Monday, December 10, 2012

Cutting weight (for a contest)

For those of us that “cut weight” we know it can suck but for those of us who don’t know what “cutting weight” means, let me give you the run down.

            Cutting weight refers to dropping as much weight as possible as close to the weigh ins of the contest as possible and then gaining that weight back before the contest actually starts. This can come in handy for events that favor a heavier individual or for someone who simply can not walk around at the contest weight but it is my strong opinion that it is far better to walk around at contest weight than to “cut” to make weight.

            Now that everyone is on the same page I will go over how I like to cut weight. It is my personal philosophy that cutting weight is something that needs to be done quick and dirty. It needs to take as little time as possible and therefore I NEVER CUT OVER NIGHT. If I am to do a cut I will wake up early and do my cut then, for my last contest that I cut in I woke up at 3am to cut, who cares, all you have to do it cut weight, survive, weigh in, rehydrate, THEN refuel. This means after weigh ins it is FAR more important to drink before eating! I am not sure CAPS LOCK is giving enough emphasis on that so read this paragraph a second time.

            LEAD UP TO THE CUT

I personally water and sodium load. I follow a simple process. We will pretend weigh ins are on a Friday (which is most often the case).

I take the 16 hrs before weigh ins and I don’t consume anything, NO WATER (sometimes I will do a BCAA, this should be mid day thursday). The 24 hrs before that you are on double water and ZERO sodium (mid day Wed-mid day Thursday). 48 hr prior to that I do double water double sodium (Monday- mid day wed). That is really it. Eat how you eat.

Oh it is so fun so I will get right to it!

IMPORTANT- Always have a spotter for cutting,  yes that means someone might see you naked or it might mean someone will see you in your swim trunks, it don’t matter to me how you roll. You will most likely feel faint before the cut is over, don’t drown.

-Make a bath as hot as you can handle.
-Lay in the bath with all but your face under the water, stay in for up to 15 minutes.
-Get out of the bath and sit in the room with the bath in it (hot room) for an equal amount of time that you were in the bath for.
-OPTIONAL-You may spend 5-15 min in a cooler room if you need to cool off but odds are you will feel faint so suck it up and get it over with.
-repeat until down to weight
-Check weight every other round on your “hot room” phase.

Once you make weight you should only be at weight for a few hours MAX, I like to only be at weight for less than an hour. If you cut the night before and stay dry than you are dehydrating your muscles and tendons, ligaments, organs, stuff you don’t want to dehydrate. 

Remember one thing though, you don't have to cut to be good, it is far better to walk around at your competition weight then have to drop water for it. Make sure to subscribe!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Strongman, how most people approach and how to get better, faster.

In the last two articles I went over common misconceptions and common personalities/goals of strongmen. So now that I have kind of showed everyone what NOT to do, the next place to go is, how DO you get better? Is there a quick way to get better? Lucky for everyone I have been down this road and there is a quick way, there is a better way, but SURPRISE, it is NOT going to be fun (unless you are sadistic like me ;) ).

When I began strongman I was a natural, I was very talented in the sport with only one or two weaknesses, tire and pressing. I figured I could dodge those events and make up points somewhere else, WRONG! When you have a weakness you have two things that need to happen as soon as possible.

1. Do contests that you have weaknesses in.
2. Train your weaknesses often and first.

Now if neither one of these sounds fun, it is because neither option is any fun. But they are effective! I entered my first contest and there was an axle clean and press and a tire flip. I did well in all the other events but I missed out on a lot of points from these events. I did not press the axle for a single rep, and the tire was flipped maybe 4 times in 60 seconds. So what did I do to get better? I busted my butt! I let my embarrassment fuel my workouts.

I began training presses at the beginning of my week to ensure that my legs would be fresh and ready for any ‘leg drive’ that was necessary for big overhead pressing. Within a year my presses and primarily my jerks had came along quite well! My tire still suffered but I was able to avoid major work on my tire til about a year later after a tire flip event cost me the first “(2007-2008?)Washington’s Strongest Apple” title.

The tire story for me is very much the same, and out of anyone I know, the tire WAS my LEAST favorite event. There was nothing I liked about the tire, we did not get along to say the least. And again for about a year straight, every Saturday, 6am, first event was the tire flip. And a year later I returned to “(2008-2009?)Washington’s Strongest Apple” and I faced a field that had one year prior CRUSHED me at the tire flip and I flipped until I could not flip anymore. The end result was a First place in the tire flip, beating Breck Gault (I do not think he had ever been beaten in a tire flip in contest) and a first place in the contest.

Sidenote- I will never forget when Breck approached me after the event and told me I had won the tire flip, he was so happy for me it was crazy, just one of the many moments that will be in my mind forever.

The point I am getting at is simple, if you want uncommon results then put in uncommon work. You will never get better at an event you do not practice or devote yourself to.

This approach should not be confined to strongman but to life in general, constantly push your comfort zone and challenge yourself!

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Three types of strongmen (attitudes)

To better articulate the standpoint I am coming from these are personalities that all levels of strongman display, even many professional strongmen maintain a fun attitude.

-For fun (enjoy the sport, can still be competitive but are polite, compete with honor)
These guys are 95%+ of the strongman community, it is my opinion that they have it figured out, they do strongman because it is fun. They like to have a good time and are almost ALWAYS friendly to newcomers. When I say always, I mean always, I mean most guys would give you their shirt off their back if you asked for it (literally seen this happen and the shirt was used as a tacky rag, dude knew about it and was 100% for it). Always willing to lend a hand in technique or training and really like to help someone with the common interest of strongman.

-For serious ( “Win at all costs” mentality)
These guys are really far and few between, this may be due to the lack of money in the sport of strongman or the fact that most of the fun in strongman is through the social networks it builds, a real “brothers in arms” kind of mentality that (unfortunately) these guys missed the memo on. Now I understand being serious about winning but if you are not enough of a man to shake someone’s hand and congratulate them when they whoop your ass then I want nothing to do with you. I even once heard a story of some guy (really poor at stones) trying to lift a stone before the event began and realizing he could not lift it so he went back to his bag and coated himself in baby powder (a very slick substance) and proceeded to “try to pick the stone up” again. What a toolbag, if anyone sees this guy please, drop kick him in the testicles for me.

These guys are the transient strongmen, drifting from one sport to another, trying it for a few weeks then not coming around for a few months, then back again like they never left. These guys are often very cool and always a lot of fun because there are a million things to talk about with them.

I am sure I could think of a few other personality types in strongman but honestly over 90% of the people in strongman are cool to EVERYONE. There is no major divide from the amateurs to the professionals; at one time every pro was an amateur.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Strongman misconceptions

There are a few misconceptions about strongman. First thing that needs to be understood about strongman “the strongest man/woman always wins.” It is the person that does the best on the given events, now lets get into an extreme example. Imagine a farmers walk, Usain Bolt vs. Magnus Samuelson, but the weight in each hand is 100lbs/45.2Kg. I would place my money on Mr. Bolt. He is a fast man and with that weight I think he could move faster than Samuelson, now strength helps someone to win contests and events but in MOST circumstance it will be the person who completes the course or does the most reps in a given time wins the event. Only a small portion of the time, events are for a max, in which case the Strongest man does prevail. Be aware that it is often the man who does more reps or does an event fastest that wins, not the strongest.

“Bigger is better.”
WRONG!- I have beaten countless “bigger” men and it was not because I was strongest, it was because I was a better strongman. If you are serious about the sport then get serious about the events, tire, log, yoke, farmers, stones to start… Hussafelt, truck pulls, and everything you can think of to finish.

“I can get away with one or two weaknesses.”
WRONG!- No matter the level (but especially at a large National event) a bomb in an event (0 points) will take you out of contention for the contest.

“I can become a great pro simply by picking the shows I enter and earn a pro card that way”
WRONG!- I will keep this short a concise, since there are only a few pro shows a year this means if you do happen to be picky and have a bunch of weaknesses in your line up then you are going to get KILLED at EVERY pro show, consistency is king.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mindset "Fail forward"

Mindset is pivotal in life, you can let failures crush you and keep you down permanently or you can let them drive you. This mindset really is not hard once you see that each failure is building toward a new success. I see and hear about people being really down about an injury. But every injury tells you something new about how your body is reacting to the stress that is being placed on it. Now sometimes, in the circumstance of an injury, that event can tell you that you need to back off training a certain way, or it can tell you that more recovery time is needed. In either circumstance the injury is giving you positive feedback not only on how to train your training/recovery cycle but showing you how far your body can be pushed. In order to be your best you must always push those limits, but you must also respect those limits. There are two good indication of if you are really pushing your limits, one being PRs and two being occasional failure.

With this information do not go wild and think everyone should fail everyday, there are structure and goals needed in any successful training regime. But if you are not failing, you are not pushing hard enough. Remember, failure is not a negative thing, you must think of every fail as a “fail forward.”

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Body and mind prep before a contest

DISCLAIMER- Relying on a plan is a great way to prepare for a contest, but if the plan is incomplete or not DETAILED enough it can backfire in a MASSIVE way (story at the end of this article on how it happened to me). This has happened to me so if you do plan to use these techniques make sure you are detailed to finest point!

Mind- I know for me, and many athletes, the preparation is a breeze, but the most stressful part of the contest is the week before. You know what needs doing but you can not stop thinking about what to do when the contest rolls around. Well, I developed an interesting way to take care of that stress. I put my mind at rest by writing out/ keeping a list of protocol for events, small things I notice when I lift and what I know I need to focus on. This keeps my mind from going back to it and worrying that I will forget, cause I will not, especially because I have a physical copy of it. Of course if you rely solely on this piece of information and use it as a crutch it may just let you down (my story on this is at the end).

Body- I like to train in 12 week cycles typically increasing intensity into the 11th week and treat the 12th week as a bit of a back off/ stay healthy week. This is immediately followed by one week (6-7 days) of NOTHING (except maybe stretching). My goal is to break my body down in the 12 weeks and then give my body one week to heal before the contest. I follow the contest by one additional week off to rest and recover further. As with everything I think different time ranges should be experimented with, everyone is different. If the first 12 weeks was done correctly the 2 weeks out of the gym will be a nice mental break from the intensity in the gym.

STORY- 2012 Am. Arnold/ HW Am. World Championship.
-I had written out what I thought to be the perfect script for a car deadlift and for the medley (there were 4 events and 2 went VERY well but these two I made big mistakes on). Car DL was ALMOST perfect, I just forgot one minor thing, to take off my shoes, so when I tried to slide my feet into the position for the car DL the suit I was wearing LITERALLY crushed me by the time I got into position. The rubber soles on my shoes stuck to the rubber mat the handles were on, it was the perfect recipe for disaster. The medley was with two smaller mistakes but over all cost me 10 seconds by my estimate. I did not think the yoke would slide so my first mistake was to run AROUND the yoke, I should have put the breaks on and let it slide around me. Second (major) mistake was forgetting to roll my hands under in the farmers. I grabbed and went for it right away (possibly from how great WUs went), which lead to two-3 drops when it should have been ZERO. Moral of the story- don’t rely solely on a piece of paper for your performance.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Night before contest restlessness remedy

DISCLAIMER- This is NOT meant to make you feel your best, it is a technique I use to make sure I get enough sleep the night before a contest. I also use this technique to make sure I am not falling asleep at a contest or demo.

I don't have many precontest tricks to tell other than the supplements I take, the training I put in, and the rest I take prior to a contest. HOWEVER I do have one technique I use that I have not heard many people use, sleep cycling. It is very basic and really does not require much planning (and no supplies!).


For this example I will say the contest is Saturday morning at about 10am.
Thursday night I will fall asleep the normal time I typically do, HOWEVER I will wake up friday morning at about 6am, maybe 5am (needs to be ~2hrs earlier than you are used to) now this will make you feel kind of crappy most of day but so long as you do not get too excited about anything you will be ready for bed by dark/7-8pm. Fall asleep early Friday night, wake up at 7-8am Saturday (8-12hrs sleep) and kick some ass in the contest!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Nutrition and supplements leading into an unlimited contest

First things first, nutrition leading into an unlimited contest. I do not watch a\calories the week before a contest, infact I make sure to consume a few more than I am used to. I typically take the week before a contest off (I will address this later as well) so my appetite can be a problem from time to time, I just stay on a schedule and eat every 2-4 hrs. But all of this is common knowledge, lets get into supplements leading into a contest.

I aim for a few different kinds of supplements.
-Multi vitamin

All of these together will prep your body to recover fully before the contest and almost guarantee a PR in contest if you have been training hard. My favorite types of creatine are Creatine Ester Ethel (CEE) however if there are heavy pulling events I will use Creatine Monohydrate in order to add a few pounds of water weight to aid in events like truck pulls. as for THE BEST creatine you will have to try different kinds to see what you like best, but I find these two to be the main types I run to for a contest.

Multivitamins should be taken year round, honestly, WHY NOT TAKE THEM!? But every once in a while I like to drop them for a few weeks to clear everything out, "Keep the body guessing" so to speak. Joint supplements are critical in my opinion, everytime I stop taking a joint supplement I feel it. That is enough for me to be on a joint supplement for a long time, I don't worry about stopping joint supps. I feel very similar to Omega acids, be it flax or fish oil, it does not matter, get those omegas!

Monday, May 7, 2012


I have been looking to get a blog for quite some time now but have hesitated at committing to a site for a few different reasons, but mostly because I didn't think I had the time. Well, I have found time. I want to start my blog off with a bang, I will be writing on what I would like to get out of life from an accomplishments view point, but first a brief introduction on myself.

My Name is Zack McCarley, I am an ASC (American Strongman Corporation) Professional Strongman and full-time student at CWU (Central Washington University) in Ellensburg, WA. I am very competitive as a strongman, winning 3 National championships, one of which being "America's Strongest Man under 231lbs." I am also competitive in the classroom with a 3.65 GPA, I do not worry too much about grades, I let my level of comprehension be my guide, if I do not understand something I work hard to change it. At any rate, I would say strongman is one of the more major parts of my life. So here is the perspective on Purpose from a 3x National Champion.

In my mind I keep things very simple, "Do I enjoy what I am doing?" "Will this lead to something that is worth the sacrifice I am currently making?" I am analytical, and as such I came upon the question of "what is my purpose" at a young age. My first thoughts of death or "the end" were very happy, heaven and clouds, soft rainbows and unicorns (not really), but seriously. As a child I was religious, but once my analytical mind began to turn its wheels I began to search for proof, I recall asking my mother as a child "Who is God's mom?" and she said that he has always been, I did not like the answer so I pressed the question "There had to be someone before him, who was before god?" and she told me she did not know. Not long after this my perception of the afterlife changed dramatically. I began to envision vast nothingness and solitude. My perception later changed but this all has very little to do with purpose, my point is I realized from a young age that life does not last, in order to live you must die. So there was one question left for me to ask. "What will I do with my time?"

As a adolescent I liked to do typical things, hang out, watch movies, have fun. But I really had no clue what I wanted to do. Some people know what they want to do young, but I was not even close. So I stumbled through Middle school and High School, I even earned a wrestling scholarship and earned an AA (While working). Still not really knowing what to do. It was only recently that I realized why I was this way.

I am one of the few people that could really be happy doing anything, anything at all. See, while I was getting a degree, working, even in middle school, I was able to train with weights and I decided weights were what made me happy. It is what I enjoy and I would not give them up. One of the reasons I could not find something I wanted to do was because I was already doing it. So where do I go from there? Life weights til I die? It could not be that simple! I have always enjoyed a good challenge. I stated above that I am competitive in two aspects of my life, but really, I am competitive in EVERY aspect of my life. So what would a competitive person that enjoys challenges declare as a major in a 4 year university? One of the hardest subjects of course, chemistry!

I guess I should back up, coming to the university I had two carriers in mind, a Special education endorsement, or prereqs for a chiropractic college But after a short time at the university my mind started seeing problems with the world, things no one has solved, solutions to problems for everyday life, theories that have not be tested, questions that have not been asked. I am still writing a list of these, whenever I see a problem I write it down for later and begin developing the tools to solve it now. My purpose has become to solve as many of these problems as I can. I must have 100 written down right now and the list grows with about 1-2 new problems a week, many of which are linked, this is to say solve one and maybe 5-6 would resolve themselves. But what about strongman?

I love strongman, I honestly think it is the greatest sport in the world, before strongman I thought wrestling was the greatest in the world, but there was only one problem with wrestling, there has to be others to wrestle with. In  strongman you can become better alone (which unfortunately is what I must do while I live here). But my other goal in life is to be a world Champion in Strongman for the 105Kg/231.4lbs weight class. Sadly without a World Championship there is no title to be had. I have reached the top of the 105Kg class in the USA. I keep training for this though because as I said before I love to lift, I love a challenge, and I will not give up on weights.

One of my favorite quotes I read while I was working two jobs and going to school full-time. This got me through many tough days.
"Tough times don't last, tough people do!"