Training is something best kept simple. You don’t need gimmicks like boxes, bands, chains or special bars to get ridiculously strong. I believe in Dr. Fred Hatfield’s idea of Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT) in so far as to apply maximum force to the bar at all times, but not so much the Westside Barbell ideology of training speed itself. I’ve tried it a lot myself. Mike Tuchscherer recently wrote an article stating the same. He believes perceived improvements from speed training were more likely due to getting more volume in with the main lifts. I only have my own anecdotal experience to draw from, but I would agree with this conclusion myself.
What I do believe in is basic periodization, lots of volume, time under tension and keeping it as simple as possible. The challenging part is getting in all the volume and the intensity, and yet be able to recover between workouts. For me, 24 is a magic number. 8 sets of 3, 6 sets of 4, 5 sets of 5 (close enough), 4 sets of 6 and 3 sets of 8 all fall nicely into place.
An example could be as follows:
Pick a weight you can easily do for 3 sets of 8. Each week add 5-10lbs. When you can no longer do it, move to 4 sets of 6. Continue adding weight each week and then move to 5×5, then 6×4, then 8×3. At this point you can attempt a new max.
Alternatively, pick a weight you can do 8 sets of 3 and add 5-10lbs each week. When you can no longer advance, return to the weight on the bar you had for week 1 and attempt 6 sets of 4. You get the idea.
You’ll find this brutal at first but you will develop a lot of muscle mass from all this volume and you will realize you don’t need all that much in accessory work. Obviously this can’t be done forever, so change it up when it stalls. Two exercises I happen to love are pause squats and pause benches. I like to pause in the hole or on the chest for a count of 3-5 for every rep. You can spend an entire training cycle using only paused versions of these exercises.
I mostly drew this inspiration from Doug Hepburn’s method of lifting where adding a rep, a set or some weight every workout worked remarkably well for him. I don’t count percentages. For me that would be like counting calories. It is too laborious for what should be a simple and fun activity.
We do events on Saturdays and as those of you who do strongman know, the events are very demanding on the back. I’ve found it difficult to recover from doing heavy back squats, deadlifts and events all in the same week. So Tuesday we alternate between Back Squats and Deadlifts with an accessory exercise that assists the other. For example, after squatting, we might do stiff-leg deadlifts. After deadlifting we might do pause squats. For this I drew inspiration from the Lillibridge Family. The Lillibridges alternate between squats and deadlifts each week. It’s worked out well for us so far. We feel fresh whenever we are ready to squat or deadlift and continue to progress.
We have a few staple accessory exercises for Tuesdays. That is Barbell Rows, Weighted ab work and grip work.
I apply much of the same principles to my pressing. Monday is a bench press day (isn’t that set in stone for everyone?) and Thursdays are a Push press or strict overhead press day. Typical accessory work includes close grip bench for triceps (as extensions are murder on my elbows), and lateral raises and rotator cuff work to balance my shoulders and keep them healthy. The nice thing about the pressing muscles is that, at least for me, they appear to recover quite quickly so I have no issues pressing on Monday, Thursday and doing an event that requires pressing on Saturday. Then again I don’t do a thousand sets of triceps extensions. I’d rather stimulate than obliterate and live to press on another day.
Thursdays I also add in Front squats. I feel front squats are a remarkable and underutilized exercise. They put little stress on the back and I find they really develop a strong core. Even If I squatted my butt off on Tuesday, I can always front squat on Thursdays. Do them without a belt to maximize the effect on the core, go all the way down and see it carry over well to many events in strongman.
But most importantly, have fun and train with good people. Just this past Tuesday, after squats, stiff-legs etc… Marty and I looked at the bench and decided to have a rep out competition with 225. We had both pressed the day before, but who cares? It was fun. When training becomes a chore, your progress will come to a dead end. The old school lifter never gave this crap much thought. Bob Peoples would max deadlift every day and pulled well over 700lbs as a 181. This was long before anabolics, super suits or spaghetti\whippy barbells were around.
"Building Better Athletes"
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