Dinosaur Training for the Neophyte by Nancy Strasser
Keg-lifting, nail-bending, rock-throwing, Olympic-style quick lifts … these are the types of exercises that attract lifters to Dinosaur Training. And they are also the potential ‘window dressing’ to distract the unwary trainee from serious dino progress. After all, in the book Dinosaur Training, Brooks Kubik addresses his training philosophy to lifters who are already seriously strong. And the enthusiastic neophyte who simply picks and chooses a variety of novel exercises may set out on the dinosaur path … only to end up with a bad case of over-training, no real progress on his lifts, and basement full of disused IronMind products. Here are a few guidelines, to keep you on the dinosaur track, without leading yourself to early extinction:
#1 – Moderation –
Just one odd lift can add a lot of spice to a weight routine … but five or six can turn your ‘abbreviated workout’ into a high-volume ‘body-builder special’. Keep a reasonable limit on your total sets, to avoid diluting your workout intensity.
#2 - Substitution –
When you substitute an odd lift for one of your old barbell stand-bys … select a lift with a similar purpose. For example, you could vary your overhead pressing routine between barbells, dumbbells, sandbags, and kegs … all over the course of a year. And while the unwieldy objects will contribute to your stabilizer strength, the common thread of overhead lifting will permit you to continue gaining ground on your ‘bread and butter’ lift.
#3 – Progress -
Dinosaur training is about adding progressive poundage … not just sampling the ‘odd lift of the week’ and collecting a repertoire of ‘how-to’ instructions. When you try any new lift, stick with it long enough to progress on it.
#4 – Intensity -
They don’t call these exercises ‘finishers’ for nothing … you will be wiped out after doing that Farmers Walk or Sandbag Hug. So don’t do them before your squats, unless you have a workout partner who’s willing to carry you over to the squat rack. Focus your intensity first on the basics … and use those finishers to squeeze out the last drop of energy at the end of the workout.
#5 – Kegs, Barrels and Tires –
The strongman trainees of old didn’t spend their weekends prowling breweries and railroad yards for nifty items to lift. They just lifted whatever junk they happened to have lying around; and you can too. If you’re willing to compromise aesthetics for functionality, you’ll spend less time making custom-sized sandbags, modifying beer kegs, and weighing the rocks in your yard … and more time actually lifting weights.
#6 – Technique -
You may have heard that explosive exercises risk serious injury. Certainly, if you perform these lifts with too much weight and too little knowledge of technique, there is danger to your back and joints. But this danger hardly compares with what you will experience when your wife comes home to find a dumbbell-sized hole in the plaster wall, after you lost a lift due to poor execution. So keep your personal safety in mind … and practice your technique with light-to-moderate weights, before attempting that 1-Hand Clean & Jerk with heavy poundage.
#7 – Grip Work –
Whether your goal is a bone-crushing handshake or an improved deadlift, there are innumerable grip exercises to choose from. And this is one area where the neophyte can really indulge an interest in odd lifts, without sacrificing the fundamentals of the workout. Sure, it’s possible to overtrain your grip … but this is less likely to affect your squat workouts than car-pushing would! So if you’re tempted to add a few more exercises to a ‘sound but boring’ lifting routine, try to focus those extras on your grip work.
#8 – The Basics –
Sometimes the neophyte’s worst enemy is the enthusiasm generated from hearing and reading about the achievements of advanced dinos … and the inevitable temptation to revise a routine or experiment with new lifts. Enthusiasm is great … but focusing it properly requires a lot of discipline. You can appreciate the joys of tire-throwing and brick-lifting, without making them a Saturday afternoon pastime. You can incorporate new lifts into your workout, without doing all of them this weekend. Keep your focus on the basics of your squat, deadlift and pressing workouts … and use those dino anecdotes merely for continuing inspiration.
So the message for the neophyte dino is: if you concentrate on the fundamentals of your strength program, there is no rush to modify it with a thousand exciting training techniques. Dinosaurs live a long time … and there will be plenty of opportunities during your training years, to try all the novel strongman lifts that you want. Stay focussed on your primary strength-building goals; and over time, you will earn the right to be called a full-fledged dinosaur.