My T-Nation’s been hijacked

Eight years off, and this is what I get?

Back in 1999, I discovered a magazine at the local health food store. The articles were, quite frankly, hardcore. Discussed in the text were things like going big on the squat, building killer biceps and a no-holds-barred review of some really crappy supplements. That was my first encounter with Testosterone Magazine.

Dave Tate, Ian King, Charles Poliquin, John Berardi, Brock Strasser and other iron gurus wrote the articles, dished out the hard-to-swallow facts, and helped the magazine to earn the two little words hidden on the binding, Dangerously Hardcore. I loved Testosterone Magazine and finally decided to buy a subscription. Much to my dismay, the magazine went out of print the first month of my subscription and, despite numerous emails and empty promises, my money was never refunded and I never received any compensation. 

Then something happened. I don’t know when it happened exactly, or why, but T-Nation, the website that replaced the magazine, was different. Brock Strasser disappeared. Ian King went MIA. Dave Tate became a shadow, appearing only in secondhand accounts. Charles Poliquin stopped writing for the T-Nation. The exodus left me bored and I turned away from Testosterone in pursuit of higher-potency publications.

And wouldn’t you know: none existed. Testosterone seemed to be the last bastion of hardcore training knowledge, a synthesis of no-bullshit, get-big, get-strong information that worked. Sure, everybody had a different perspective, but nobody would contradict a few foundational tenets: focus on deadlift, bench and squat; focus on compound movements; go heavy; eat; rest every-now-and-again; repeat as necessary. Succinct, successful and useful.

I returned in 2008, hoping to find a new group of experts who’d taken up the mantel of bringing underground, dangerously hardcore knowledge to those of us in the trenches. Instead, I got Chad Waterbury. Have you seen Chad Waterbury? Average looking guy, writes for average gym goers. He wrote a book, Huge in a Hurry, but has anyone ever gotten huge in a hurry under Chad’s tender care? I couldn’t find anyone, and the principles sure haven’t panned out for Chad himself. You can find his articles (other than the ones on T-Nation) in Men’s Health and Men’s Fitness, both renowned for bringing watered-down, outdated, over-hyped fitness information to the masses. Not what comes to mind when I think of Dangerously Hardcore. Hell, they don’t even use the tagline anymore.

Not only did I get Chad Waterbury, but Eric Cressey, who’s been lurking in the background for years, started taking the lead. His bio claims he holds several national level powerlifting records. He’s written several articles lately, but they’re all along the same lines: how to prevent injury, perform assistance work and practice beginner level exercises. I’m sorry, but I don’t go online to learn Eric Cressey’s secrets of a strong core, which include planks, side planks and other basic exercises. Come on Eric: we both know those exercise aren’t going to help you deadlift 600-plus pounds, or squat 495. Sure, they’ll help the average Joe fix his imbalances and weaknesses, but T-Nation was never for the average Joe. T-Nation was for the elite, extreme, goal-driven lifter.

And damn if it doesn’t get worse. Nick Tumminello is another recently prolific writer. I think the best example of Nick’s level of training is his Big Lats article. He guarantees his exercises and plan will build a huge back, even if you’re not gifted in the area. At best, his back looks underdeveloped; so did he even use his own program? The exercises he recommends are odd, interesting but useless. Want a big back? Deadlift heavy (whether from the floor, off of blocks, or off the rack), do heavy bent over rows, do pullups with damn-near perfect form: you’ll have a huge back. No secret. I’ve seen it work for bodybuilders, fitness competitors and powerlifters. Want to feel a minor stabilizer fire under sub-maximal load? Then do Tumminello’s pivot prone pulldowns. A beginner may feel like trying these movements, but I’m not a beginner. I go to the gym to achieve insane amounts of mass. (Check out Nick’s Big Gains with Active Recovery article. He throws cards at an emaciated teenager and tries to convince me this will increase my gains…come on, Nick, seriously?) Dangerously softcore, Nick; dangerously.

When it comes down to it, I’m just pissed. Pissed that a bunch of mediocre looking guys are trying to give me advice on how to look exceptional. I want exceptional looking people–people who’ve actually achieved exceptional results for themselves as well as others–to give me advice. That’s what the print version of Testosterone Magazine was all about. That’s what brought me and thousands of other iron warriors to the community. That’s not what is about. Now, well, couch potatoes and high school students have a safe place to go to be coddled and confused by the crazy exercises that have never built a world-class physique of which they dream.

This blog is a hat’s-off to a website that, for a brief few years, earned the title dangerously hardcore and at the same time a memorial to the same website that has apparently been killed off by the Men of Mediocrity.

  • brian carroll

    I agree. So many people say,”what you need to do is”… People try to over complicate things, when its simple. Lat pulldowns wont get you big, but deads and rows will, period.

  • Kiefer

    And I agree with you, Brian. Lat pulldowns suck for growth, but, in my opinion, you’ll never get a full, detailed back without pullups.

  • tarius729

    yo kiefer you make a great point here “I want exceptional looking people–people who’ve actually achieved exceptional results for themselves as well as others–to give me advice”
    this reminds me of a thought i had a while back. Now, no homo, but you should do your podcasts or tubecasts or whatever with your shirt off just so that we can be 100% sure everything your preaching is still working for you. again and let me reiterate– no homo.

    • Daryl

      Yeah, time for some money shots babe! This article is just beggin for it. I wanna see that six pack.

  • Daniel Walsh

    I agree with what you’re saying, you can’t replace some of the best coaches and their experience. I frequent the site and some of the content is very good and other stuff just really sucks. Unfortunately its very hit or miss. That being said, I just want to point out a few things. Chad Waterbury doesn’t just train the average gym goer, he trains many MMA athletes and sprinkles in clients in the general population. As for Chad’s looks, he’s actually a pretty big guy. I thought the same thing when I first saw a picture of him but he stands about 6′ 3, not sure about his weight but I thought I saw something about him hitting a 600 pound squat before but I’m not 100% on that. As for Eric Cressey, I am a huge fan of his. The reason why he talks so much about mobility and injury prevention is because he coaches mostly professional baseball players and his job is to keep them healthy throughout the entire offseason so they can remain on the field. I don’t know about the powerlifting records but I know on video he has done a 600 pound deadlift for 3 and 635 for a single which is pretty impressive considering he is not a big guy. I know nothing of Nick Tumminello so I can’t say when it comes to his stuff. I’m not trying to argue I’m just trying to put these trainers you referenced into perspective.