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Interview With Strongman Adam Glass – Part 4

Today Adam talks about overtraining and the accomplishments he is most proud of, in and out of the gym

Notched deck of cards

Notched deck of cards

Josh: You’re obviously very, very, very dedicated. I’ve heard you say more than once that you don’t eat much and you don’t sleep much. You can’t stay out of the gym. You also spend the time in the gym working brutally hard. The concept of overtraining is something that people argue about a lot. Is overtraining a real thing? If it is, how do you avoid it?

Adam: Overtraining is a fact. I’ve heard people talk about: “There’s no overtraining, there’s just under-eating.” That is nonsense. Your body has definable limits in terms of the progress it can make during any given time. Those limits are defined by a lot of factors, including being diet and sleep. You have to get sleep, there’s no doubt about it. The amount of sleep you need is a lot less than what people think.

You have to balance out things like tendon workload. That’s a big one right there. How bad am I beating down the tendons in my body? You have to balance out the adrenaline response, the mental amping…you cannot amp yourself up for everything you do. If you try to mentally engage yourself very hard in every single lift, every single set, you will quickly burn out.

You’d burn out much quicker than somebody who knew how to take it easy. The mental side of overtraining is actually what crushes people faster than the physical side. So how do you avoid that? The first thing is that you have to understand that not every day can be 100% balls to the walls, hard as I can do it. People who train that way get hurt quite often.

High intensity training that guys like Mentzer [Mike] made popular in the 80s…did it produce some guys who did very well in bodybuilding? Absolutely. You can’t dispute the results of the guys that it worked for during that time, let Mentzer. I don’t want to get engaged as far as their drug use and all that. At the end of the day they still had to put in the work and they made tremendous progress.

The average guy, though, will probably end up hurting themselves going to far and not knowing when to stop. Not making the correct decisions. So what do I do? I alternate the difficulty and the objective, training day to training day. Some days it may look like I’ve done the exact same workout, back to back. Monday and Tuesday look like the exact same workout.

But it somebody looks down and they’re counting up how many reps, total poundage, the amount of time spent doing it, you see very different numbers. That is truly the key to how to avoid overtraining. A quote that I heard that I really like. Jack Reape is a powerlifter and a Captain in the Navy, which is a very high rank. Jack says “Intensity is not a backwards baseball cap and a grimace. Intensity is a number.”

That’s what people don’t understand. People tell me, “I work out really intensely.” And I say, “Really? Do me a favor: tell me what kind of numbers we’re dealing with here. At what intensity are you bench pressing? At what intensity are you running?” And they say “Oh man, I’m doing it really hard.”

Are you sure? Because a set of 15 reps is not very intense. By the definition of what intensity it, it’s not very intense. Perhaps you really sweated it out and it was really hard and you made a lot of noise, but that does not mean it was an intense set, by that definition. And making something harder than it needs to be does not necessarily make it more productive.

Josh: What physical accomplishments are you most proud of?

Physical things I have done that I really enjoy…bending the Red Nail and certifying on it was something that’s not that hard to do. But I was very happy when I did it. Because when I first saw it…when I opened up my first box of nails and I looked through it, I was like: “What is this and who are the people who can bend it?”

It was the thought process of, “Man, I can do this, I can really do this.” And then I did it. I got to the point where I can bend Red Nails in 2-3 seconds. Being able to do the Red Nail certification was a big deal. It’s not that hard, but at the time, for me, it represented getting over a huge mental hurdle.

When I bent 20 Red Nails in 15 minutes…that was a very difficult thing to do, very challenging, and I was very happy when I completed that. When I bent 100 grade five bolts in 50 minutes, that was extremely physically demanding. It required a lot of pain tolerance because by the time I hit 50 there was no skin left on my hands.

Josh: I watched those videos. That was pretty crazy.

: That’s still not the end of that. I have plans for harder bars and more numbers. I’ve also done 150 60d nails in an hour. It takes a different kind of thing to say Do one more. Bend one more nail. Besides those things…I’ve bent some really tough horseshoes…mainly just hitting points that a lot of people said I wouldn’t be able to do.

Bottoms-up pressing the 48 kilo bell at a bodyweight of 212 was something that I really worked very hard on.

Josh: That took a year, didn’t it?

Adam: From start to finish, I count it as a year. From start to finish the training block was August-February. What had happened was, I took the summer off from bottoms-up pressing, came back into it in August, and said “I will bottoms-up press the 88 as quick as I can.” It was probably in October that I first started getting very consistent bottoms-up pressing the 40…I did a s*** load of training with the 40, I was taping plates to it, et cetera.

From there I moved up to the 44, then hit the 48 way ahead of my timeline. There was so much mental effort and preparation put into doing that…some people were under the impression that I did that very very quickly and it took very little effort for me, but that’s not the case. It was a difficult thing to do and it took a lot of smart training to be able to program how it was going to work while still progressing in other things.

I didn’t backslide in anything else while I worked on that 48 bottoms up.

How about non-physical achievements?

Adam: In my military career a lot of the different awards I’ve won have meant a lot to me because it was acknowledgement for things we had done. I’ve made every stripe as quick as you can make it within the promotion system that they have. I’ve held some jobs that were pretty exceptional. I’ve had moments where I look back and say “Man, I’m doing stuff that other people have to watch movies and play videogames to understand.”

My first professional show that I got paid for was…I don’t look at that in terms of physical, I look at that in terms of business…but the ability to take some things that I love to do and convert it into income….for me, that was huge. The ability to go from I like to bend metal and I think it’s cool to You are going to pay me to bend metal in front of you and you will like it as well. That was a big thing for me, to turn this around and make money off it.

This is Part 4 in a series: Read Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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