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A quick workout challenge

Last Saturday I was really pressed for time. I wanted to get some training done but didn’t do a great job planning my day. As a result I had about 35 minutes available to train. Though that might be enough time for certain training goals it wasn’t for what I had in mind to accomplish. Rather than give up, I did a little circuit using the famous 10,8,6,15 protocol made popular by Vince Gironda and threw a hard cardio minute in as well. It looked like this:

  • Snatch High Pulls – 135 x 10 (60%)
  • Dumbbell Bench – 65 x 10 (60%)
  • Neutral Grip Pullups – 10
  • 1 minute on stepmill @20
  • Snatch High Pulls – 160 x (70%)
  • Dumbbell Bench – 80 x 8 (70%)
  • Medium Grip Pullups – 8
  • 1 minute on stepmill @20
  • Snatch High Pulls – 185 x 6 (80%)
  • Dumbbell Bench – 95 x 6 (80%)
  • Wide Grip Pullup – 6
  • 1 minute on stepmill @20
  • Snatch High Pulls – 115 x 15 (50%)
  • Dumbbell Bench – 50 x 15 (50% ish)
  • Close Grip Chins – 15
  • 1 minute on stepmill @20

I did this in just about 15 minutes. It was deadly and I spent the next 30 minutes in a daze trying to decide if I was going to throw up, pass out or both. Luckily I did neither. Running on the stepmill for 1 minute each round was probably the thing that made this the hardest.

Give this a try if you are pressed for time or need to change things up some day. Or do it regularly and try to add weight and/or here and there when you can.

 

Small Change – Big Payoff

I’ve always found that I have to fight myself very hard to not make massive overhauls in my training. When things in training don’t go exactly as planned it’s very easy to want to ditch what you’ve been doing (even if it worked up until this point) and do something extreme to try and get to the results that you were striving for. Though a change might just be what you need, it’s often too extreme of a change to maintain long term. Long term, as everyone has heard more than enough times to have learned by now, is what the name of this strength training game is all about.

Little changes, over time, can have big results.

Take hypertrophy as an example. Let’s pretend that, in addition to a few other pressing movements, you do some dumbbell pressing twice per week for 4 sets of 10. That’s a good, classic set and rep scheme to build some size, however you’ve become a bit dissatisfied with the results you are getting from that. As I said I’m the type of guy who overreacts and says to myself, “eff this, I’ll do 8 sets!” For a week of two this will feel great. I will have a great pump, think I put on some more size and feel accomplished.

After a few weeks things start to go south.

Shoulder. Elbow. Tendon. Something will start to hurt. Time will become an issue and I will be less consistent with doing dumbbell pressing.

If, on the other hand, I had kept my 4 sets but switched form 10 reps to 12 I wouldn’t have departed too far from the original time and recovery constraints. Though this seems insignificant, over the course of a year I will have added 832 extra reps of dumbbell pressing. I don’t know anyone who would argue that that wouldn’t at least have a minor impact on size.

It can be very frustrating to work hard and hit a plateau. Rather than jump ship and make wholesale changes to your training, see where you can make a small change. One extra set or an extra rep or two per set might be all it takes to get you over the hump and into new progress.

Time Crunch Training 2: My New Training?

I have written pretty extensively about my preference for training frequency. I think most people should train more than they do. How much? As much as you can. Some people might only be able to commit to twice per week. Others perhaps 14 times. It all depends. Once you have established how much you can train, not how much you want to train (in either direction of more or less if you’re an iron addict or a lazy sod), you have to figure out how to maximize that time to make the most progress with your training.

Six days ago my life got unexpectedly and gloriously hectic. Time is at a premium and probably will be for quite some time. Though the cause is not a bad thing and I can’t be fully sure how much time I will have to devote to my training, I’m pretty sure I can commit to 4 (real) training sessions per week. I don’t prefer to train this infrequently but I believe that the following plan will be good none the less.

NOTE: Percents are based on adding 5% to your current 1RM and taking 90% of that as your training max

*All training sessions start with 2-5 sets of back extensions and abs to warm up*

DAY 1 Heavy Bench/Light Shoulders

  • Competition Bench – 10, 8, 6, 4, (4×3*), 2×8-10 (light flushing reps)
  • Lat Pulldowns – 10, 8, 6, 6 (superset with bench until working weight)
  • BTN Press – 4-6 sets of 8 – 10
  • Row of some kind 4-6 sets of 8 – 10 reps (superset with BTN)
  • Bench Assistance (Dips, wide grips, db, etc.) 4×10
  • Lateral or Front Raises/Curls/Triceps work – 3×15

DAY 2 Heavy Squat/Light Deadlift

  • Squats – 10, 8, 6, 4, (4×3*), 2×8-10 (light flushing reps)
  • Stiff legged deficit deadlift – 4-6 x 8-10
  • Squat Assistance (leg press, hack squat, lunges, etc.) 4×10
  • Leg Curl/Leg Extension – 3×15
  • Lat/Upper back – 2×20

DAY 3 Heavy Shoulders/Light Bench

  • BTN Press – 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 20
  • Row of some kind – 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 20 (superset with press)
  • Bench Assistance (different from Day 1) 4-6 x 5-7
  • Vertical Pull of some kind- 4-6 x 8-10 (superset with bench)
  • Lateral or Front Raises/Curls/Triceps work – 3×15

DAY 4 Heavy Deadlift/Light Squat

  • Competition Deadlift – 6, 6, 6, 6, (4, 3, 2*)
  • Squat Variation (high bar, front, pause, etc.) 4-6 x 8-10
  • Posterior Chain Assistance (good morning, back extensions, pull throughs, etc.) – 4×10
  • Shrugs – 3×15
  • Leg Supplementary Movement – 2×20

* Now the fun part. Below you will find the progression notes for a nine week cycle.

The first 4 warm up sets start at 60% and make 5 pound jumps ending at 75%. First ‘working’ sets start at 80% for all movements.

SQUAT AND BENCH (percents based on training max)

  1. 80×3 85x3x3 (Lifts: 12 AI: 83%)
  2. 80×3 85×3 90×3 85×3 (Lifts: 12 AI: 85%)
  3. 80×3 85×3 90×3 92.5×3 (Lifts: 12 AI: 86.8%)
  4. 80×4 85×3 90×3 85×3 (Lifts: 13 AI: 84.6%)
  5. 80×4 85×3 90×3 90×3 (Lifts: 13 AI: 85.7%)
  6. 80×4 85×3 90×3 95×3 (Lifts: 13 AI: 86.9%)
  7. 80×5 85×3 90×3 85×3 (Lifts: 14 AI: 84.2%)
  8. 80×5 85×4 90×3 90×3 (Lifts: 15 AI: 85.3%)
  9. 80×5 85×4 90×3 97.5×3 (Lifts: 15 AI: 86.8%)
  10. 80×6 85×4 90×3 100×3 (Lifts: 16 AI: 86.8%)

DEADLIFT (based on training max)

  1. 80×4 85×3 90×2 (Lifts: 9 AI: 83%)
  2. 80×5 85×3 92.5×2 (Lifts: 10 AI: 84%)
  3. 80×6 85×3 95×2 (Lifts: 11 AI: 84%)
  4. 80×6 85×4 97.5×2 (Lifts: 12 AI: 84.5%)
  5. 80×6 85×5 100×2 (Lifts: 13 AI: 85%)
  6. 80×6 85×5 90×3 (Lifts: 14 AI: 83.9%)
  7. 80×6 85×5 92.5×3 (Lifts: 14 AI: 84.4%)
  8. 80×6 85×5 95×3 (Lifts: 14 AI: 85%)
  9. 80×6 85×5 97.5×3 (Lifts: 14 AI: 85.5%)
  10. 80×6 85×5 100×3 (Lifts: 14 AI: 86%)

As you can see, we slowly increase volume and intensity but don’t ever really exceed a per-session intensity of more than 86% or so of training max. This will allow for heavy training with minimal recovery issues and, what should be, perfect technique.

If you’re really pressed for time you can drop to 3 times per week and just do each movement/body part once per week. You can also drop all of the other movements for the day and just do one assistance movement for 4 to 6 sets of 4 to 6 reps.

If you want to run this for meet prep and like to feel the heavy weights in your hands you can pick one overload movement (block pulls for deads, quarter squats, slingshot/board press, etc.) for each of the three lifts and do the following:

  1. 100×1
  2. 100×2
  3. 100×3
  4. 105×1
  5. 105×2
  6. 105×3
  7. 110×1
  8. 110×2
  9. 110×3
  10. No overload

Deload/rest week 11 and test later that week.

If you have any other time during the week I suggest doing some kind of bodyweight complex or kettlebell work for conditioning. It shouldn’t take more than 15-30 minutes if you do it right and you can do it at home, work or even a large enough bathroom at the hospital.

Time Crunch Training

Working with clients can present many challenges, not the least of which is scheduling. People are busy. They have lives and priorities that, like it or not, take precedence over training. This doesn’t mean that training isn’t a priority at all, rather that they can’t make it a large time commitment (as some people not only can but want to) in their week.

Below are two variations of Jim Wendler’s now famous 5/3/1 program. They have been modified for busy people and require no more than 30 minutes 3 days per week. Though these programs were originally set up for busy people, they have proven to be very effective for beginners as well.

The first variation sticks to the 4 week format of the original program and the second variation extends it out over 6 weeks. Variation 2 is great for those who need even more hypertrophy and/or don’t make strength adaptations as quickly.

Preface to the programs:

  1. It is assumed that nearly all lifters need more hypertrophy and work capacity
  2. It is assumed that nearly everyone can benefit from a high(er) level of activity. Especially if time is at a premium.
  3. It is assumed that nearly all lifters can have better technique. Technique is built through repetition.

Notes:

Training max/TM is set at 90% of your real max or a weight that you can do 3-5 hard but good reps with.

All + days represent a max rep set. The number before it represents the minimum for the day.

Ramp up to the working weight for each day using the same reps as called for that day, i.e. ramp with 5 reps on the 5+ day, starting around 50% of max.

Some days don’t take a full 30 minutes. If that happens you can leave early or grab a couple of sets of assistance work like rows, curls, chins, facepulls, etc.

PROGRAM 1

WEEK 1

DAY 1

Squat x5+ @85% of training max; 20 reps @35% of TM

Bench 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 2

Deadlift x5+ @85% of TM

Overhead Press x5+ @85% of TM

 

DAY 3

Bench x5+ @85% of training max

Squat 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 2

 

DAY 1

Deadlift x3+ @90% of TM

Overhead Press 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 2

Squat x3+ @90% of TM; x20 +5 pounds from last week

Bench x3+ @ 90% of TM

 

DAY 3

Overhead Press x3+ @90% of TM

Deadlift 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 3

 

DAY 1

Squat x1+ @95% of TM; x20 +10 pounds from week 1

Bench 5×10 + 5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 2

Deadlift x1+ @95% of TM

Overhead Press x1+ @95% of TM

 

DAY 3

Bench x1+ @95% of TM

Squat 5×10 +5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 4 – DELOAD

Deload weeks are a great time to do any other exercises and/or conditioning that you don’t have time to do during the 3 training weeks.

 

PROGRAM 2

WEEK 1

DAY 1

Squat x5+ @85% of training max; 20 reps @35% of TM

Bench 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 2

Deadlift 5×10 @ 50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

Overhead Press 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 3

Bench x5+ @85% of training max

Squat 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 2

 

DAY 1

Deadlift x5+ @85% of TM

Overhead Press 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 2

Squat 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

Bench 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 3

Overhead Press x5+ @85% of TM

Deadlift 5×10 @50% of TM (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 3

 

DAY 1

Squat x3+ @90% of TM; x20 +5 pounds from week 1

Bench 5×10 + 5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 2

Deadlift 5×10 + 5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

Overhead Press 5×10 + 5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 3

Bench x3+ @90% of TM

Squat 5×10 +5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 4

 

DAY 1

Deadlift x3+ @90% of TM

Overhead Press 5×10 +5 pounds from week 1

 

DAY 2

Squat 5×10 +5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

Bench 5×10 +5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 3

Overhead Press @90% of TM

Deadlift 5×10 +5 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 5

 

DAY 1

Squat x1+ @95% of TM; x20 +10 pounds from week 1

Bench 5×10 + 10 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 2

Deadlift 5×10 + 10 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

Overhead Press 5×10 + 10 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 3

Bench x1+ @95% of TM

Squat 5×10 +10 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 6

 

DAY 1

Deadlift x1+ @95% of TM

Overhead Press 5×10 +10 pounds from week 1

 

DAY 2

Squat 5×10 +10 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

Bench 5×10 +10 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

DAY 3

Overhead Press x1+ @95% of TM

Deadlift 5×10 +10 pounds from week 1 (60 seconds between sets)

 

WEEK 7 – DELOAD

See deload notes above.

After the deload in either program start the cycle over adding 5 pounds to working sets for pressing and 10 pounds to working sets for squats and deadlifts. On the 5×10 work just keep adding 5 pounds as specified in the program. You will start the cycle with the same weight of the last week before deloading. That’s fine.

Keep running in this fashion until you “fall out” 2 sessions in a row. Falling out is when you can only accomplish the stated reps (or less) in the max rep set. When this happens deload and test your new max.

 

What is Strong Enough?

I love strength.

Anyone who has read this blog can probably pick up on that pretty quickly. I think being and strong as humanly possible is cool and something that I strive for because, well, why not?

Put my bias aside for a moment. What if you don’t care about being Norse god strong? What if you have other goals but want to be in pretty good shape; look good, feel good, perform (generally) well. How strong do you need to be in order to accomplish that? I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately and I believe I have come to some pretty solid numbers. There wouldn’t be much you couldn’t do day to day if anyone were to accomplish these numbers and maintain them for the majority of their adult life. Without further ado:

  • Deadlift: 1.5 – 2 times bodyweight for 1 rep
  • Squat to BELOW PARALLEL*: at least bodyweight for 1 rep
  • Push ups: at least 5 chest to floor, straight as a board reps; 2 reps if your are a woman
  • Farmers Carry: at least 30% of bodyweight in each hand
  • Bench Press: 75% of bodyweight for 1 rep
  • Press: 50% of bodyweight
  • Chin up: 3 – 5 reps if you’re a man and the ability to hold chin above the bar and lower under control if you are a woman

Certainly these numbers would not impress anyone on InstaTube. That’s not the goal. These simply represent the minimum standard we should all try to maintain for the majority of our lives (16 – 80ish). All of these numbers can be reached with minimal weekly time commitment, no more than 3 hours per week, and are within the grasp of anyone willing to do the work to get there. The amount of muscle you will carry from this amount of strength will be enough to keep anyone independent as the age. I suspect that it will also help prevent many of the diseases of modernity that plague so many in the western world.

Can’t hit these numbers? Looks like you have some work to do.

* this is key as we age. The ability to stand from a position below 90% is severely lacking in most elderly that don’t have to poop in that position.

 

Don’t Try To Ride Two Horses With One Ass

Working in a gen-pop gym exposes me to many interesting sights. By interesting I mean idiotic. The issue with all of this jack-assery is largely that it prevents people making real solid progress in their training.

One of the biggest issues I see is people trying to do too much at once or, as crusty old southerns might say, trying to ride two horses with one ass. In other words, they sacrifice quality for quantity and/or “efficiency.” A perfect example of this is the person you see bench pressing while doing flutter kicks or leg lifts.

The idea is obviously to get some extra ab work in while gettin’ your pecs all jacked up. In reality you’ve accomplished neither of those goals. The stability you sacrifice to do the ab work will severely limit the amount of weight you can bench press while the bench motion will limit the depth of abdominal contraction you can get. A better option would be to superset your bench and ab work. The time spent will be nearly the same but the results for both movements will be much greater.

We all tend to get carried away and it’s useful from time to time to take a step back and analyze your own training. You might just find that you’ve got one too many horses to asses.

 

 

The Fappening: Good For Society?

In case anyone isn’t familiar with the massive online community that is Reddit, the Fappening was the thread dedicated to the many hundreds of leaked photos from hacked celebrity iCloud accounts. The big name to come out of this has been Jennifer Lawrence. She has fought very hard to prevent people from seeing her naked ass.

I don’t condone hacking and stealing the private images of a person, even if they are huge celebrities that we all want to see naked. That’s a shitty thing to do. Despite that, I think, in a way, it’s good that it happened.

What, what, what!?!?!? How can I say that?

Simple: we get to see these (mostly? only?) women in the raw and, often, fully nude. This is good for more than just 14 – 65 year old men to wank to.

Women can see them too.

Too many women have body image and self esteem issues because they don’t look like so and so celebrity and have a little wrinkles around their eyes or carry a bit of extra fat around their belly button or some such nonsense. Guess what?

SO DO ALL OF THE WOMEN WHO GOT HACKED.

Even those who are models.Take away the make up, the lights, the photoshop and you see that nearly all of these women have bodies that are pretty normal, even average.

Front Squats

I love front squats. They don’t get enough respect. People are enamored with back squats because you can use so much more weight and feed your ego by doing ugly half reps. Not so with front squats. If the weight is too heavy you’ll lose it in the rack position right away. If you have any squat technique weaknesses they become magnified many times over when you  front squat.

Front squats also beat you up much less than back squats, certainly less than low bar squats. This allows you to train at a much higher frequency if you so choose which, of course, means I do.

I see no benefit in training fronts for more than 5 reps and, when I get right down to it, rarely see a need to go that high. 1-3 reps is better. Lots of sets anywhere from 5 to 30. Yes, 30. Quit whining. Though 8 to 10 is more likely where I end up settling. I like to hit a few heavier singles @9(ish) and then drop down for many sets of 2 or 3 @7-8(ish).

They are also great for building strong abs.

 

Muscle Magazines

People love to hate on the “muscle rag” mags. I know I’ve spent my fair share of time ripping on the content of some of these magazines. I do, of course, agree that many of the cover claims are ridiculous. We’ve all seen the title such as this:

GAIN 30 POUNDS of MUSCLE IN 15 DAYS!!

I understand why they do this, even if it is a bit disingenuous. Would you read a magazine with the title page proclaiming the truth, something akin to:

GAIN, PERHAPS, 5 POUNDS OF MUSCLE AND ONLY 2 POUNDS OF FAT WHILE PUTTING (POSSIBLY, WITH ENOUGH HARD WORK) 20 POUNDS ON YOUR LIFTS IN A MERE 6 MONTHS.

I probably wouldn’t pick up a copy. Despite my lack of interest in such a title, these are gains that wouldn’t disappoint me or most people past the beginner stages of strength and muscle development. It is these outrageous claims, stacked against the supposed “program of the pros” that will get you to the aforementioned goal, that most people lambaste, often stating that the magazines lead the young generation of new lifters astray and utterly cripple them into over-training with programs that only the most gassed up cheater steroid user could possibly handle.

I disagree. The program won’t deliver on it’s promise. No debate from me.

On the other hand, at least said young new lifter got started.

How many great iron athletes got started because of reading some muscle rag? How many guys have been motivated by the pictures of human mountains within the glossy pages? How many trainees DID find a program in a magazine that the stuck to and, lo and behold, DID make great gains?

I can’t speak for everyone but I know the latter certainly applies to me. Muscle and Fitness published a program written by Jim Stoppani and someone else who’s name escapes me. It was essentially a 12 week linear periodization program that had you training 6 days per week (gasp!) and hitting each muscle group 3 times per week (gasp! gasp!) on a 1. legs, back, biceps, calves 2. chest, shoulders, triceps, abs split where each of the three days used a different set/rep range, e.g. 3×12, 4×8, 5×5 or however it went. Each week you tried to add weight for each respective rep range. I started this program when I was 20 after 3 years of consistent (stupid) training. Though not advanced, or even intermediate, I was by no means a beginner at this point.

I didn’t over-train and die.

I didn’t need to take a bathtub full of PED’s to get through it.

I made some of the best strength and muscle gains as I have before or since.

Most importantly, I learned a TON and it lead me to seek out more advanced knowledge.

Yes, the magazines can lead some, or most, people astray. That’s fine. It’s better to lose the path for a time than to never start down it. Learn from the mistakes; progress and become better.

Though far from perfect, at the very least the magazines will tell you to squat.

I’m Judgmental

Planet Fitness is in the news again. Per usual they are guilty of judging someone who they feel doesn’t fit their view of the world. This isn’t going to be a rant, again, against the aforementioned gym chain. Instead it got me thinking about judgement. I realized that I am guilty of the very thing that Planet Fitness professes to be against:  I (and most hard training lifters) am very judgmental of people in the gym.

If you spend more time playing with your phone than training, I judge you.

If you are more concerned with finding the right channel on the “cardio cinema” than working hard, I judge you.

If you sacrifice proper movement patterns/range of motion so that you can use more weight, I judge you.

If you jump right into heavy weights without a proper warm up, I judge you. 

If you spend your time putting on a big show to attract attention to yourself, regardless of the weight you are lifting, I judge you.

This list could go on for quite some time. Anyone who has reached a decent level of strength and movement mastery will acknowledge that most of the time no one gives two shits about you or what you do in the gym.

In an effort to end this on a positive note I will give my opinion on how to truly create a judgment free zone:

  1. Work hard
  2. Leave your ego at the door
  3. Don’t be afraid to ask for help

These three simple rules can help alleviate much of the stupidity that drives others to judge.