Beards Over Barbells is currently on indefinite hiatus. I’m still lifting, I just don’t have much of anything useful to say about it and I’m tired of transcribing my notebook.

Most of the blog hits that I get these days from search terms have to do with the surgical procedures I went through in 2013 and 2014, so I’m keeping the blog up to serve as an archive for persons interested in that topic. If you have any questions for me please feel free to drop them below. I may revive posting once I’ve established a decent strength base and have some competitions under my belt (which has taken longer than I’d thought).

Until then, cheers and slàinte mhath.

Training 08/04/2014 – 08/24/2014

08/04/2014 Rep effort upper
Swiss bar floor press: worked up to 150×5, 5, 5, 4, 130×5
Lat pulldown 130×12, 140x3x10; db shoulder press 35×10, 40×10, 8, 8; seated face pull 40x4x15; red mini assisted dips 4×6

08/06/2014 Max effort lower
SSB 2-riser box squat 312×3, 332×1, 352×1, 372×1 (PR)
Good morning 200×6, 250x3x8; GHR 3×15; Reverse hyper 350x3x12, sit-up 3×15

08/08/2014 Max effort upper
1 board bench 70 kg x 5, 90×1
Triceps pushdown 45×12, 60x4x12; lat pulldown 120×12, 140x3x12; t-bar row 160x4x12; hammer db curl 40×10, 50×6, 30×10; face pull 60x3x15

08/13/2014 Rep effort lower
275x3x5 (about 80%, cashed early as shoulder was still bugging me)

08/15/2014 Shoulder rehab in lieu of max effort upper
Swiss bar bench press 100×5, 135x3x5
Lat pulldown 100×12, 120×12, 140x3x12; t-bar row 150x4x6; Face pull 40x3x20

08/18/2014 Rep effort upper
4-board close grip bench 90 kg x 5, 100×5, 5, 4
Dips BWx6, add 0range band 3×10; Lawnmowers 50×10, 60×10, 70×10, 75×10; Reverse wrist curl 60 kgx4x20; Front db raise 15x4x15; cable crunch 100x4x10; face pull 40x2x15, 20x2x15

08/20/2014 Max effort lower
1 riser box squat 285×1, 325×1, 255×5 drop set
RDL 100 kg x4x8; sit up 3×20, glute ham raise 3×15

08/22/2014 Max effort upper
Bench press with additional 20 pounds of chain: 75 kg x 2, 90×1, 95xF, 90xF, followed by some technique work at 95 pounds.
DB incline bench 45×8, 50×8,7; swiss bar triceps rollbacks with chains 30×12, 50×8, 30×8 (holy shit guys); triceps pushdown 50×12, 55×12, 60x3x10; Hammer db curl 25×12, 30×12, 10, 10, 10

08/20/2014 (kind of) rep effort lower
Free squat: 225×5, 275×3, 315×3,3,2,2
Sumo DL: 135×10, 225×5, 315x3x5

Felt pretty off the last few weeks. I felt great about my bench PR on the 1st and the overload work after, but I woke up the next morning feeling like I’d taken a sledgehammer blow to my left shoulder. Lots of pain in the joint capsule which I initially attributed to compression trauma; backed off for a few weeks and finally figured out I have some bicep tendonitis going on. Compression and ibuprofen have helped a lot and I’m pretty much back to normal. Had a bad HS flare up the week after that so I’ve been forced back into low carb the last few weeks, so progress has temporarily stalled. I think I have that fairly well in hand for the time being so I’m hoping I can make a little more headway from now through the meet in October. BW is holding steady; feeling pretty good overall.

Training 07/28/2014 – 08/03/2014 and Blog Errata/Retractions

07-28-2014 Rep effort upper
4-board 225×3, 205×5,5,4,5
Incline DBs 30×10, 35×10, 40×10, 45×10, 50×6 (should have gone heavier sooner)
Orange band triceps pushdown 20, 20, 16, 18
Close grip lat pulldown 130x5x10 // Face pulls 50×10, 75x3x10

07-30-2014 Max effort lower, 3-riser
325×3, 375×1, 415×1, 435×1 (PR). Not going to go any higher than 2-riser on the reg in the future, this much overload doesn’t make a hell of a lot of sense.
GHR 4×10 // back extensions 60 pounds x4x10
Cable crunch 100x3x12 // Reverse hyper 350x3x12

08-01-2014 Max effort upper 2-board
Worked up to 105kg x 1 (PR)
Super RAM to chest: 105×1, 110×1, 120×1, 130×1. Probably grab a lighter slingshot since the Super RAM is giving me 30%.
Triceps pushdown 50×12, 60x5x10
T-bar row 120x4x12 // Face pull 50×15, 60x2x15

08-03-2014 DE lower 1-riser box squat
RDL 245x5x5
Metcon: 50 rep jump rope // 85 pound KBSW x12, five rounds, about 10 minutes

Heaviest week of training of my life. Getting ready for a PL meet in October, finally getting into competition, so that’s exciting.

I recently listened to an interview with a guy named Jahed Momand on Evil Sugar Radio. Jahed is a pretty insightful and intelligent guy; this is an awesome interview and it’s well worth the 1:20 of your life to have a listen. He talked a bit about the state of the diet/fitness industry, and how people in the fitness/diet community (for lack of a better label) have a problem with  “… the extremism, the orthorexia, and not really thinking about the consequences of the advice that [they] give.”

I’ve learned a lot of stuff in the couple years that this blog has been up. I’ve never had my eye on becoming a guru, a nutritionist, or a trainer/coach. In spite of that, a few people have come to me for advice and a lot of that advise has been just me parroting things that I’d heard as an ignorant newbie. Enthusiasm and writing blog posts on a semi-regular basis does not necessarily translate to knowledge, acumen, or authority. A lot of the stuff I’ve written about isn’t really applicable to a general population, but it might be helpful for a few specific folks out there, at least as an ongoing N=1 experiment. Please don’t ever take anything on this blog as gospel; I’m just as fallible as the next guy out there. I also happen to be a guy who used to weigh 450+ pounds and has an autoimmune disease that’s largely kept in check with diet because the only other viable options are immunosuppressive drugs. What I do on the reg and what you do on the reg are probably going to be way, way different.

I think it’s important to speak about some of the stuff I was wrong about. So that being said here’s some clarifications, errata, and corrections that should be applied retroactively to my blog since inception:

1. There isn’t really a reason to run PSMF ever unless it’s in a clinical setting on a very overweight/obese individual, or if you’re a figure competitor (and even then there’s better schemes). I say this because the greatest number of Google hits I get, far and away, are related to PSMF. I cycled on/off this plan for over a year and all it got me was a lumbar spine injury, a lot of exhaustion, thinning hair, disappointment and some shitty body image issues. Orthorexia is real. Don’t fuck around with it. Train hard if you want to but you’d do well to eat to support activity.

2. There isn’t anything inherently magical about paleo or ketogenic dieting because energy is always conserved; the calories-in/calories-out model CAN trump any slight metabolic advantage afforded by ketosis/carb restriction. I’ve maintained or gained weight on a ketogenic diet and have talked to a few other folks that have had similar experiences. THAT BEING SAID, both schemes are useful in certain circumstances and definitely helped me when I was fighting a legit autoimmune disease. I still use both protocols occasionally to keep flare-ups in check, but neither of these things are magical fat loss aids in and of themselves.

3. I had a surreal experience when my blog analytics pointed me to a forum I’d never heard of where someone talked about actually running with the testosterone/metabolism rehab protocol that I wrote about 2 years or so ago. It apparently worked for them, but truthfully I really don’t think a high fat/low carb diet would pose a significant improvement over an isocaloric diet for someone coming off of PSMF. More food = improved hormonal status, simple as that. I don’t think overloading on fat is going to pose a significant advantage to just eating at maintenance. TL;DR, just eat more, ya dingus.

More posts pertaining to shit I was wrong about as they are uncovered. Carry on.

Training 07/05/2014 – 07/24/2014

07-05-2014 Squat 300x5x3 (80%-ish), Good morning 225x4x8, Clean up to 155x4x2. Heaviest cleans I’ve done in ages, pitiful weight but I never train the lift so w/e

07-06-2014 Bench 175x5x3 (85%-ish), close grip 135×8,8,6,8, neck harness extension 52x5x20 // triceps pushdown 5×20 // hammer db curls 30x5x15

07-09-2014 2-riser box squat 325x3x5, sandbagged this a bit, could have been heavier. Camber bar good mornings 195x3x10. Reverse hyper 350x3x12 // cable crunch 80x3x15 // GHR 3×12

07-11-2014 2-board bench 200x5x3, easily one of the strongest and most consistent bench workouts of my life. Overloaded in a RAM at 245×5,4,3. T-bar row 105x3x10 // DB bench 40sx12, 45sx12,12, Face pull 130x3x10 // lat pulldown 75x3x10

07-14-2014 1-riser box squat 325×3, 335×3, 325×3. Back extension 60#x4x12 // GHR BWx4x12, band pull-through 3×12 // cable crunch 100x3x12 // reverse hyper 350x3x15. GPP: trying to locate a cricket inside our piano at home. Loud little bastard.

07-16-2014 1-board bench 200x2x3, 200×2, orange band dips 4×10, triceps pushdown 50x3x12 // db shoulder press 30×10, 35×10,8, hammer db curl 45x3x6 // lat pulldown 120x3x12
07-18-2014 DE lower parallel box squat 195x10x2 w/orange bands, speed deads 110k x5x3 with gray bands, reverse hyper 350x3x12 // cable crunch 120x3x12

07-20-2014 DE upper 145x10x3, wide grip 135x3x8, db row 70sx3x12, hammer db’s and triceps pushdowns

07-21-2014 ME lower free squat 345×1, 365×1 (quite high), 365xF (deeper but failed about 1/2 way up). Bodyweight split squat 3×10 // back extension 60x3x15, reverse hyper 350x3x15 // ghr 20x3x10

07-23-2014 ME upper bench 90kgx1, 95×1, 100 kg x 1 (PR, fucking FINALLY). Triceps pushdown 60x6x10 // t-bar row 115x6x10, hammer db curls 35sx3x10 // band pull-aparts 3×10 // shrugs 75x3x15.

07-24-2014 DE lower free squat 225x10x2, bear complex 3 rounds of 7 reps w/95 pounds, about 17 minutes.

Maxed my squat and bench this week. Hit my old free squat PR of 345×1 and failed 365 twice which I feel like I should have been able to make, just kind of a mental thing. First rep was high, second I stalled about halfway up and couldn’t grind through.

The last two six-week cycles since the surgery have just been lots of reps in the 80% range to feel out where I am, so now I’m heading back towards singles in the 90%+ to get a little more comfortable with heavier weights.

Training 06/27/2014 – 07/02/2014

ME lower free squat 325x3x3, PR. Camber bar good morning 105×10, 205x4x10. Back extension w/60# chain 3×10 // GHR 20# chain 3×10, cable crunch 120x3x10 // reverse hyper 350x3x15

Disappointing ME upper: 200×1, 200×1, 185×3, 160×8,5. Lat pulldown 120x4x12 // orange band dips 4×10, t-bar row 90x4x10 // seated face pull 50x4x12

APG7’s DE lower complex: GM/Pause squat/Squat 185×2, 225x10x2 (65%-ish). Front squat 185x3x8. Sumo DL 185×5, 275×5, 325x3x3

DE upper: competition grip 135x10x3, wide grip 145x10x3 (skipped accessories because my washer broke and I was fixing it between sets)

Light-ish lower… deload-esque… worked up to 245x5x5 on a safety bar. Hip thrusters 160kgx3x10, back extensions with 40# chain 3×15

06-25-2014 skip bench because things

DE squat 275x10x2, wide 3-riser 275x5x5 because lazy

DE bench same as 06-22 because pressed for time

ME lower: 3-riser box squat 375x3x3, conventional deadlift 130kg x4x5 // back extension with 60# chain 4×12, reverse hyper 350x4x12 // prone TRX crunch 8,8,10,10 (took me a minute to figure these out)

Jog ~2 miles in ~25 minutes for conditioning. I have my work cut out for me.

ME upper 3 boad: 70kgx5, 90×5, 92.5×4,4,3,3, red mini band dips 4×6 // elbows-out triceps extension 25sx4x10, triceps pushdown 50x4x12 // lat pulldown 120x4x12, hammer db curls 30sx3x12

Down about 3 pounds over the last week. Working in conditioning and reeling in the calories a little bit. Went a little light last week since I was starting to feel beat up. Bench is kinda plateauing but I’ll just keep on that grind.

Training 06/09/2014 – 06/14/2014 (conjugate schmonjugate)

ME lower: 1-riser box squat 325×3, 325×3, 265×10
RDL 110x3x6
GHR w/20# chain 4×10 // cable crunch 100x4x10 // reverse hyper 350x4x12

ME upper 1-board bench 195x4x3
orange band dips 4×10 // db bench 35x4x12
t-bar row 90x4x12 // triceps pushdown 45x4x12 // lat pulldown 120x4x12 // hammer db curls 35sx4x10

DE lower: 1 riser safety bar box squat with orange bands, 172x2x10, nice and SNAPPY bro
Sumo deads with red & black mini bands: 70 kg x5, 120 kg x5x5
Reverse hyper 350x3x12 // cable crunch 100x3x10

Warm-up: Db shoulder press 20x4x20
Close grip: 120x10x3 (~60%)
Competition grip: 135x10x3 (~65%)
Wide grip: 120x10x3 (~60%, was supposed to be 70% but dropped because FUCK)
Push-ups AMRAPx3… 10, 8, 8
Chest supported db row 50x5x10
DB shrugs 60s x10x20 // hammer db curls 30s x10x10 // band triceps pushdown 10×20

Of note:
1. I can do push-ups now, what the fuck. A little floppy but still awesome.
2. Changed my mixed grip for deadlifts so that my left hand is prone and my right hand is supine, rather than the other way around. The bar always slips from my right hand first and this crushes that problem.
3. I keep saying I’m gonna do more conditioning but I end up just spending the energy on rep effort/volume. Oh well.
4. This is the strongest and best I’ve ever felt in my life. Going to try for some 1RMs this week and see if I can set a few new PRs. Weight is in the low 260s, not giving a fuck.

Training 05/28/2014 – 06/07/2014

5/28/2014 ME upper 3-board 185×3, 205×3, 215×2, 215×2, drop to 155×8,5 to chest. Orange band dips 4×10 // elbows out triceps 30×10,10,8,8 hammer db curls 30x3x10 // db shrugs 75x3x12, db row 70sx4x10 // lat pulldown 100x4x12

5/30/2014 DE lower 1-riser w/orange bands, all fucked up & overzealous on weights. 195x3x3, 225x2x7, 175x2x4. Glute bridges 140 kg x3x10. This wrecked me.

06/01/2014 DE bench 135x10x3, barbell row 157x4x10, db bench 55x3x10 // ab wheel 3×10, neck harness 52x5x10 // band triceps pushdown 5×20 // hammer db curls 25sx5x15

06/02/2014 ME lower 2-riser squat, 325x5x3, went conservative because low back was fucky. Split squats 3×10 // back extensions w/40 pounds 3×12, reverse hyper 350x4x12 // db side bend 80sx4x12

06/04/2014 ME upper 2-board 205x3x3, 205×2, add Super Ram 225×7, 245×4 w/2-board. Orange band dips 4×10 // DB press 30×10, 35x3x8, face pull 60×12, 75x3x10 // lat pulldown 100×12, 120x3x10 // hammer db curls 30x4x10

06/07/2014 Free squat for volume/rep effort 275x4x6 (about 80%), sumo deads 315×3, 3, 2, then x5 with straps, back extension 5×12 // ab wheel 5×12. BW around 260 and change non-glycogen depleted.

Da skwaats:

Sumo deads:

To-do list:
1. Work grip strength because I pulled an easy fyyyyve with straps. Right hand is giving out first, oddly.
2. Work glutes more since they seem to be lagging a bit.
3. More conditioning.

Gynecomastia Surgery Recap

On March 20th of this year I underwent my final post-massive weight loss surgery. The surgery corrected excess tissue in my chest, a condition medically referred to as Gynecomastia. This complemented the prior two surgeries, a circumferential lower body lift performed in March of 2013 and dual bilateral thighplasties (recap links part 1 and part 2 here), and marks the end of my surgical excursions.

I’ll start this post off with two things that I’ve wanted to get off my chest (pun intended!):

  1. No, I don’t have any sensation in my nipples. When I’ve described the surgery to friends and family this has been the first question they’ve asked, and no, it doesn’t bother me in the least. The surgery basically removes them and destroys the nerve bundle, but if you’re a lady reading this, fear not: there are other techniques that surgeons have for you all that preserve sensation.
  2. No, I’m not going to post a “before” picture like I did in the other two surgeries. I posted before pictures with the other two procedures but of all the features of “fat” me that I disliked, the one I hated most was having tits. So, you’ll just have to use your imagination as I leave my tits in the past. The picture in the Wiki article isn’t far off the mark. Think deflated C-cup and you’re in the right ballpark.

As with the prior two surgeries my wife and I drove down the night before to be closer to the surgical center for an early 6am start time. Pre-surgical markings and evaluations were performed the morning of surgery with a consult a few weeks beforehand. You can imagine each pectoral as a sort of conical, deflated breast with nipples that were about 50 mm (2 inches) in diameter apiece. After being sedated and prepped, each breast is liposuctioned, and then the excess skin is trimmed away from the underside of each breast in kind of a long curve tracing along the bottom side of the pec almost fully to the armpit. The nipples are removed and trimmed down to about half their original size (about an inch each) and grafted back on after the chest is sewn back up (actually glued on the top layer with Dermabond, a flexible superglue) with a single French drain exiting near either armpit. The nipples are then grafted back on in the original orientation in the new smaller size. Bolsters are attached to keep them on (basically a kind of plastic gauze bandage to keep the grafts in place). Surgery takes about four hours and you’re under for about six total, home the same day, back in a week for drain/bolster removal and evaluation.

The truly squeamish would do well to skip the following paragraph. The surgery went off without a hitch, the only bummer is that I was kept under about two hours longer than I needed to be due to a complication with surgical prep. Whenever general anesthesia is employed, you’re typically catheterized because, y’know, you’re knocked out cold. This wasn’t an issue in the past two surgeries, but the OR nurse botched cathing me and grazed the urethra in one spot. They kept me under for about two hours extra and called in a urologist to scope me out and make sure that it was just a botched catheter install and not something more serious. Everything was clear but I had to keep a Foley cath in for a week while the scrape healed, which is not a particularly fun thing. Luckily no permanent damage was inflicted and there are zero long-term side effects from the mishap.

Freshly home from surgery, I looked like this… you can see the drain exits and the bolsters pretty clearly:

day of chest surgery

Nine weeks out, I look like this:


Overall not bad. The scars are still fairly obvious, but my six-ish month old thighplasty scars are almost as faded out as my 15-ish month old scars from the circumferential, so I should be able to go shirtless at the beach without getting a bunch of odd looks after another couple months.

As for the post-op, the drains (and catheter) came out a week later and I was only off work for about a week and a half. Pain meds were identical to the last two surgeries and I didn’t have withdrawal as bad as the last two either. I did develop a seroma, or fluid pocket, in my left pec that had to be manually aspirated with a large syringe but only once. Seromas are fairly common with chest surgeries and often take a couple visits to drain completely, but I lucked out and only required one visit.

So yeah, that’s done. A difficult and expensive year of surgeries, but zero regrets.

Training: 05/12/14 – 05/26/14

Training stuff as of late:

5/12/14 ME lower deadlifts (rehabbing from aggrivating an old back injury) warm up to 100kx5,5 (conventional and sumo), 130k x3 sumo, 130x3x3 with 3 chains (60 pounds). Split squat 4×8, GHR 3×12 // kbsw 40k x 3, reverse hyper 200x3x12 // cable crunch 80x3x12

5/14/14 ME upper full bench 195x3x1, 155×8,6,6. Dips with orange bands 4×8. Lat pulldown 100x5x12 // face pull 60x5x12

5/16/14 DE lower parallel box squats 195x2x10, sumo speed deads with black mini bands 80 kg x6, 100x3x6, hamstring curl 100×12, 120x3x10 // cable crunch 120x4x10 // reverse hyper 350x4x12, tread sprints 10 sec flat out x5

5/19/14 ME lower SSB squats to, 312×5 (bit high), 222×13 Good mornings 110×10, 200×8, 250×8,8, GHR one-chain 4×10, Cable crunch 120x4x10 // reverse hyper 350x4x12

5/21/14 ME upper: suspended floor press 45×10, 95×10, 135×5, 185x5x5, 185×4. Incline dbs 45x3x8, face pull 60x3x12 // lat pulldown 80x3x12 // t-bar row 115x3x12, hammer db curl 25x4x12 // reverse wrist curl 70kx4x12

5/22/14 DE lower at home: parallel box speed squat 245x2x10, then 315×3 free because I wanted to take it for a ride, sumo deads 225×5, 315×3,3,2, bent over row 135x5x10 // band assisted chins 8,8,6,6,4, close grip bench 135×5 // neck harness extensions 52x5x20

5/26/2014 ME lower 3-riser box squat 375x3x3, RDL 138×12, 154×10, 242x5x6, GHR 4×10 (20 pounds on first set, 40 on last three) // cable crunch 100x4x12, reverse hyper 350x3x12.

Body weight around 260, goal is to stay here for the time being and recover for a year-ish before making any serious attempt at cutting weight. May throw some jogging in on off days. Diet is standard paleo-ish, kinda swapping between carb/protein and fat/protein days as I feel I need to cycle. Protein is staying at 350-400 g/day, but mostly I’m just not stressing for the time being. Most importantly, I feel like I’m starting to get stronger while having some stability and predictability in my training, which is what I need most right now.

On to the next one

Third and final surgery is in the bag. One year, three surgeries, ~27 pounds of excised tissue, ~100 linear inches of scar, and more money than I’d like to publicly admit later, I finally have a somewhat normal looking body. It’s been a really strange year and all the recovery time has prompted a lot of thinking on where I want to go with strength sports, how I might get there, and of course where I’ve been over the last few years. This is perhaps worthy of a dedicated blog post or two, but my overall feeling now is that I’ve finally accomplished a life goal I’ve had since childhood: to be a normal looking person instead of being a fat guy with tits.

“don’t be mad, ’cause it’s all about progression: loiterers should be arrested”

I abandoned my attempt at cutting weight in early February because the scale just wasn’t moving and I felt shitty. I elected to just kind of eat at maintenance and try to stay as strong as I could before the boob job. Body weight has been holding steady at 255-260 ever since. Moving forward from here I’ll continue on a 4-day/week conjugate style template. I’m continuing to track macros and gunning for around 250 g protein/day, fat under 80 g/day, carbs around 50-150 depending on if it’s a training day or not. Carb restriction has really been holding me back, and I can finally tolerate a moderate carb intake since hidradenitis suppurativa breakouts are effectively a thing of the past for me… there’s basically no afflicted tissue left at this point (knock on wood). Still staying mostly paleo/gluten free so as not to tempt fate, but with some rice and corn tortillas here and there.

Taking a more moderate approach to diet has been a major relief, but it’s taken some work to wrap my head around the idea and get away from the dogma. Two or three weeks ago as I got back into the gym after the chest reconstruction, my coach said out of the blue, “Yeah, if I was in your position I wouldn’t worry about losing weight for at least a year. Your body has been through too much trauma to worry about that right now.” The dude’s right, and this kind of objectivity is why having a GOOD coach is so important.

I’ve been stuck in this can’t-see-the-forest-for-the-trees situation for awhile now. I’ve been trying to progress when I should have been focused on just maintaining strength while working through the surgeries, and on top of this flip-flopping between the dietary extremes of “I want to cut bro” vs “I want to NOT be really weak”. I will eventually get down to 220-230 in the sub 15% body fat range, that is a certainty. What it’s going to take is a good bit of time where I’m not being hacked to bits every few months so I have a shot at building a more respectable strength base to work off of.

In any event I had my final surgical procedure, effectively a breast reduction surgery, on March 20th. Full recap writeup is pending but things overall went fine and I started benching about 3 1/2 weeks after. Here’s a teaser photo from immediately after the surgery:

day of chest surgery

This is the very first photo I have ever posted publicly without a shirt on. Please enjoy.

One lifetime goal’s been met, so now it’s on to the next one: get stronger.