So when I last updated this blog series I was heading down to London for the first time using the ironically titled Gold service down to London offered by megabus. Since then I have been up and down twice utilising both airplanes and megabus and I can confirm beyond a shadow of a doubt that budget travel options suck. The reality of my current life situation and work necessitate that I need to leave weekends free for travel either to and from away games or down to visit Laura.
If you ever get the chance to visit London you should definitely check out one of the food markets (there are quite a few)! Some of the best food I have tasted came from the huge variety of stalls on show if you can only visit one I would strongly suggest trying the Borough food market located in the centre of town some spectacular food to choose from.
Side tracking to an end, my current situation means I only have an option of a Monday – Friday training week which constrains automatically a lot of options that might have proven useful such as an ability to take an extras day’s rest after a particularly heavy work out however which would have an immediate knock on affect for when the next day of training would be in the following week but this will not be feasible with my current situation.
The end of block 1 and the start of block 2.
So since the last update I finished the full first block of training which ended up in me pulling my first milestone deadlift of the programme of 300 kg (660 lbs).
As discussed in the last blog update there where several changes along the way made to the frequency and weights lifting in some of the sessions however the programme was successful. Moving into block 2 I leaned heavily on a lot of the things I learned from the Boris Shieko seminar I attended in the middle of Febuary.
The key tenants of the new training block will be as follows
2x per week deadlift variations
2x per week squat variations
3x per week bench press variations
there will be 3 powerlifting specific exercises per session
The choice of deadlift variation will be relevant to my current technical flaws
Week to week the programme will flip flop from volume and intensity focus. During the intensity focused weeks I will look to achieve one of the subgoals of the landmark lift which for the next block of training is 310 kg.
Volume will be spread over the session between various percentages from 50-100% RM.
I am now in week 3 of the second block of training and after getting over the train wreck that my body was after the initial volume week I have achieved my first sub goal for a 310 kg deadlift. I pulled 250 kg for 2 sets of 5 at the end of week 2 which puts me on target for 310. Below you can see the full list of sub goals for 310.
Using Goals to try and guide your progress through a non linear process.
The fact that the first 6 week block which followed a linear programme worked so well is probably a good indicator that trying to replicate that programme wouldn’t work so well. Since I am iterating this kind of programme for the first time I am using the sub goals as a water mark from which I can track my training progress I don’t have set time lines on when these will be achieved but they will prove useful since I am not following a typical peaking routine.
I think a lot of lifters would do well to have these kinds of smaller stepping stone goals to help them concentrate on achieving positive momentum towards their larger goals. These sub goals will also allow me to lift with a sufficient intensity (sparingly through the block a maximum of two times) to see where my technique is breaking down which in turn can feed into my exercise variation selection.
A video posted by Marc keys Msc Bsc(hons) ASCS (@onlinestrengthcoach) on
Bringing back in squat and bench press.
The last block also put squat and bench press into the background of the programme in this they are back into the forefront of what I am doing although deadlift is very much still the focus of my training I am looking to train the other two core lifts with the goal to bring them up slowly. Currently I have hit a squat personal best of 260 kg x 3 reps belt-less and equalled my previous best bench press with 200 kg x 2.
A video posted by Marc keys Msc Bsc(hons) ASCS (@onlinestrengthcoach) on
The biggest shock to the system on the new block is without doubt the inclusion of the squat focused day on the Monday the leg DOMs where off the scale on week 1-2. However it is obviously paying off as evidenced from my last intensification week.
I will monitor this as I go if deadlift progress begins to slow or if I find that I am struggling to recover from my squat workloads then I will pull back on squat training I don’t foresee bench press prosing to much of a road block when it comes to progressing in the deadlift.
The worth of assistance exercises and variations
I am aware that I have previously stated the lack of use that some assistance exercise can have for getting your numbers moving in the right direction but I can happily confirm the I was wrong in this instance. So gladfully wrong.
During Boris’s practical element to the seminar he came across a gentleman who was locking his legs out too early in the pull the proceeding 10 minutes he spent with him rang true his advice was to practice some pause deadlift from the knee. I included this exercise into my training and now it is a permanent feature of my training block this coupled with his advice on lock out (actively pulling the bar in against your thighs in the lock out and squeezing your hips forward). With in a week of the workshop I warmed up with pause deadlifts and then proceeded to pull probably the easiest 260 kg sets of my life to that point. I believe it is what was referred to as a light bulb moment.
A video posted by Marc keys Msc Bsc(hons) ASCS (@onlinestrengthcoach) on
This has also been something I have been experiencing in both bench press and squat with the new training programme. I don’t know if it is because the amount of work I have done on the competition lifts has made this novel training stimulus much more effective or that is the case for all lifters regardless of training history. However it has shown me the utility in this approach.
I am a very skeptical man and quick to judgment faults that I will openly admit however I am also a pragmatic person so if you show me the utility in a concept or the results it can achieve then I am very quick to become a convert.
I fully expect the next part of this programme to 310 to take slightly longer than the 300 kg pull If I was to be a betting man I would say it will happen sometime on the next 10 weeks so somewhere between week 14-18 of this project.
If you want to follow my progress in more detail or more regularly then please check out the following places
TL;DR – This post is highly opinionated and contains naughty words. If you have a tendency to take things personally or don’t want to have your exercise views challenged please click the back button.
Lifting is getting more popular which is great. Gyms are getting busier which is not so great for most people. Free weights areas are now becoming the most over-subscribed areas in gyms due to the lag of providers not reacting to the culture shift.
Most gyms still pour their money into fitness babysitting machines such as upright bikes, selectorized weights machines, and treadmills. People are starting to work out thanks primarily to the popularity of CrossFit that if you want to affect change in your body you might need to train with some form of intensity. They are also starting to realise that the leanest cohort of humans on the planet “bodybuilders” might know a thing or two about getting lean and maybe weights are a good idea.
This has lead to a lot of “norms” venturing into the weights room which was previously the refuge of steroid-fuelled eating disorders and autistic weirdos who only care how much they can lift in 2 or 3 exercises. As with any increased demand for a finite resource in this case the squat rack tensions are rising in weight rooms around the world.
To stop yourself ending up like 1939’s France you need to be more wary of your behaviour and gym etiquette to stop yourself getting caught up in gym blitzkrieg.
1 – Gym equipment typically is first come first serve but please don’t take the piss.
In most weight rooms across the world, there is that group of people or person who hogs the fuck out of one area for the guts of two hours. They show up super early with their luggage and plonk their ass down in the same squat rack refusing to be rushed through their workout because their training takes priority.
Rather than dropping your latest rad Instagram post and obsessing over what filter would go better to accentuate the depth of your 30 kg squat maybe put the phone down and do another goddamned set.
2 – Don’t come within 1 metre of another human being and barbell making the beast with two back.
For some reason when it comes to gyms people lose all common sense. When another person is balancing 550 lbs of steel on their back it is not cool to walk within 30 centimeters of that steel in case maybe you might you know hit the fucking bar and cripple the poor bastard under it.
Yeah we get it you need the microplates off the rack so you can load your next week of strong lifts but you can wait for 30 seconds for the set to finish.
3 – Not every gym that has barbells in it is a CrossFit box.
You like circuit training we get it now please take your epileptic fit to a gym or area designed for your chosen training cult. I would like to invoke a universal gym rule that anyone who takes a skipping rope out of their gym bag in a free weights room should have their membership terminated with extreme prejudice.
You can literally do burpees anywhere on god’s green earth there are only so many places I can squat 300 kg. Because you have a tribal tattoo and really like doing unconventional cardio doesn’t mean you have the right to take up 3 pieces of equipment in a busy gym. If you want to do CrossFit join a CrossFit gym.
4 – Stop screaming you petulant moron.
Before I go on with the rest of this “tip” let’s watch something together.
Please note the lack of shouting or hollering (to coin a phrase) he lets out an audible grunt of exertion but the man is squatting 926 lbs for reps so I think he has the right to let out a noise since he is probably exerting himself. You see there is a line between letting out audible grunts due to pushing yourself through a tough set and being a twat.
Most people who shout and yell when they lift do it to get attention, however, this attention isn’t based on the merit of lifting a fuck off weight it is based purely on your ability to act like a moron. No gym should condone assholes especially attention seeking assholes.
5 – Stretch in the Ab area or allocated warm up / cool down areas stop taking up perfectly good lifting space with your B-movie yoga.
Ever since mobility WOD was a thing and stretching became a super dark art every lifter with an internet connection somehow feels the need to roll around on the floor straddling a phallic object to release their “myofascial tissue”.
When an overenthusiastic man starts making ridiculous statements and adopting suggestive postures the old reaction would have been to run for some reason in this day and age it makes you an expert.
Before the weightlifters chip in with their smug cloud of superiority, we get your sport requires you to stretch please have the decency to do it in a designated area and get the fuck off the lifting platform I want to lift on.
6 – If you want to catch up with your mates go to Starbucks.
We get people like to go to the gym for the social aspect and camaraderie fan-fucking-tastic. Well, I like to use the free weights room to lift weights so if you would kindly take your weekly catch up to a cosy sofa or coffee shop I would appreciate it.
The gym isn’t a social club (there are places for that kind of thing called social clubs) it is a space with exercise equipment that rents the use of said exercise equipment out to members so they can exercise. Talking to Rosie about you latest baking triumph or to Jack (off) about how fucked up you got at the weekend is not exercise.
Talking to Rosie about your latest baking triumph or to Jack (off) about how fucked up you got at the weekend is not exercise. If you do feel the need to chatter away insistently please have the decency to keep it to you and your friend I feel like I know the ins and outs of everyone’s life due to the amount of conversations I have overheard usually mid-set.
7 – Being in the gym doesn’t give you licence to be an ignorant c*nt.
Please, thank you, may I and excuse me words that seem to leave people’s vocabulary when they enter the gym. Everyone automatically thinks of the Tren riddled guy who just walks up and starts to use equipment and test this person does fall foul of this tenant, however, you dear reader are not innocent I would be willing to bet.
The last time a new person did something stupid in your vicinity did you
A – scream at them and feel smug afterwards
B – do nothing and talk shit about them behind you back.
C – make a passive aggressive comment.
D – ask them calmly not to do that again and explain why.
If you answered anything other than D then you have acted like a bellend.
I hope this article has both informed and amused in equal measure.
58 amateur rugby players were split into one of four different groups. Control, C-0H (who performed cardio straight after strength training), C-6H (who performed cardio 6 hours after strength training) and C-24H (who performed cardio 24 hours after strength training.
All groups engaged in the same programme over a 7-week training period. Over the 7 weeks, period control was lesser in the C-0H group when compared to the C-6H and C-24H.
Vo2 max gains were higher in the C-24H group than in the C-0H and C-6H groups. The authors recommended that fitness coaches stay away from scheduling contradicting qualities (fitness and strength) with less than 6 hours of recovery.
TL;DR – if you train both fitness and strength for either sport or your own enjoyment and want optimal adaptation than it may be wise to alternate fitness and strength based days in your programme.
30 resistance trained men took part in the study during which they completed 6 weeks of 3x per day a week training involving either
3x per week of strength training (ST)
3x per week of concurrent strength training and endurance training of a 3:1 ratio. (CT3)
3x per week of concurrent strength training and endurance training of a 1:1 ratio. (CT1)
No training (CON)
Strength training consisted of multijoint full body lifts and endurance training consisted of treadmill running. Testing was conducted at 3 and 6 weeks. Strength training showed greater increases in strength than Strength 3 – Endurance 1 with both showing greater increases than the other two groups.
Strength training group showed a greater increase in lower body power than all other groups. Strength 1 – Endurance 1 ratio group exhibited the highest levels of cortisol.
TL;DR – if strength and power gains are the focus of your training the frequency and volume of endurance training should be kept relatively low.
15 trained men took part in the study where they looked at the effect of 4 different interset rest periods (1, 2, 3 and 5 minutes) on the total number of repetitions completed utilising 5 sets of a 3 rep max load. These rest periods were compared across chest fly (single joint exercise) and bench press (multi-joint exercise).
All rest periods greater than 1 minutes (2,3 and 5) were better for the total number of reps completed for each exercise. For bench press significantly higher numbers of reps were completed utilising 3 and 5 minutes rest when compared to 1 and 2 minutes.
The researchers recommended rests of 2 minutes for single joint exercises and rests of 3-5 minutes for multi-joint exercises.
TL;DR – Longer rest is needed to sustain workloads during heavy exercises than during lighter exercises. Thanks, science.
Michael Zourdos et al looked at the effects of two ways of organising a daily undulating periodization routine on the sports performance of powerlifters (squat, bench and deadlift total) and their hormonal response to the programmes.
18 college aged powerlifters were split into two experimental groups
Traditional DUP order of sessions- hypertrophy training, strength training and power training.
Modified DUP order of sessions – hypertrophy training, power training and strength training.
During both power and hypertrophy sessions, lifters performed the same number of sets and reps at the same percentages. However during strength sessions, they lifted to failure so the effects of the order could be compared against total volume across the 6-week training programme.
After the 6-week programme, the modified group achieved greater total volumes for squat and bench press. They also achieved a better 1RM result in the bench press. Testosterone decreases in week 5 and 6 of training while cortisol declined at weeks 3 and 4.
TL;DR – If you do a DUP training routine and lift to failure on a weekly basis then swapping the power and strength session order might let you get some more volume in.
1 – They got their weekend certification 2 weeks ago.
Personal training and to a lesser but saddeningly increasing degree “strength and conditioning” are industries and not professions (I have Ashley Jones to thank for the idea).
A profession is a long-term skilled career that takes a long well-documented path to warrant calling yourself a member of the trade. For instance to become a Doctor or a practicing lawyer there is an established career path you need to complete to be able to use the term. A 5-year degree followed by a 2-3 year Junior period in your career coupled with the need to be a member of a ratifying or governing body ensure that there is a minimum standard of practitioner.
Within an “industry” such as being a cake sales person, life coach, cross-fit “coach” or personal trainer you need to undertake very low barrier to entry steps before becoming a fully fledged member. Such as opening up your own space or attending a weekend course.
2 – They have accomplished nothing with their clients or athletes.
Coaching someone in any realm of endeavor requires an engagement with the coaching process. This means iterating training/programming and then reviewing your processes with objective and subjective feedback from both athlete and coach.
It doesn’t involve pulling out a series of random workouts or “WODS” out of your arse and putting them into a notebook or whiteboard.
You can tell someone reviews their processes and continually looks to improve on their iteration because their clients or athletes will be achieving things of note. If they coach lifters, then those lifters will be progressing and winning things, if they work with weekend warriors who want to look better those people will be getting leaner in short they will be consistently getting results.
3 – They don’t have any creative or physical outlets that they are passionate about.
No matter the field or person I have come across the people who are truly outstanding at what they do tend to have some form of hobby be it physical, creative or mental that they obsess over or try to develop.
Real coaches want to affect change in others so naturally they normally want to affect change in themselves as well. This change can be brought about from a blog where they scatter or try to hone their own thoughts, through their involvement in a lifting sport or maybe playing in a band.
Good coaches have a growth mindset and it is almost impossible for people of this nature not to have some form of outlet that isn’t just attached to their own profession.
4 – They don’t engage.
One of the more crystallising experiences I have had came from an interaction I had with a good friend and colleague where he asked the question –
“What makes you a great strength and conditioning coach”
I responded that I thought a great strength and conditioning coach affected positive change with the people the worked with.
He believed that being a great strength and conditioning coach meant working with the elite of the elite being the level of athlete you coach defined you.
I fail to see the merit in this thought process, for me It’s about making a difference in any positive way you can that defines the coach. I have worked with many elite athletes in my time and I have always found simply working with someone who actively wants to be there and improve to be the rewarding part of my working life. Some of the best athletes I have ever worked with in terms of achievement have been some of the least rewarding to work with.
5 – They don’t lead.
A real coach is a leader whilst a personal trainer or someone who is in it to get the monetary reward are a boss. When you enter into your session if your trainer is sitting back drinking a coffee while they get you to do aimless and random physical activities chances are you’ve landed yourself a boss.
When you are working with a coach the long term outcomes are what drive your processes it’s not about putting on 10lbs of muscle in 8 weeks. It’s about how to become better at your chosen activity year on year, decade on decade.
A good coach will instil in you the confidence and behaviours you need to succeed whilst a personal trainer or short term profiteer will tell you to do stuff with little to no rationale.
After working with a good coach for a couple of months you should be capable of heading off and doing your own thing and be better equipped to do so than when you started if you have been working with someone for a couple of months and are still none the wiser than when you started about how to organise your training processes than you are paying for a boss.
In the last entry, I took you through the reasons and rationale for my goal of a 320 kg deadlift. Since then I have actually been doing some training I am currently on week 5 of the programme which has been modified heavily from the outset.
The original intention was for the programme to take place over 3 sessions a week with the deadlift. After the first week, I knew that 3 times per week was going to be too much for me to recover from no matter how light the middle session was. I needed more time to recover from session to session.
I think I could have managed a 3x per week programme but the total intensity would need to be much lower than it currently is and I would need to be looking to progress over a slower time frame.
I ended up going with a 2 time per week split and moving the extra 60% volume work into my warm up sets for the heavier sessions. The programme now looks like.
Monday – Squat and Bench
Tuesday – Deadlift (medium) and Bench assistance
Thursday – Squat and Bench
Friday – Deadlift (heavy) and Bench assistance
Saturday – Rest
Sunday – Rest
This split I think offers a pretty good balance going forward however I am still experiencing a lot of stiffness at the weekend after the heavy session, however, it tends to have cleared up come Tuesday.
I still don’t think I should be experiencing the amount of stiffness I am so I think for blocks going forward I need to look at alternating intensity and volume perhaps on a week to week basis to allow me to work on one aspect while not overloading my lower back or glutes so I can maintain the training volume and intensity better.
Sometimes life means you have to sleep in bunk beds in a Bus travelling up and down the country.
Adapting your training around life
The programme has been adapted to other aspects not just how my body feels. Recently my long term Girlfriend received a job offer down in London. She has accepted and moved down south to start her new role this, of course, means a big change for my home life and a lot more travelling for myself.
I am currently in week 5 of the initial planned 6-week block, however, I am heading down to London for a long weekend on Thursday so I won’t be able to perform 2x deadlift sessions this week.
This coupled with how stiff my back has been all weekend means I am going to use this week in the programme to lower the overall intensity and up the volume for a week. Hoping this will freshen me up for next week when I should be able to get my normal training week in.
This is an example of why I never lay out any more than 6-12 weeks in fleshed out detail as almost every programme needs modification due to injury, illness or just life. So I would advise anyone who writes their own training or follows plans made by others to always be mindful of this so you can be adaptable, changing your training focus for a week doesn’t mean you are abandoning your goal.
What it looked like 5 weeks ago and what it actually looked like.
Originally my planned volume and intensity chart for the 6-week block looked something like this.
After the modifications that we have already discussed and some mishaps (such as accidently lifting twice the volume I was meant to with 242 on week 3) this is what it actually looked like.
As you can see the difference between the planned programme and what actually transpired is pretty pronounced. A lot of this is down to me adapting the programme so I can perform it week in week out and a little bit of human error! However, the skin and bones of the programme remained pretty much unchanged as regarding loads and volumes on heavy sets with the exception of week 5.
Progress towards my goals.
I have set three milestones with sub-goals for each larger milestone for the programme on my way to achieving the ultimate aim of the programme to deadlift 320 they are as follows.
In an ideal scenario, I would like to achieve every subgoal before attempting a milestone lift and these will be built into future programmes. For 302.5, I will look to achieve sub goal 3 during my heavy session on week 6 of the current block.
Following on from successfully achieving this goal I will reevaluate for my next programme and move forwards from there.
That will conclude this entry to for more regular updates follow along on my training log or watch my weekly vlog series.
For further questions or enquiries about online coaching please contact us.
Kirill Sarychev and his 335 kg unequipped bench press is just one of the many reasons when Mr. Sheiko speaks wise men listen.
It’s 4 am and I am leaving my flat in Edinburgh to board a 6:50 am flight to London Heath-row maybe not the ideal start to a Sunday morning but there are only so many times in your life one of the greatest strength coaches in the world is running a seminar in your country.
Once I landed in Heath-row I took some time to myself to finish an article and get some coffee before making my way to St. Mary’s University’s Performance center where the seminar was being held.
It was fitting surroundings for the caliber of the speaker the fact that they had 4 Elikeo powerlifting bars was a real nice touch I haven’t seen in any other performance center in the UK with the steel powerlifting plates to boot. The seminar started off with a 3-hour lecture where Boris walked us through his training philosophy and took questions throughout which he answered patiently and diligently.
The Science Bit
Breaking up the year. – Boris works on three orders of detail when planning out a powerlifters annual cycle
Macrocycle – an annual plan which has all competitions and dates inserted with important competitions highlighted for peaking (1-2x per year as a maximum to reach a true peak). Lifters were categorized into 3 broad categories and their lifting schedule would reflect this –
Beginner – 6-7x per year at city and regional level
Intermediate – 4-5x per year at regional and national level
Elite 2-3x at national and international level
General thoughts on the annual plan
Do your annual plan in December so you know in advance where are the competitions. When training people online main problem is people don’t know when they are going to compete.
It is a big problem for preparation not to know competition schedule for the athlete. 5 Competitions in current GBPF calendar that would work for an elite athlete of the 5 2 competitions are highlighted as important. Athlete must peak best for these competitions.
Same process for a beginner but will highlight the important ones. can’t improve results competition to competition. It doesn’t matter what sport you compete in you cannot show peak results all year round.
Depending on the level these peaks will happen at different levels of competition. Preparations are split into 4 blocks. Each competition represents a block. Each block is split into a preparatory period and a competition period after important competitions 1 week of rest.
Breaking your year into mesocycles
Once you have scheduled your competitions the next order or business is to go into some finer detail and split up your individual competition preparations into mesocycles. Typically Boris will split a competition into 2 types of mesocycles
Preparatory cycle (period of higher workloads and more targeted technique lifts with less time on competition lifts) can be 4-16 weeks.
Competition period (consisting of competition lifts and lower workloads) normally 4-6 weeks but not more.
Each mesocycle consists of 4 micro cycles
Depending on an athlete’s level they will train with different frequencies
Beginner – 3x per week
Intermediate – 3-4x
Elite – 5-8x per week (only professional athlete)
Some more detail on Boris’s classification and their volume split
Beginners are straight off the street (70% general assistance and 30% fitness)
Intermediate who have trained for 1-1.5 years and have been done a handful of competitions (40% Strength Development 60% competition specific prep)
Elite lifters are on a national team (80-85% lift specific training 15-20% general training)
Beginners and intermediate use more exercises to improve technique. In order to improve technique you need to do a very high number of lifts with 5-6 reps per set. Beginners will use the same weight and increase volume for months at a time. In the second month they increase reps by 5 kg week on week.
The most important task as a trainer is to teach proper technique if they learn early how to do this they will do it for the rest of their life. It is easier to teach the correct technique then to correct imperfect technique
500-600 lifts per month for a beginner.
Intermediate lifters follow an individualized programme based off percentages.
Elite lifters will lift 300 – 350 lifts per month
Getting into the Nitty Gritty – organizing the week
Competition months are in red, we can see relative intensity in blue. When we do an annual plan we can not predict how the athlete will feel later down into the block so this is what is called a “example plan” as it might change further down the line. Normally the training plan has to be adjusted Illness etc will happen because we are not machines.
Boris worked heavily off variation he showed us 12 example plans (they are called example programmes because he does not work off templates each programme is based off the lifter) some with lower levels of volume (300 lifts) and some with much higher levels of volume (800-1000 lifts). If you have ever seen one of Boris’s routines online you will appreciate that he doesn’t even repeat workouts.
The overloading in his programme seemed to come from having higher numbers of lifts in weeks of the 4-week sample. For instance, a 300 lift plan might have 43% of lifts in week 1, 20% in week 2, 15% in week 3 and 12% in week 4. In this particular plan, the overload week or where the athlete is getting the most adaptation is from week 1 in the programme.
Boris said he would never repeat the same loading cycle twice in a row. Some of the plans had 2 overload weeks, some had the overload week at the end of the block and others has it in the middle of the block.
He organised his sessions to include 3 keys lifts with assistance put into the programme at the end. When asked about tracking volume he answered that some more modern trainers started to track the volume for “good mornings, bicep curls and delt raises etc” in his opinion this was bullshit. All Boris seen the need for recording volume and intensities was for the three competition lifts of variants there of that would be classified as “preparation exercises”.
An example session might look something like the following –
Boris will programme 2x lift variants (squat, bench press or deadlift) sandwiched with a separate juxtaposed lift in the session. So for example you may perform squat, bench, squat or bench, deadlift, bench. The rationale being it allows for the lifter to get a greater volume of work in through the session whilst getting a break in between exercises to allow for a better quality of work throughout.
The exercise selection and variation isn’t thrown in for the sake of it either each of Boris’s students will have a spread of exercise selection and volumes designed to allow them to help prefect their technique whilst working on getting stronger.
How the week looks
Monday – Full Session
Wednesday – Full Session
Friday – Full Session
With rest of the days being used for total or active rest.
Monday – Full Session
Tuesday – Full Session
Thursday – Full Session
Friday – Full Session
Elite (national Russian team member)
Monday – 2x sessions (AM/PM split)
Tuesday – 1x PM session
Wednesday – 2x Session (AM/PM Split)
Thursday – Active Rest
Friday – 2x Sessions (AM/PM Split)
Saturday – AM Session followed by massage or sauna.
Sunday – Rest
Overload or “Shock” Methods
After Boris went through his sample plans and explained the methodology behind his programming he went through some of the more novel and fatigue inducing methods he would use with his lifters.
He primarily showed pyramid loading schemes that would stay on the same exercises and either use the number or reps or intensity to increase the intensity set to set. He also included some caveats for including this sort of training –
It should only be used in the Preparatory period of training.
It should be used at a maximum of 1x per week.
Some of the more intense pyramids should be used only 1x per month.
These methods should only be used for bench press and squat exercises.
Here is an example of a rep based period he showed us.
The lifter would perform the sets in a linear fashion and take as much time required after each set to recover as they needed. He showed us 12 different variations that could be utilised in the preparation cycle to create an overload.
The rest of the lecture session was interspersed with questions and answers from the audience which may be accessed at the bottom of the article in the Q+A section.
The Practical – Squat, Bench and Deadlift Technique
After a 30 minute break we started the practical part of the seminar 6-7 lifters where pre-chosen for each lift from the list of participants. They performed a set with 70 kg and then Boris chipped in with some technique adjustments. You will be able to see this in more detail from the videos provided for each lift from the seminar.
The Squat problems and suggestions
Over breathing before squatting. Boris didn’t seem to agree with an over dramatic intake of air one of his reasons was it could cause the chest cavity to rise to much which can affect your balance if the bar moves. He recommended a half breath between each rep and for the lifter to hold it through the entirety of the rep. The lifter would breath and hold between each repetition.
Looking down. Boris got a few lifters to gaze at his hand as they squatted so they were looking up to the same degree throughout the lift. He reasoned that looking down can cause a lifter to utilise the back muscles to much making the squat inefficient. He also recommended looking up to be better for balance.
Dive bombing. Boris did not like lifters dropping into the squat to fast again one of the main reasons was a loss of balance. He recommended lifters to take a nice controlled tempo.
Standing up too fast. Similar to dropping into the squat Boris wanted lifters to stand under control especially through the final 1/3 of the lift one of the main reasons was to stop the bar jumping off the lifters back as it can be cause for disqualification or cause a lifter to lose control.
Boris adjusted the bar position for a few lifters but he didn’t advocate a particular place on the back it seemed to depend on the lifter’s build and technique.
Again similar to bar position he also adjusted a few people’s foot position but again this seemed to be more down to the lifter’s build.
He recommended that the lifter should stand with the feet slightly turned out and that the knee should travel in line with the toe.
The Bench Press problems and suggestions
A few slimmer lifters didn’t arch enough. To help to rectify this Boris suggested that they perform some exercises to get more flexible and allow a bigger arch (featured in the video).
Boris was keen for lifter to show a proper lock out on each repetition. His main reason being when on the platform a lifter will go into automatic mode and will revert to whatever they do in training for this reason he was big on lifts being completed to competition standard. Proper lockout and competition standard technique was pushed throughout.
He recommended a wider grip for some lifters (seemed again to be mainly aimed at thinner lifters) to help them to shorten the range of the lift. He recommended that if you are going to widen your grip it should be done gradually so you don’t lose strength or have an opportunity to build strength in your new grip. He advised lifters to move out 2 fingers in width train with this grip for a month and then move out again. This process was to be repeated until a lifter was at the maximum legal width.
For breathing again Boris wanted lifters to hold their breath during the lift and to take a half breath in between each rep.
Boris was not keen on lifters rattling out reps he wanted it to be completed with a clear lockout to be shown with each rep being smooth. If a lifter had a problem with their elbows and couldn’t achieve a clear lockout they were recommended to talk to the refs before the lift during competition.
Lifters where told to keep the bar under control so when it reaches the chest it should come to an almost immediate halt this was recommended as it would lead to a nice fast press command in competition.
The Deadlift problems and suggestions
Lifters where again advised to have their head up during the lift to allow them to utilize both back and leg muscles during the movement.
The bar should be in contact with the lifter at all times Boris said he wanted to see holes in people’s trousers from keeping the bar so close to the body he was emphasizing this during the lock out as well.
Boris adjusted quite a few people’s hip angles from the start of the lift. A common adjustment was for a sumo lifter to have their hips set higher. Again these adjustments seemed to be based off a lifter’s stance and build.
Locking out the legs to early was a mistake that Boris spent quite some time correcting for one lifter. He wanted him to have knee bend when he came past the knee to allow him to utalise both legs and back muscles during the final portion of the lift. He recommended some combo lifts such as pausing at the knees or performing one full and 2 top half deadlifts per rep as an exercise to help drill this.
During the lockout Boris wanted lifters to actively press the bar in against their thighs to keep it close as they locked out the lift.
Question and Answer
How about the deload?
In some programmes lifters will get an entire month off (boris only gives one week) if an athlete takes more than 2 weeks off they can lose 50% of their training efficiency more rest = detaining which leads to a decrease in overall fitness.
Going from European to Worlds a month off could lose fitness and produce worse results than only taking a week off. Maybe make it more appropriately timed?
Week of recovery is normally active rest where they will perform general activities like swimming, football etc. Worst case is to take week off completely on the couch drinking beer and watching football.
Training during Injury or Illness?
During an illness if you have a elevated temperature you should not train as it places more strain on the heart. If you have a little bit of a illness but no elevated temperature then you should train but lighten the workloads (around 10%}. If an athlete has a muscle strain or problem around a joint then train pain free. It is better to lose 2-3 days than loose 2-3 weeks from making a problem worse.
If you are fatigued or injured then you must reduce your training loads.
Would you test a 5RM?
Shake if he was to do a strength test he would test a 1rm never anything above as lifters do not do this in competition.
What happens in a linear programme when an athlete gets injured? They are too set and doesn’t give the athlete a solid base.
When choosing how to load a block there are many variations you can use what you need to choose is where that load comes in the month and the block must vary. This is a varied programme where overload comes in different places it the programme.
Variation allows for periods of overload (high weight lower volume) with periods of recovery (higher volumes lower weights). Very rarely will an athlete lift above 90% in their programme they will come to 80-85% in their training.
Multiple lifters would lift under national level records yet still show world record results when the time came. You can get fantastic results with 80-85% intensity
50% and above is included in the number of lifts. Recording total volume is a waste of time we need to look at competition lifts, preparatory lifts. General fitness lifts just use number of lifts no need to calculate relative intensities or volumes.
What is a preparatory exercise?
It is for competition lift or have a part of the competition lift. The task is to work on muscle development or to work on the weaknesses that they have in the competition lift. Also to work on the technique or to address some technical errors with in the exercise.
How long does an athlete spend in the gym?
There are two types of athlete the one who has a goal and comes to the gym and trains during the preparatory period they lift for 2-3 hours. Other athletes come to the gym to have a talk they socialise with the other lifters what they need is someone with a whip who will chase them in the gym.
For beginner 60-90 mins same for masters lifters
Heavier lifters take longer to recover from workouts so will spend longer in the gym.
The length of a training session is dependent on an athletes ability to recover.
How often does it make sense to train with 90% and more?
It works well for weightlifting to train more in this zone and is backed up by evidence and science. Athletes can’t train for a long period of time with 90% plus loads and in the first 2-3 weeks you will get great strength gains but after that it decreases especially because of the psychological reasons you can’t lift for prolonged periods since you need to prepare yourself mentally for this weight.
Weightlifters can handle this much more because the weights they use are much lower than those used in powerlifting. The average weight they lift is much higher heir average intensity is 75%. When Boris was with the national training weightlifting team he noticed the highest effect was between 69-73% RM if they train with for 75% average for 2-3 weeks then they will be overreaching or over training. The reason the average percentage of training is higher because they take their maximum lifts from snatches and jerks.
Because we work off actual competition or actual gym results in the competitive lifts it is not possible for us to train at those percentages. We can not train with higher average percentages without over training. In american programmes the average weight they utilise is 85%.
The reason Boris’s programmes look less intense in because they produce volumes and percentages with warm ups.
Before you pick a programme decided if you can do it or not. It doesn’t matter how good the programme or the trainer is you always have to adjust it for yourself. Always take your percentages from your current 1RM not what you want to lift in competition or in the gym.
When programming do you use variant 1RM or just competition result 1RM?
For all preparatory lifts we take the percentages off the competition lifts. Depending on the variant then we will use varying percentage
For all preparatory lifts we take the percentages off the competition lifts. Depending on the variant then we will use varying percentage
Deadiift with chains – 65-70% RM
Deadlift from blocks – 95-110% RM
If you set a personal best 4 weeks out from a competition?
If you want to increase 1RM after an initial test do not adjust your training to your new max as 1 month is not long enough to adjust to the new training loads.
For intermediate lifters band tension in bench press the load on the bar will scale with the band tension or the chain weight. The percentage of lifts or the relative percentage does not really vary with the athletes levels what may vary will be frequency and volume.
Differences in training women and men?
First the physiology and type of body with cycles (recovery time) there are women who train with the intensity of men. Differences in performance with changes in frequency and intensity
The volumes and intensities need to be lifter specific since training response is very individual you need to adjust all programmes to the individual.
For deficit deadlift 70% is a good working load and the exercise must be performed from higher than 5cm (one plate).
Variation in the programme.
There should be variation in the programme higher intensities and lower volumes or higher volumes and lower intensities.
During a competition period the number of total lifts will decrease it is a similar principal however in all competition periods regardless of the variation or overload week then the last week is always the lightest leaving a deload week. The most important implication is the week before the competition is the week with the lowest total work and for 2 weeks before competition there will be no lifts above 90%.
Athletes will normally test 1 RM 17-21 days before competition. Elite athletes do no test true 1RM this tends to be only athletes who perform well in all the lifts. Usually a lifter is weak in one of the three disciplines. For these lifters they should test up to the limits on their weaker lift. Would only go up to 90% on the lifts that they are proficient at.
Beginners and intermediate will normally test right up to the limit reason being it is good for their mental development as a lifter. For example boris had one 90kg lifter would lift in training a good enough total to place 3rd but come the day of the competition he would get so nervous he would lift a total that was 30 kg less than he was capable of because he would get so nervous and would place 6th or 7th.
In final week before competition the % does not reach above 75% ad during the week of the competition there are 2 sessions during the week that are effectively warm ups. This rest gives them more chances to recover more and reach super compensation.
If an athlete tests 1RM 17-21 days before at competition we would expect the athlete to lift more the way they train but it doesn’t work all of the time! Depending on how the 100% looks if it was easy then they will plan more but if it looked harder they will plan 95-97% RM for competition.
Starting a Sheiko inspired routine.
If you are not sure of what planning or block to train use lighter cycles and if it is easier use harder cycle with more lifts but never repeat the same training cycle variances key!
To start we should look for 300-400 total lifts.
Warm ups before lifting –
Athletes will start the session with general preparation exercises like a dynamic moment they use a 10-15 minute period for which they prepare. After the general warm up they will use a targeted warm up or they will start to lift specific warm up or preparation.
The warm up is down individually to the athlete it is at there own descresion.
Stress loads – i.e. 70% 3-5-7-9-8-6-4 / 70% 3-7-5-8-4-9-6
Athlete will rest for 2 mins for lower reps and 5-7 mins for higher reps.
90% of Boris’s athletes find straight top pyramid and down because it is mentally more challenging to go up to a top set or 9 reps set because it keeps coming up and up. You can only do this sort of training during the preparatory peroid after such a session the leg muscle needs a long time to recover. If you want to try it do not start with higher than 65%. Do not perform more than 1x every 2 weeks during the preparatory period.
Pyramids only really used for squat and bench press not recombined for the deadlift. During deadlifting you have a very high load on the legs and back this sort of training increases the chances of back injury. 90% of 1RM shouldn’t be done every week.
Why vary your exercises and loads?
Doing the exercises spread over different loads and percentages and using variants with in the same training session is much better than performing the same training volume using flat sets x reps. If an athlete needs to improve technique then a pause of 1-2 seconds, chains can be used to improve the accent in the squat.
The box squat is used to touch and stand not to sit on the the box and to try and to stand hard. The box is used for an athlete who needs to get used to the depth of the squat normally done to competition depth.
That concludes my recap of the Boris UK seminar. In all I would highly recommend any lifter or trainer to attend any of Boris’s seminars if you have the chance to as he brings not only a massive wealth of experience and success but also a very different and thought provoking take on programming for maximal strength.
As strength and conditioning coaches and especially as strength coaches pretending to be strength and conditioning coaches I feel it is easy to get trapped in the process of worrying too much about how much weight a player is shifting. I think a lot of intelligent people or good strength coaches can end up trying to smash a square peg into a round hole by applying standards or techniques that are fantastic in the world of weightlifting, powerlifting or strongman but make as much difference as throwing a deck chair off the titanic when it comes to preparing an athlete for their event.
First of all to set the conversation I think I need to define specific and special preparation
“General Physical Preparation, also known as GPP, lays the groundwork for later Specific Physical Preparation, or SPP. In the GPP phase, athletes work on general conditioning to improve strength, speed, endurance, flexibility, structure and skill. GPP is generally performed in the off-season, with a lower level of GPP-maintenance during the season, when SPP is being pursued. GPP helps prevent imbalances and boredom with both specific and non-specific exercises by conditioning the body to work.” Wikipedia 2016
“Specific Physical Preparedness (abbreviated SPP), also referred to by Sports-specific Physical Preparedness is the status of being prepared for the movements in a specific activity (usually a sport).
Specific training includes movements specific to a sport that can only be learned through repetition of those movements. For instance, shooting a free throw, running a marathon, and performing a handstand all require dedicated work on those skills. An SPP phase generally follows a phase of General Physical Preparedness, or GPP, which lays out an athletic base from which to build.”
Related movements that mimic certain aspects of the movement which can be specialized in and put together to form it are also part of specific training.” – Wikipedia 2016
Having a good base of general preparation can have a huge impact on an athlete’s performance in their sport as it allows them to do a whole raft of things that might have been physically impossible prior due to their lacking in basic conditioning. A lot of the changes in modern rugby union for instance have come from a far better understanding and implementation of simple general training principles in strength, power speed, nutrition and conditioning. The change in player is such that teams from as recently in the past as 1995-1996 when the game went professional would probably get swatted aside by a lesser nation in the modern era just down to physical size winning the collision area of the game and matching them in the set piece areas so crucial to generating momentum would probably be nigh on impossible due to their lack of mass and stature.
Anyone strength and conditioning coach who comes from a strength sports background who has tried to work with an athlete who isn’t a lifter will probably have come across some of the following comments
I’m a “insert sport here” not a weightlifter/strongman/powerlifter
I don’t squat that deep ever in my sport
My sport takes place on one leg I think I should be training more on one leg
I want to train to be “explosive” not lift heavy weights I think I should do more “explosive” work. By explosive they are referring to spazzing about with light weights and learning how to perform tricks utilising a ladder and a bosu ball.
How is this going to help me to kick/catch/”insert skill here” better.
And you will of course either scoff, shake your head or laugh it off because in your mind they are in the gym to get “strong”, “powerful” or “fast”. At what point does getting stronger in the gym lifts or the big lifts stop helping an athlete to be stronger in contact, what point does power cleaning stop helping them jump higher, run faster or break contact and at what point does squeezing 100th seconds out of their linear 10-20-30-40 meter sprint from an obtuse start make them quicker in open play?
These are not easy questions in field sports because she is a complex and chaotic beast that refuses to share her secrets. In sports like hammer or shot putt it is easily feasible to hone in on the exercises in the gym or on the field that make a difference to performance because we have a beautiful objective standard of performance thrower X throws object Y, Z distance. Now let’s correlate all of these lifter’s performance in the gym and in other tasks against their sporting results and then boom we get instant insight into what is relevant to sports specific performance and what is not.
We can do the same with various stats and game specific instances however we skate on thin ice because decision making, context and skill level are huge factors in a lot of the success/failures in games or field sports such as soccer, rugby or netball. To try and illustrate some of the work that has already been carried out in this vein please take a look at the following abstract:
The relationship between physical fitness and game behaviours in rugby union players
The physical preparation of team sport athletes should reflect the degree to which each component of fitness is relied upon in competition. The aim of the study was therefore to establish the relationship between fitness-test data and game behaviours known or thought to be important for successful play in rugby union matches. Fitness-test measures from 510 players were analysed with game statistics, from 296 games within the 2007 and 2008 calendar years. Sprint times over 10, 20 and 30 m had moderate to small negative correlations (r) with line breaks (0.26), metres advanced (0.22), tacklebreaks (0.16) and tries scored (0.15). The average time of 12 repeated sprints and percentage body fat in the forwards, and repeated sprint fatigue in the backs had moderate to small correlations with a measure of activity rate on and around the ball (0.38, 0.17 and 0.17, respectively). These low correlations are partly due to uniformly high physical fitness as a result of selection pressures at the elite level and leave room for the identification of other key predictors. Nonetheless, physical conditioning programmes should be adapted to reflect the importance of speed, repeated sprint ability and body composition in the performance of key game behaviours during competition. – link to original article
What we have in a study here is a pretty reasonable cohort (510 players which is fucking outstanding for a sports science study!) of a good specific population and we are looking at correlations of 0.15 to 0.38 on game specific performance metrics. Which in the real world adds up to a grand total of fuck all.
This is of course not to say that improving your linear speed times is not sports specific training (however it doesn’t say either that it is sports specific training) the reason for these weak relationships is probably more down to the complex nature of team field sports than it is down to the nonspecific nature of certain physical attributes. What I am using this to illustrate is the enormously difficult nature of trying to develop a sports specific training regime that develops fitness, strength, power and speed qualities that directly impacts on and athlete’s sports performance and aren’t a steaming pile of shite.
Jokers such as the above anonymous assclown who get athletes to do weirdly or pointlessly loaded exercises in obtuse and ridiculous planes of motion aren’t performing sports specific training they are demonstrating how little they actually understand about physics and physical training every time they enter the gym with a client or athlete.
The training principles that underline your more “traditional” strength and power programme that involve high force (squat and deadlift variations), high power (power clean, jump squat or prowler drives) and high velocity (sprinting and jump training) are operating in a solid foundation of training theory and practical results. Where the disconnect between practitioner and athlete can happen however normally happens in two scenarios
The athlete already performs at an elite level in their sport but isn’t ed coan or Pryos Dimas in the gym so the strength coach decides the athlete isn’t “strong”. This leads to a lot of the strength coach putting their own standards of “performance” right on top of their athlete and them trying to make them a better lifter. This is not sports performance it’s egotistical molding of an athlete in your own mold. Look how much I put on Jimmies squat well done dickhead now he’s to sore to compete well at the weekend and the coach has dropped him.
You are trying to apply technique standards that are good practice in sports such as powerlifting or weightlifting to an athlete who is adopted in the completely opposite direction and is trying to utalise them to better develop his or her force/velocity profile to make them better at what they do.
Enter squat depth
By far one of the most contentious issues in modern strength and conditioning how deep should you go in the back squat. In the lifting world there is the black and white of multiply powerlifters and the depth elitism of weightlifters who don’t want to look at anything other than terminal range of the knee and hip joint. There are people in both camps when it comes to the depth an athlete should squat both camps cite their own reasons the pro depth camp believe it displays good movement competency and conveys athletic advantage (with evidence) and the con depth camp believe it carries an unnecessary increased chance of injury in athletic populations (with varying levels of rational and evidence.
What do strength and conditioning governing bodies have to say on the matter?
The NSCA recommends that depth be determined by the loacation of the hip in relation to the femur. Whilst they (correctly) state that there is no existing evidence that squat depth increases injury risk factors for knee ligaments the reason I am bringing this example up in my article is to juxtapose it with another standard of depth.
Before there was any need for a governing body to look after the physical preperation of athletes in professional and ameture sport there was a sport named powerlifting. In that sport one of the lifts was the back squat to help referees determine a good lift vs a no lift in terms of how it should be performed a standard of depth was required. The highlighted passage is from the International Powerlifting Federation’s technical rule book.
IPF – Founded 1972
NSCA – Founded – 1978
So when we are squabbling as strength and conditioning coaches about what constitutes a good squat depth it is not uncommon for us to be utalising a depth standard adopted by powerlifting which is a maximal strength sport.
Whilst that might seem like a logical enough anchoring point for some the real question is what does an arbitrary technical rule adopted by a maximal strength sport have to do with the physical preparation of a second row to play a professional collision sport?
Training Specificity is more than just blindly following someone’s lead
The arguments or rants (this I am more than guilty of) that normally follow this discussion are perpetrated mainly by coaches who have too much skin in the game. Coaches who have either decided that to be a great athlete you need to display your capabilities in the weight room or that the weights room is not a good way of training “functional movement” (whatever the hell that term even means).
If you want to understand what training specificity means for your sport then you need to make a genuine understanding to truly understand the game or event inside out, back to front. When you look at “specific” or “special” preparation done well and balls deep into the good you could do a lot worse than to look towards the work of Anatoliy Bondarchuk. Anatoliy is not only an olympic medal winning hammer thrower but he has also coached medal winning throwers in 5 separate olympic games. A lot of the current understanding of special exercises and preparation can be attributed to Anatoliy’s work and book transfer of training in sport.
Anatoliy is the prime example of a coach who understands their sport inside out not only the technical side but also the preparation of athletes and what exercises relate to competition success, which relate to providing a solid physical foundation and how they fit together in the training of a champion athlete.
What we are talking about in most sports is probably a life’s body of work trying to understand the sport inside out and experimenting intelligently whilst constantly reviewing your processes and progress to intelligently review what interventions are providing success. Is the prowler drive a specific preparation exercise for an inside centre in rugby union? Until someone starts to produce training studies and cross sectional surveys that relate back to key performance indicators within that specific role then we have to feign ignorance.
Where should we go from here then?
Where I think a strength and conditioning coach or athlete should take from this article is that the true key to having a really intelligent and successful preparation programme comes from a mixture of factors
An in depth understanding of all physiological factors that underpin your training practices.
An in depth knowledge of participation, training and of the sport you wish to prepare your athletes for.
A scientifically validated understanding of key physical factors that underpin success in your sport and how to train for these traits.
Use of critical thinking and mini trials to weed out the exercises or training that actually correlates to increases in key performance indicators within your athlete’s or own performances.
What I would like to think that we can agree upon is that athletes are not lifters, they aren’t sprinters, they aren’t throwers, they aren’t jumpers and they aren’t monkeys trained to balance on various implements for other’s amusement.
Training has a massive scope for variety and intelligent application if you want to be an outstanding coach however you need to think before you act and plan thoroughly. Whilst in the knowledge that it is almost a certainty that your plan will require adjustment throughout the entire training process.
If you only follow my blog then you may not have seen that I recently took part in a powerlifting competition. The first one for 2 and some years, although I made the move up to the 120 kg category and weighed in at 114.3 some 11 kg heavier than I have ever competed at before I only managed to tie my personal best deadlift result at a competition.
The conditions in the competition were far from ideal due to logistical problems (needing to be out of the venue for a certain time) the second group of lifters only got to take 2 of their 3 attempts. The two attempts we did eventually get to take were rushed as well so we didn’t get a decent warm up. All of these factors (or excuses!) lead to me making my opening deadlift of 280 kg and then missing my second attempt at 290 kg at lockout. Under the circumstances had I deviated from my planned attempts and opener heavier or lighter I am pretty sure I would have made 290 kg which would have been a 10 kg personal best in competition.
However the fact that I only managed to equal my previous best really annoyed me. It annoyed me to the point where it nearly ruined my meet, a meet where I had managed a 37.5 kg personal best total. For a lifter who has been competing for 8 years, that is a pretty huge improvement even at a much heavier bodyweight. I should have been hugely happy but I wasn’t all because of deadlift.
This experience is what has spurred on this project I would like to introduce operation 700.
What is operation 700?
Operation 700 is my own personal quest to pull a 320 kg (705 lb) deadlift in the gym. Ever since I started lifting deadlift has been the bane of my existence every kilo above 220 kg I have had to fight for. Ever since I first pulled 290 kg back in December of 2012 I haven’t managed to get much past it. I recently pulled 293 kg in January of this year so that makes an impressive rate of improvement of 1 kg per year so at this current rate I will make a 320 kg pull in 2043 possibly on a hoverboard.
During the duration of “operation 700” deadlifts are going to be my number one training priority it is going to be the first exercise in every lower body session. I have made the decision to make it a blog series because I think it will show my followers –
How programmes are put together and adapted during implementation.
What it’s like to set a challenging training target and the journey a lifter goes through trying to achieve it.
Proof of concept that just because you are terrible at something doesn’t mean you can’t get better at it.
Block 1 of the programme is a simple 6-week linear cycle consisting of
2 weeks of low-intensity volume accumulation
2 weeks of transition work
2 weeks of intensification
The original plan was a frequency of 3 sessions a week however experience and practice are leading me to go to a 2 session a week frequency and splitting session 2’s volume over session 1 and 3 every week.
Below is block one in full working off the goal weight of 305 kg
Keeping up to date with operation 700.
I will be keeping a bi-weekly update on the blog here on castironstrength.com. If you want to follow the journey more closely then you can follow my training logs on
When we talk about strength training it gets easy to get sucked into one of the many cults that exist here are a few of those prestigious religious institutions –
The fat man cult of the barbell (powerlifting)
The spandex yoga barbell club (weightlifting)
The church of the oiled up eating disorder (bodybuilding)
Spinal injury for reps crew (crossfit)
Skinnyfat balance club (functional training)
Over Complication of basic movement group (pilates)
To name but a few some of them really think that their way of training “strength” is the best way to develop it. Some of the members of these various institutions think that they have the secret way to develop the holy grail of physical fitness “functional strength”.
Others who have a rudimentary grip on reality and exercise science understand that functional training or strength is a big old strawman. When you are training towards a goal then you need to understand implicitly what your goal is and what specific training for this goal looks like. If your goal is to jump higher or run faster prancing around a ladder doing increasingly more complex dances is not going to help you achieve your goal.
If your goal is to snatch more weight deadlifting with a wide grip and rounding over like a shagging dog isn’t going to help. Let’s get to grips with a few key training concepts that should be at the core of your thought process.
Strength is extremely specific – your strength in planes and with implements is extremely specific how strong you are in the back squat is specific to how you squat. If you squat to full depth with no supportive equipment you will get strong at that movement. If you squat above parallel with a wide stance in a space suit you will get strong at that movement. Being really strong at one makes you potentially stronger at the other but you will not be instantly good at them you will need to adjust or to adapt specifically to those circumstances.
If your goal is maximal strength then rest periods are of no concern – work capacity means the sum total of fuck + all to strength training. As long as you are stimulating maximal strength through your programme in the desired exercises then how you structure your programme is an irrelevance.
If your goal is hypertrophy than external load is only one small part of the puzzle – total work completed in the week, exercise variety, training to failure and your rest times all have a huge influence on your programmes effectiveness for getting bigger. 1RM strength is almost an irrelevance
Are you training to get better at the exercise or to develop your force profile – if you are a lifter then the exercise you are training might be your sport (snatch, back squat, log pres….) therefore getting better at that exercise is your goal and you need to hone in on it constantly with your training. If you are an athlete how you produce force is your goal squat can help you increase your vertical force production capabilities which is great for jumping and sprinting.
If you want to get better at circuit training you need to understand exercise physiology – if you’re a cross-fitter what do the words – aerobic capacity, alactic threshold and lactic tolerance mean to you? If they mean nothing then you have some reading to do before you can understand how to get good at your sport. Doing random workouts hard is a good way of developing a basic level of conditioning but if you want to be really good at something you need to understand what your training consists of and how they interplay with each other.
If you think low level postural control is a good way of developing sports performance you should get yourself in the front row of a rugby scrum – have you ever done some tempo bench press with a really light weight and notice how fucking hard it is compared to just bench pressing? You are experiencing you guessed it strength specificity. This is the exact same reason obtuse bodyweight exercises such as the ones performed in pilates are really hard if you have never done them before because YOU HAVE NEVER DONE THEM BEFORE. If you think not playing having “good core strength” whatever that even is would prepare you to take 1600kg of force through your spine then you should give tight head prop a shot because there are plenty of clubs in England and France willing to pay you hundreds of thousands of pounds per year to dominate scrums.
Chances are you haven’t sat down to objectively think through your strength training routine and put in place a good rationally sound programme to address your goals unless you are training towards a strength sport. In the case of training for a strength sport (powerlifting, strongman, weightlifting or crossfit) you are probably wasting a lot of time and energy doing dumb lifts that are making jack shit difference to your performance.
Rather than just randomly doing shit because someone wrote it down on a spreadsheet or blog look through your training logs and ask yourself one simple question
“why the hell am I doing this?”
If you apply some rational thought and critical thinking you can get yourself to the effective core of your programme and get to maximising your training time.
23 Competitive athletes took part in a cross over design where they were required to perform and AM/PM session of 3x 30 second win gate sprint tests separated by 30 minutes. 15 days later they performed the same test protocol but under a different condition.
For the experimental condition the athletes went through a recovery protocol consisting of antioxidant vitamins, ibuprofen, cold water submersion and whey protein. During the control the same athletes received no recovery strategies.
Treatment helped athletes to maintain mean power during the PM session but it showed no significant effect on peak power output. Whilst the treatment had an effect on athlete performance it had no effect on perceived soreness or on muscle damaged.
TL;DR – throwing the kitchen sink at recovery can have a small increase on repeated anaerobic win gate performance during a day’s training.
15 subjects took part in a cross over experimental design in both conditions they where required to produce maximal voluntary contraction force and EMG, drop jump performance from three heights (20, 35 and 50cm), continuous drop jump from a 30 cm box, time to fatigue and blood lactate measured pre and post time to fatigue. The experimental condition involved the subjects wearing a compression garment over their calfs and the control condition had no garment.
The garment failed to show any performance benefit it did show increased calf temperature, decreased twitch half relaxation times and decreased the ground reaction force from the 50 cm box.
TL;DR – Compression garments are again shown to be no better than control.
24 semi-professional rugby players where tested for 3 RM squat, 3 RM bench press, upper-body power (plyo push up) and lower-body power (countermovment jump). They were also assessed for tackling technique using a standardised and specific one on one tackling drill and video analysis. They then underwent an 8 week pre-season training routine that resulted in significant improvements in all the tested variables.
The strongest correlations between improvements in training variables and tackling ability where 3RM back squat and relative lower-body strength. Some small relationships where also shown between lower-body power and tacking ability. Upperbody didn’t show any significant relationships.
TL;DR – if you want to be a more effective/dominate one on one tackler in rugby union you should look to improve your leg strength in your next pre-season programme.
18 academy rugby players where split into one of two groups the Unilateral group who trained exclusively with the rear foot elevated split squat and the Bilateral group who trained exclusively with Back squat.
Both groups trained twice a week for 5 weeks using relative percentages based of 1 repetition maximums. Before and after testing was conducted for 1RM back squat, 1RM split squat, 10-40 meter speed times and pro-agility.
No significant difference was shown for any of the factors.
TL;DR – Single leg and two leg strength exercises are both good options for and academy rugby player’s strength programme.
55 professional basketball players where studied over a period of 6 years. The period was split into 3 x 2 year periods or “biennium”. The training became more sophisticated as time went on with the first 2 years consisting of “classical” proprioception exercises, the next 2 years consisted of objectively measured proprioception exercises and the final 2 year period consisted of exercises conducted with equipment that gave real time feedback.
They found that over the 6 year period the exercises resulted in an 81% reduction in ankle sprain, 77.8% reduction in lower back pain, 64.5% reduction in knee sprain and players proprioceptive abilities increased by 72.2%.
TL;DR – if you run a programme for team sports athletes your should really think about putting in some proprioceptive activities.
I’ve had a pretty normal couple of days for a weekend but a couple of experiences and conversations have prompted me to write this quick article as I think it is a concept or clarity of purpose that can easily get lost in the pseudo intellectual worlds of diet, fitness, strength training and sport.
I want to be quick, strong, lean and big these are all my goals and I want to train them all at the same time. What is the smartest, quickest and sexiest way of going around reaching these 4 goals at the same time? Said the person who is committing to being shit at 4 things all at the same time.
I get to spend a lot of time with people in my job and various business ventures, the contrasts in personalities and mindsets that I encounter on a day to day basis is one of the most interesting things about my existence. Interacting with people of a completely different understanding whilst trying to find ways to either get them round to my way of thinking or trying to get them to understand where I am coming from is one of the most mentally stimulating activities that I have the pleasure of experiencing.
The people I really like spending time with however are the simple characters not in a yellow school bus kind of way but in I have black and white views in life and goals way. People who try and make everything about nuisance or try to live in a rich tapestry normally leave me feeling like they are trying too hard to spin their bullshit together in a coherent manner. A lot of lifters who I like spending time with are just people who want to be as strong as possible they don’t really give a shit what they look like and they don’t obsess over anything other than training. These people “get” strength training.
They understand that your relationship with whatever barbell sport you like to frequent is about lifting more weight in that barbell sport using whatever exercises are used in your sport. They don’t spend 120 minutes a day watching Kelly Starlet overcomplicate the fuck out of stretching or reading about the latest complicated way of having an unhealthy relationship with food. They like lifting weights and they want to get stronger.
Likewise people I respect and like to associate with in “elite” sport understand that winning is the name of the game. They don’t obsess over needless shite like what their peak watt output is in an exercise that has jack shit to do with their job in their sport. They know that being fitter and stronger helps them to be better prepared to a point. They understand what kinds of training work quite well for them and how much they should ideally look to do in a pre-season and during the week. The athletes or coaches who break me are the ones who get caught up in nonsense the ones who need to be doing some novel or interesting training method. They normally are the ones on the fringe of the squad and the flakes who end up falling by the wayside. A rugby player who doesn’t focus their attention on being a better rugby player first and foremost is in for a rude awakening when they enter a professional set up.
The people who do well in business or in their own work understand clearly what they need to work at and stick at it doggedly. The entrepreneur who has a semi-decent idea but sticks at it like an obsessed fanboy and re-iterates until it works is the guy or gal who ends up with the nice house, car and bank account. The entrepreneur who is constantly hopping between projects and ideas is the hipster looking individual serving you coffee at starbucks. Professionals that know clearly where they want to go with their career and stick to it for a long time are the people who end up with the CEO roles. The employees who can’t make up their mind what they want to do are the annoyed hapless leeches stuck at another entry level position in another company they don’t like.
If you are involved in strength training to achieve something you need to crystalise what that something is and get round to achieving it. Stop flooding your mind with choices and options that make fuck all difference and start to get obsessed with your goals. If you want a bigger bench press then that single arm floor press is going to do fuck all for your goal, I don’t give a shit what internet wannabee expert says differently. People who increase the noise levels in life or in training are the people you need to shut off and cut free because they are going nowhere so don’t let them keep you with them.
If any of the shite that T-nation et al spout on a daily basis made a blind difference do you not think the people who write for them while weighing 110 kg+ and being juiced out of their mind would bench press more than 190 kg? Look at Mark Bell, Chad Waterbury and Boris Sheiko what is their message? Look at their results it seems to add up with their communication doesn’t it. When supposed “world renowned experts” haven’t achieved better than an average level of strength with themselves or those they train alarm bells should be ringing.
How do you break free of the OCD training rat race? Focus on a task you want to be good at and shun everything else till you have achieved something with it. If your a 90 kg (198 lb) man and want to powerlift your goal might be to squat 250 kg (550 lb) good. Do everything within your power to achieve that milestone the learning process you will go through on the way to achieving it will show you everything there is to know about achieving anything in life. Focus on what works and let the people talking nonsense melt into the background where they belong.
More reps regardless of the time under tension is a better factor for increasing neuromuscular and metabolic responses. Mechanical work completed may potentially be a more important factor for hypertrophy than simple “time under tension”.
If you need to be aerobically fit to perform well in your job or sport you can’t afford to be fat.
If you want leaner, swoler and more agile navy seals you should utilise a block perodisation model.
Boxers should be looking to develop whole body strength and power in their programmes to maximise their punching power.
Different ways of splitting up interval training has a specific effect on fitness when intensity remains constant. If you want to increase fitness thresholds continuous activity at specific intensity is a good way to go and if you want to increase efficiently more intervals of shorter duration or targeted at distances may be the best way.
24 males with previous resistance training experience took part in the study, they were randomly assigned to one of two testing conditions (A and B) and completed both. The exercise performed was smith machine bench press. EMG for the delts, pecs and triceps were measured alongside blood lactate which was measured during and 12 minutes post exercise.
Condition A = 3 sets of 6 reps @ 60% rm with 3 minutes rest using a repetition duration of 6 seconds.
Condition B = 3 sets of 12 reps @ 60% rm with 3 minutes rest using a repetition duration of 3 seconds.
EMG activity for all muscles increased as the sets progressed and was higher for condition B then condition A. Blood lactate also increased during all sets and was higher for condition B then condition A.
TL;DR – more reps regardless of the time under tension is a better factor for increasing neuromuscular and metabolic responses. Mechanical work completed may potentially be a more important factor for hypertrophy than simple “time under tension”.
4237 male fire-fighters where assessed for physical fitness and body composition. Body composition was assessed using BMI, bodyfat %, waist circumference and body adiposity index (BAI). Physical fitness was assessed using the 12 minute cooper run.
Negative relationships where shown between age (-0.21), BMI (-0.45), WC (-0.5) and BAI (0.35). Obese subjects had a lower Vo2 max when compared to all other categories. A negative relationship between body composition and cardiorespiratory fitness was found for all body composition methods irrespective of age.
TL;DR – if you need to be aerobically fit to perform well in your job or sport you can’t afford to be fat.
Block periodization for the navy seals
85 special naval operators from the US navy where split into two groups – block periodisation and non-linear periodization. They conducted 12 weeks of training after which a pre-post test analysis was carried out for body composition, aerobic capacity and lactate threshold, muscular strength, flexibility, landing mechanics, postural stability and tactical performance.
The experimental group (the block perodisation) performed better on measures of flexibility, balance, agility and muscular strength. The experimental group also demonstrated significant decreases in fat and increases in muscle mass.
TL;DR – if you want leaner, swoler and more agile navy seals you should utilise a block perodisation model.
15 amateur boxers from the Brazilian national team where included in the study (9 men and 6 females). They where tested for a battery of strength and power variables (squat jump, counter movement jump, bench press, bench throw, maximum isometric force in squat and bench press and rate of force development in squat and bench press). The boxers thought 3 jabs and 3 crosses both from a standardised distance and self selected distance hitting a force platform raised 1 meter from the floor with a body cover.
Punching impact correlated strongly with punching impact (0.65 to 0.85) with some of the best correlations coming from measures of lowerbody power (mean propulsion during jump squat in particular).
TL;DR – boxers should be looking to develop whole body strength and power in their programmes to maximise their punching power.
Two teams of elite water polo players took part in two different high intensity interval protocols performed at the same pace (106% of pace that resulted in a 4 mmol content of blood lactate). Team one (n=7) performed 4 sets of 4 minutes and team two (n=7) performed 16 100 meter efforts at the same pace. Both teams performed the same strength training protocol 4 sets of 5 @ 85 – 90% RM. Both groups also performed their own specific water polo training.
After 8 weeks of training both teams showed an improvement in 1 RM bench press. Only the 4 x 4 min group increased the speeds that represented 4, 5 and 10 mmol of blood lactate whilst the 16 x 100 group were more effective in differential velocity in the 5 – 10 mmol levels.
TL;DR – different ways of splitting up interval training has a specific effect on fitness when intensity remains constant. If you want to increase fitness thresholds continuous activity at specific intensity is a good way to go and if you want to increase efficiently more intervals of shorter duration or targeted at distances may be the best way.
Everyone’s got to have at least one programme to their name so since numbers seem to be pretty cool and 5/3/1 was already taken why not put a programme out there that sounds like a banking sort code “25 – 20 – 15”. If the programme doesn’t become popular at the very least it might confuse a few of my readers the next time they want to set up a direct debit.
This is a three week cycle that I have been using for about a year now to produce regular and reliable improvements in strength in both athletes and lifters without having them lifting anywhere near failure and at some times barely feeling like they are training. The basic cycle is as follows –
Week 1 – 5 sets of 5 reps @ 75%
Week 2 – 5 sets of 4 reps @ 80%
Week 3 – 5 sets of 3 reps @ 85%
Its a very simple cycle which utilizes a three week period of linear volume regression and intensity increase. If you have never come across intensity by number of lifts basically it is a way of determining the overall intensity of a session or week of training by using prelipins chart to determine an optimal volume for every intensity and rates a total volume against intensity to determine a rating. The chart below shows the categories of each rating.
The volume and intensity loads represented by each week are conveniently as follows –
25 reps @ 75 % RM = 1 INOL
20 reps @ 80 % RM = 1 INOL
15 reps @ 85 % RM = 1 INOL
Almost as someone had planned it that way… The idea of the training cycle is to provide enough volume and load to stimulate some adaptation (strength gain in english) whilst not being overly difficult or fatiguing. It is an attempt to tread the tightrope of strength training perfectly balanced without tipping over by trying to overreach one way or the other and end up falling down the hole of overreaching or overtraining.
Putting it into action.
We will now look at putting the programme into action for the purposes of the article I will be looking at it in the context of powerlifting training but I have used this cycle to produce PBs in power clean, push press and a bunch of other lifts with athletes so there is no reason you can’t apply it to the lifts that are important to you.
For all of the training plans I am about to lay out I will put in assistance work and plan it out using the days of the week, you can adapt the days training and days off to your own schedule but try and keep the rest the same i.e. if there is 48 hours between workouts on the programme than take the 48 hours of rest.
Some lifters (probably the majority of lifters!) find that once a week is the best for them when it comes to any training plan that involves squat, bench or deadlift. Whilst I think most people should be doing the lifts you want to get better at at least 2x per week I’m not here to dictate what works for you.
For me the traditional upper/lower split with 3 days of total rest in the week has always been the plan that I have best responded to. You will notice that in the plan deadlift has a reduced volume from the 1x per week plan this is because as most people would attest to deadlift is the one lift that people are most likely to lift using lax form and end up with a muscle spasm or stiff back as such I try to reduce the total volume of work with this lift in almost all my training programmes. For some lifters who can handle the weekly training load some of the 3x per week programmes utalised by Tom Martin and Mark Clegg are well worth investigating.
This version of the programme is a variation I have used with players coming back from injury who need to train up to their old levels of strength fast since the frequency and volume allows them to build up the load session to session in a slow manner yet still get to good levels of working weights in a matter of a few weeks. For lifters who like to train the lifts more frequently the volume and intensity should allow for a sustainable template those who are not used to training the lifts with a good frequency can use a light working max to allow them to get used to the volume and frequency before progressing on to heavier loads.
Without testing your max it can be difficult when doing a purely volume based programme to determine how strong you are currently therefore you can only really use an arbitrary increase from block to block. I would recommend an increase of 2.5 kg (5 lb) for working loads on upper body lifts block to block and an increase of 5 kg (11 lb) on lower body lifts.
When do I take a deload week?
Until you start to use loads that are to heavy for the volume load you should find the programme is quite easy to run backed up since the volume and intensities of each session shouldn’t be too difficult. If you find that you have overdone it for a block or that you perfer to have a lighter week every four then I would recommend that you perform 4 sets of 6 reps at 70% RM on as a deload week. If you are running the 3x a week programme drop to the 2x per week template for your deload week and use the 4 sets of 6 @ 70% for your volume and intensity.
I like to lift heavy to know where I am at or if I am feeling good can I do that on this programme?
During the 5×3 (85%) workout you can take a maximum of 2 heavier sets these must be performed after you have successfully completed 3 sets of 3 at the prescribed load. You must be confident of making the set. If you are successful with your heavier lifts then you can replace 1 set of the prescribed workout with your heavier set if you are unsuccessful then you must complete your whole workout as prescribed. Rep outs and sets to failure are strongly advised against.
I’ve got a meet coming up or I want to build up to a 1RM what should I do?
Find a peaking routine designed for that purpose this routine is designed as a “building” routine or a training cycle it is meant to develop your strength cyclically and not allow you to best realise or display it.
How do I download a copy of the calculator?
You can either create a copy on your own google drive account –
Or you can download a copy as an excel, open office or equivalent file
Where can I find the tutorial videos for each exercise?
The exercise name on each spreadsheet leads to a youtube tutorial video of each exercise just click on the blue hyperlink and follow the link to watch how the exercise should be performed (internet connection required)
I’m american and don’t want to utilize your communist kilogramme
Don’t worry my freedom loving friend click the lb tab on each calculator and your can revel in the glorious freedom of the imperial measurement system.
I want a more personalised programme or some more detailed advice.
TL; DR – the use of bands for deadlift might be a good strategy for increasing the power or velocity aspects of the lift but seems to be of little worth if greater total force production is the goal of the training (powerlifting….)
TL; DR – if you want to use unstable barbells to activate different muscles using bench press you might want to rethink your rationale.
TL; DR – stronger athletes should require a higher box when performing drop jump to maximise power output.TL; DR – stronger athletes should require a higher box when performing drop jump to maximise power output.
TL;DR – if grip strength is a limiting factor when performing a resistance exercise where working the muscles involved in the exercise and not improving grip is a priority then using straps can achieve a greater training outcome.
TL; DR – strength training is an effective way of increasing bone mineral density in subjects suffering from HIV and exhibiting lipodystrophyTL; DR – strength training is an effective way of increasing bone mineral density in subjects suffering from HIV and exhibiting lipodystrophy
TL;DR – if you want to get fitter and not get fatigued then split your training out into easy (low intensity steady state activities) and hard (high intensity interval training) whilst spacing your workouts out by a minimal of 1 light to 1 hard.
TL; DR – if you want to make the sit up a better abdominal exercise then think of imitating the movement using your abdominal muscles and perform it at an even tempo.
Effect of Bands on deadlift kinetics using moderate and heavy loads.
Andrew Galphin et al looked at the effect of adding bands to the deadlift and its effect on force, power and velocity in 12 trained men were included in the study. They completed 3 conditions B1 = 85% 1 RM in free weights + 15% in elastic band tension, B2 = 65% 1 RM in free weights and 35% RM in elastic band tension and NB 100% RM in free weight alone. All reps where performed on a force plate.
They found that addition of an elastic band increased power and velocity but decreased force production across all conditions. Use of free weights only involved a higher peak force but decreased velocity and power. TL; DR – the use of bands for deadlift might be a good strategy for increasing the power or velocity aspects of the lift but seems to be of little worth if greater total force production is the goal of the training (powerlifting….)
Bench Press muscle activation stable vs unstable loads.
Dustin Dunnick et al looked at the effects of an unstable load on bench press achieved by attaching 16 kg dumbbells to the barbell via resistance band had on the muscle activation during bench press on 5 muscles (pectoralis major, anterior deltoid, medial deltoid, trecps brachii and latissimus dorsi). 20 resistance trained men took part in the study they performed reps at both 60% and 80% of 1RM utilising stable and unstable loads. Reps where performed at a cadence of 2 seconds for eccentric and concentric muscle action with a slight pause at the bottom. Researchers found that all muscles showed greater activation at 80% vs 60% RM but failed to show any difference between stable and unstable conditions. TL; DR – if you want to use unstable barbells to activate different muscles using bench press you might want to rethink your rationale.
The effect of maximal strength on the optimal drop height for depth jumps.
Milan Matic et al wanted to look at the causal relationship between a person’s maximal strength and the drop height from which they produced the largest power output. 30 physically active males participated in the subject 16 of whom were split into two equal groups strong (n=8) and weak (n=8). They found a moderate relationship between strength and optimal jump height and on average stronger individuals showed greater power outputs at higher drop heights when compared to weaker individuals (62cm vs 32cm). TL; DR – stronger athletes should require a higher box when performing drop jump to maximise power output.
Effects of lifting straps on the kinetics of the deadlift.
Victor Coswig et al wanted to determine the effects lifting straps had on kinetic variables of during the deadlift using wraps or no wraps. Eleven subjects took part in the study with an average resistance training experience of 4 years. They performed 3 sets to failure using 90% of their 1RM deadlift on a force platform once with straps and again without straps (the order of the trial was randomised). Straps resulted in a reduced speed (0-25%) and greater force production (20-28%) and duration (concentric phase 0-13%) when compared to no straps. TL;DR – if grip strength is a limiting factor when performing a resistance exercise where working the muscles involved in the exercise and not improving grip is a priority then using straps can achieve a greater training outcome. Effect of strength training on the bone mineral density of patients infected with HIV exhibiting lipodystrophy
Wlaldemir Santos looked at the effect of 12 weeks of resistance training exercise (3 sessions a week) had on 20 subjects who all had tested positive for HIV, were taking antiretroviral drugs and had not been physically active before the study. After 12 weeks of resistance training the patients showed an increase in bone mineral density (+3.28% in lumbar spine, +8.45% in femoral neck and +5.41% in wrist) as determined by dual beam xray. TL; DR – strength training is an effective way of increasing bone mineral density in subjects suffering from HIV and exhibiting lipodystrophy
Review of polarized cardiovascular endurance training model (high/low).
Training threshold or the traditional training method involves high volumes of high intensity endurance exercise however they result in limited increases in race pace this has been attributed to reaching states of over training or over reaching during the training. Jay Hydren and Burce Cohen did a research review on the topic of polarized training models where nearly all time is spent using light sessions (low RPE, below ventilator threshold and with a blood lactate less than 2nM). Typically hard workouts will be followed by one or more light workouts and utilise a nonlinear undulating periodisation model. This model has been shown to be consistently superior to race paced based training. TL;DR – if you want to get fitter and not get fatigued then split your training out into easy (low intensity steady state activities) and hard (high intensity interval training) whilst spacing your workouts out by a minimal of 1 light to 1 hard.
Bent knee sit up vs modified bent knee sit up effect of muscle activation on trunk muscles.
William Sullivan et al recruited 18 subjects to take part in their study participants performed 30 seconds executing as many reps as possible using both exercises. For the modified sit up participants where instructed to imitate the movement using the muscles of the abdomen. EMG was taken from rectus abdominis, external oblique and rectus femoris. The modified sit up showed an increased activation of rectus abdominis and external oblique and a reduced activation of rectus femoris. Traditional sit up also increased lumbar spine compression and shearing forces and may be an increased injury factor. TL; DR if you want to make the sit up a better abdominal exercise then think of imitating the movement using your abdominal muscles and perform it at an even tempo.
Diet is an important part of any physical preparation programme your nutrition is one of the main contributors to your ability to recover from training and to perform in training and competition. Nutrition advice for powerlifting tends to amount to such cutting edge advice as “eat more phaggot” or “you’re too skinny have some gainer shakes and eat more pizza”. From these recommendations we can infer that calories and body weight are generally perceived as being important for performance in the sport of powerlifting.
I have written in the past about calorie requirements and how to work out your own requirements for weight loss diets. In this series I will cover calorie requirements for powerlifting based on goals this will come towards the latter part of the series. We will begin by taking a closer look at the three macro-nutrients.
Macronutrients make up the vast majority of the energy content of your diet. There are three macronutrients protein, carbohydrates and fat these not only provide energy for the body but play important roles in the body from cell production/repair, acting as enzymes or providing building blocks for hormones amongst a host of biological functions. For the purposes of this article series we will only be concerned with the practical implications of these macronutrients and what they mean for you as a powerlifter.
Protein’s Role in a powerlifter’s diet.
Protein had two main roles within the body repair and replacement of old cells (key in the recovery process from resistance training) and being oxidised for energy. Having adequate protein in your diet as a powerlifter is extremely important to allow optimal recovery and also for hypertrophy of the muscles involved with training. Hypertrophy of muscles isn’t just about looking super jacked or getting hench increased cross sectional area (bigger muscles) is one of the most important factors that affects the strength of a muscle. As such the size of the prime mover muscles (muscles involved in the actual exercises squat/bench/deadlift) is one of the main limiting factors when it comes to performance in powerlifting.
Through diet and exercise if our goal is to become as proficient at the three competitive lifts as we can then we need to consider how to maximise specific protein turnover. Protein turnover refers to the pay off between protein breakdown and protein synthesis if the amount of protein synthesis outweighs the breakdown then we are in a state of anabolism or getting bigger/stronger.
When I say specific protein turnover we need to be focusing on the muscles directly involved in the performance of the three competitive lifts as I have mentioned before.
So I think we can all agree that protein is an important macro nutrient for a power lifter and it is something you should be looking at seriously when it comes to your training/nutrition planning. There are a number of considerations you need to be aware of when it comes to getting the protein aspect of our diet as good as it can be.
Factors affecting protein turnover and synthesis.
These factors are a team there isn’t one superstar that we need to prioritize over all others they all act in unison to increase our protein turnover. Through this section of the article I will discuss each of the six factors, their effect on protein turnover and practically how you can best influence them in your own nutrition.
The first factor to consider when it comes to protein intake is just how much you need in your diet if you read a lot or watch a lot of videos on youtube then you have probably heard a lot of ridiculous recommendations such as 2g of protein per lb of body weight (4.4g per kg of body weight) these recommendations are normally pushed surprisingly enough by supplement companies or bodybuilding websites that are attached to supplement companies. Most research would reccomend/suggest a protein intake of 1-2g per kg of mass us more than sufficient to keep subjects in a positive protein turnover as evidenced by the Journal or International sports nutrition statement on protein intake (2007)
JISSN Position Statement
The following seven points related to the intake of protein for healthy, exercising individuals constitute the position stand of the Society. They have been approved by the Research Committee of the Society. 1) Vast research supports the contention that individuals engaged in regular exercise training require more dietary protein than sedentary individuals. 2) Protein intakes of 1.4 – 2.0 g/kg/day for physically active individuals is not only safe, but may improve the training adaptations to exercise training. 3) When part of a balanced, nutrient-dense diet, protein intakes at this level are not detrimental to kidney function or bone metabolism in healthy, active persons. 4) While it is possible for physically active individuals to obtain their daily protein requirements through a varied, regular diet, supplemental protein in various forms are a practical way of ensuring adequate and quality protein intake for athletes. 5) Different types and quality of protein can affect amino acid bioavailability following protein supplementation. The superiority of one protein type over another in terms of optimizing recovery and/or training adaptations remains to be convincingly demonstrated. 6) Appropriately timed protein intake is an important component of an overall exercise training program, essential for proper recovery, immune function, and the growth and maintenance of lean body mass. 7) Under certain circumstances, specific amino acid supplements, such as branched-chain amino acids (BCAA’s), may improve exercise performance and recovery from exercise. JSSIN 2007
There is very little evidence to suggest that strength athletes, powerlifters or weightlifters require anymore than the upper limit of this suggestion. One study done on elite weightlifters in 1988 by Tarnopolsky showed they required a protein intake of 3g per kg of body-weight to stay in positive nitrogen balance this however isn’t really applicable to most people reading this article as you are probably not one of these three things:
An elite weightlifter training full time on a national programme.
Training 2x per day 6 days a week.
These three factors aligned with the huge methodological issues that are inherent with nitrogen balance studies and we can pretty much forget about this study. Most recent data using more accurate methods such as amino acid tracing have shown protein intakes of 1-2.2 g of protein to be sufficient for most populations of strength trained individuals.
To be on the safe side we can aim for the higher end of the spectrum and look to ingest 2 g of protein for every kg of body weight every day this can also be done as a percentage of calories 15-20% of energy intake.
Body weight in KG x 2 = protein requirement
Calorie intake x 0.15 – 0.25 = protein requirement
Some considerations – those in a calorie deficit or cutting will require a higher amount of protein intake to help maintain lean mass (2.5-3 g per kg of bodyweight as a ball park) and older athletes/lifters will again require a higher protein intake to encourage lean mass retention a slightly less increase should be sufficient (2.2-2.5 g per kg of body weight).
Protein Source (leucine content)
Now that we have looked at total protein content on a daily basis for powerlifting we need to look at where is the best place for that protein to come from. The main way that we measure the quality of a protein is by it’s bio-availability this basically is a measure of how much of the nutrient actually makes it to your blood stream after you ingest and digest it. The higher the bio-availability of a protein the more of it will can be utalised by your body for tasks such as muscle repair. Below you can see a table with 15 different protein sources and how they measure in bio-availability the higher the value the better.
Ideally you should be looking to get the majority of your foods from sources with a high bio-availability as we will discuss later the importance of pulsing or eating your protein intermittently the sources of your protein become more relevant.
After people discover this knowledge they are quick to use it to reaffirm their bias that a meat eating diet is superior for the gainz. However fear not veggies or lactose intolerant people simply by supplementing leucine with a meal you can hugely increase the bio-availability of proteins such as soy, wheat, beans or peanuts. Leucine appears to play the most significant role in switching on protein synthesis out of all the amino acids. It has been shown that by simply adding leucine to wheat protein you can greatly increase the bioavailability of a meal.
Here is a quick cheat sheet on good options for protein sources during your daily meals (chart?) –
Required – fast acting proteins with a complete amino acid profile and high nutritional content (vitamins, minerals, calcium and fats).
Sources with high bio-availability and required nutrients – salmon, eggs, greek yogurt and milk.
In between meal Snack – quick acting protein, convenient to carry/consume
Sources – whey protein, milk or soy/pea protein isolate paired with leuicne. If post training consume with some carbohydrates (for example some fruit)
Required – fast acting proteins with a complete amino acid profile and high nutritional content (vitamins, minerals, calcium and fats).
Sources with high bio-availability and required nutrients – beef, chicken, turkey, pork, cheese or beans supplemented with leuicne.
In between meal Snack – quick acting protein, convenient to carry/consume
Sources – whey protein, milk or soy/pea protein isolate paired with leuicne. If post training consume with some carbohydrates (for example some fruit).
Required – fast acting proteins with a complete amino acid profile and high nutritional content (vitamins, minerals, calcium and fats).
Sources with high bio-availability and required nutrients – beef, chicken, turkey, pork, cheese or beans supplemented with leuicne.
Pre-Bed snack – slow acting protein.
Source – Casein, beans or peanuts supplemented with some ZMA.
Protein Synthesis (elevating it with non fatiguing volume)
Protein synthesis is the term used to describe the process of turning dietary protein intake into a cells such as muscle and skin. As powerlifters we should be mainly interested in practically influencing the protein synthesis to make a muscles bigger (hypertrophy) or on the very rare occasion in a human adding a new muscle cell (hyperplasia).
The ins and outs of the physiology underpinning muscle growth is of little relevance to us from a practical point of view so I will spare you the lecture. Basically the more we can keep protein synthesis elevated the more likely we are able to induce hypertrophy to encourage protein synthesis are two main things we can do practically
Stimulate protein synthesis through resistance exercise if we are training for hypertrophy than the volume of exercise is by far the most important factor.
Ensure a regular circulation of amino acids in the blood stream to achieve this regular feedings of 20-40g of protein every 2-4 hours is ideal (as discussed the amount of protein you should ingest per sitting is mainly related to the amount of muscle mass you have).
We have probably already covered the timing of protein intake a factor however that is maybe not discussed as regularly when it comes to powerlifting is the use of assistance exercise to elevate protein synthesis specifically in the muscles utilised in the three competitive lifts.
The more regularly we can elevate protein synthesis via exercise throughout the week coupled with a diet that has sufficient protein intake spaced throughout the day the better an environment we are going to be in for creating the cross sectional area of the muscles involved in competitive lifts. The most preferential way of achieving this goal would be a more frequent use of sport specific volume at relative intensities (squat, bench press and deadlift at 75-100% RM) an approach similar to the Norwegian powerlifting training approach (in a study of powerlifters they showed that the same programme with the same volume if given a higher frequency lead to better 1RM Results) this could be partly explained bt a greater elevation of protein synthesis in the prime movers leading a larger cross sectional area giving them a bigger capacity for force production.
For a lot of powerlifters the concept of doing squat, bench press or deadlift even twice a week is a mind bending proposition. As a natural lifter however you should realise that one of the biggest advantages for enhanced lifters is their hugely elevated levels of protein synthesis supra-physilogical doses of testosterone have been shown to increase subjects muscle mass without any resistance exercise. A of routines you will see online will be used by elite lifters who are enhanced if you observe the training of powerlifters who compete in tested federations (this of course doesn’t mean they do not take steroids just that they get tested) you might see a larger trend towards higher frequencies of training the competitive lifts.
However if you are dead set on only training squat, deadlift or even bench press once a week then you can utilise assistance exercises to get a similar effect although probably less specific to the lift. For example you might perform leg press and kettle bell swings twice a week on your bench press workouts this will help to elevate the amount of protein synthesis in the quads, gluten, low back and hamstrings which could help support your squat and deadlift training.
To make sure that this assistance exercise is assisting and not hindering your progress you can adhere to the following guidelines
Train the muscles you are looking to develop in the same plane of movement as you want to utilise them in squat, bench press or deadlift.
Volume is far more important than intensity when it comes to hypertrophy so train your assistance frequently and with sufficient volume (2-4 sets of 6-12 reps) whilst utilising an intensity that will not require a great deal of recovery (60-80% RM).
If possible utilise similar grips and stances as you use in the lift you are trying to develop.
Post workout nutrition, peri workout nutrition and pre workout nutrition you name it some supplement company somewhere has made a product for it or made an entire workout programme for it (I’m looking at you bio-test). Despite the back and forward in popular diet culture between intermittent fasting, low carb diets, if it fits your macros or whatever gimmick someone is going to be pushing next the research on protein intake is becoming increasingly clear on these three factors –
Leucine content is hugely important for protein synthesis this why milk proteins have been shown to be better at stimulating muscle protein synthesis than soy. And as mentioned the inclusion of 2-3g of leucine into a vegetable protein increases it’s ability to influence muscle protein synthesis.
Where does timing come into the powerlifters diet? If we look at what we have discussed so far in this article we need to time it so we are having frequent intakes of protein (20-40g in size), make sure we are spacing our training out trough the week to provide spikes in protein synthesis caused by resistance training and we need to make sure we are getting our protein from high leucine containing sources and if we are eating lower biologically available or lesser qualities proteins such as wheat/pea/soy then we should look at supplementing with BCAAs or Leucine around these meals.
When timing our meals we should be looking to eat every 2-4 hours and quite possibly looking to increase our intake during training days and rest days immediately following training days to try and take advantage of our increased protein synthesis. During a planned break period (2 days of rest or more) it may prove prudent to decrease total protein intake as we will probably not utalise the extra intake since our protein synthesis levels will return to normal.
Some extra considerations
When cutting weight either to make competition weight or to drop a weight class or even just for aesthetic reasons it would prove prudent to ingest a larger amount of protein than you would during a normal diet as the extra protein has been shown to have a muscle sparing effect. And muscle is pretty important for performance as a powerlifter.
Older lifters should also look at ingesting larger amounts of protein especially post training as larger doses (40g vs 20g) have been shown to increase protein synthesis post resistance training. A finding that has not been replicated in younger subjects.
The side hustle show, one of the many different podcasts I listen to had an episode on time hacking it is certainly worth a listen and if you are interested in the topic of setting up your own business the side hustle podcast is fantastic. One of the topics or ideas in the show that spurred me to “pen” this article was the idea of a new days resolution. The thinking is encapsulated quite nicely in the following quote
It doesn’t matter what happened yesterday, how much of a disaster or mess the previous 24 hours where. We all get a brand new day to act differently, a new 24 hours that we can spend how we want.
This line of thinking or “philosophy” is something that I believe applies beautifully to strength training, nutrition or fitness. It doesn’t matter who you are at some point in time you are going to have a bad set, day, week or month. Training and diet are chronic in nature if you apply yourself to it the way most people who read this blog will then it will affect you emotionally when things aren’t going your way. Diet is even more oppressive when you are cutting weight or trying to get in shape your fitness and health goals become your lifestyle and can be very difficult to unwind from.
It also got me thinking about those who want to get in shape but haven’t joined a gym yet or those who want to get stronger but didn’t have the time to go to the gym today. Life doesn’t always allow us to achieve the fitness goals or the wants in our lives on a day to day basis often outweigh what we want to achieve our nice to haves.
It doesn’t matter how things went today however we can flush it and plan on what we are going to do tomorrow, the day after or the following week. The future is easily changeable all we need to do is plan our actions and carry them out. How do we plan out our future actions….
Figuring out what is important in your day to day schedule.
Rock Tasks – These are your must dos on a day to day basis the non negotiable tasks that if you don’t carry out there will be serious repercussions the next day.
Fitness Rocks the content of which are of course goal specific
Resistance Training Programme
Sports Specific Practice (for athletes)
Conditioning for athletes or people looking to get in shape
Your whole food diet
Getting a convenient and appropriate training venue
These items are non negotiable and need to be prioritised in your fitness life they might bow to your real life Rock tasks (family and work) but if you want to get anywhere in your training life then you need these Rocks in your day.
Pebble Tasks – These are important tasks but they can be put prioritised out of your day and done later down the road with no or small ill consequence.
Conditioning for strength athletes
Optimisation of nutrition (timing, better food sources etc)
Recovery Strategies (ice baths, skins etc)
Mobility / Prehab
Pebbles are important but should never be prioritised over rock tasks they make a positive impact on your goal and should be put into your schedule when the Rocks are firmly in place and automatically happening consistently in your day.
Sand Tasks – These are the wants or tasks that might be getting towards optimisation.
Reading articles, watching youtube videos, reading books or further “athlete” education.
Specific problem solving programming
Sports Science implementation (HRV, Bar speed etc)
Sand tasks will add some provable vaue to what you do on a day to day value but are by no means mission critical not achieving them in your day will not hamper you achieving your goal but they might speed up the progress if implemented.
Water Tasks – These are filler tasks, matter of little importance that can add some value towards your end goal but aren’t mission critical.
Water tasks are fun that you can add in when you have some spare time in your day but if you were never to do them then it would make zero difference to your goal achievement.
Making a New day’s resolution.
Forget about waiting till new years day to make a whole raft of new years resolution on your fitness, health and strength goals. Your going to mess them up eventually and will only get to make new ones every 12 months. The good thing about a new day is that there are 365 new starts every year that you can use as a motivator to achieve new goals or targets.
New Day resolutions that will guarantee you achieve your fitness goals.
Achieve all of your Rock tasks
Achieve all of your Pebble tasks
Fit in your sand tasks if you have time
Fit in your water tasks if you enjoy it.
Seems pretty easy when you look at it but how many people on this website have spent more time on the misc, youtube or t-nation than they have actually training or doing food prep this week? You are the people who this article is aimed at stop filling your day up with water and get prioritising!
Chains and bands can provide a good strength stimulus over longer periods of training for athletes of different sporting backgrounds and untrained subjects. We can’t say if this is due to a novel stimulus or due to the whole movement or strength curve being overloaded.
Heat or cold treatment immediately post exercise is a good way of reducing muscle damaged. Cold immediately after or 24 hours post exercise is better than heat for reducing pain.
there is an individual differences people failing during the squat this is down to a weak link or joint. Assistance exercise should be applied to strengthen this “weak” link.
if you want to potentate sprint training in a contrast weight training session then banded squats are a great option to increase short sprint performance.
you can produce similar performance in the bench press exercise using a 2 minute rest but if you want to produce a subjectively easier workout rest periods of 3-5 minutes are best
using a battery of exercises to try and objectively determine “function” is a silly idea.
The 225 lb rep out test is not an effective monitor of 1 rep max for well trained athletes who have underwent a strength phase.
Effects of Bands and Chains on maximal strength – Meta-analysis
Soria-Gila et al performed a meta analysis on the existing research on the topic of “variable resistance training” or chains and bands to the rest of us. They found 7 studies of sufficient quality to included in their study. These seven studies had a cohort of 235 subjects and all lasted for longer than 7 weeks of training. They concluded from their meta-analysis that varable resistance training resulted in a 5.03 kg greater increase in maximal strength when compared to traditional strength training. They concluded that chains and bands where a good way of increasing athletes of different sports backgrounds and untrained subjects for periods of longer than 7 weeks.
TL;DR – Chains and bands can provide a good strength stimulus over longer periods of training for athletes of different sporting backgrounds and untrained subjects. We can’t say if this is due to a novel stimulus or due to the whole movement or strength curve being overloaded.
100 subjects took part in the study which was designed to determine which method was best for reducing muscle pain, damage and strength immediately post exercise and 24 hours post. Subjects did leg squats for 15 minutes and heat or cold was applied immediately after or 24 hours post exercise. Control subjects who received no treatment lost 24% strength post exercise while cold and heat treatment groups only lost 4% strength. Only subjects who applied heat or cold immediately after exercise showed less muscle damaged (135% baseline myoglobin vs 106% baseline). Cold was superior to heat for reducing muscle pain.
TL;DR – Heat or cold treatment immediately post exercise is a good way of reducing muscle damaged. Cold immediately after or 24 hours post exercise is better than heat for reducing pain.
The limiting Joint during a failed squat – Bio-mechanical case studies.
Flannagan et al looked at 5 subjects who performed a 3RM back squat and failed to complete the third rep. Using inverse dynamics looking at the moment arms and forces produced at the ankle, knee and hip they tried to determine where the subjects failed the lift. On average the subjects produced a net lesser force during a failed lift but seemed on the whole to fail the lift due to decreased force production at the hip joint. Looking at the individuals on an individual basis showed that subjects seemed to fail the lift due to different joints that weren’t shown from the averaged data. Some subjects failed lifts due to a lesser knee force which lead to a lessened hip force production and ultimately a failed lift.
TL;DR – there is an individual differences people failing during the squat this is down to a weak link or joint. Assistance exercise should be applied to strengthen this “weak” link.
20 recreationaly trained athletes where randomly assigned to three conditions control sat for 5 minutes and then tested their 9.1 meter sprints, performed 5 sets of 3 @ 85% RM then performed 9.1 meter sprints or performed 5 sets of 3 @ 85% RM with 30% coming from band tension and then performed 9.1 meter sprints. Control and standard weighted interventions showed no change in sprint times. Banded squats showed a significant improvement in sprint times.
TL;DR – if you want to potentate sprint training in a contrast weight training session then banded squats are a great option to increase short sprint performance.
16 trained men took part in 4 different conditions which were randomly ordered for each subject. They all performed 5 sets of 3 with their 3 repetition maximum using either 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes or 5 minutes of rest. Performance drop off was observed for the group using 1 minute rest whilst for the other three conditions performance drop off only occurred in the 3rd or 4th set. RPE increases where observed to be greater from the second set for the 1 minute vs 3-5 minute conditions.
TL;DR – you can produce similar performance in the bench press exercise using a 2 minute rest but if you want to produce a subjectively easier workout rest periods of 3-5 minutes are best.
Frost et al looked at looked at the effect of coaching feedback on the functional movement test screening had on 21 firefighter’s scores. They found that participants improved their scores significantly from 14.1 to 16.7 immediately after they received feedback on how the movements were graded. The researchers concluded that giving specific feedback on the tests could render them useless as a monitoring tool.
TL;DR – using a battery of exercises to try and objectively determine “function” is a silly idea.
Mann et al looked at the ability of the NFL combine 225 lb bench press rep out test to track changes in Football players 1RM after a 6 week off season strength programme. Over the course of 4 years 203 athletes were assesed at the start of the pre-season and 6 weeks post for both 225 lb rep out and 1 rm bench press. Over the 6 week training block players on average increased their 1RM by 4.2 kg and increased their rep out by 0.9 reps. The rep out test showed a weak to negative correlation to their 1 RM strength.
TL;DR – The 225 lb rep out test is not an effective monitor of 1 rep max for well trained athletes who have underwent a strength phase.