T Nation

The Raw Resurrection


Once upon a time I was a 235 pound up and comer...I was getting stronger and starting to move some respectable weight. I had been at this pursuit for a number of years, and was finally starting to feel like I had learned some things. Then life happened.


When I left Seattle I was preparing for the State Championships in March. I was about 226 and ready to put up a 1400-plus raw total. But for a number of reasons, I knew I had to leave my life there behind and start fresh. So I threw most of what I owned into my car and trekked across the country to Richmond, Va, where I now find myself.

I took the Virginia bar exam a week and a half ago, and the MPRE this morning. (I practiced law in Washington state for two years.) This afternoon was my first day in the gym in over two months. I had not previously gone more than two weeks without lifting weights since I was sixteen.

Today in the gym, I weighed 185. I was weaker than I have been in years, but that's not the point. It's about the journey...a lot has changed for me, but my love for straining against the iron never will. It was a lot of fun.

I have chosen a very simple approach to get me to where I want to be. My goals are different from what they have been in the past, but the effort must be the same. I want to keep my bodyfat low, in the single-digits (this is what I consider low,) I want to be able to run, jump, and be a good athlete. But I still want to be cock strong. Can it be done?

My approach right now is the 5/3/1 that everyone is raving about. It's very similar to how I've trained before, and I like the psychology and simplicity of it.

Without further adieu:

8/7/09 (Military)




Kept the rest periods fairly short. This would have had me beet red and gasping for air before, but I barely broke a sweat and was not breathing hard at all. I am actually really looking forward to the immense soreness that is sure to hit tomorrow. Basic, simple, fun stuff. And don't any of you donkeys make fun of my numbers!


YES! Great to see you back Ramo, looks like life is going good for you now.


YES is exactly right. You are a real asset to the powerlifting community here Ramo and it sure is awesome you are back. I am certain that you will be hitting numbers you feel good about very soon.


Thanks much guys. Means alot.

I feel like I'm back at the beginning again, which is actually pretty cool. And I'm certainly counting on help from you boys along the way, so throw in your .02 whenever.

I will say one thing...my waist is about 6-inches smaller than it was when I weighed around 230, and it's a whole different game...I had to squeeze the shit out of my core to keep from shaking a little with 135. Not kidding.

Total shock to the system...the effect will only last for a few weeks at most, but I'm going to enjoy it.


What are your thoughts on the following squat accessory exercises, done something like 5x5:

  1. Low Box Squats (with a pause)
  2. Pause Squats
  3. Pin Squats (with a pause)

Also what do you think of russian deadlifts with a standard bar vs. a safety squat bar? The safety squat bar seems to kill my low back. With a standard bar it seems to hit my mid-back harder. Any exercise that you think is particularly good at helping a sumo deadlifter keep a really tight/flat back (keep the chest up)?


Welcome back Ramo! And I'm looking forward to following your progress.

Since you left the door open to people's $.02...

Yeah a lower weight, you won't be able to bounce your gut off your thighs. When I dropped weight (not as much as you) I had to learn to squat more with my hips as opposed to my back (if that makes any sense).


Nice to see another 5/3/1 disciple with a log on here. You talked about trying to keep your body fat low, are you doing to be doing any cardio along with the program like hills or prowler work?

Good luck with the program. This will be fun to follow!


  1. I'm just not a fan of the box, period. It has never done anything good for me. But I've never lifted in double ply...

It's not going to kill you to play around with them, so why not? Just make sure you stay super tight the whole time, and don't worry about that 'release your hips' stuff or anything. Just stay tight, pause, and drive it back up. I will say that you can probably box squat more often than you can free squat, it takes much less of a toll on you, and it is a lot easier on the knees, but potentially tougher on the low back.

  1. I love pause squats, and would recommend them to pretty much anyone. But I'm not sure you need that much volume...when my squat was at its best I was just doing 2-3 sets of pauses after my heavy squats and that was plenty. Hold the bottom position for 3-5 seconds. You must stay very tight and fight to keep your chest up.

  2. Pin squats from various heights are something I've used here and there. I'm sort of on the fence with them. I like the potential for overloading the top half of the squat by setting the pins at about a 1/2 squat level, to get used to more weight on your back. I'd definitely favor pin squats at any height to box squats, because they will give you a real lesson in tension.

At the same time, one of the most important things for a raw squatter is to be able to control the turnaround...it's reversal strength. And when you break the eccentric-concentric chain with pins or a box, you aren't training it. So I'd say focus your training on free squats, but work in maybe pauses one week, and pin work the next. Or, if you squat multiple times per week, alternate these as assistance.

  1. I love the SSB for Russian DLs. You have to go lighter and pay attention to what you are doing, but if you can hold your arch with that thing, then the straight bar will be a breeze. If it is killing your low back just lighten it up and focus on keeping your chest high and your core tight. It's obviously going to stress your low back more because of the different leverage.

And I don't know anything about pulling sumo, except that I've always sucked at it. Wear briefs...that will help.


Not having a gut is going to make a huge difference with squatting...I remember it used to make a difference if I was down a couple pounds just because I hadn't been eating as big for a few days. At this point, it's going to be a totally different lift, I'm sure.

What are some of the differences when you say squatting with your hips instead of your back? Any cues or coaching points you used? Did your stance or technique change?


Nothing planned really, but if I feel like going for a run, I will. I don't have a prowler, and I don't have a hill anywhere near me to run. A hill would be fun though, maybe I will look for one.

Mostly, though, I think keeping bodyfat down is going to be a diet issue...nothing sexy or exciting, just plenty of protein, low carbs, good fats, good PWO nutrition.


8/8/09 Deadlift



Ab Wheel

Mother of God...

This was humbling. It was as though I could hear my body saying "Uhh...excuse me...did I miss something? What the hell is going on?"

But the last two days have been awfully fun. Just basic hard work.


Which loading parameter table are you using? The 65, 75, 85 one (wave 1) or the narrow jump thing?

Cool to see you back, good luck with your goals and I hope that life is/keeps treating you ok.



Thanks for the kind words. I'm using the wider jumps (65, 75, 85)...this seems more prudent, particularly because of the high volume of assistance I am using with the big lifts.

Never thought a 350x5 deadlift would feel heavy...and those 10s are no joke either, even with bitch weight.


Perfect, thanks a lot!


hmm... It's really hard to describe because I didn't do either on purpose. :slightly_smiling:

Not sure if you've ever seen Matt McGorry squat, but he (or at least used to) really fold over as he was coming out of the hole and then good morning the weight back up. That's what I used to do, so as I added weight (mostly to my gut) I kept a narrow stance and my gut would give my bounce as I was coming out of the hole.

When I dropped the weight, I was still getting a bit of a bounce but then I had no added lift from my gut and I just folded. In a 2 week period I went from hitting a 355lbs (20lbs PR) to getting stapled with 315lbs.

My intentional changes were to widen my stance a bit (I'm still not what you would consider a wide stance squatter) and take a bit lower of a bar position. I also really focused on keeping my chest high since I would fold over if not.

So then as I squatted and just started coming out of the hole, in order to not fold I "accidentally" started pushing my hips through rather than my traditional approach of trying to drive my back back. Result is I fold less and minimize the need for my back to straighten me.

I hope that makes some sense. Sorry for the long post.


Try DC sometime... Deadlifts/rack pulls etc go 6-8, then 9-12 or so... Squats and the like go 4-6, then a 20 rep widowmaker with some possible breathing pauses as you're likely using a weight way above your 20RM (but shit, I get winded doing 20 bodyweight squats, so I guess it doesn't matter LOL)

High-rep pulling is lots of fun :slight_smile:

I'm doing 5-10 rep sumo-pulling a lot these days and the first few times I wanted to quit after 2 reps... Not because the weight was so heavy, but because deadlifting is just so fucking exhausting that I have to psych myself up between every rep past 2 :slight_smile:


Yeah, you sort of turn it into a fucking motion when coming out of the hole, try to bring your whole pelvis/hip area forward and directly below your head/neck to make a straight line (just don't turn it into a limbo competition either). Well, not quite straight, but you get the picture... Like you're holding your girl up against the wall of the shower or something and you have to drive forward and up :wink:

(I find it even easier to stay upright with a higher bar position btw... Just doesn't feel quite so great on the spine at 600+, but it's doable.. If I squat low-bar wide-stance, or any bar position with a narrow stance, I turn the whole thing into a semi-good-morning)


Good luck, Ramo! Raw is the way to go.


8/10/09 Bench



DB Row

Pinky 1-2" inside the rings. Everything feels heavy. My abs, hams, and midback are astonishingly sore from pulling. I have never felt anything like it.


8/12/09 Squat



Leg Curl

Light weight baby! Literally.

Going beltless, but I am wearing my APT knee sleeves. They are obviously a bit looser than I remember them...

It didn't occur to me that I would no longer have much of a natural shelf to carry the bar with so much less muscle mass. Took awhile to find a place to carry it...this will probably take awhile to dial in.