Tag Archives: training

Have Fun in the Gym… It’s Important!

chad

Chad Wesley Smith posted a video on YouTube today that really hit home with me, so I wanted to share it with all of you lift bros (and sisters). If you don’t know who he is… he’s one of the strongest powerlifters on the planet, so definitely someone you should listen to when it comes to barbell sports. He also competed in shot put back in the day, where he made it to an Olympic level (globally speaking).

In the video, he describes his training philosophy for his current training, during which he’s just going in the gym and doing things that he enjoys as opposed to training very methodically and specifically for powerlifting. Most of it is beltless work. Squat, bench and deadlift may still be a part of his training, but not as much as you’d expect from a traditional powerlifting program.

From what he explains, he’s mostly doing athletic work (i.e. box jumps and hill sprints), snatches, high bar squats and other things he enjoys. As part of this little project of his, he also competed as RAW as you can get in a powerlifting meet done for fun. No belt, no knee sleeves or other gear… just a singlet and his immense strength.

To dovetail off of this video, I’d just like to say that it’s important to have fun in the gym. If your current training program is wearing you down too much and it’s getting kind of ‘boring’, maybe just doing things in the gym that you enjoy for a month or three will get you back on track and feeling excited about training again. I know this has worked for me a few times…

And… I’m out!

Richard Hawthorne On Belted Versus Beltless Training

richard

I think this is a unique opinion on the topic of belt usage for powerlifting, so it’s worth sharing. I’d also recommend watching the other videos on Richard Hawthorne’s YouTube channel.

If you have your doubts about taking advice for him, look him up on YouTube. He is insanely strong, especially for his size.

Jonnie Candito Placed 3rd at IPF World’s

candito

At the IPF Raw World Championship, United States powerlifter Jonnie Candito placed 3rd to get a bronze medal in the 83kg category. His lifts were: 255kg/562lbs squat, 145kg/319.5lbs bench press, and 282.5kg/622.8lbs deadlift. This got him a  682.5kg/1504.7lbs total! He got a bronze medal for his deadlift and his total.

Check out Jonnie’s YouTube channel here. He provides some very valuable information about lifting there and also showcases his strength in many of his videos. He is definitely one of my favorite fitness YouTubers.

Congrats Jonnie! You’re a beast!

Lifting Heavy as a Woman

bulky-women

Many women (and girls) believe they will get bulky from lifting heavy weights. In the video below, female figure competitor Kelsea Koenreich discusses whether or not this is true (and why).

Cliffs:

No, women will not get bulky from lifting heavy weights. Diet and hormones play a much larger role in muscular development.

Training with Lingering Injuries

snap

Whether you’re old(er) and have accumulated various injuries over time that simply won’t fully heal, which at minimum keep you from ever getting back to your old “100%”, or you’re just younger and got hit by a bus? Either way… if you’re stuck with some injuries that probably won’t go away any time soon, you have a few options with your training.

 

Quit

You could give up. It’s always an option. A shitty option, but still an option. Go lay on the couch, eat chips, watch some movies and wait to die. This is probably the easiest way to proceed.

 

Train Through Injuries

Disregard your injuries and continue to train like you’ve always trained. You might be okay or you might snap all your shit up in the process. It’s a lot like playing Russian Roulette really. Again, I’d advise against this option.

 

Train Around Injuries

This is the option I do like. You don’t give up, but you also don’t go ‘balls to the wall’ and possibly wreck all your other shit and make the lingering injury worse in the process. So how do we do this?

Step 1: Consult a medical professional.

The first stop would probably be a doctor or physical therapist in most cases. Have a medical professional assess your injury and make sure you’re able to train. You may need to have some physical therapy sessions first, before you can return to semi-regular workouts.

Step 2: Find what doesn’t hurt.

Find the exercises that do not cause you genuine pain. A little discomfort might be okay, but if it’s painful you should probably try to find an alternative.

For example, I have some slight tendinosis going on in my left shoulder, which I have been working to get rid of or at least make better, so I stopped doing overhead press because it aggravates my shoulder the most. I continue to bench press within reason and also added a landmine press to my assistance work.

So that’s my workaround. Find yours, preferably with the guidance of a competent trainer and/or physical therapist.

Step 3: Find exercises to help fix or improve the lingering injury.

In my case with the shoulder issue, this is lots of shoulder (p)rehab work and heavily outweighing my pressing movements with pulling movements.

Corrective exercises will be ones you choose to improve specific weaknesses that might be making your injury worse. This is probably the most important part of the process.

Again, it would be wise to have proper guidance from a quality personal trainer and/or physical therapist in order to utilize the right corrective exercises and also perform them with good technique.

Step 4: Increase ‘recovery’ work.

This is stuff like getting massages, foam rolling, stretching, performing self myofascial release with lacrosse balls, flossing (i.e. with a Voodoo Floss Band), etc. I wrote a full article on active recovery that you can read on the topic. Doing these things will likely improve your soft tissue quality, posture and mobility. They can also help you recover from soreness more quickly. The improved posture and mobility can allow for better lifting technique, which brings me to the next step.

Step 5: Perfect your form.

Continuously work to improve your form on various lifts. The better your technique is, the less likely you are to aggravate your existing injury or to make it worse.

Step 6: Breathe properly.

This one is very often overlooked, but proper breathing has far too many advantages to skip this. Read my Breathing 101 article for more information.

 

Conclusion

When you have lingering injuries, you have several choices. I’ve outlined them above and gave you some more information on the one option I think is your best bet to still training with an injury. Most of the steps are also great if you aren’t injured and can actually help prevent injuries from happening.

Remember that your injury might be beyond the scope of what this article covers. If you have any doubts at all, go see a doctor. Always consult a physician before taking any advice you may find on the Internet or embark on any training program.

Periodize Your Training with Block Periodization

block

This one is inspired by powerlifter Vashon Perryman, who created the following video on his YouTube channel.

He just gives it as a quick tip that you should periodize your training into blocks of several weeks and prioritize each block to improve a certain quality. Because I have started to do something similar with my own training recently, I thought I would share some more details that I personally believe are important in making this work for you.

 

Block Periodization

What you try to do when you periodize your training in the manner touched on by Vashon is called block periodization and a great way for intermediate and beyond lifters to structure their training in order to improve one quality (i.e. maximal strength, explosiveness or endurance) at a time.

Traditional block periodization is broken up into three basic blocks.

1. An accumulation phase, where you basically build a foundation with more general work. The exercises performed won’t be specific to your competition lifts, intensity will tend to be moderate and volume fairly high.

2. A transmutation phase where intensity rises, volume lowers and more specific movements to your competition lifts are included.

3. A realization phase is where mostly competition lifts are used at high intensity. Volume and frequency are reduced. General work tends to only be used to aid recovery.

Then you can toss in some transitional blocks which may focus on explosiveness or serve as a deload. It just depends on what you need to be successful.

 

The Purpose of Training Blocks

The thought behind this is that when you try to improve all athletic qualities you need for your sport at the same time, it will only work until you’ve reached a certain level. You eventually become too advanced for this training to work and end up with a plateau. A great real world example would be Crossfit athletes. They train many different qualities at once (usually in the same week and often in the same training session), so they might become good at a lot of things but never excellent to their full potential at one specific thing. This isn’t always bad, but it is bad if you participate in a sport like powerlifting, which is very specific. Only a few qualities matter in that scenario and you’re trying to develop them all at once.

 

Are All Other Training Programs Bad?

Most popular strength training programs like 5/3/1, The Cube Method, etc. are not bad and can be utilized to make great progress for a long time, but usually training will become more efficient for more advanced lifters once they periodize their training. An easy way to get started with it is with Mike Tuchscherer’s Reactive Training Manual (linked below in the ‘Further Reading’ section), because he simplifies block periodization into just two blocks (he calls them volume and intensity blocks) to start with, introduces the idea of targeted exercise variety and also (in my opinion most importantly) the idea of auto-regulating your training instead of hitting certain percentages.

It is my opinion that you should always keep your training as simple as possible… and by ‘possible’ I mean what gets you optimal progress without making your training program more complicated. So… if training everything at once is still working for you, then keep doing that until it stops working. By then, you should have had some time to get comfortable with the idea of block periodization and be able to begin applying some of the ideas to your training.

 

Change Training Variables Gradually

Once you notice yourself stalling out a bit on your lifts while training maximal strength, explosiveness, endurance, etc. all in the same training cycle, begin experimenting with some small changes. I.e. use slight variations of your primary lifts to make your training more general and focus on a couple qualities instead of everything at once. This might help give you a boost and also give you a break from always hammering the exact same motor patterns. It would also be very easy to have 2-6 week blocks of strength focus, explosiveness focus and hypertrophy focus for example. These are just some very general ideas and all I’m trying to get across is that it doesn’t have to be extremely complicated while still benefiting you.

 

Further Reading

By no means will I even come close to explaining block periodization fully in this article. I’m only giving you a very quick primer on the topic, but the following books are much more in depth on the topic.

Block Periodization by Vladimir Issurin and Michael Yessis

This book covers what block periodization is and explains everything in detail for you. The principles of block periodization are covered, but it isn’t applied to lifting… so you’ll still have to do some thinking of your own to apply it.

block-periodization-book

Reactive Training Manual by Michael Tuchscherer of Reactive Training Systems

This book is specifically for intermediate powerlifters looking to advance to the next level with the help of block periodization. The beginning stages of this long term program have volume and intensity blocks with simple auto-regulation, but it gets more advanced quickly and eventually turns into true block periodization with advanced auto-regulation techniques.

It builds a terrific foundation of knowledge on how to customize a program that works best for you. Adjustments will be made regularly as you get to know yourself better and evolve. I believe it’s a great approach to gradually change training variables over time and properly analyze them to tailor your program to something that works best for you.

A large portion of the book also deals with auto-regulating your training instead of using percentages of your 1 repetition maximum. Again, it starts off simple and gets more advanced over time.

reactive-training-manual

If you haven’t heard of Mike Tuchscherer, check out his YouTube channel. That is probably enough to convince you that he has some idea of what he’s talking about.

 

A Practical Guide for Implementing Block Periodization for Powerlifting by Gabriel Naspinski is another solid article to read, if you want a really simple example of how to implement block periodization principles into your training.

 

And that wraps this one up. I wanted to keep this article simple and to the point. If you have further questions, leave them in the comments.

Tips for Increasing Lift Frequency

frequency

Let’s say you want to make your squat in particular stronger, because it’s lagging compared to the rest of your lifts. Increasing how often you squat can be a great way to get better at squatting. I assume this makes sense to most of you, but it might not be that easy. Below are a few things I think you should consider.

 

Adjust Volume and/or Intensity

When you increase training frequency of a particular lift, you are adding more stress to your routine and also increasing the demand for recovery as a result. This isn’t a bad thing, because you’re trying to force your body to adapt and grow stronger with your training, but it can be detrimental if you don’t adjust your training volume or intensity (percentage of one repetition maximum) to compensate for the increased frequency.

Adjusting Volume

In my opinion, there are two simple ways to manipulate training volume in your routine for a particular lift.

The easiest way would be to keep overall volume for the lift constant, but split it up. So if you’ve been squatting once per week and doing 20 sets, split that up into two workouts (10 sets per workout) and go from there. I’m not saying you should never increase overall volume again, but I would try to keep it constant for a bit as you get used to the increased frequency.

The second way of adjusting training volume would be to reduce assistance work, particularly direct assistance work. I.e. if you’ve been doing 10 sets of squats and 10 sets of leg press, drop the leg press for a while and add 10 sets of squats on another day instead. Squats will be more taxing than leg press, but overall your volume hasn’t changed so you should be able to adapt without going into complete zombie mode.

Adjusting Intensity

Intensity is the percentage of your one reptition maximum (1RM) you’re using. An easy way to manipulate this, when you’re increasing frequency on a lift, is to have light days and heavy days (and possibly medium days).

It’s not rocket science, but for a very simple working example, we’ll take percentages from Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 training program. I also recommend you read his new book Beyond 5/3/1, if you’re going to run 5/3/1 yourself. For this, I’m just using his percentages because I use the program myself and it goes well with the message I’m trying to get across.

Let’s say you’re on the 3 sets of 3 repetitions week of 5/3/1 (a little more goes into this, but I’m just giving you a simple example and don’t want to turn it into a clusterfuck), which puts your working sets at 3×80%, 3×85% and 3×90%. This would be your heavy day. If you increase the frequency of that lift and add another day, it would be a light day with deload percentages (i.e. work sets of 5×50%, 5×60% and 5×70%).

A light or medium day might also feature dynamic effort work. This is usually something like 5-8 sets of 1-3 repetitions done with 50-60% of your 1RM. Mainly for speed and explosiveness. (That’s very basic information. A lot more goes into dynamic effort work. You can read more about it here.)

Another way to have a day with lower intensity to get used to more frequency is to use a variation of the lift you’re increasing frequency for that doesn’t allow you to use as much weight. I.e. if you’re trying to increase frequency for the squat, you might use a front squat (or possibly an overhead squat depending on your specific goals) because it doesn’t allow you to use as much weight. I actually do exactly this myself for squat. I have a squat day and then I also do front squat as kind of a warmup lift on deadlift day. I like that setup a lot.

 

Take Preventative Measures to Avoid Excessive Soreness

I already wrote an article on delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and an article on active recovery, so I’m not going to go into any details on those here. With that being said, you should do what it takes to minimize how sore you are. Increasing training frequency, either for one lift or across the board, will inevitably lead to some added fatigue. This is normal and okay, just don’t let it get out of hand. If you find yourself feeling like a zombie for several weeks, it might be time to take a step back and re-evaluate what you’re doing. This is especially true if you notice a decline in strength.

Training stress by itself is usually something that can be managed with a lot of active recovery work and rest, but most people also have lives outside the gym and might not even have the time to commit to all the things needed to make high frequency training work. While I wouldn’t classify doing a lift twice a week as high frequency by any means, it can still have a negative effect on individual lifters. If we’re moving beyond twice per week and talking about doing a lift 3+ times per week with relatively heavy loads on the barbell, managing soreness can quickly turn into a job itself. At this point, you need to judge for yourself if the increased frequency benefits or hurts your overall progress.

 

Prioritize Your Training

Depending on what you’re currently doing and how much of a frequency increase you’re looking to achieve, there is a good chance you will need to alter your priorities a little bit within the context of your training program. This could mean dropping some assistance work that might not be extremely important in favor of having increased frequency on a more important movement.

It could also mean that you utilize less taxing movements for your assistance work than you were using before. I.e. if your main assistance movement on squat day is the barbell good morning, you might opt to switch that to a less taxing lower back and posterior chain exercise like a band good morning or a back extension. This will get the barbell off your back for your assistance work, while you increase the amount of time you’re spending with the barbell on your back to squat. A working example would be what Jim Wendler did with his 5/3/1 Frequency Project (described in detail in Beyond 5/3/1). As frequency is increased dramatically, specifically for the squat but also the deadlift, the demand placed on the lower back is higher and that’s why he basically forbids the use of barbell bent over rows while doing the Frequency Project. This way the lower back isn’t additionally stressed under a relatively heavy load with assistance work on top of the work done with the main lifts. He also limits the amount of reps performed with the barbell deadlift.

 

And that about wraps up my general recommendations for increasing training frequency for a particular lift. Remember that I’m not a doctor, so just take this as an opinion from a guy who lifts weights.

Video and Articles of the Week

Video of the Week

The Video of the Week is from Elliott Hulse over at strengthcamp. In this video, he describes a situation when you should back off a little bit with your training to allow your body to fully recover and grow. Pushing in the gym is definitely a good thing most of the time, but sometimes the benefits of backing off just a bit can be tremendous. The tricky part is figuring out when you need to back off and when you should be pushing your body to adapt its work capacity. A lot of the time improving recovery methods (i.e. with active recovery), eating more and/or sleeping more can benefit you enough to continue with your training. Other times, you might need to deload a bit to allow your body to get back to 100% and then push it again.

 

Some Great Articles to Read

The following are just a couple of articles I came across recently that might help you with your training. If you have the time, read them. If your time is limited, spend it at the gym.

Strong Mind: Haves and Bes by Bryan Mann – An article on why you need to stop complaining about things you can’t change. Start improving the things you can affect instead.

Bench Press Shoulder Rehab by Clint Darden – Two videos on things you can do to help with shoulder pain caused by bench pressing.

DeFranco’s Training Montage Video

Easily one of the best motivational videos for when you’re about to go lift.