Tuesday, November 6, 2018

Roger Estep's Training

This book, published November 6th, 2018, looks like it might be interesting to me. 
I'll put an excerpt or two up if it turns out to be. 

Here's the Table of Contents: 

(1) Introduction
What it means to be a "Normal Human".

(2) Muscle Loss
How to set and meet realistic body composition goals for your new lifestyle.

(3) Oh, Thanksgiving . . . 
Everything you need to know about your food intake and how to calculate how many calories YOU need.

(4) What To Eat
Where your calories should be coming from and why you don't have to give up all your guilty pleasures. 

(5) What's On Your Plate? 
How to balance food portions on your plate based on your activity level.

(6) When To Eat
Why meal timing can make a huge difference in meeting your goals. 

(7) Hydration
What you should and should not be drinking.

(8) Smart Grocery Shopping
Tips for getting the most nutritional value for your dollar and understanding nutrition labels so you can avoid sneaky manufacturer tricks.

(9) Packing A Lunch
How DIY can save you loads of money - and ensure that you're in control of what ingredients you're eating.

(10) Get Cooking
Ditto - plus knowing how to cook will make you an even better catch.

(11) Redefining Yourself
How to wrap your head around the mental aspect of the transition to Normal Human.

(12) Going It Alone 
Life without your teammates may feel lonely at first, but there are plenty of ways to expand your new social circles.


Appendix A: Recipes for Beginners
Appendix B: Tips for Healthy Weight Gain
Appendix C: Tips for Healthy Weight Loss
Appendix D: Outtakes
Appendix E: Workout Plans

It looks like a decent, no frills and no extremes deal. In the same way that it can be useful to look back at beginner routines when training becomes either stale or just plain outrageous in its over-complexity, it's not a bad plan to strip back to the bare essentials, to forget all the over-the-top malarkey pumped out online endlessly, and just go with basics every so often.

AND . . .

The Akashic Noir series released "Vancouver Noir" today. Great series, good noir, duh, garsh it's fun to be able to read, eh. There's enough to keep you on the edge of yer stinkin' seat for a lotta long nights here:


Bright boy.

All right already, the article.

No, wait.

Here's a translation of Romanian literary critic Matei Calinsescu's "The Life and Opinions of Zacharias Lichter . . .

Ugly, unkempt, a haunter of low dives who begs for a living and lives on the street, Zacharias Lichter exists for all that in a state of unlikely rapture. After being engulfed by a divine flame as a teenager, Zacharias has devoted his days to doing nothing at all - apart, that is, from composing the odd poem he immediately throws away and consorting with a handful of stray friends: Poldy, for example, the catatonic alcoholic whom Zacharias considers a brilliant philosopher, or another more vigorous barfly whose prolific output of pornographic verses has won him the nickname of the Poet. Zacharias is a kind of holy fool, but one whose foolery calls in question both social convention and conventional wisdom. He is as much skeptic as ecstatic, affirming above all the truth of perplexity. This of course is what makes him a permanent outrage to the powers that be, be they reactionary or revolutionary, and to all other self-appointed champions of morality who are blind to their own absurdity. The only thing that scares Zacharias is that all-purpose servant of conformity, the psychiatrist.

This Romanian classic, published under the brutally dictatorial Ceausescu regime, whose censors initially let it pass because they couldn't make head or tail of it, is as delicious and telling an assault on the modern world order as ever. 


Enough of this printed word nonsense!

 The Night Comes For Us.
Yes! The butcher shop scene. 
"Safety Starts With Me" 

There are probably thousands of young strength athletes in the USA who would have loved the opportunity to get some advice from a man such as George Frenn, but George decided to pass the torch of his wisdom and experience on to then neophyte Roger Estep.

George gave Roger a routine, the same one used by the guys at the Westside Barbell Club, the same one used by Roger to this day, the same one that lifters associated with Roger in Ohio and West Virginia have benefited so greatly from. Roger took it back to Ohio and tried to make it work for him in his effort to win the Collegiate title in 1975, but a bum shoulder and the smart lifting of Don Haisenleder put Roger into 2nd. Roger gave George a call. They discussed the routine. Was Roger using it correctly? Was there any way he could make even more progress with it? Could he come out to California and train with George Frenn for the summer? George was hesitant at first, perhaps wondering if Roger really had what it takes. He phoned back, and the ENTHUSIASM was there. "Sure, Rog, come out for the summer. We'll train HARD!"

Before Roger made the trip out to California he was capable of a 600 squat at 202. After five weeks with George it was up to 680, and his other lifts were up as well. Roger went back to Ohio and found a meet in Weirton, West Virginia where he went 630, 660 and 690 in the squat, following himself on each attempt . . . mind you, this was at a time when the World Record was 710. As you can imagine, the question of the day was, "Where did this guy come from!"

Roger then lifted in some Cleveland meets in preparation for the '76 Collegiates, which he won, though not in the fashion he would have hoped . . . stumbling on the way out with a 685 Squat that he felt he could have made. 

1977 saw Roger's debut at the Senior Nationals against Larry Pacifico. I was present at that meet, my first Seniors as well, and I described Roger as a 'Conan-esqu Power Being' - which I still think is the best way to put into words the awesomeness of Roger's physical presence. 

Roger got second in this meet, but felt that with better selection of poundages he could have done much better in pressing Larry, a lesson that he has learned well. Roger went into the '78 Seniors just as his injured leg was healing . . . squatted 677 then stood on the sidelines as Jerry Jones punched the record up to 760, a lift which all, including myself in the excitement of the moment felt would never be exceeded. Roger takes nothing away from any lifter, but, to be frank, Jerry's lift did not phase. You must recall that Roger had broken the World Record earlier in the year with a 722 at the North American Championships and just after that did an unofficial record with 740 at the West Virginia State meet. In the two months following the Seniors, during which time most had written him off as a major contender, he got his squat up to 800 in training. Then came his mind blowing performance at the YMCA Nationals . . . as 769.5 Squat ON AN OLYMPIC BAR and a 1940 total, feats that were fully as earthshaking as those of the man whose record he had broken, Larry Pacifico. Even that performance showed Roger had more. He could easily have gotten a 790 Squat that day had he tried it on his 3rd, and, by picking up some of the slack apparent in his other lifts, the magic 2,000 lb. total was not only possible, but feasible.

In 1979 Roger won the Senior Nationals. Despite a knee that went out on him must two weeks before the meet, the personal problems of his divorce, and the extreme heat, he posted one of the best totals in Senior Nationals history and was satisfied with the meet, because he had earned a spot on the World team and had begun to understand some important lessons about training.

Before this time Roger would take it to the limit almost every workout, such was his enthusiasm that his "light" days became every bit as intensive and draining as his "heavy" days and, if he was injured, he would just mask the problem medically or psychologically, even if it meant screaming out in pain before, during, and after a set. If he was supposed to handle a certain weight on a certain day, he did it, no matter what.

As a result of this, he found himself spending half of the competitive year injured. Essentially, he would train until he literally BROKE. Nowadays he takes a little different approach, training by intuition more, and less by some dogmatic design. CARE is the most prescribed medicine in the world, and if you don't take care, you'll get hurt, says Roger. He has become sensitive to his body. If a set feels heavy when it shouldn't, he'll back off, hit some lighter sets to get a decent amount of work in, and not let it bother him.

Maintain a positive attitude, that's one of the great lessons he has learned from George Frenn (in fact, that phrase was one of the two Golden Rules of the Westside Barbell Club, the other having to do with the passing of gas). This is not to say that Roger doesn't train hard any more. Far from it! Harder than anyone, and he'll tell you that you've got to have that lust for heavy weights. Even now he maintains the same routine, which includes lots of singles, all year round. In actuality, he's as strong as he can be and trains as heavy as he can, on any given day of the year.

A good routine and positive mental reinforcement are the keys to good progress, particularly the latter. You have to MAKE YOURSELF BELIEVE IN YOURSELF. You've got to set a goal and think to yourself, "If so-and-so can do it, then I can do it." When Roger first went to West Virginia, Luke Iams was handling around 700 in the squat. Later, when he started believing that he could do 800, his squat shot to that mark and beyond. You can not let the weight intimidate you. This is even more important in powerlifting than it is in Olympic lifting, but the perception of David Rigert on the state of American lifting tells a tale: "You have many strong lifters, but few brave ones."

There are means to avoid this fear of the big weights, and they are part and parcel of Roger's routine.

For instance, Roger does a lot of "rocking" box squats with 50-75 lbs. more than his max in regular style. You need good spotters for this movement as you rock back on the box and then rock forward as you stand up with the bar simultaneously. But if you can handle 820 for 10 reps, then 780 for a single in a meet is not going to scare you. Box squats are thus a psychological and physical overload that builds confidence and strength . . . like the guy who goes to the plate swinging three bats . . . it's just a means of conditioning him into feeling that a single bar is no weight . . . no hindrance to a smooth, powerful swing.

It's also important not to rush your progression in the weights.  Move them up a few pounds at a time, even if you feel stronger.

Another part of mental attitude is what might be described as "inward conceit." You don't have to go around talking about what you're going to lift to everyone you meet, but deep inside, you have to feel that you are the best . . . and if you should be defeated, you have to feel that it's simply a matter of time before you emerge victorious, because the other guy is simply not as good as you are.




The big lift this day is heavy Box Squats. After a light warmup set he takes 90-lb. jumps to a poundage 50-75 lbs. over his best max squat single and goes for 10 reps. Once again, in compliance with his new sensitivity to the limitations of his body, if his knees start to ache, or something like that, he'll only go for 7 reps, which still represents a decent amount of work. One other tip for this exercise: before the advent of big belts, Roger actually used two conventional belts around his waist when doing this exercise (one above the other), to avoid taxing his lower back. This is not a back exercise, but if you do it wrong you can tire out your lower back which will affect workouts later in the week adversely. He also wears two sets of wraps on each knee, loosely, just to protect against injury. 

He occasionally will do something with a low box after the regular box squat workout, if his knees will allow it. After a little warmup he'll take about 100 lbs. less than his regular squat max and go down to a low box (about 2-3 inches below parallel), rock it, and then kick out. It usually goes like a toy.

Also on Monday, Roger does some benches. 4 good singles after his warmup and maybe one high-rep pump set with a lighter weight afterwards if he feels good. Periodically, he will do Good Mornings and also 3 x 10 reps in the leg curl. He does these pump sets all three days in his weekly routine. Depending on how close his next contest is, he'll do some bodybuilding as well.


Roger's Wednesday workout has changed a little bit, in accordance with his new attitude. He used to do squats up to a max set for 10 reps. He actually got to the point where he did 640 x 10, and in trying 670 for 10 he got 7 reps . . . but this was indicative of his trying to make every day into a heavy day, which led to injuries. Now, he only works up to a moderate single, say 650 or so, maybe 100 lbs. less than he is capable of.

He'll also work up to a max set of deadlifts for 10 reps. He doesn't use straps so grip strength/endurance becomes a limiting factor when the weight gets way up there, so he'll cut them down a little. 

Following the deadlifts he'll do some bodybuilding, the leg curls, and maybe even some Snatches if the spirit moves him. He is extremely explosive in his Snatches and Cleans, and is thinking about trying a little Olympic lifting when the opportunity arises.


This is the big one of the week. You essentially total out, doing only about 4 heavy (single) reps in the squat, just as if you were taking attempts in a contest. On the bench press it's the same as the Monday workout . . . going for that big max single this time, to see where you stand. The lifts you make this day establish the new benchmark for your training poundages the following week . . . as you have established a new max.

That heavy Monday workout has you prepared for the amount of weight you are going to try Friday, and the weight you make Friday helps you select the amount of weight you will use for the box squats the following Monday workout. You see, all joints in the body have little organs called proprioceptors. They sense the different kinds of stress exerted on your body. What you've done on Monday is fool the proprioceptors into thinking that the weight you are handling on Friday is not anything to panic about.

One question that still be remaining is how one should progress in weights and select poundages for contest attempts. Roger generally does some heavy thinking before beginning training for a specific contest, combining optimism with realism in a manner that only experience can bring and picks out the kind of poundages he would like to be handling 4 weeks before the contest. Then he plots the linear progression from his starting point to where he wants to end up, and adds about the same amount each week to his training poundages. When it gets to be about 2 weeks before the contest, Roger limits himself to easy weights . . . as he believes that you are not going to get much stronger in that short period of time, but you can sure make yourself weaker!

Instead, he emphasizes good technique and confidence building. Before the Auburn meet I saw him "burn" a 725 squat. He didn't need to do a 770 just to prove to himself that he could do it . . . that would disrupt his performance at the meet . . . and would indicate a lack of confidence in knowing what he could do.

Selecting your poundages for a meet is based on a percentage concept Your opener should also be a lift that you have 100% confidence in making . . . after that you go to something that you might have 80% confidence in. Say if you had handled 800 or more 4 out of 5 times in workouts, then that would be an 80% lift, and, depending on the competition, that might be what you would want to take.

Roger takes his lifting very seriously. It is a way of life for him, but he's never 'out for blood' like some guys are. He certainly doesn't like defeat, but doesn't dwell on the dark side when he does lose. I can vouch for that attitude.


There will always be a special place in Roger's mind for George Frenn. If he hadn't taken that moment years ago to show some interest in Roger's lifting, could we expect the type of lifting performances Roger has given us over the past few years?

Still, Roger calls George whenever he has a problem, and George's athletic experience is very wide. He has been to Russia and he knows what other athletes are doing. Sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake, eh. Making a list from The Great Beyond and checking it twice . . . hell, THRICE!

So, a heritage of strength flows from one mind to another.
Just as it should be.    


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