Training With Health Issues: Train Smart Over Hard

Continuing with the theme of dealing with my health issues over the past year, this post covers a very important consideration. Train Smart over Training Hard.

Train to Remain Sane

I need to workout regularly. If I am not doing some form of strenuous exercise at least 5 days a week I go a bit crazy. The endorphin rush is real. The feeling of accomplishment is real. Since so many of us work desk jobs or live fairly seduntary lifes due to work or netflix or any of the million other modern conveniences, we need to FORCE movement. One of the biggest challenges with my wound was how I would be able to train because if I was not able to I would be miserable to be around. Which is code word for my wife would hate me.

The objective at first was to do something, anything, that allowed me to break a sweat and evolve from there. Something is better than nothing.

Train Around Health Issue

When training with health issues you must intelligently assess your situation and train around it. With my specific health issue, offloading or not putting more pressure on my backside is vital. This is where my absolute FAVORITE exercises for people in a wheelchair are a perfect marraing. Pull Ups and Dips.

Over the past year I have done so many different variations of rep ranges of pull ups and dips its a bit crazy. When limited to a tiny few exercises it becomes even more important to vary up rep ranges or any additonal weight you can add (if possible with your health situation).

I recently had to deal with a Pick line for IV antibiotics which limited me even more! What did I do? I did very little with my right arm where the pick line was installed. I did battle ropes with my left arm only. I was not able to do any repitition style exercises so I utilized static holds.

EX: Instead of doing a full pull up, I would just hold the bar and do 1 arm static holds, or 2 arm static holds. Same thing with dips where I would do 1 dip and hold the top postion for up to a minute.

This went on for 6 weeks and these were not the most exciting exercises in the world, but it was better than nothing.

Wound Update

As I stated, I still have the wound. But it is getting much better. I will post weekly updates on where things are at with the wound as well as begin releasing what I did to maintain my fitness. As of this week I now have a wound vac back on and am still doing Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT) treatment. We are hopeful!

Training With Health Issues: My Pressure Wound

I have been fairly quiet on my updates for the past year. This has been the case for a reason as I have been dealing with among the worst types of ailments an active wheelchair user can get. A pressure wound. I will be posting a series of posts on what I went through, how I managed to exercise albeit limited execrise and the types of exercises I was still able to perform.

I had to deal with extremely limited time up in my chair. I had to deal with a wound vac. And I had to deal with a pick line for taking IV antibiotics. I trained through all of this.

The Wound

On January 1 of 2018 I woke up, with a minor hangover from the New Years celebration but nothing too bad. When I was getting up I could feel a lump on my backside, it felt like a golf ball was under my skin. My wife and I tried to deal with it as best we could but over a week or so this turned into a wound. My first advice to anyone in a wheelchair is if they feel something abnormal on their backside would be to go to a wound doctor as soon as possible. Its possible the doctor could have drained or treated whatever was going on before it got any worse. Then again, most pressure wounds have been building for a long time deep within the tissue and there may not have been anything that could be done.

Anyways, since that time I have been dealing with this wound and have done everything possible to avoid flap surgery. I had flap surgery back in 2007 for a somewhat similar issue and wanted to avoid going the flap route if at all possible. I have heard many stories where once a person goes back for that second flap, or beyond, they can very easily break down leaving you with a worse situation that when you started. My thought was to allow it to heal more naturally and prevent another breakdown within a short timeframe.

I am still not fully healed but after just completing IV antibiotics we are starting to see improvements again. This is the other reason I kept avoiding the flap, there was often slight incremental improvement. Often a few millimeters at a time but improvement is improvement and when your goal is to avoid surgery, any improvement will suffice.

Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT)

I am currently receiving Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy (HBOT), where I drive in 2 hours round trip each morning for a 2 hour session. I have completed 44 of these sessions, with 16 remaining. There are a lot of amazing things reported from HBOT treatment. Among its biggest reasons for success is it gets blood flow to places where blood flow may be restricted, like the backside of a person in a wheelchair. One negative to this treatment is it can take a long time to see any visual evidence it is working, at minimum 30 treatmets in some cases. This was further complicated in my case due to Hurricane Micheal which ripped a part Panama City Florida. Panama City is where I was receiving my treatment, had just completed 11 treatments before the hurricane hit. I had to find a new place to receive treatment as well as get the insurance approved for the new clinic. This all took time and has delayed the effectiveness of the treatment as it is preferred to stack the treatments with 4-5 per week. For me this was broken up once because of the hurricane, then a second time when the new year started as my health insurance changed.

Wound Vac

Another treatment I received was getting a wound vac. I hated this thing. And it is VERY likely I will have to have another one to attempt to aggressively close up the remaining wound. On one hand the wound vac did work initially, but then it didn’t. And probably caused infection to occur. The wound vac is like a ball and chain attached to you, literally. Doctors and nurses will claim you can live your normal life with it but this is not the case. A person can do some things around the house but in no way are you going to want to do more in public than you absolutely have to. I am not looking forward to having another one put on but I am hopeful it will be on for a short time, and close up this wound.

IV Antibiotics

I just completed IV antibiotics, something I probably should have received months ago. Some doctors do not believe in antibiotics, my original doctor was one of these people. When you have a wound where wheelchair users get wounds, and you are having trouble getting it to close down, its very likely you have osteomyelitis. You need to get IV antibiotics to address this problem. This means getting a Pick line, which means more limitation on exercise. And you get this for 6 weeks. I just finished up my 6 weeks yesterday and was able to go back to doing a full workout, or a modified workout for someone with a wound.

Whats Next?

As I stated, I still have the wound. But it is getting much better. I will post weekly updates on where things are at with the wound as well as begin releasing what I did to maintain my fitness. As much as anything, when you have a wound you need to keep your mind right as you are forced into a life of seclusion. For me that means exercise, pretty much daily exercise.

Why Regular Programs Fail Wheelchair Lifters?

There is a ton of info on the internet regarding training.  At this point there is too much info as every personal trainer in the world rushes to publish a paid service or ebook before spending enough time actually in a gym experimenting to know what works and what doesn't.  This problem is increased 10 fold for wheelchair lifters as a lot of the information itself is garbage, plus the program rarely fits appropriately for a wheelchair lifter.

Random Exercise Selection

Often times when looking through other programs I see a hodge podge of exercise selection.  It often looks to be more of a trainers favorites than an attempt for each exercise to build upon the previous.  This can be a further pain for wheelchair lifters to follow if the program has you changing the load on every exercise.  I have explained numerous times that this is a waste of our time.

It is also useful for us wheelers to leverage a single piece of equipment for multiple exercises.  Bench for Chest, Tri.  Squat rack for Bench, Tris, Pullups, etc.  Yes, we technically would be hogging one piece for a long time, 20 minutes or so, but this makes for a very efficient use of our time.  Plus it can minimize the amount of time we have to clean up someone else's leftover mess on equipment.  

If you are using a public gym, you must have a plan of attack when you go in.  Try to fit in two or more exercises where applicable.  This can turn a 60+ minute workout into a 45 minute workout quite easily.  Template online programs pay no mind to any strategy, nor much thought to be honest...

Bodypart Overload

Another real problem I see in online programs is an insane devotion to a single bodypart in one workout.  Any program that has you hitting triceps with a Close Grip bench, then skull crushers, then cable pressdowns, then overhead extensions, then dips, then ....  STOP!!!  Each bodypart does need variety, but not in a single workout.  You really do not need more than 2 movements for a specific bodypart in any given workout.  And if one of those movements is a compound movement (bench press, military press, pull ups), than you really only need that one exercise for that workout.  

Aim for 5-6 sets for a bodypart per workout.  Much above that converts to wasted effort.  Make those 5-6 exercises really count, then move on.  The exception is if you are in a volume modality with German Volume training in a 10 set per exercise manner.  But again, the max on a bodypart would be 10 sets.  This would still pale in comparison to some of the 25+ sets for Biceps I have seen online.

25+ sets for a single bodypart is plain dumb, wasteful and meant for people who pump in steroids through an IV.

Lack of Suggested Alternatives for Wheelers

This is one of the biggest problems wheelchair lifters face if they try to follow a poorly constructed online program.  There are some specific exercises that can be very difficult for us to do, such as a bent over row, yet there are alternatives.  These online programs are often too rigid and do not offer up suggested alternatives.  While a bent over barbell row may not work for me, a lying down one arm dumbell row works great!  I have to adjust, no problem.  But when people first start out they may not be aware of the alternatives, become frustrated, and give up.

This is why I created this site, to help guide folks trying to train from the chair.  If you have any questions hit me up and check out my Beginner Wheelchair Fitness ebook!

Track Progress

One of the easiest things ANY person who works out can do to improve, if they are not already doing it, is write stuff down.  Over the long haul tracking your progress is as important as the actual act of working out to ensure you are improving versus plateauing or even worse, getting weaker.

I simply track everything through an excel spreadsheet, and a quick picture with my phone.  Depending on whatever type of program I am currently doing whether it's a 5/3/1 strength cycle or a 10x10 german volume training cycle, track it.

As you lift over the long haul 10-20+ years you will see instant gratification gains quickly cease, this is where small rep increments from one workout to the next become quite important.  Without writing this stuff down there is no way to properly monitor how things are going.

Things to track:

  • Exercise (inc bench press, military press, wide grip pull ups, etc)
  • Rep Scheme or Modality (Volume, Strength, German Volume) whatever helps you know what you were trying to do that day.
  • Weight LIfted.  I use shorthand @225, etc.
  • Reps.  This can be reps attempting to hit, and then reps actually hit.  Ex of 100 rep goal, with 90 actually lifted.  
  • Rest Period.  To compare like against like you need to make sure that if in week 1 you were taking 1 minute breaks between sets, then next week you took 90 second break, of course your lifts went UP!!

Here is my example from this morning, I am doing a 5/3/1.  This looks like crazy shorthand gibberish but it works for me.  I simply snap a photo with my phone before I work out, then afterwards I update the spreadsheet with the results.  

  1. Shoulders 531
  2. MP Press @115
  3. MP Press 5/3/1 5x160, 5x180, 5+x200(11)
  4. Snatch 5x70, 5x80, 5+x90 (7)
  5. Shrug @140 1x r/p (6)
  6. CTB Pullups 3mins (20)
  7. Lat/Rear/Front @LKB (25/15/10)
  8. Green Band Curls 21s

Explaining the shorthand, with each number corresponding to the list above.

  1. This is a shoulder movement as the primary movement workout, in a 5/3/1 strength.
  2. MP is for Military Press, with @115 being the warmup weight.
  3. This is my main working sets for the military press, with the last set being a do as many reps as possible denoted by the 5+, and the outcome was 11 (11).
  4. Snatches or 1 arm high pulls.
  5. 1 arm shrugs with a rest pause denoted r/p
  6. PUllups in a chest to bar, CTB, for 3 mins.  I hit 20 reps in that time.
  7. Lat/Rear/Front with a light kettle bell denote different raises for shoulders.
  8. Finally, finished up with 1 set of green band curls done in a 21s fashion for end of workout burn.

Do what works for you.   Write as MUCH or as LITTLE as you need to as long as you are able to gauge a current workout versus a previous. Even if you only track the main lift, that is something.  In the example above I would only track the military press as that was the main movement I am monitoring progress.  To outperform your previous workout, you must know what it was that you actually did in weight lifted and reps performed.  From day to day or even week to week it is very possible to remember, but over the long haul, it becomes impossible to recall each detail.

 

AMRAP Workouts

AMRAP - As Many Reps As Possible

AMRAP workouts are a great mix in at any point in an individual workout, or overall program.  AMRAPs get a lot of pub via Crossfit but they have been around forever as a technique to pump in a ton of work in a short amount of time.  This cranks up the density of your training as you will pound a specific movement for X amount of minutes.

How to AMRAP

For wheelchair lifters I prefer to AMRAP on lifts you have to do with a single arm.  I use them most often on 1 arm barbell rows where I am lying face down on a bench.  I will do my right arm for X amount of minutes at Y weight.  Then I switch to the left arm.  Really F-ing simple, which is usually the case for things that actually work in a gym. 

AMRAP Progression

The first time you do an AMRAP exercise, count your reps for that set amount of minutes.  Next time you do this lift, try to break that rep count in the same amount of time.  Thats it.  The rest time should be very short, nothing over 20 seconds unless you are going really heavy.  This is the secret sauce that makes it work.

Why AMRAP Works

If forces you to compete with yourself to knock out extra reps than you normally would in say a 3 or 4 set approach.  When you continue to add reps in the same timeframe you are forcing UP your workload and your body must adapt, by building muscle and strength.  Lets say you row 100 LBs for 4 sets of 10, with a 1 minute rest between sets, where you hit 10, 10, 8 and 7 on those four sets.  Attempting an AMRAP on that same weight you would probably get something like 10, 5, 3, 3, 3 ,3, 2, 2, 2, 2, 1, 1 ,1 ,1, 1. before 4 minutes are up.  Which would equate to 40 or so reps, vs the 35 reps you hit with the conventional method.  Now next week you try to hit 42 and so on.  After to get to a target, such as 50, bump up the weight.

I am a big fan of this approach, but don't overuse it.  I would recommend only using it on 1 exercise per training session as it can wipe you out a bit if you overapply it.   I also like it a ton for fellow wheelchair lifters since we can get setup on one exercise and bang this out without changing weights 3-4 different times.  Load up, rep out, go home.

Do More Cardio.... Terrible Advice

I came across another terrible internet article today on Yahoo.  These articles are so dangerous to training and nutrition novices because they send people down an unsustainable path.  The article promotes the same, tired advice to lose fat by upping your cardio while cutting calories.  The basis is that there are 3500 calories in one pound of fat, therefore to lose X pounds of fat you need to burn off X multiplied by 3500.  Then goes on to explain how many calories various types of cardio will burn off per hour.  You can't really out-math your bodyfat.  Your body will adapt faster than you will be able to lose all the fat you want to in this manner which renders this approach futile in the long run.

Do this much cardio to lose weight!

This approach can work on the very short term if people go about it very slowly, by only seeking at most a 2 pound deficit.  Even that is often too much as the body will adapt and begin slowing down the metabolism.  The primary problem with this approach is people NEVER do this slowly.  THey think
"So if I do enough cardio to burn 7000 calories AND restrict calories below a few hundred below my maintenance level, I can lose 5+ pounds of fat a week."  

DO NOT LISTEN TO THIS SHIT!!!!

Body Adaptation

The body instantly adapts to too large a deficit.  Fat loss over the long term does not work this way.  This is the exact type of advice that put WAY too many people in TOO heavy of a diet restriction along with way too much cardio piled on.  To lose fat by calculating according to this approach always leads to people restricting too many calories to get into a calorie deficit.  They may get results the first time by restricting calories plus doing 3 sessions of cardio a week.

Then some of that weight comes back so they restrict the calories a little bit more while now doing 4 days of cardio.  This cycle will continue on and on over the years until this unfortunate soul is now only taking in 1200 calories per day, OR LESS!! While doing 5 days, OR MORE, of cardio.  Over the course of a few years this will always result in a person being very unhappy with their physique as the metabolism will all but shut down.

THe best advice possible... Eat a calorie amount equal to the average of  your recommended maintenance calorie count for your target weight and your current weight, split the difference.  YOur target maintenance weight may call for 2000 calories per day, while your current weight maintenance is 2500 calories.  Try not to go below 2200 calories.

Do not attempt to out diet your fat loss.  It will not work long term.  Increase your weight training to 3-4 high intensity sessions per week.  Make sure you are eating near maintenance levels.  Still do some cardio, but not as a device to outpace your calorie intake.  Use cardio as a device to improve overall cardiovascular health, which it still an important piece of overall health.

Simple Cardio Guide

Here is a very simple guide.  Unless you are training for a marathon, your cardio per week should be below 2 hours.  For a lot of folks who weight train, 2-3 20 minutes sessions per week will do it.  If you are doing 5 hours of cardio per week in the hope of losing fat, prepare to be very disappointed.

Eat real food, do not restrict too aggressively and hit the weight room a few times a week.  Any article that promotes some version of this statement is an article worth reading.

 

Listen to Your Body

You must listen to your body above all else, especially in training and nutrition.  There is a lot of noise online and in the media regarding training and nutrition that is truly overwhelming.  And a large majority of this noise is hot garbage trying to sell you something directly or indirectly.  This is even more true with nutrition as we are told to avoid XYZ like the plague, then the very next article states you must have that same XYZ in your diet or you will die immediately.

A popular podcast I listen to had 2 guests in 3 weeks that directly conflicted on the opinion of how much coffee we should have as well as consuming nuts.  THe first said to eat all the nuts we can and drink as much coffee as we desire.  The second guest recommended NO nuts, ever and to limit coffee to one cup per day, at most.  What the hell are we supposed to do with these conflicting views?  Especially if we get them from the same source, in this case, a podcast?  Its one thing to present the information and let the audience make their own choices but when hosting "industry experts" with polar opposite opinions it becomes impossible to keep this crap straight.

At the end of the day remember the podcast host is booking guests that will help his podcast numbers.  I hope he addresses these conflicts in a future podcast because having these guests virtually back to back could not be more confusing.  Which is why you should only take in external information with a grain of salt as YOU can be the ONLY expert on YOUR body.

Always Learning

I do not pretend to know it all.  It is very important to continue to educate yourself regarding training and nutrition through whichever medium you prefer.  I read several articles per day as well as listen to several fitness related podcasts every week.  Some of this knowledge gained is very helpful and will become new things I will incorporate into my daily life.  Some is not, and are things I will completely ignore.

I take in all the information I can, but the End All, Be All is what my body tells me.  Your body will tell you if your workouts are actually benefiting you or not.  I may incorporate a new routine or exercise that I recently read about, give it a few workouts and see how it works out.  Some of these exercises get thrown out right away.  Some I tweak for a wheeler and they become long-term fixtures in my programs.  Same thing goes for food as I am always tweaking what I eat.

Some exercises I know pretty quickly that I do not feel secure or my body will just not stabilize to be able to perform the movement.  These are the throw out right away variety.  Other exercises may feel fine as I do them but I feel un-expected soreness in areas that cause problems post workout.  These exercises may go back to the drawing board for some tweaks to see if they can be done without resulting in pain.  If pain continues they just get thrown out.

My body has told my High Volume programs with light weights is terribly boring and unchallenging for me.  If I am not challenged, I am OUT pretty quick as I become bored and half-ass it or do not look forward to the next workout, AT ALL.  I like to lift heavy.  My body likes it as well.  Too much volume and I feel worn out.  Workouts should leave you feeling energized, not running on empty.  Too much volume wears me out so I have eliminated high volume work from my routines.

My body has told me that I cannot do incline dumbell curls with my arms extremely stretched.  This movement pattern is great for hitting the short head of you bicep, which gives you that biceps peak.  However in my case a few days after performing this exercise my left shoulder would have problems.  Problems that actually forced me to stop any overhead pressing until the tendons healed.  It took me a long time to piece these items together but once I stopped this exercise completely my shoulders have rarely had issues.

My body has told me it likes coffee.  I like the taste, it makes me happy to drink it, so I do.  Same with the occassional pizza or weekly double cheeseburger and chocolate shake from Culvers!  I like these things, my body likes these things, so I let my body have these things in moderation. 

What to Listen To

  1. Joint and Tendon Soreness.  Joint pain is something to very much listen to.  Are you working out too much?  Are you doing a specific movement too often?  Same applies to tendons.
  2. Prolonged Muscle Soreness.  Your muscles will get sore.  Especially as you perform new movements that may be hitting muscles that you have never hit before in that manner.  Prolonged soreness, more than 3 days, after a workout is something a bit more worthy of you attention.  
  3. Chronic fatigue.  If you feel generally worn out on a day to day basis, listen.  Something is afoot.  Either you are not resting enough with proper nightly sleep, or not eating properly, or both.  Or something else.  

As wheelers we need to pay special attention to our shoulders, elbows and hands.  Any issues to these areas can sideline us for weeks.  Not fun.  We need to ensure we are recovering properly.  Eat well.  Sleep well.  Drink enough water.  If these three are in check yet your body is telling you something does not feel right, listen.

Continue to seek knowledge.  For the most part the internet is an amazing tool for seeking knowledge, just make sure to listen to your body above any Tom, Dick or Harry who may be trying to sell you something online, on a podcast or on TV.

 

Overcome Sucking

I cannot understand how anybody can be bored, ever.  There is SO much to do in this world, and likely so many things that you are not very good at, that the ONLY explanation for boredom is laziness.

Want to stay excited and engaged for the rest of your life?  Find something you suck at and get better.  It is so f-ing simple, and yet so engaging.  I will mostly focus on fitness related sucking, but this applies to anything in life.  Lifting, Knitting, Shooting Skeet, Paddleboarding, Snowshoeing, Fishing, whatever.  Find something you are interested in but may not be great at and attempt to build up that skill over time.  That’s It.  That is overcoming sucking.

Joe Rogan has discussed a similar topic on his podcast that I completely agree with and that is we humans must have a struggle.  Battling a struggle keeps us going.  People with no struggle, essentially die off.  Its why the kids of extremely wealthy people are far too often complete wastes.  They have everything handed to them with every advantage known to man and have no idea what a struggle is.

The regular person equivalent of an over-priveleged rich kid is the person who constantly complains they are bored.  Bullshit.  This ongoing life improvement will give you something to be excited about at all times.  This will give you something to look forward to.  This will make you happy.  This will prevent boredom, forever.

 

Ring Pulll ups and Dips

A couple new exercises I introduced a few weeks back into my fitness regimen were ring pull ups and ring dips.  I really sucked the first attempt at these.  I can bench a lot.  Do Pull Ups and Parallel Bar Dips for days.  I really sucked at both of these the first try. 

 

Next Suck… Russian Dips

Russian dips are a variation of dips that are a build up exercise to doing muscle ups.  I saw these being done on Instagram and had to try them this morning.  I suck at them.  A russian dip is performed by starting a dip in the full extension, lowering yourself down as a normal dip into the bottom position, but then leaning back to have your elbows lower down to the bar. Once the forearm and elbow are flush with the bar, or flat surface, you lift yourself back up into a normal dip position and perform the dip.  This extra lowering to the elbows and lifting from the elbows is where the challenge comes in.

I will provide a video of me doing this in the future since I just re-read the paragraph above and I would imagine it is difficult to visualize this gibberish.

The challenge for us wheeler lifters is you have to use your core and lower body to counterbalance the process of lowering onto your elbows and then back out of that.  I cannot really use my lower body for this so I have to overcome the mechanical disadvantage at the bottom with a pulling movement to get back onto my hands for the Dip.  Its tough and a bit awkward but I will get this down.  I suck right now, I will not suck in the coming weeks.

 

Yoga

My wife has gotten more into yoga in the recent months and a big reason for this peak in her interest is the constant addition of moves.  I am a pure meathead so I am not into yoga at all, but the intrigue is understandable.  The better you get at yoga, the more advanced moves you are able to perform, or at least attempt.  Quite often she is falling on her head or losing her balance much to my amusement but the constant struggle and effort to no longer suck at these movements keeps her very enthused.

 

Conclusion

Find something you are very interested in.  Find something within this general interest you suck at.  Strive to get better at it.  IN the fitness world this most often is a new exercise.  Strive to achieve a rep, then a set of 5 an so on.  There is an infinite amount of inspiration for exercises to attempt on Instagram.  Just as there is an infinite amount of possibilities of things you suck at that you can overcome.

Prioritize Relative Strength

Relative strength for the vast majority of humans is much more important and much more applicable than absolute strength.  

Relative vs Absolute

Relative strength focuses on your strength related to your own body, more specifically, being able to perform numerous movements at your bodyweight.  Absolute strength does not care about how much you weigh, it is all about the maximum amount of weight you can lift for an exercise, think of powerlifters and offensive linemen.  While it would seem logical that these two would be linked, that if you improve your absolute strength on a lift that would immediately translate to your relative strength it simply does not work this way.

Relative Movements

The most simple relative strength test is the pull up.  Can you perform X number of strict pull ups?  This can also move into dips and pushups.  Those three movements are the starting point.  A guy who can bench press 415 pounds may not be able to do a single pull up.  Another guy can only bench 225 pounds, but can do 20 strict pull ups.  In this scenario it is also likely there would be at least 100 lbs separating these two individuals in bodyweight.

THere are very few times in your life where actually doing a max effort movement applies in real life.  Especially when you consider the positioning and setup most high max lifters utilize when performing a lift.  But I would bet every single person out there needs to move their body around using pulliing and pushing movements similar to pull ups and dips.  Getting out of a pull is essentially a muscle up where you pull yourself out of the water, then dip all the way up.

Relative Progressions

I am a lifelong meathead who has always loved pushing the iron around, and often going as heavy as possible, sometimes beyond.  Over time, this beats the living shit out of your body.  I always did dips and pull ups so my relative strength was quite solid from a baseline perspective.  What I did NOT know was the level of progressions that were possible.  If you do not believe me, and you can do pull ups and dips from bars, than try doing them on rings.  You are welcome.  This is a whole new world on rings and it will absolutely humble most of the strongest people on the planet.  I certainly was.  

Perfect Athlete

A perfect athlete would have a unique combination of Speed, Strength and Flexibility.  Along with a whole lot of skill in their specific sport.  But if you were to take someone with extremely high levels and scores on strength, speed and flexibility it would be HIGHLY likely that that athlete could be dropped into any sport and perform above average.  These are the types of physiques we should be chasing as well.  Think NFL running backs, receivers and defensive backs.  Think gymnasts and MMA fighters.  These are the bodies most of us should be chasing.  Guys with incredible relative strength along with flexibility and speed.  Not offensive lineman who can move the most MAX weight, but at the expense of carrying around an extra 100 or more pounds.  Not bodybuilders who cannot perform ANY sport at a reasonable level.  No thanks.

Getting Too Big

One major problem with bodybuilders, especially professional level bodybuilders, is their complete lack of flexibility and even relative strength.  Some guys in the gym can work themselves into a fury, setup on the bench with an incredible bridge and bench a house.  Yet they cannot do a pull up, their dips are shit, and in the case of many of the massive bodybuilders they cannot wipe their own ass.  Is this an enjoyable state of every day living?  ALmost always sore and probably too big for their own good.  And as a bonus when it comes to many day to day activities they are actually weak as shit.  No thanks.

Priority

Priority is an extremely simple thing that most people butcher.  When asked for a list of top five priorities from your boss, you now know your boss is a moron.  There can only be 1 priority.  There can be only one winner at the end of the day if you have to choose 1 person to eat over every other choice.  The same is true in training.  You can do a lot of different things that mix in max lift days and bodyweight relative strength days.  But if you have to make a choice of continuing to push your max XYZ lift up, versus no longer being able to do Pull ups or Dips or really anything with your bodyweight because you got too big or heavy, then skip the max shit because you may get absolutely stronger but at the expense of becoming a worse athlete.

Testing Strength Indicators

There are some basic exercises that all lifter should test themselves and re-test again and again on over time to ensure they are at minimal maintaining strength, ideally gaining strength.  It is highly important that we all assess where we are at over time as it is QUITE possible that a current training regimen you are on is actually hurting you more than helping you.  THis is often due to following a horseshit program that recommends WAY too much volume, in the 25+ work set area.

Sprinting is a great test, but that won't really be ideal for us!

There is no fixed rule on these, come up with your own test exercises, weight amounts and rep counts.  The weights and rep counts are not as important as the process of actually having some indicators and testing them out regularly.

Bench Press High Reps:  Be able to get 20+ reps on 75% of your bodyweight.

Bench Press Heavy Reps:  Be able to get at least 5 reps on 1.5 times your bodyweight.

Bench Press Max:  Be able to get at least 1 rep at 2 times your bodyweigth.

Pull ups:  20+ reps in one set of pull ups.

Military Press:    Be able to do your bodyweight for 10 reps.

These are just some examples I follow.  A rowing variation could be added as well as some bodyweight exercises like pushups and inverted rows.  Determine your exercises, set a challenging bar that must be met, then test against this bar every month or so to ensure your basic strength continues to move forward.