2018/01/19

Example of a 5-week powerlifting cycle

Alright, I do not like to do this but I do it anyway because many people ask. There are some things you should remeber though before you read further.

Cookie-cutter programs are useless because everybody is different (different CNS adaptation, different leverages, different strength and weaknesses, different history or injuries, etc.)

I strongly believe everybody should be coached individually. Nothing, I repeat NOTHING, beats a personal coach who can watch your videos, correct your form, analyze your CNS adaptation, select exercises for YOUR weak points, etc.


Below is an EXAMPLE of a 5-week powerlifting cycle which MIGHT help you if:


- you have minimum 5 years of lifting under your belt
- your form is down on all three lifts
- you are reasonable strong
- you can afford to spend 2-3 hours in the gym per session
- you tolerate large volume well
- you expect big improvement
- you can leave your ego at the door and are willing to do the homework for each day
- you have long legs and arms, short torso
- you have strong back and weak legs
- you tend to good morning your squat sometimes
- your deadlift weakest point is off the floor

Well, if most of the above is you, then the following cycle should give you some pretty solid improvement both is strength and mass:



Week 1
Day 1
SQUAT: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 6 sets of 2 @ 80%
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
FRONT SQUAT: 4 sets of 5 heavy (but not to max)
dumbbell flys: 3 sets of 10
hypers: 3 sets of 10

Day 2
2" DEFICIT DEADLIFT: 1 sets of 3 @ 60%, 4 sets of 3 @ 70%
BENCH PRESS: 5 sets of 2 @ 80%
4" BLOCK PULLS: 4 sets of 4 @ 90%
dips: 4 sets of 6 heavy
dumbbell bulgarian split squat: 4 sets of 6
side plank: 5 sets of 1 min

Day 3
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
SQUAT: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
CGBP: 4 sets of 6 heavy (but not to max)
dumbbell rows: 3 sets of 8
ab wheel: 6 sets 10



Week 2
Day1
SQUAT: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 6 sets of 3 @ 80%
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 6 sets of 3 @ 80%
SQUAT: 5 sets of 3 @ 75%
dumbbell flys: 3 sets of 10
GM: 4 sets of 6

Day 2
PAUSED DEADLIFT: 2 sets of 3 @ 60%, 5 sets of 3 @ 70%
incline dumbbell press: 4 sets of 6 heavy
DEADLIFT: 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
dips: 4 sets of 6 heavy
Russian twists: 6 sets of 10

Day 3:
SQUAT: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
BENCH PRESS: 1 set of 5 @ 70%, 2 sets of 4 @ 75%, 2 sets of 3 @ 80%, 3 sets of 2 @ 85%, 2 sets of 3 @ 80%, 2 sets of 4 @ 75%, 1 set of 5 @ 70%, 1 set of 7 @ 65%
bent over rows: 3 sets of 6
GM: 4 sets of 6
ab wheel: 6 sets of 10



Week 3
Day 1
SQUAT: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 7 sets of 3 @ 80%
BENCH PRESS: 5 sets of 6 @ 65%
dumbbell flys: 3 sets of 10
hypers: 3 sets of 10

Day 2
DEADLIFT: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 6 sets of 3 @ 80%
BENCH PRESS: 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
dips: 4 sets of 6 heavy
GM: 4 sets of 6

Day 3
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 7 sets of 3 @ 80%
SQUAT: 6 sets of 6 @ 65%
dumbbell bulgarian split squat: 3 sets of 8
hanging leg raises: 6 sets of 10



Week 4
Day 1
SQUAT: 1 set of 3 @ 70%, 1 set of 2 @ 80%, 2 sets of 2 @ 85%, 3 sets of 2 @ 90%
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
dumbbell flys: 3 sets of 10
hypers: 3 sets of 10

Day 2
DEADLIFT: 1 set of 3 @ 70%, 1 set of 2 @ 80%, 2 sets of 2 @ 85%, 2 sets of 2 @ 90%
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 6 sets of 2 @ 80%
triceps pushdowns: 6 sets of 10
ab wheel: 6 sets of 10

Day 3
BENCH PRESS: 1 set of 3 @ 70%, 1 set of 2 @ 80%, 2 sets of 2 @ 85%, 4 sets of 2 @ 90%, 2 sets of 2 @ 85%
SQUAT: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
GM: 4 sets of 6
pull-ups: 3 sets of 8



Week 4
Day 1
SQUAT: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 4 sets of 3 @ 80%
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 3 @ 70%, 4 sets of 3 @ 80%

Day 2
SQUAT: 2 sets of 2 @ 60%
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 2 @ 60%
DEADLIFT: 2 sets of 2 @ 60%

Day 3 (weekend)
SQUAT: test 1RM or a very heavy double
BENCH PRESS: test 1RM or a very heavy double
DEADLIFT: test 1RM or a very heavy double




Good luck!







2018/01/09

Conventional Deadlift A-Z

Like it or not, deadlift is one of the best exercises you can do in your life. It is a full body lift, one of the most natural movement patterns mother nature has designed for us. Human beings pick heavy stuff off the ground for thousands of years.

Powerlifter? No brainer here, you must deadlift, it is your 3rd powerlift.

Strongman? You can bet your ass one of the contest movements is going to be a heavy conventional deadlift for reps.

Bodybuilder? No other exercise can pack so much meat on your back.

Crossfitter? You need functional and strong posterior chain for most of your exercises related to crossfit competition.

Average desk jockey? Chances are pretty high, after a few months of moderate deadlifting with proper form and increasing resistance, your lower back pain, hip pain, neck pain, all go away plus you lose some fat as well.



Conventional deadlift is trully a full-body lift. I remember taking my all-time max a couple of years ago. It was a true max which lasted good 5-6 seconds. The next few days I was sore in my neck, traps, mid back, lats, lower back, glutes, hams, quads and even calves.

5 sets of 5 on squats can be heavy but 5 sets of 5 on heavy conventional leave you really exhausted and gasping for air.

"Just pick the damn bar off the floor", well, I never liked this attitude as it is risky and does not allow for maximum poundages. The truth is, like anything else in life, if you want to be a super strong and efficient conventional puller, you have to master the technique and perform thousands of perfect reps.



Below is the prefect set-up and pulling guide.

(note: what I give you here is a set of guidelines; you have to modify them a little to fit your body type, leverages, strength & weaknesses)



SET-UP
Approach the bar. Your stance should be roughly at your hip width. Bigger lifters tend to stand a bit wider, smaller lifters a bit closer. But hip width is a pretty good starting point because you have perfect vertical transfer of power. Bar directly over your mid foot. If you look down at the bar, it should be directly over your mid foot which means the bar will be couple of cm from your shins. Feet parallel to each other or toes slightly out, everybody is different. If you squat with your toes straight forward or slightly out, chances are the same position will be the best for you when pulling conventional. When you squat wide with toes out almost 35-45 degrees it means you have a great external rotation in hips and can utilize your glutes better, so toes a bit out when pulling might work for you well.

GRIP
Bend down and take your grip. Just outside of your legs, directly under your shoulders. When someone is looking at you from the front view, your arms should be perfectly straight and vertical. For most people this would mean index finger on the start of the knurling. Go with straps, hook grip, or over-under. I used to pull over-under for years, recently I switched to hook and straps. When doing rep work and mutliple sets, I use straps, when heavy singles and doubles I use hook grip. Yes, it is painful but I am not going to tear the underhand biceps, do not have the torso windmill effect and most imprtantly I gain extra few cm pulling the slack from the bar and my torso starting position is a bit higher which is a stronger position for me.

TIGHTEN THE CORE
Core is your abs, obliques, lower back and lats. The tighter you are, the stronger the pull. Period. When you grab the bar, squeeze the bar, try to break it and rotate your elbows towards your torso. At the same time, brace your abs as if someone is trying to punch you in your stomach, pull the slack out of the bar (try to pull it but without the bar leaving the floor) and lock your lats. If you did all that and did that correctly, you should be tight as hell, the bar sligthly bent and ready to move, your scapulae locked in place and your torso rigid and tight.

HIPS
There are too many articles, IMO, over-analyzing the hip position. The hips will be below your shoulders and above your knees. When you start to pull, the hips will move anyway to their strongest position to maximize leverage. Long-legged, long-armed people will have hips relatively higher when starting the pull, longer torso, short-legged people will have hips relatively lower and their torso more upright.

STARTING THE PULL
With your upper body locked and core tight, take a lot of air into your belly (zero to your chest otherwise you lose torso tightness); push abs against the belt and "load" your hamstrings. What that means is that when you start pushing away the floor with your quads, at the same time you are trying to pull the bar towards you and load the posterior chain, mainly hams and glutes. This should help you the first couple of cm off the ground.

MID-PULL
Just around the knees, your mid and upper back and glutes start kicking in, your quads extend your knees. Remember, the bar is still very close to the body, if the bar leaves your body your bar path is inefficient and your deadlift is weaker. The bar sould graze your legs all the time.

LOCKOUT
Once you pass the knees it is then all hip hinge. As the bar passes your knees, you lockout your knees and push your hips forward as fast and as poweful as you can. Your knees lockout a split second earlier, then you push through your hips squeezing your glutes and lockout the pull. You do not overextend, everything is locked: knees, hips, upper back. The pull is finished.



"Damn, how am I going to remember all that when pulling!?" Well, you have to create your own cues routine. Here is mine:

Approach the bar with feet hip wide and bar over mid foot.
Grab the bar, try to break it.
Elbows towards torso, locking lats.
Pull the slack.
Air into belly and belt.
Push away and pull back.
Hips through powefully.




And here are some deadlift myths busted:

"You have to look ahead".
Yes and no. The head should be wherever convenient for you. Looking straight ahead or at some point a few feet in front of you.

"Your lower back must be arched".
Bullshit. Your lower back is neutral. All the way through the pull.

"Your upper back must be straight".
Bullshit. Some rounding of the upper back is ok and is going to happen on heavy pulls. Some people less, some more. More importantly, lock the lats and scapulae.

"Deadlift is dangerous for your lower back"
This is my favourite one. If you injured your lower back deadlifting, well, you did it wrong. The axis of rotation is in the hip joint, not the lower back. Lower back is the stabilizer during deadlift, not the primer mover. Your lower back can be tender after heavy deadlifts, never sore. Your glutes should be sore. They are the primer movers, they are the biggest muscles on your body. Grow some big poweful glutes and strong abs to protect your lower back.


Shoot me questions if you have any.


cheers :-)







2017/11/19

CEO powerlifting ....

You are a CEO.
You work like hell. 50+ working hours a week easily.
Tons of stress, phone calls, meetings.
Ups and downs of business.
Frequent biz trips.
AND you have a family.

You can possibly squeeze in a max 50-min powerlifting session 3 times a week tops. But you decide not to because how the hell would it be even remotely possible? Powerlifts, assistance, conditioning, mobility? So you decide to bag it.

.... and you are run down, stressed, irritated, overworked and your strength took a dive.

I've been there, trust me, but I can help you out.

Anything is possible if you put your mind into it and if you follow a few rules:

1/ Prioritize
You must do not what you like but what needs to be done. You know this rule from your biz life so you know it works wonders. Return on investment. Biggest bang-for-the-buck activities.
YES: squats, front squats, deadlifts, Romanian deadlifts, heavy abs, heavy back work, bench presses, shoulder presses, dips, pull-ups. That's it.
NO: dumbbell curls, shoulder raises, DB flys, etc. Remember, you have 50 minutes.

2/ Focus
At work, at sports, at playing, whatever, we can focus for 25-35 mins tops. Pure biology. Get the work done and get out. The world will not fall apart if you turn off your phone for 50 minutes. No talking, no socializing, no facebook. Same as in business: come prepared, do the most important work fast and efficient, cut the crap out and move onto something else. Go heavy on the assistance and hypertrophy work, c'mon, you're there only for 50 mins, you can survive it.

3/ Delegate
Meal prep. Be nice to your wife or buy prepared meals, heavy in protein. Top quality steaks and fish are your friends. You are a CEO, you can afford it. Top quality supplements in the office; your secretary is in charge. Yes, when you come to the office she greets you with a huge glass of mineral water and multivitamins, minerals, aminos, creatine, whatever.

4/ Timing
Train in the morning or at lunch break. Don't lie to yourself, if you leave the session as the last thing of the day after 10 hours at work and 4 draining meetings, you are going to skip half of the sessions. Get up in the morning at 6 am, coffee, water, toilet and off you go. Train from 7 to 7:50. Whatever. Morning session will get you energized for the rest of the day and you have free evenings for kids, wife, friends, booze, whatever.

So easy, isn't it?



Alright, here we go:

Week 1

Day 1
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min (goblet squats, deep lunges, air squats, push-ups, etc.)
SQUAT: 5 sets of 2 @ 80%
BENCH PRESS: 4 sets of 6 @ 65-70%
bent over rows: 3 sets of 8


Day 2
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
DEADLIFT: 4 sets of 3 @ 80%
overhead press: 4 sets of 6
ab wheel: 3 sets of 10


Day 3
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
BENCH PRESS: 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
FRONT SQUAT: 3 sets of 5
prowler sprints: 5 min



Week 2

Day 1
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
SQUAT: 5 sets of 3 @ 80%
BENCH PRESS: 4 sets of 5
dips: 3 sets of 6


Day 2
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
DEADLIFT: 3 sets of 3 @ 85%
overhead press: 4 sets of 5
side plank: 3 sets of 10


Day 3
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
BENCH PRESS: 6 sets of 3 @ 80%
front squat: 3 sets of 3
prowler sprints: 5 min



Week 3

Day 1
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
SQUAT: 4 sets of 2 @ 85%
BENCH PRESS: 4 sets of 5
Romanian deadlift: 3 sets of 6


Day 2
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
DEADLIFT: 3 sets of 2 @ 90%
overhead press: 5 sets of 3
farmer's walk: 3 trips


Day 3
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
BENCH PRESS: 5 sets of 2 @ 85%
SQUAT: 4 sets of 3 @ 80%
rope: 1000 jumps



Week 4

Day 1:
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
SQUAT: 2 sest of 2 @ 90%, then 3 sets of 1 @ 95% or test new max
BENCH PRESS: 3 sets of 8 light
DB rows: 3 sets of 8


Day 2:
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
DEADLIFT: 2 sest of 2 @ 90%, then 2 sets of 1 @ 95% or test new max
seated DB press: 3 sets of 8
ab wheel: 3 sets of 10


Day 3:
bike 4 min
mobility 3 min
BENCH PRESS: 2 sest of 2 @ 90%, then 3 sets of 1 @ 95% or test new max
SQUAT: 3 sets of 6
bodyweight lunges: 600








Good luck!









2017/11/14

There are great sumo pullers ... and then there is Yuri Belkin

From time to time we have the unique opportunity to watch a great lifter perfom. One out of millions. Ed Coan of powerlifting, Michael Jordan of basketball, Usain Bolt of sprinting.

I believe, today, Yuri Belkin is THE icon when it comes to sumo pulls.

He mastered the most efficient starting position AND execution. 400kg (880lbs) is now a working training weight for him and recently he pulled over 420kg (920+lbs) several times.

Why is he so damn strong? What does he have what the others do not? I believe it is mainly two things: excellent setup and impecable execution.

(of course, he is super strong but that is not the issue we debate here)


Le't break up his setup first.

Super wide stance with toes to plates in order to minimize ROM.
Feet turned out significantly so that he can pull his hips as close to the bar as possible.
Shins vertical both from the front view and side view for direct transfer of power (he creates zero unnecessary leverage).
Torso pretty vertical around 60 degrees to off-load back and load as much as possible to hips and legs.




Now let's check the execution.

Spine as vertical as possible, he loads maximum into hips and legs.
Brings hips to the bar and knees out.
When the bar leaves the ground only couple of inches he already tries to use quads to lock knees as soon as possible and THEN he does the poweful hip hinge with glutes (two-phase sumo pull).


Enjoy:




Amazing, right?





2017/10/20

When older .... do more!

I recently read somewhere that when you get older you should do less because you cannot tolerate it same as when you were young.

I disagree.

There is more info to that which needs to be explained.

When you are young (let's say 15-30) you have fresh joints, great mobility, you recover faster and you can tolerate higher intensities (you can spend more time in the 80-100% zone and more often). What you do not have is training experience and motor learning skills.

When you are older (say 40+) your joints are worse, mobility is not what it used to be, you recover slower and you cannot max out very often. What is your advantage is accummulated motor learning skills and knowing your body.

So how do you keep getting stronger when you are 40, 50, 60, 60+?


Increase frequency of the main lifts during your training week. It is ok to squat 2-3 times a week, deadlift 1-2 times a week, bench 2-5 times a week.

Decrease intensity and stress on the joints. Spend more time in the 65-80% zone. Simply lift more tons using lighter weights. Trade intensity for volume.

Do more mobility sessions. Everybody hates them but they must be done.

Do more corrective exercises. As you age you lose some ROM in some movements, you must fight like hell to restore lost ROM.

Get your head right and accept the fact you will max out every 3 months (if at all) and not every 3 weeks as the young guys.



Example bench press programming for a 25 year old guy:

Tuesday:
bench press: 4 sets of 3 @ 85% of 1RM
incline DB press: 3 sets of 6 very heavy
DB rows: 3 sets of 6 very heavy
dips: 4 sets of 6 very heavy


Friday:
close-grip bench press: 4 sets of 6 @ 70%
DB flys: 4 sets of 10
bent over rows: 4 sets of 5 heavy
face pulls: 3 sets of 8



Example bench press programming for a 45 old guy:

Tuesday:
bench press: 6 sets of 3 @ 75-80%
incline DB press: 3 sets of 10 moderately heavy
DB rows: 3 sets of 8 heavy
dips: 3 sets of 20 go for the pump


Friday:
bench press (Sheiko pyramid):
6 @ 65%
5 @ 70%
2x4 @ 75%
2x3 @ 80%
2x2 @ 85%
2x3 @ 80%
2x4 @ 75%
7 @ 70%
9 @ 65%
seated DB presses: 3 sets of 8 moderately heavy
face pulls: 3 sets of 20 light


Sunday:
bench press: 5 sets of 2 @ 75%
incline DB flys: 3 sets of 20 go for the pump
bent over rows: 3 sets of 8 heavy
dips: 3 sets of 8 heavy





See? You do more but lighter. No brainer, really ....









2017/10/01

Super Strong Core! Do This ...

If you are interested in cut abs, thin waist and toned obliques, please stop reading now, this post is not for you.


If you want super strong core which can support heavy ass squats and deadlifts, keep reading, I got some cool info for you.

If you want to squat heavy ass weights, pull massive deadlifts, participate in strongman competitions or be super strong in your chosen sport, you need a very strong core, this is a no brainer, right?

"Core" is not abs. Core is the whole thing between your rib cage and pelvis. Is it abs, obliques, lower back and all the small muscles around your trunk.

How can you have the strongest core possible? Well, you must train core as mother nature designed it - to support. To support - is the primary function of your core. That's right, it is not bending or crunching.

During heavy squats, your core must be straight, stable and rigid, if you are in a "crunched" position you have rounded lower back, caved in chest and you are fucked.

Human core was designed to support the rib cage and transfer power while heavy dragging, lifting things off the ground, supporting, jumping, moving heavy objects, etc. Exact same movement patterns, you will find in strength sports.

So, crunches and sit-ups are a waste of time, you need exercises which train the supporting primary movement pattern.

Here is my Go To list, yours may vary:



No.5 - Dynamic Side Plank
Lay on the mat on your left side, feet together, supported on your left elbow. Now raise your hips until whole body is in perfect straight line. Keep top position for 2 seconds. Do 5 sets of 10 or more. Your obliques and all the small muscles around your trunk and pelvis should be worked nicely. You need these muscles badly for support of trunk.

Image result for dynamic side plank


No.4 - Med Ball Russian Twists
Go to Youtube and find a vid where Derek Poundstone sits on his ass, feet and torso in the air and throws 20kg plates from left side to right side and and then back again. Your feet must be in the air all the time throughout the set. Do 5 sets of 10. Move the weights/med ball with your trunk muscles, not with your arms.

Image result for med ball russian twists


No.3 - Farmer's Walk
Pick heavy dumbbells and go for trips or time. Works your entire core in its primary function - supporting. As a bonus you will get massive traps and super strong grip. I said heavy dumbbells, so leave the 20kg dumbbells and go straight to 50's (110 lbs) dumbbells or heavier.

Image result for heavy farmer's walk


No.2 - Hypers
You must do hypers. Everybody. All year round. Period. If you don't, you're a pussy. Not the easy 45 degrees hypers. Check the Youtube vid of Klokov doing horizontal hypers and do them exactly like that. Weight behind your neck or a heavy plate held on your chest will squeeze all your upper back muscles which you need for proper trunk position. Don't believe the crap your trunk should only go to parallel to floor. You want to squeeze everything between your neck and knees in the top position, so you will end up with some torso hyperextension, which is fine. Primer movers here are glutes. Your glutes should be fried after 5 sets of 10 and your lower back should only be slightly tender because all it does is isometrics. If it is vice versa, your glutes are weak and/or not firing properly. Fix it.

Image result for klokov hyperextensions


No.1 - .... and the winner is .... Ab Wheel
I have love/hate relation with this exercise. I do it religiously 1-2x a week and I still get sore abs every time. It is a real motherfucker. It hits your entire front side (both the deep layer and the front abs layer), all small trunk muscles and all the stabilizing muscles around your scapulae and lats. Go slow controlled motion, stop in the bottom position and using your trunk muscles, not arms or lats, curl your trunk back upwards. See why KK uses no belt pulling 400k (880 lb) ??? :-)

Image result for konstantinovs ab wheel


Good luck. Get strong core, you will thank me later. And if someone tells you to hit abs once a week because you might overtrain, punch them in the face, you should train core heavy 3-5 times a week.










Sources:
runtastic.com
heardcountyrecreationdepartment.com
reddit.com
twitter.com
imgrum.org











2017/09/14

Beginners ... How to Start

I see this over and over in my gym. A person which did not do any sports for many years decides to join a gym and starts a "routine". Bad form, dangerous body movement patterns, wrong selection of exercises.

Sometimes there is a good coach to help out but most of the time not.

Our average Joe is about 30 years old, office rat, 10kg (22 lbs) overweight, rounded shoulders, soft belly, anterior pelvic tilt, terrible dorsi flexion, very low motor skills, horrible mobility, dysfunctional glutes. Joe's work capacity is shit, the days of weekend football are long gone.

And he starts squatting with terrible form, benching with terrible form, deadlifting with terrible form.

I strongly believe, before going on a "routine" your body should be prepared for it with minimizing apparent weaknesses, muscular imbalances, wrong posture. Our average Joe should also improve conditioning to be able to handle volume later on. All this is critical for learning proper form later on and handling volume.


Before Joe goes on a routine, let him do this (or something similar) for 6 weeks:
Note: (this is not a copy-paste recipe, rather a template tool how to handle total beginners)




Week 1

Day 1:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
DB chest-supported rows: 2 sets of 8
hanging leg raises: 2 sets of 5

Day 2:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
face pulls: 2 sets of 8
hypers: 2 sets of 8




Week 2

Day 1:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
DB chest-supported rows: 3 sets of 8
push-ups: 3 sets of 8
hanging leg raises: 3 sets of 5

Day 2:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
face pulls: 3 sets of 8
bodyweight squats: 3 sets of 8
hypers: 3 sets of 8




Week 3

Day 1:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
DB chest-supported rows: 3 sets of 8
push-ups: 3 sets of 8
hanging leg raises: 3 sets of 8
hip thrust: 3 sets of 8

Day 2:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
face pulls: 3 sets of 8
bodyweight squats: 3 sets of 8
hypers: 3 sets of 8
side planks: 3 sets of 8

Day 3:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
push-ups: 3 sets of 8
walking lunges: 3 sets of 8
prowler pushes: 5 trips




Week 4

Day 1:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
low cable rows: 3 sets of 8
push-ups: 3 sets of 12
Russian twists: 3 sets of 12
hip thrust: 3 sets of 8

Day 2:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
seated DB presses: 3 sets of 8
bodyweight squats: 3 sets of 15
hypers: 3 sets of 8
side planks: 3 sets of 8
rope: 400 jumps

Day 3:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
push-ups: 3 sets of 15
walking lunges: 3 sets of 12
prowler pushes: 8 trips




Week 5

Day 1:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
low cable rows: 3 sets of 8
push-ups: 3 sets of 20
Russian twists: 3 sets of 12
hip thrust: 3 sets of 8

Day 2:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
seated DB presses: 3 sets of 8
KB squats: 3 sets of 8
hypers: 3 sets of 8
side planks: 3 sets of 8
rope: 800 jumps

Day 3:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
push-ups: 3 sets of 20
pull-ups: 3 sets of 6
walking lunges: 3 sets of 20
prowler pushes: 10 trips




Week 6

Day 1:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
DB rows: 3 sets of 8
push-ups: 3 sets of 20
bench press: 3 sets of 5 (light and supervised with a full stop at chest)
leg raises: 3 sets of 20
hip thrust: 3 sets of 8

Day 2:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
seated DB presses: 3 sets of 8
squats: 3 sets of 5 (light and supervised, highbar)
hypers: 3 sets of 8
side planks: 3 sets of 8
rope: 1000 jumps

Day 3:
bike warm-up: 5 min
mobility drills: 3 min
push-ups: 3 sets of 20
deadlift: 3 sets of 5 (light and supervised, conventional)
pull-ups: 3 sets of 6
walking lunges: 3 sets of 20
prowler pushes: 15 trips



Adjust as necessary based on improving strengths, weaknesses, observations, progress, shorten by a week or two or extend the cycle by a couple of weeks if necessary.

Remember, if Joe's body is not prepared for proper bar paths, correct form and increasing volume, injuries will come, sooner or later.


Now get on a powerlifting program, motherfucker!












2017/09/12

How to Select Assistance Exercises and Rep Ranges

I said that before and it is still true: the powerlifts should be your main focus and bread and butter, it is 70-80% of your work and energy, you should have a smart plan regarding each session programming of powerlifts and a mid-term plan (several weeks) as well. A well programmed cycle.

However, carefully selected assistance and corresponding volume on assistance exercises can boost your powerlifts, help you with your weaknesses and MOST IMPORTANTLY improve efficiency and motor skills on the main lift.

Now, what is it, a "weakness".

Many people think a weakness in powerlifting is a small or a weak muscle group. I rather see it as a deviation from the most efficient bar path during the powerlifts. Such weakness prevents my body from optimal transfer of power. So, a weakness can be a weaker muscle group (several muscles), bad firing of some muscles, wrong transition, scar tissue resulting in different movement pattern or, most likely, all the above combined.

Note: to know your weaknesses, it is much better to video yourself and ask a stronger buddy or better yet, a professional coach about your weaknesses. Many times they will be way different from what you might think.


Let's take me as an example:

Squat: I have relatively weak legs compared to strong back and my weakness is that about 3-4" above parallel I hit a sticking point. Also, on very heavy reps the bar shifts a bit forward when looking from the side when strong back tries to take over from weaker muscle groups. So my weakness is the transition from the movement out of the hole at 4" above parallel where the quads should take over and the core should maintain the rigid position for optimal power transfer. Conclusion: quads and core together.

Bench press: I have a very strong triceps and press quite narrow, my weakest part of the benching path is off the chest. Anything I press first 2-4" I will lockout. Conclusion: chest and lats.

Deadlift: Whatever I pull off the floor, I will lockout and my biggest weakness is hips shooting up on heavy reps with upper back rounding and relying again on strong back. The starting position of conventional is where legs are above 4" above parallel, my exact weakness in squats. So, again: quads and core together, with some upper back stability issue on heavier sets.


How do I select assistance now based on "my" weaknesses?

1/ I select what I must, not what I like (better yet, let your coach or buddy select)
2/ I select what I suck at, not what I excel at (better yet, let your coach or buddy select)
3/ for large assistance lifts (front squats, Romanian DL, close grip bench press, etc.), I like to do 3 sets of 6 quite heavy, a little lower volume because they are compound lifts and stress the CNS a lot
4/ for other assistance I like 3 sets of 8-10 moderately heavy (leave 2 perfect reps in the tank on the last set
5/ for abs I like bigger volume, 5 sets of 10, very heavy

So this is how a week (around mid-cycle) might look like, selecting assistance based on my powerlift weaknesses and rep shemes I like and tested to be efficient for me:



Monday:
SQUAT: 6 sets of 3 around 80%
BENCH PESS: 5 sets of 3 around 80%
front squat: 3 sets of 6
pull-ups: 3 sets of 8
ab wheel: 5 sets of 10


Wednesday:
BENCH PRESS: 5 sets of 2 around 80%
DEADLIFT: 4 sets of 2 around 85%
incline DB press: 3 sets of 8
bent over rows: 3 sets of 6
hypers: 3 sets of 8


Friday:
SQUAT: 5 sets of 3 around 80%
BENCH PRESS: 2 sets of 2 with 80%, 4 sets of 2 with 85%, 2 sets of 2 with 80%
chest DB flys: 3 sets of 10
DB lunges: 3 sets of 8
dynamic side plank: 5 sets of 10






Hope you get the idea now. Good luck!










2017/04/11

Deadlift and weak points ... no isolation, deadlifts again!

Deadlift is KING.

If you listen to Western and Eastern coaches and lifters, one of the differences is that West seems to focus on benching a lot while the Eastern Bloc always focuses on deadlift as number one lift. Why? You can deadlift way more than you can bench. The Eastern lifting protocol is almost always: deadlift, then squat, then bench, if at all. Bench is only 20-25% of your total anyway.

There is a training philosophy how to train weaknesses while deadlifting: hitting the hams, abs are weak, more quads, more lower back, stronger upper back, you name it. Nothing wrong with that.

But I think there is much more superior and way more efficient method: target your deadlift weaknesses with deadlift variations. Why? You still train the main lift, you address a weakness in movement pattern, not in muscle and after all you are still deadlifting and improving your motor learning skills.

I hope you don't believe the bullshit from Westside: deadlift infrequently and build your deadlifting muscles by isolation exercises. Disclaimer: I am not bashing Westside lifters, I am bashing the method. While 820-850 pull is fantastic in Westside, in Russia, with 820 you will not make top 10 in many meets. Forget about medals. You need to pull way over 880.

Some very useful and result producing deadlift variations:


Deficit pulls
Don't pull from a big deficit because it will alter your pathway too much. 1-1,5" is enough. You get more leg drive and the ROM is longer. Enough to target your initial push off the floor and glutes while locking out big deadlift. Use something like 4 sets of 3 with 60-70%.

Deadlift up to knees
Perfect for practising the starting position and the initial pull. Push with your legs strongly, stop at knees and lower the bar. For lifters who are weak off the floor and strong at lockout. Something like 5 sets of 3 with 75%.

Paused deadlifts
This is a bitch. You will use only like 60-70% for multiple sets of 3 but it will feel very heavy. Pull off the floor, pause right below knees for full 2 seconds, finish the pull. Let someone else count full 2 seconds. Your core, lower back and middle back will be fried the next day. This pull variation teaches you to stay tight during the pull and not to fold over or shoot up your hips. Be careful, these are very taxing.

Block pulls
Use them sporadically because they will fry your CNS. Use low block pulls, plates sitting on max 3-4" blocks. Any more than that is just ego booster, nothing more. Go for 4 sets of 4 with 85% of even 2 sets of 2 with 95%. Full overload, builds confidence, whole back, strong lockout with glutes. I usually use them as second deadlifts on Wednesdays. Typical Wednesday training mid-cycle:

- deficit pulls: 4 sets of 3 @ 65-70%
- bench press: 6 sets of 3 @ 80% or Sheiko pyramid
- block pulls: 4 sets of 4 @ 85%
- incline DB press: 3 sets of 8
- barbell rows: 4 sets of 6
- ab wheel: 3 sets of 8




Now go pull something big :-)





2017/01/10

Sheiko bench press piramid

I strongly believe, when you are older / stronger / more experienced, you should trade some intensity for volume.

I am 40 and bench 3-5 times a week with great progress.

Excellent way to build up volume, build muscle, work a lot in the best strength block and really hammer proper form over and over is the Sheiko bench press piramid.

Boris Sheiko is probably THE most successful Russian powerlifting strength coach of all times as he produced dozen of world champions who broke hundreds of European and world records.

When you bench 2-5 times a week, try the Sheiko piramid every second week for one of your bench sessions to work some serious volume. As you probably know from many Russian texts, strength is usually best built in the 70-85% range. Anything below that is more for hypertrophy and conditioning and above 85% is for peaking. Most of the best Eastern Bloc athletes work in the 70-85% range to build their strength.

Here we go, Sheiko bench press piramid (one of many variations):

(sets X reps @ %)

1 X 6 @ 50%
1 X 5 @ 60%
1 X 4 @ 65%
2 X 3 @ 70%
2 X 3 @ 75%
3 X 2 @ 80%
2 X 3 @ 75%
2 X 3 @ 70%
1 X 5 @ 65%
1 X 7 @ 60%
1 X 9 @ 50%


As you can see the weights are not heavy but the load is very high. You do 30 lifts (!!!) in the strength building zone 70-85%.

Always pause the 1st rep of every set. IPF 2 sec pause.
Use excellent form on all sets and all reps.
Your goal is to build and practice, not test. Leave your ego at home.
Rest only 2-3 mins between sets.
At the end you should feel tired but not exhausted. Muscles should feel very loose and well worked.
The second part of the piramid should feel way stronger than the ascending part.
After several weeks, if you did all correct, you should be able to increase the load on all your benching workouts (a "shift" in strength). You should also experience increased mass in your chest, shoulders and triceps.

Good luck!










2016/08/21

Powerful Combos

After 25 years in the gym, sometimes I get asked by young guys in the gym how to set-up their training. They are looking for a fixed routine they can follow to letter and they are usually not happy with the reply I give them: eventually, you have to come up with your own one, reflecting your goals, age, current level of fitness and what not.

Confused as they get, I tell them it is better to have a "template" with a set of fixed "rules" which leaves lots of room for individual needs.

The rules would be:

1/ About 80% of your weekely training should be big compound lifts. Have you ever seen in a gym a 75-year old lifter lifting? Look close and you will see most of them do squats, deadlifts, overhead presses, maybe with limited ROM, if needed. Rarely will they do leg extensions, skull crushers, etc. Why? Because with compound lifts the load is distributed accross several joints while with isolation exercises the load gets on one joint. Therefore, a 70-year young guy is likely to do close-grip benches for his triceps than a skull crusher. When you are 75, you don't care being jacked and tan, you want to move properly and be healthy and keep as much strength as possible.

2/ Do compound movements several times a week. Really, squatting twice a week will not kill you. Choose a "powerful combo" of two basic movements and round it up with crap.

3/ Round up your training with what you enjoy and what works your current weaknesses. A weakness is not necessarily only a muscle group, it can be a particular range of motion on a basic lift, conditioning, too much bodyweight, mobility issues etc.

4/ Reflect your age and injury history. It is a no brainer that a 70-year old grandfather will not tolerate in the gym the same as 23-year old testosterone blazing young stud.

That's it.


Ok, powerful combos now:

SQUAT
SUMO DEADLIFT

You just hit your quads, hams, hips, core, mid-back, upper back. One of the best combos because one feeds the other. Round it up with some shoulder presses and rows and you have a full body session.

20-year old stud with awesome recovery and loads of testosterone:

squat: 6 sets of 5 (60-75% of 1RM)
sumo deadlift: 6 sets of 5 (60-75% of 1RM)
seated DB press: 5 sets of 8 heavy
T-bar rows: 4 sets of 6 heavy as fuck
hammer curl: 4 sets of 15
abs: 6 sets of 30

Go balls to the wall because you are young and you will recover in no time.


45-year old father of 2 with full-time long hours job and some injuries under his belt:

squat: 5 sets of 5 heavy
sumo deadlift: 3 sets of 5 medium heavy
seated DB press: 3 sets of 8
T-bar rows: 3 sets of 8
rope: 3 sets of 300 jumps (gotta take care of the heart, Dad, right? you've got family to feed ...)
mobility circuit 5 mins

Go heavy, but not crazy heavy, take your time between sets; go fast on the rope.


58-year young lifter with a full-time job, kids, grandkids possibly, lots of past injuries and tissue wear:

squat: 4 sets of 5 medium to heavy
sumo: 2 sets of 8 light-medium
low cable rows: 3 sets of 20 with light weight and full contraction
rope: 5 sets of 100 jumps
mobility circuit 10-20 mins

You can still go heavy but not on everything; work on your conditioning still and greatly on mobility and lost movement patterns. Listen to your body when it talks back, you should be pretty good at it because you are 58 years old ...

See? Same "rules" but applied differently based on goals, physical history and age.


Other powerful combos?

DEADLIFT
BENCH PRESS

I always liked this one because my upper back is super pumped before I go benching creating a nice pad on the bench. Again with 5 sets of 5 heavy deads and 4 sets of 8 on benches with a hypertrophy set at the end, almost all muscle groups got hit. You might round it up with some direct leg work, arms, abs, whatever.

FRONT SQUAT
OVERHEAD PRESS

Fantastic combo. Your legs, core, upper back and shoulders done with just two lifts. 4 sets of 5 on fronts heavy as fuck followed with volume on pressing, like 6 sets of 8 followed by two sets of 20 reps as burn-out sets. Round up with tons of back work and abs work and you're fine.

BENCH PRESS
OVERHEAD PRESS

Again, one feeds the other. Go moderate volume on bench (like 5 sets of 5) followed with lighter weight and high volume on pressing: 6 sets of 10 plus 2 sets of 20. Your pressing muscles should be done at this point. Finish with tons of back work and some moderate leg-press.

DEFICIT DEADLIFTS
FRONT SQUAT

High volume, high intesity pulls followed by low-rep heavy as fuck front squats. I guarantee not a single muscle will be missed. 7 sets of 3 with 80% of 1RM (2" deficit) followed by 4 sets of 4 heavy front squats. Go home, you'll have nothing left after the front squats. If you feel like doing cable curls after that you went too light on the front squats.

From time to time, do the DEADLIFT EXTRAVAGANZA, three deadlift styles in one training. It will be nasty but it works fantastic. Just don't overdo it:

sumo: 5 sets of 5 (70% of 1RM)
conventional 4" block pulls: 3 sets of 3 heavy
Romanian DL: 2 sets of 20

or if your meet style is conventional:

conventional: 5 sets of 3 (80% of 1RM)
sumo 4" block pulls: 3 sets of 2 don't be afraid to pull some heavy shit here for overload
Romanian DL: 4 sets of 6 medium-heavy



cheers








2016/08/08

Powerlifting and Crossfit??? .... WTF???

Hi,


just turned 40. Big milestone. You make summaries, evaluations, new goals, new plans. Your body is different. Mindset is different, goals change.

When I was 20, I wanted to be strong and jacked. Hell, when I was 30, I still wanted to be strong and jacked. Now, when I am 40, have two kids for whom I feel greatly responsible and need to be in top shape to run my company, I want to be strong, jacked, fit and healthy.

But how the fuck can you combine powerlifting and crossfit? It's like porsche and John Deere tractor ...

Nope, not like this ...















Like that:













So, how the heck do you combine it? Focus on the benefits. Take out the best and leave the crap.

What can you take from powerlifting?
Best: basic movements, low-medium reps, multiple sets, multiple times per week.
Crap: conditioning, general fitness, mobility

What can you take from crossfit?
Best: Exercise sequences with almost zero rest between sets, high reps, metabolic conditioning, tons of variations.
Crap: high-rep olympic lifts, sometimes lack of strength programing

So far I've been doing it for 6 months, my strength is the same as before and on some lifts I hit new PR's, conditioning improvement is through the roof and yep, you guessed it, I lost 6kg (13lbs) of fat and got significantly leaner. I was 102kg, now I am down to 96kg.

Is this ideal training? I don't know and I don't care. I still can build strength, improve conditioning and I am more jacked than ever. So far, it is working.

Here are some typical training sessions as of late ...


squat: 5 sets of 5
bench press: 5 sets of 8
3 rounds of:
seated DB presses
15 reps, 15 reps, 15 reps
incline sit-ups
30 reps, 30 reps, 30 reps
rope jumps
200, 200, 200


(1 round would be: 15 reps of shoulder presses followed by 30 incline sit-ups followed by 200 rope jumps; no rest between exercises, 3 min rest between rounds)

or

front squat: 4 sets of 4
overhead press: 5 sets of 8, hypertrophy set 15+
3 rounds of:
heavy-as-fuck T-bar rows
8, 8, 8
KB swing
50, 50, 50
rope jumps
200, 200, 200

or

conventional deadlift: 5 sets of 3
floor press: 5 sets of 8, hypertrophy set 20+
3 rounds of:
rope jumps
150, 200, 250
leg press heavy
50, 50, 50
rope jumps
150, 200, 250

or

squat: 5 sets of 4, hypertrophy set 15+
sumo deadlift: 5 sets of 5
3 rounds of:
push-ups
30, 30, 30
dumbbell thrusters
20, 20, 20
rower
4 min, 4 min, 4 min


Endless variations, you keep your powerlifting programming and are getting stronger plus you get more jacked and way more fit. Works for me. Give it shot ;-)








2016/02/19

Hypertrophy sets and low rep training

Eastern bloc powerlifting training is mostly low reps on basic lifts, high volume, high frequency and very limited or no assistance. We all know this kind of training builds tremendous strength, power and neuro/motor skills, however, it is probably not the best system for maximum hypertrophy. Sure you will get quite big and jacked but what if you want more?

Typically, when people want to add mass and get huge, they add assistance. Done with 5 sets of 3 of heavy squats? Well, brah, let's do some leg extensions and leg curls. Finished with heavy benching 5x4? Let's do some inclines and flys.

Sure you can do this but there is, in my opinion, a better alternative - hypertrophy sets.

You still do basic compound movement.
After the heavy shit, you do 1 set of 15-20 reps leaving 1-2 reps in the tank.
After this set, you should be pumped and all the working muscles should feel very well worked.
Don't take them to failure, otherwise they will take away from the main work.
If done correctly, they will pack on tons of muscles, much more than fluffy assistance plus they take much less time.
Weight is not important here, go for pump and piston-like motion

Here is an example from my training, about mid-cycle:

Monday

sumo deadlift: 5 sets of 4 with 70-75%
floor press: 3 sets of 8 plus one set of 15-20 reps close grip, tris should be fried at this point
seated DB presses: 3 sets of 12


Wednesday

front squats: 3 heavy sets of 6 followed by one set 12-15 reps
military press: 3 sets of 8 and 1 set of 20
T-bar rows: 3 sets of 8


Friday

squat: 5 sets of 4 with 70-75%
bench press: 5 sets of 4 with 70-75%
romanian DL: 3 heavy sets of 6 or 2 hypertrophy sets of 20




Good luck !








2015/12/23

What I do now ...

Hello Guys,

Merry Christmas everyone.

I am the strongest I've ever been.
I am the leanest I've ever been.
I cut out most fluff stuff recently.
I really push it on compound lifts.

Well, this is my program for past few months. Give it a try, it will make you strong and jacked.


Day 1:
deadlift: 6 sets of 5 (week 1) to 6 sets of 3 (week 5)
floor press: 4 sets of 8 medium heavy plus sometimes a set of 15-20 reps close-grip to fry triceps
leg raises or incline sit-ups: 2 sets of 20


Day 2:
front squat: 4 sets of 6 heavy
standing press: 4 sets of 8 plus a hypertrophy set 15-20 reps
low cable rows or T-bar rows: 4 sets of 8 heavy as fuck


Day 3:
squat: 6 sets of 5 (week 1) to 6 sets of 3 (week 5)
bench press: 6 sets of 5 (week 1) to 6 sets of 3 (week 5)
Romanian DL: 4 sets of 6 heavy or 2 sets of 20 go for the burn


Note: I do arms 1-2x a week on off days, like 8 sets of 8 with medium weight.


Good luck ;-)








2015/11/15

High-frequency minimalist training

If I was twenty years younger with raging testosterone and could do it all over again, I would do high-frequency minimalist training to get brutally strong and jacked. I would push myself on a couple of big lifts multiple times a week. I would cut the fluff stuff altogether, maybe I'd have kept abs and some rows. Or at least, I would do such a minimalist high-frequency 6-week cycle 3-4 times a year to get me back on track.

Lack of time? Confused with all the routines out there? Don't have time to think about program design all the time? Need something super-efficient? Big bang for your buck? Yes, I have it for you.

Right from the start, for the haters:
- no, it is not rounded, but that's ok because it's only 6 weeks. You can still do your face pulls later.

- Yes, it is not balanced but we are not shooting for the Olympia finals, are we?

- Yes, it might be boring but for 6 weeks you can bear with it

- Yes, it is hard but it's only 6 weeks

- You will do only squat, front squat, bench press, standing press, sumo, conventional and rows and abs. If you can't get strong on that, go to your cable crossover station and be doomed forever.



Here we go:

WEEK 1
Day 1:
sumo deadlift: 6 sets of 5 @ 60%
bench press: 4 set of 8 heavy (but not to failure)
abs: 3 sets of 20

Day 2:
front squat: 4 sets of 8  heavy (but not to failure)
press: 4 sets of 8 heavy (but not to failure)
rows: 4 sets of 8 heavy

Day 3:
squat: 6 sets of 5 @ 60%
bench press: 6 sets of 5 @ 60%
conventional: 3 sets of 6 moderately heavy


WEEK 2
Day 1:
sumo deadlift: 5 sets of 5 @ 65%
bench press: 4 set of 8 heavy (but not to failure)
abs: 3 sets of 20

Day 2:
front squat: 4 sets of 8  heavy (but not to failure)
press: 4 sets of 8 heavy (but not to failure)
rows: 4 sets of 8 heavy

Day 3:
squat: 5 sets of 5 @ 65%
bench press: 5 sets of 5 @ 65%
conventional: 3 sets of 6 moderately heavy


WEEK 3
Day 1:
conventional deadlift: 5 sets of 4 @ 70%
bench press: 4 set of 6 heavy (but not to failure)
abs: 3 sets of 20

Day 2:
front squat: 4 sets of 6 heavy (but not to failure)
press: 4 sets of 6 heavy (but not to failure)
rows: 4 sets of 8 heavy

Day 3:
squat: 5 sets of 4 @ 70%
bench press: 5 sets of 4 @ 70%
sumo: 3 sets of 5 moderately heavy


WEEK 4
Day 1:
conventional deadlift: 4 sets of 4 @ 75%
bench press: 4 set of 5 heavy (but not to failure)

Day 2:
front squat: 4 sets of 5 heavy (but not to failure)
press: 4 sets of 6 heavy (but not to failure)

Day 3:
squat: 4 sets of 4 @ 75%
bench press: 4 sets of 4 @ 75%


WEEK 5
Day 1:
conventional deadlift: 6 sets of 3 @ 80%
bench press: 4 set of 5 heavy (but not to failure)

Day 2:
front squat: 4 sets of 5 heavy (but not to failure)
press: 4 sets of 6 heavy (but not to failure)

Day 3:
squat: 6 sets of 3 @ 80%
bench press: 6 sets of 3 @ 80%


WEEK 6
stay 5-6 days out of the gym. No need for 7 days but give the rest 5 full days. Test new maxes then and add 10kg on squat and deadlift for calculations of new maxes and 5kg on bench press. You do not have to test, if you do not want to. During this week do nothing or go light swimming or 2 long walks. If you rested properly, the next week with 60% even with increased weights should feel super light and crispwith spot on form.


So simple, isn't it? :-)














2015/11/07

Top 5 assistance exercises worth doing

I know, I know. I said multiple times no fluff is needed. And that still is true. You can get freakishly strong doing only back squats, front squats, sumo pull, conventional pull, Romanian deadlift, bench press, standing press, floor press, seated DB presses and some heave ass rows. That should be your 80-90% of work for DECADES. Sticking to these will get you both freakishly strong and super jacked, provided you work your ass off, do enough frequency, do multiple sets of reps and constantly increase weight. If you want to do more work, add another squat session weekly. Weak shoulders? How about shoulder pressing 2-3 times a week with huge volume and moderate weights? The possibilities are endless.

However, there are situations when some of the fluff stuff can be useful: weakness in a muscle or a muscle group; wrong firing patterns within specific muscle groups, need to flush lots of blood through specific muscles and joints, need for local hypertrophy, need for variations, especially for some lifters who do not like doing the same all the time. Still when choosing the fluff stuff, choose what you really need, not what you like. And rule No.2, the fluff stuff can NEVER take away from your main work. Remember, it is just the remaining 10-15%, the 85-90% is still the main lifts and their variations.

I like doing concentration curls but they do nothing for my main lifts.

I like drinking beer while watching movies but it does nothing for my lifting as well.

Ok, enough of the preaching, below is what I think are Top 5 useful fluff exercises worth doing:



No. 5 - FLAT DB PRESSES
I think you get enough of pec work from all the benching and floor pressing but if you think you need extra pec mass and/or flushing some blood through your shoulders, they have their place in training. Go moderately heavy or even very light. If you want to build some pecs, I'd suggest 5 sets of 8, if you want to speed up recovery, I'd go something like 3 sets of 20 or even 2 sets of 30. My favourite is the hammer flat DB press as I feel it hits the triceps very hard and still builds some pecs.





No. 4 - TRICEPS EXTENSIONS aka SKULLS
You should get enough triceps work form benching and overhead pressing but again, if you feel your triceps need some more strength and mass or you need to flush some blood through elbows, do some DB extensions. Go for volume and short rest periods. 8 sets of 12 or 6 sets of 15. Do not go heavy. Go for the pump. On a sidenote, my triceps grew the most when I did sets of 15-20 close-grip floor presses ;-)





No. 3 - LEG CURLS
This is a no brainer. Strong hams are necessary for both heavy squats and pulls. And while I do think Romanian deadlift is a better hams builder, machine leg curls are a very nice addition. Do low reps, hams for some reason, respond better to heavy weights and lower reps than high reps and lower weights. 5 sets of 5 heavy or 6 sets of 3. Yes, that low. Do one or two sets of 100 reps from time to time to rehab tendons. do machine leg curls or band curls. If you have an access to a GHR machine, you are a lucky bastard, use it and be awesome.





No. 2 - ABS
Any kind. Here you can go crazy with variations. Incline sit-ups, leg raises, hanging leg raises, side bends, heavy hammer on the tire, all kinds of leg lifts. Vary the reps as well from session to session. One session do incline sit-ups 6 sets of 8 with a heavy plate on your chest, next session do 3 sets of 50 of hanging leg raises. Go hard. I have yet to see a lifter who'd say: my abs are so strong that they hurt my lifts. Any idea why Konstatinovs pulls in the 850-900+ range in a competition beltless? Guess what, his abs are made of steel.





... and the winner is ... No.1 - HYPERS
Probably the best assistance exercise you can do. All the Russian powerlifting superstars do them, or weightlifters do them and you can find them in pretty much all Eastern Bloc templates. The volume is usually quite high, 5 sets of 10 or 6 sets of 8 or 8 sets of 6 and very heavy or 3 sets of 12 lighter. This is an awesome exercise, it hits your glutes, hams and lower back. Do them correctly, put the pad on your thighs, not your groin. The rotation axis should be in your hip joint not lower back. Most people put the pad too high and then they bend at their waist and complain they have low back pain. The low back never moves, it is static through the whole ROM. Rotate in your hips, pause a second at the top and squeeze you glutes like hell.





But remember, next time when you are about to analyze your routine again and debate whether you should do 3 sets of 12 of hypers or maybe 5 sets of 5 of leg curls, ask yourself: "How much did I improve on front squats over past 6 months?"












2015/09/13

The Magic 8

No matter if you compete or not, you can build your program around The Magic 8 compound lifts.

Really. I wish someone told me this many years ago when I started lifting that 80-90% of your training should be The Magic 8. These are time proven lifts/exercises which built tons of muscles and strength. For decades. New routines come and go, new machines and gadgets hit the market but if you build your program around these Magic 8, you can't go wrong. For years. For decades. Bored? Play with frequency, volume, sets & reps, stances, bands, chains, blah, blah. But don't change the bread and butter lifts.


The Magic 8:

1 - Squat
Enough said. The 1st powerlift and the best exercise ever. "But I have long legs and I can't squat!" Crap. Find your technique. I myself have spider long legs and it took me a while before I found my optimal form: slightly wider than shoulder width, with Oly shoes, sitting quite back with a solid forward lean. Do squats. Do not find excuses. If you do not do squats you are just lazy. Squats build legs, hips, glutes, lower back and abs. Bored? It's ok to be bored, we are humans, not robots. Do some variation for a while but then go back to regular power squat, for decades. Useful variations: pause squat, Oly squat, box squat, pin squat. Do your power squat 1-4 times per week.




2 - Front squat
Very close second to the power squat. Plus if you have long legs you might find like me that front squats feel much more natural to you than regular squats. Front squats build massive quads, strong middle and upper back and core of steel. Go deep. Really deep. Waaaaay below parallel. Go heavy. Go low reps and high reps. I like 4 sets of 8 of 4 sets of 5. Your front squat should be around 75-80% of you back squat. If not, your quads are weak. Front squats is the best assistance for deadlifts. Variations? None. Just do your front squats.




3 - Deadlift
Sumo or conventional. If you are long legs and short torso, you will probably prefer conventional. If you are short legs and longer torso, probably sumo is better for you. But not necessarily. Deadlifts build everything: legs, hams, lower back, upper back, middle back, traps, abs. Be careful with volume and frequency, they can fry your CNS like nothing else. No, deadlifts are not harmful for your lower back. Check some of the best pullers on Youtube, the axis of rotation is in the hips, not lower back. Lower back stays rigid throughout the whole lift. Conventional builds more back while sumo builds more the hips, glutes and hams. One feeds the other. Pull twice a week, once heavy with your competition stance and once the opposite style for assitance. For example you do 5 sets of 3 with 80% of your conventional pull (competition style) and 3 days later you do 3 sets of 8 sumo with moderate weight. Variations? All kinds of deficit pulls, pulls with chains and bands. I do not think rack pulls help the traditional pull because the form is alternated. Try pulls to the knees and be humbled.




4 - Romanian deadlift
Yes, I think it is that importnat. Looking for an exercise which works your lats, middle back, lower back, glutes, hams? Well, look no further, Romanian DL is the answer. Go pretty heavy. I like 3 sets of 8 pretty heavy or lighter 2 sets of 20. They kill glutes and hams like nothing else. Don't blame me if you have to buy bigger jeans couple of months later cause your legs and butt do not fit anymore.




5 - Bench press
Hmmm, why did I put bench press as the 5th lift while it is the most popular gym lift ever known to humankind? Well, at the meet the math is simple. You can usually lift much more in the squat and deadlift than in bench press. 600 lbs (270kg) raw bench press is very unique and there are only handful of people who can do that but 600 lbs (270kg) squat and dead can be done by thousands of people all around the world. Concentrate on your pull, squat and bench, in that order. Yet, bench press is a terrific exercise. Hits pecs, delts, triceps and and tons of other supporting muscles. Learn the proper form and your shoulders will thank you. You can bench 2-5 times a week and still recover well but you have to manipulate intensity vs. volume. Bored? The variations here are endless: paused bench, close-grip bench, incline, decline, chains, bands, reverse bands, etc., etc.




6 - Floor press
A terrific exercise. Takes the lats and legs somewhat out of the move and overloads your pressing muscles big time. I like doing floor presses for 6 sets of 8 with moderate weight. My floor press ROM is from 1" above chest to lockout and I always go close-grip. I do not know better exercise for triceps. Sometimes, after the 6 strength sets, I do a set of 20 reps with moderate weight for hypertrophy in front delts, triceps and pecs.




7 - Standing press
For a raw bench press, if your overhead press goes up, so does your bench press. These two really complement each other like sumo pull and conventional pull. I like going semi heavy with lots of volume. For some reason the shoulders can tolerate lots of volume and frequency if you downturn the intensity a bit. I like 6 sets of 8 with moderate weight. Keep the lockout position for good 1-2 seconds for big traps involvement. Properly done shoulder press heals the shoulders because it forces scapulae do their proper rotation and trains all the small stabilization muscles. Variations? None. Do the standing overhead press. Get freakishly strong. Don't stop until you can press 5 sets of 5 with your bodyweight. You really can, trust me.




8 - Seated DB press
Another excellent shoulder builder and one of the best exercises for bench assistance. I like going medium heavy for lots of volume, 8 sets of 6, 6 sets of 8, 6 sets of 12, etc. Don't go explosive here, concentrate on piston-like controlled reps. Your goal here is not to break the world record but to build some huge shoulders.




Bam, here you have it. The Magic 8 exercises. Don't change them. Ever. Yes, you can round your routine with back work, abs, hams, lower back, arms, etc. But this is your bread and butter. You can add tons of other stuff AFTER your are done with your Magic 8. Your routine should be built around these 8 lifts 90% of your training time for years.

Here are some variations as you can couple them:


Training 5 times a week? (lucky bastard ... :-):

squat
bench
assistance

deadlift
bench
assistance

press
Romanian deadlift
assistance

front squat
seated DB press
assistance

floor press
squat
assistance


Training 4 times a week?:

squat
press
assistance

deadlift
floor press
assistance

front squat
bench press
assistance

Romanian DL
seated DB press
assistance


Training 3 times a week? (Actually, this is what I do at this moment ...):

deadlift
floor press
seated DB press

front squat
press
assistance

squat
bench press
Romanian DL



Assistance: T-bar rows, DB rows, low cable rows, shrugs, leg raises, incline sit-ups, flat DB presses, hypers, ham curls, hammer curls, triceps pushdowns, blah, blah. Here you can go crazy and do tons of variations. But it does not matter, actually, because it is just 10% of you training. The remaining 90% is The Magic 8, remember?  :-)








2015/07/07

Romanian DL - Posterior Chain KING

I really believe that. It is the best big assistance exercise for your whole posterior chain. Traps, middle back, lats, lower back, abs, glutes, hamstrings.

Hypers for lower back? GHR for hams? Leg curls for hams? Hip extension machine for glutes? GM for lower and middle back? Nope. You do not need all these exercises, you can get all in one, the Romanian deadlift.

Done properly, it very safe, very efficient and one of the best assistance lifts for your pull and squat.

I personally use Romanian DL once a week for volume work. I also pull sumo or conventional the same week. Yep, pulling twice a week. I really think it is the bare minimum. With Romanian DL I do 4 heavy sets of 8 with roughly 70-75% of may max pull or I do 2 sets of 20 with roughly 55-60% of my max pull. I do the Romanian DL as my last exercise of the day because I am tired as hell after. The 4 set of 8 are heavy and taxing but those 2 sets of 20 are the real treat. You'll be puffing as a locomotive and the next day your hams, glutes, mid back, lats and traps should be fried. But not the lower back. I will explain this later when discussing proper form.







Set-up
Closer than shoulder width stance, shins against the bar, knees slightly bent, no belt, overhand grip. Use straps if you must. Your upper back slightly rounded (yes, it's ok), arms gripping exactly when they fall from shoulders, lower back flat (not arched, not rounded), ass waaaay back.

Pull
Brace your core, pull in air, inflate stomach incl. obliques and start pulling by rocking back even more and putting all the pressure on your hams and glutes. Lower back must not round or arch, it must remain flat during the whole pull. You do not pull the bar up, you pull back towards your body. During the whole pull, the bar grazes your shins and thighs. It never leaves them. Once above the knees, thrust your hips forward, squeeze your glutes and mid back. The next day your hams, glutes, lats and mid-back should be sore. Your lower back might be tender from doing the static hold work but never sore. If your lower back is sore, you did it incorrectly. The rotation axis is in your hips, not lower back. You return back the exact same pathway and stop the plates 2-3cm (1 inch) above the ground, wait there 1 sec and pull up again for another rep. Your lats will fight like hell during this stop keeping the bar where it should be and if you do it right, your lats will be sore as hell the next day. I personally think the Romanian DL is the best lat exercise out there. Yes, I just said that.

Romanian deadlifts boost your pull and squat and pack slabs of muscle on your hams, glutes, mid back, upper back, lats. Pretty cool, heh?

I do not understand why so many people treat it as a fitness exercise using 2 x 10kg plates on each side and going for an exaggerated stretch. C'mon, put some weight on the bar.

Are you a serious 90-100kg (200-220lbs) lifter? Well, 4 sets of 8 with 160kg (350lbs) is fine, 4 sets of 8 with 180kg (405lbs) is strong and anything above 4 sets of 8 with 200kg (440lbs) is cock diesel.

Don't believe me? Check Dan Green's hams and check the plates he has on his bar ...

Now pull some damn weight!

(She is doing it wrong but her glutes are quite ok :-)
Deadlift6
















2015/07/03

Program design ... simple and efficient

Hmmmm, what is the best powerlifting program out there? The magic routine? The champions' secret?

If you have been lifting for 2 decades like me, you know there is no "the best routine". The best program is the one you eventually are able to design yourself. Yes.

"But hey, Pozdeev does this and that, and Ed Coan does this and that ..." I know. But you are not them. Your program should reflect your goals, your leverages, your weaknesses, your recovery abilities, etc., etc. It is ok to learn from the champions but learn the form, technique, modifications and twists. But always check it if it works for YOU. Learn from their mistakes. It is the cheapest way of learning.


So, how do you design your magic routine. It is actually pretty easy.


Step 1: Powerlifts
Well, this should be a no brainer. You are a powerlifter so you have to do the powerlifts: squat, bench, pull.


Step 2: Frequency
Decide on frequency of the powerlifts. Really, the old American Monday squat, Wednesday bench and Friday deadlift is not enough. Learn from the Eastern Bloc. With all respect to my American friends in iron, the knowledge about optimal loading, frequency, and total number of lifts per week is still quite insufficient there. Luckily, it is coming slowly thanks to seminars with Boris Sheiko, Dmitryi Klokov, etc. I personally do each powerlift twice a week. But that is me. Got weak squat? You might end up squatting three times a week, benching twice a week and pulling once a week. Or you can squat 4 times per week and put bench and pull on the back burner for a while. In Poland, one of the best lifters of all time, Jan Wegiera did squat twice a week, bench 5 times a week, deadlift twice a week. Here is what he did. He is still a monster, smashed multiple European records in men and masters:



Day 1:
squat
bench
negative bench
DB flyes

Day 2:
close-grip bench
shoulder press
biceps

Day 3:
bench
decline bench
DB flyes
deadlift
GM

Day 4:
squat
walkouts
1/3 squat
bench
bench lockouts

Day 5:
close-grip bench
deadlift
block pulls


Bam, there you have it. Lots of work. I really think doing each powerlift twice a week is the bare minimum. If you are nuts but can endure going thru hell and expecting HUGE improvements, do Sheiko "sandwiches":

Monday:
squat
bench
squat
assistance

Wednesday:
pull
bench
pull
assistance

Friday:
bench
squat
bench
assistance

Do your homework and search Sheiko programs. Brings results like nothing else.


Step 3: Volume
I did not write sets&reps on purpose because volume and workload is more important than set&reps per se. Working up to one heavy set is not enough. You do not have enough practice and the workload is not enough. Let us compare:

Typical approach in most gyms (max squat 200kg - 440lbs):

Set 1: bar x 20
Set 2: 60kg x 8
Set 3: 100kg x 5
Set 4: 120kg x 5
Set 5: 140kg x 3
Set 6: 160kg x 3
Set 7: 180kg x 2
Set 8: 190kg x 1

You just did only 5 sets abouve 60% (the rest does not count) and if we multiply the reps x weight from set No. 4 and above, the total amount lifted is 2050kg (4510lbs). This session taxed your CNS big time, your form was shit on the last two sets and you are unlikely to repeat it tomorrow or in two days.

But you could do instead:

Set 1: bar x 20
Set 2: 60kg x 8
Set 3: 100kg x 5
Set 4: 130kg x 5
Set 5: 130kg x 5
Set 6: 130kg x 5
Set 7: 130kg x 5
Set 8: 130kg x 5
Set 9: 130kg x 5

You just did 6 crisp sets with perfect form and only 65% of your max. Sure you had to leave the ego at the door but let's look at the numers. We calculate sets 4-9. You just lifted 3900kg (8580lbs). You did almost twice as much work plus you can probably repeat it in two days because you worked only with 65% with your max so your CNS is fresh. Sure, you might be tired but not burnt out. That is a difference.




Step 4: Assistance
Big assistance. Round up your template with big assistance. Assistance that matters. Front squats, military presses, Romanian deadlifts, heavy bent over rows. Base it on your weaknesses, not what you like to do. Weak off the floor when pulling? Weak quads, bro, kick some ass on front squats and high-bar squats. No, not leg extensions. Upper back rounding during squats? How about 4 sets of 5 of some heavy bent over rows twice per week? Nope, no face pulls. Weak off your chest when pressing? How about 6 sets of 8 of military presses with medium weight twice a week?

I read somewhere Dan Green's quote:

 "All I do is the powerlifts and then some front squats, shoulder presses and rows." I really like that.



(What will leg extensions do for him after those front squats?)

This big assitance lifts is where you can experiment if you need/want to, not the powerlifts. Low reps front squats, high-rep high-bar squats, deficit pulls, block pulls, Romanian pulls, SLDL, bent over rows, dumbbell rows, high-pulls, close-grip bench, incline, low decline, chains, bands, boards, you name it. Please be honest with yourself and choose what is heavy, tough and needed. Get out of you comfort zone. Biceps concentration curls with 15kg dumbbell do NOTHING for your powerlifting. 4 sets of 5 of heavy ass front squats do. It should be a "brother" exercise to the powerlifts. Front squat helps the back squat, leg extensions do not. Military press helps the bench, cable cross-overs don't. Romanian deadlifts help the regular deadlift building anything from your traps to your knees in the posterior chain. Standing leg curls won't help you much pulling the 300kg (660lbs) deadlift.


Step 5 (optional):
Fluff assistance. biceps, triceps pushdowns, delt raises, cable flys, etc. If you must do them, do them for 2-3 light sets to pump blood. Do the minimum of them. They are the remaining 5% of your training. Focus on the powerlifts and big assistance, that is 95% of your work. Better yet, do this fluff shit on off days.




Good luck with YOUR magic routine!









2015/06/28

Boris Sheiko in the US !!!

Hi Guys,


In my blog statistics it shows there is a significant number of readers from the USA. Thank you for that, I am glad this blog is helpful for so many people.

To all my ligting friends, the infamous powerlifting coach Boris Sheiko is travelling the USA right now with seminars. I just learnt it from Instagram.

I strongly encourage you, if you are close, go to his seminar. If you wanted to come up with a list of Top 5 powerlifting coaches in the world, Boris Sheiko would surely be among them.

His lifting principles produced not dozens, not hundreds but thousands of the best world powerlifters and record holders. Suslov, Belayev, Pozdeev. All the Russian beasts. I think Boris Sheiko is the most influential coach in Eastern Europe. There are great coaches and there is Boris Sheiko, way above anyone else. Sheiko boys almost all of them pull over 400kg (880 lbs) at meets.

Got 800 lbs pull? You will not even qualify, this is the last warm-up for Sheiko boys.

Boris Sheiko is the Louis Simmons of Easter Bloc powerlifting.

To those who are not familiar with Sheiko methods, he is very famous for his high-frequency, high-volume methods. I call them "Sheiko sandwiches".

Typical Monday workout could look like this:

squat: 6 sets of 3 medium-heavy
bench press: 5 sets of 3 medium heavy
squat (again): 4 sets of 4 medium
assistance
assistance

Brutal, simple but terribly effective. You'll be dragging ass but after a few weeks your body adapts and you'll be a squatting machine.

Go to Sheiko seminar, you will thank me later for the reminder.



Note: never met Sheiko, not associated with Boris Sheiko in any way, just using his principles for years with solid results.


Good luck !!!