Manage Your Options!

The problem with the Strength, Conditioning and Fitness community today is that we have all fallen in love with the videos of NFL guys or SEALs or UFC fighters do this and that and this prepping for something. Yeah. Me, too. I want to be that guy. I’m going to buy some tribal tats and some clothes that hug every inch of me and crank up the noise and…
And, that is great. Bless you. Then, comes the reality check: I’m always the biggest guy in the picture and I was four inches too short for my position to play in the NFL. I didn’t join the Navy, so, well, that option was out and, to be honest, if you have never been punched in the face, I’m not sure why you would want to find out how it feels in a televised event.
For most of us who are trying to scrub a few pounds of fat that has frowned over the belt or compete in a sport with a just a few qualities, we can get caught up in all of this stuff. And that is the problem. As I have noted endlessly: “Everything works…for about six weeks!” Then what? I’m not going to abandon you here, just follow along for a few minutes.
Years ago, Doctor Tom Fahey told me that all an elite level discus thrower needed for strength levels was the following:
Bench Press: 400
Squat: 450
Snatch: 250
Clean: 300

To be honest, for the average person, these are big numbers, but in the area of strength training, they are modest. To get to these numbers, it would take two to five years of concentrated training for a person with a thrower’s body and mentality. At the bodyweight of most throwers, those numbers work out to two “F’s” and two “D’s” when you compare them to the world record for the sport specialist. That is a lousy GPA!
In my case, I basically benched for four years, then Olympic lifting only for the rest of my career. In hindsight, I think it was an error as a blend of the two sports may have been best. One of my favorite articles of all times notes:

*“Brian Oldfield, Al Feuerbach, Bruce Wilhelm, and Sam Walker favored the quick lifts, while George Woods and Randy Matson leaned toward the strength lifts. …if there was any real consensus among the champion shotputters, it was that a mixture of quick and strength lifts is effective.”
Dave Davis, Track Technique, March and June 1974

Here is the issue for a discus thrower, and in a moment I will expand this out to most people: One can achieve the highest levels of strength for throwing through several routes. These include:
Olympic lifting
Power lifting
Strongman Training
Highland Games
Power Bodybuilding

Frankly, they all work. I’m sure that blending these some how would work better than just doing one, but that would be a tough experiment and probably would involve a Time Machine, like the one I am working on.
You see, these schools of strength training are “Options.” If there is a key to understanding Quadrant III (see my book “Easy Strength” for details) it is these two words:
Managing Options.

It all works. The goal of the Strength and Conditioning Coach for a thrower is to simply get the thrower stronger. As I have offered on countless occasions, there is no simpler quality to improve than strength: literally, you just lift weights. Mobility and Flexibility issues, if needed for performance, may take a few years to develop. I can make you stronger for your sport, and probably impact performance, in three to six weeks. That is lightning in the sports world that is why every single sport has lifting weights as an essential part of basic training. Sure, you can find someone who didn’t a decade ago, but that is rare air today.
So, it is all about managing options. Everything works. Remember that, embrace that, cherish that and keep “Everything Works” written on the wall of you gym, weight room or Dojo. Just remember, too, that is only works for about six weeks. Reading Tommy Kono’s outstanding books, I was reminded time and again about how he embraces both bodybuilding and Olympic lifting where he settles on an eight week build up to a lifting meet, then back in the gym to bodybuild and refresh himself. I think if it works for the greatest lifter in history and Mr. Universe (Tommy won Olympic Gold Medals AND Mr. Universe), it might be worth considering.
Tommy is and was the master of managing options. As I think about the various training programs that I bounced around in my career, I also think about what Brian Oldfield, the first man to throw the shot 75 feet, has shared with me.

From a question on the internet:

Brian’s breakthrough year came after he got serious with Dave Davis and actually lifted for more than a few weeks. He simply did Power Cleans followed by Jerks off the Rack. He did a single heavy pyramid of both exercises, two days a week.

He told me in Ohio that his “Best” training program was doing rack lifts of 15 reps of partial front squats, partial pulls and partial presses (short top end movements only) for about five heavy sets twice a week. “That’s all you need to throw far.”

He was a real fan of sprinting and sprinting on your toes. He told me the same thing, many, many times, Fred, that plyos are BS. Now, I have to agree with him: if you are a thrower or O lifter…what the hell are you doing leaping off boxes?

He also introduced shot throws, too. He started every workout with underhand throws, overhead throws, one arm throws, over the shoulder throws and tricks with the 16 pound shot. You could call this upper body plyometrics or you could call it throwing, depending on your audience, I guess.

From an edition of “Get Up,” the online newsletter:

“Not long ago, Doug Dunagan talked with Brian Oldfield about his training. Brian is a legend in the strength sports, the first man to throw the shot 75 feet. Go ahead, pick up something 16 pounds and throw it. If you measure half of Brian’s effort, you are probably in the 1% club. Doug described Brian’s lifting like this:
His lifting was done on Mondays and Thursdays and generally worked with 5 sets of doubles. On the push press and front squat he did triples. Sometimes he did 10 sets because often he felt that his 5th set was the easiest.
Lift Sets/Reps Max

Bench 5×2 401
Clean and Press 5×2 364
Snatch (split and squat) 5×2 250
Front Squat 5×3 465 (500 single)
Push Press/ Jerk 5×3 365-450 ”

Brian had a little formula that still makes sense: to add a foot to one’s effort in the shot put, you need to add 15 pounds to your max on each lift. Brian’s workout was the same for this period, Tuesday and Thursday he would repeat all five lifts.”

The reason I choose Brian, besides our friendship, is that he blended the training together so well. There is a logic behind this approach as you note that he is focusing on throwing farther by using strength training to support the goal. I’m afraid we have lost such common sense in the past few years.

Fat loss, too, is a Quadrant Three goal. Again, it comes down to managing options. What diet works? They ALL work! It’s about sticking to it.

Dan, you look great!
Thanks. I was on a diet, but it wasn’t enough food, now I am on two diets.

They all work. I have done well on “Meat, Leaves and Berries,” Atkins, Velocity Diet, the Slow Carb Diet and the Eades’s diet of three protein shakes and one meal a day plan.

Folks, diets and Ways of Eating are all about options. Really, it doesn’t matter: the single best diet I ever did was the F Plan Diet where you consumed massive amounts of fiber each day. Oh, I got bloated and my joints ached, but I got plenty of exercise sprinting to the toilet.

Josh Hillis, my good friend and internet fat loss genius, has nailed this idea with his belief, beyond anything else, that a food journal trumps any diet. Really, who cares what you are going to eat; what got you fat is what you ate! Well, in part, that is true, but really, there are no more courageous people in the world than those about to go on a diet!

Josh has it right: adherence trumps dogma in dietary disciplines. We also know this is true on the strength side: a bad program violently administered trumps a perfect program (if one ever existed) done with lack of vigor. I’m convinced, by the way, that this is part of the secret that every program works for about six weeks: one’s early dedication makes the craziest of ideas work. Like I tell people who don’t listen to my sane advice: Fine. I will be here next year, too, we can follow up on this after your surgeries.

On the other side of the fat loss coin, really, again, everything works and it always has. Whatever you write down, whether it is African Disco Dance or Step Marching Spandex or Kettlebell Swings, it will work. The problem is a little odd: as you become more and more efficient, you get less and less benefit. A Modern Dance class will just about kill me as every time the class does “Step-Ball-Change,” I will have done twenty extra moves. Oh, it will be fat loss for me, but our little darling “Twinkle Toes” to my right had better have a perfect diet, because she is just going through the paces.

Fat loss exercise needs to be as inefficient as possible. That is why I like the swing: you expend tons of energy with absolutely no movement!!! But, and many disagree with me here, as you get better and better at swings, these too can become too efficient. Now, we have tips and tools to get around this, but it is wise to remember that Tim Ferris found 75 Swings three days a week to be enough to start peeling the fat off of one woman. If you go from 75 to 2000 swings a workout and stop losing fat, you may need to look for alternatives, additions, or another bell.

So, fat loss is about managing options. Pick a diet and follow it. Find a fitness program and follow it. Take notes, keep a food journal and do your due diligence on your before and after photos, your measurements and your skin fold tests. Yes, the diet on the cover of the weekly magazine IS better and the new DVD you see on TV is better than what you are doing (it might not be true, but isn’t this how we think?). All I am asking is that you stick with your plan long enough to evaluate, honestly, your plan. That might take a few weeks.

If you are a QIII athlete, yes, a resounding yes, you have options. On the technical side, you can jump and throw with a variety of methods. I just read an fascinating piece by a British Long Jumper who said he uses the “hang” method, the most basic and primitive method of long jumping, as it is simple and holds up to the stress of competition. He can focus on attacking the board, not his flight (and, according to physics, he has this right). Maybe you pick this method over that and that is fine with me. Now, master it. Get a little strong, improve your technique and you should do better. Test that theory (a genius wrote it!).

Don’t get caught up too often in all the options before you in this wonderful buffet of diets and training programs. Have the courage to pick one and see where it takes you. Finish what you start. As the ancients taught us:
Plan the Hunt.
Hunt the Hunt.
Discuss the Hunt.

Keep it in that order. When you diet or train, you are in the hunt. Save all the thinking and talking for another time.

Manage your options!

Back to top