When it comes to your physique or athletic performance progress isn’t linear. When you first start out progress is easy and everything works. However, as you approach the limits of what your body can do progress slows. Once you could put 10lbs on your squat a week but now you are happy with 10lbs in 4 months. The better you get, the fancier you have to be to make progress. This is why you see world records in many sports being slowly chipped away instead of blown away. Eventually your progress will look like a series of steps and plateaus. It is important to remember the basic idea of what you are trying to do in the gym.
Provide a stimulus sufficient to cause the organism to adapt.
As it adapts over time, it takes more stimulus to cause an adaptation. Therefore, what you did to get your squat to 225lbs isn’t going to get your squat to 600lbs. Or what got you to 10% fat won’t get you to 5%. The problem with this very basic formula is that people being creatures of habit tend to not change enough to give their body enough of a stimulus. This doesn’t mean working out more. It may mean fixing weaknesses you have been ignoring. It may mean doing less work and recovering more. Your workouts will be a series of pushes and backing off. Push your body to the edge. Back off and let it heal. Progress is like steps. Small goals that lead to bigger goals. The point is that it is OK to get stuck. It just isn’t ok to stay stuck.
This idea is expanded on here…
Pause Squat on pins at height of throw start
up to max then 3×5 w/ 40 sec rest
2 abdominal exercises and stretching for 10 minutes
This was a personal record that had been a long time in the making. The training cycle leading up to this was focused more on Olympic lifts than bench specialization. In addition the lifter was not as well rested as he could have been. The interesting part is that the he never lifted more than about 87% of this weight leading up to testing day. It should be noted that the lifter was very experienced but is not built optimally for the bench press and previously had trouble with fully utilizing his enormous strength base and explosiveness out of the bottom of the lift. A number of sets backs from surgeries to an extremely demanding work and travel schedule had prevented him from breaking his previous PR always coming within 5KG of it.
Because of elbow surgery 4 months earlier programming had to be focused on regaining strength through range of motion rather than building to maximum weight. From a strength stand point this allowed more focus on lockout strength and power at the end range of the bench press. After some weeks getting used to full range bench press a program that included slow introduction to mild upper body plyometric exercises was used building up in intensity in a linear fashion. This was not only to help activate the CNS but also to reintroduce the bodies ability to absorb eccentric force and utilize the stretch reflex. The volume of horizontal pushing exercises was not excessive as the actual focus of the 2 month program was more towards regaining abilities in Olympic lifting. The athlete already had a good amount of muscle mass so besides a brief period during the rehab phase, direct hypertrophy work was unnecessary. Bench press weights were assigned with 1 heavy session and 1 light session per week when possible. The weights were kept manageable increasing an average of 2% per week with a jump on week five of 3% and week six of 5% with a corresponding drop in reps and increase in sets. The goal was every rep achieved and to be able to walk away from the exercises with more in the tank every week thus keeping a good groove on every rep. Week 6-8 more time was spend on double and single repetition sets with the goal of practicing the feel of heavy weight without losing form. Ballistic work was increased in intensity while other accessory work took a back seat. It should be noted that the athlete was unaware of his goal for the day until he was in the gym. Sleep had been sub par and he had trained in high volume Olympic lifting the night before. However, he is gifted in the ability to operate at a high level in sub optimal conditions.
This shows the importance of specific programing for athletes at a high level. Programs need to be designed with the considerations of the unique abilities, weaknesses, psychology, and lifestyle of the person in question.
This was the approximate sequence used on testing day. (In kilograms)20kgx10
Not enough attention is paid to coming down after a workout. There are lots of things we do to wake up and arouse our central nervous system but not enough on how to come down. We have limited abilities to stay in an excited state which should be respected. Time and time again people have learned that there is no way to get around this without consequences. The truth is many people don’t know how to relax. Sitting in front of a tv or computer screen is still quite stimulating. The idea of relaxing with your thoughts seems to be a lost art. People get into a cycle of drinking coffee or other caffeinated beverage to wake up and drinking alcohol to come down. They stress the body constantly throwing drugs into it and then wonder why they seem to NEED caffeine to wake up. It is a difficult cycle to break. If you get at least decent sleep you shouldn’t NEED a pre workout. They certainly can help but if you are taking them before every workout you may have more problems than you realize.
One of the reasons massage helps athletes isn’t just because your muscles are being massaged but because of the calming effect and atmosphere. It is one of the few times people will listen to calming music and just let their mind go. In world we live today this is more important than ever. It is ok to do nothing. No phone, no tv, no computer, just you and that mess you call a brain. If nothing is too much for you, then get a massage, try yoga, listen to calm music, write in a journal anything you can think of that will allow you to relax. This is a way to be fair to your system. If you want it to be super awake, then you need to let it be super calm. You can only push so hard for so long before you crash. The most successful people have found ways to have balance. Professional athletes sometimes have multiple training sessions per day but they also take a lot of rest and naps. The body can do amazing things if you know how to let it. Don’t complain about your lack of progress if you are going a hundred miles per hour at all times. Give something to your body so it can give something back to you.
Whether you are performing a fast lift like a clean or a slow lift like a curl, you should always be in control. If you feel like the weight has you and you don’t have the weight then you are going too heavy. If you feel like for some reason you are unstable when lifting then you need to evaluate your technique and your program. You may need some specialized exercises to work small muscles that may be weak. Remember that your body will always try to take the easy way out. You have to make it do the opposite in the gym. There is a difference between pulling yourself up to a bar or doing a pullup to increase back size and strength. You have to be in control. Are you pulling with your back or using your arms more? Do you go all the way down and let your back stretch? Can you pause on the way up, at the top, and on the way down? If you can’t do these things then you aren’t working out a muscle as much as working a movement. Cleans, snatches and the like and movements that we train. Exercises like curls, pullups, and pushdowns are to train muscles. Know the difference and make sure YOU are in control and not the weight.
B1. Sumo Deadlift
B2. Incline Bench Press
C2. Rear leg elevated Split squat
6 reps then next move
More important than your exercise or diet program is your self discipline. It doesn’t matter if you workout hard for a week, or stick to your diet for 3 out of 5 days. What matters is what how you act in the long run. How many “little cheats” did you let yourself get away with this week? How many workouts did you skip in the last month? Or the last year? The little things add up. Don’t make excuses for your own lack of discipline. It isn’t about just making yourself go to the gym or something you enjoy on some level. It is making yourself do the things you don’t want to do. The best rehab patients are the ones who tirelessly perform the repetitive boring physical therapy they have been prescribed. Day after day for hours on end. This might also mean you can’t workout for weeks or even months. You watch your body go away and you feel soft but you stick with it. That is discipline.
There are somethings you do just for the sake of building discipline. For example if you are a pasta lover you might cut out all pasta for a year. Not just because it is making losing fat difficult but to see if you can do it no matter what the situation, not matter how hungry you are. As an adult, no one is making you do anything. Do you lay in bed for a half hour or do you get up when you wake up? Do you let yourself mindlessly surf the internet for an hour then complain you don’t have time for things? I bet if you really look at yourself you just don’t have much self discipline. It will spill over into all aspects of your life for the better. We are experts at lying to ourselves and making excuses. (“I need to look at internet videos to unwind.” “I need to lay in bed because mornings are tough for me.”) Shut up. They are tough for everyone. You are just lazy and self permissive. Be tough on yourself and you will be a tougher person.
The jerk can has great benefit to the power athlete. It requires speed, coordination and decent shoulder range of motion to perform correctly. Here we have an athlete who doesn’t have much training in the jerk. The drive is initiated with the legs then you push yourself under the bar. You are using your speed to get under the bar as well as strength to initiate the drive. This lift allows you to stabilize a lot of weight overhead and you can’t perform it correctly if you don’t move fast. The goal is to get as much out of your legs as possible and move YOURSELF under the bar rather than trying to simply push the bar overhead. Since the weight used can be very heavy there is no eccentric phase and the bar is typically dropped.
As the trained eye can see the form isn’t Olympic weightlifter perfect but we don’t need that for this example. Instead you can realize that this is 3x Olympian Lauryn Williams just messing around with overhead stuff between winning medals and being faster than you. As a side note she is also pound for pound the strongest female ever to lift at the gym. Follow her bobsled adventures here: @LaurynCwilliams
In a typical gym you often see more people talking or texting than training. These same people wonder why they put so much time in at the gym and make so little progress. If you want to treat the gym like a social club that is fine but don’t complain about your lack of progress. If you have a one minute rest between sets this doesn’t mean rest one minute then respond to a text then do your set. If you are halfway serious about improving then focus on your workout. Get it done then socialize. It has gotten to the point where people seem offended if you don’t want to talk to them while you are working out. If this is you, remember that they aren’t being rude if they came to a gym to workout. You are being rude assuming that they want to talk.
Next time you are working out, try giving yourself specific rest periods between sets and exercises. Put your phone on airplane mode and use it only as a stopwatch. If you are training with someone tell them to save their stories until before or after you workout. See how much faster and harder your workout is.
Am and Pm session
Have to be in super condition for this one.
Standing broad jump
20M sprint and jog back 5 times
Jog 1 mile
A. Barbell Complex
Hang Clean, jerk, BSQ, GM
Stepper 5 min hard
5 min build up
2 min come down
C1. Overhead Lunge
C2. Incline situp
D. Complex II
Hang Snatch, OHS, BSQ, OHS,
elliptical machine 10 min high intensity