ sessions to learn and own their technique.  

  • Squat - Lower bar position, faster descent (if you watch my last few months you'll see my feet are much closer together now.)
  • Bench - Bigger arch on bench, touch lower on chest. 
  • Deadlift - Shoulders further over bar on deadlift, unique triple pump before pulling

I'm not saying that reading and learning about training isn't important, that would defeat the purpose of my website. But understand that real learning isn't acquired until you've felt it. 

Numerous times during training I've had an odd aha moment. I may have heard someone strong talk about a certain cue and thought I understood. It may not have been till several months later that I thought "Oh, that's what Mike Tuscherer meant by packing the lats."

I had read it. I had thought it. I had not felt it.

The "under the bar" epiphany really hit me during the past few weeks as I've been toying around with the Olympic lifts. For several months (ever since I discovered Klokov and Jon North) I've been interested in Olympic lifting. I'd read dozens of articles, listened to podcasts and watched numerous videos. I'd done everything besides get under the damn bar. 

Like many of us, I made excuses.

"I don't have the mobility yet." 

"I don't want my powerlifts to go down."

"What if I get hurt or look dumb?"

Well, in early October I decided to go for it. I didn't even have a plan. I just started hang snatching and cleaning one day. What happened? I learned more in my first 2-3 sessions doing the lifts than the past 2-3 months reading.

I thought I knew what it meant to keep the bar close. Actually, I was clueless.  

Before you chalk up your lack of results to genetics, atmosphere, coaching or any other excuse you can think of - think about how much work you've actually done? If you're a beginner trainee you don't need to read every new article. What you need is to train hard and often. Get under the bar

Most likely everyone you're looking up to in the strength and physique world has done their time. 

Have you done yours?