How To Make A Training Session

Recently both of my younger brothers asked me to help them with a training program. One of the first “lessons” I gave them was how to organize a training session for a program oriented towards getting stronger, building size, and leaning out. Here is a quick guide on how to do so.

  • Begin with a general warm-up. This can be light calisthenics, walking, jogging, rowing, or biking for 2 to 10 minutes.
  • Do some mobility work. Massage or roll first, then stretch. Rolling the soft tissue helps loosen it up before trying to stretch on it. I’m going to remake a video o this soon, but hit the upper back, lower back, hips, and quads at a minimum. Joint approximation should be done last. The point of mobility before training is to improve range of motion to facilitate good mechanics — especially if the correct ROM of the exercise is limited.
  • Warm-up with the main lift you’re doing that day. That means start with the bar for a set of five and then progressively add weight until you reach the first set. As your warm-up sets go up, titrate the reps down. For example, if my first set was 225×5, I could do warm-ups like this:
    • 45×5
    • 95×5
    • 135×5
    • 185×3
    • 205×2 or 1
    • First set of 225×5
  • Do all of the work sets for the main lift of that day. Bodybuilding programs like to add unnecessary super-sets; to get stronger and bigger, do the compound strength movement first. Do it for 3-5 sets of 3-5 reps.
  • Now it’s time for assistance exercises. Do compound exercises before isolation exercises. Do the strength related exercises first; do the hypertrophy (or muscle building) exercises last. Do them for 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps.
    • Compound assistance exercises include pull-ups, rows, lunges, and dips. You won’t need much more than this.
    • Isolation assistance exercises include curls or triceps extensions. Don’t bother with leg curls or leg extensions.

Werner Gunthor lifted, sprinted, and jumped his way into your heart.

Werner Gunthor lifted, sprinted, and jumped his way into your heart.

  • Finish the session with high intensity conditioning. Conditioning should be something short and hard, just like your pecker. 30 seconds of running fast, 30 seconds of rest on a treadmill. Or 30 second bike sprint and then 30 seconds of easy pace. 50 to 150 burpees for time. 400m sprints. Some of the old benchmark CrossFit workouts like “Cindy” (you can cap the time at 10 minutes) and “Helen” are pretty good. Push a sled. Sprint up a hill. Running has a bad rap because it’s the worst fucking thing ever, but athletes need to sprint. You can’t look like an athlete without training like one. So, sprint.

There’s nothing flashy or sexy about how to organize a training session. Do something that looks like this three or four times a week consistently, sleep eight hours a night, and pay attention to not eating like shit, and any beginner will make progress.

If you’re interested in beginning diet information, read “Garbage In; Garbage Out” or “Improving Diet“.

Veteran’s Day 2015

In Robert Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, the Terran Federation is a limited democracy in which full citizenship comes with a price. Earning citizenship and suffrage — the right to vote — was accomplished by two years of voluntary Federal Service. The concept that a society be made of people who have contributed to their country and government was important to Heinlein, who served in the Navy after graduating from the Naval Academy. Earning a voice in government, in Heinlein’s eyes, is better than anyone “who is 18 years old and has a body temperature near 37 °C.”

The idea that veterans are deeply rewarded for their sacrifice is an admirable one; something that would inspire appreciation for gained freedoms and instill a foundation of work ethic. In our society, veterans make analogous sacrifices. First, they pledge an allegiance to uphold the longstanding tradition of morals and honor of their respective country. Second, they knowingly surrender various birth-given rights and are held to a higher standard for their actions. Third, they play their specific role in an organization that provides and maintains the security of freedom for all countrymen. And fourth, they do so with meager compensation and the occasional “thank you.”

Some might say that the veteran has chosen their fate; their own volition led them into their job just as a civilian has chosen theirs. Yet the difference is that veteran made that decision knowing what was at stake. The Airman who works on jets or the Ranger who puts two rounds into an extremist consciously made a decision that subjects them to the needs of their respective branch. They chose to reduce their freedom so that you and I can under appreciate ours.

Many of you will feel noble on these holidays by publicly saying, “Thank you, troops,” but words are dust; they usually blow away with time. I won’t spin tales of heroes, sacrifice, and death. I won’t ask you to thank anyone or give a donation. All I ask is that you live honorably. Most service members believe this country is worth enduring a lot of shitty situations. There’s an idea that despite our flaws, America is an amazing place to live full of righteous people who work hard and have personal responsibility.

Do not let them down; live honorably. Convince the families of the fallen that their loss was worth it. Convince the service members who still toil that their effort is worth it. Take responsibility of your life and actions, respect others, and never, ever stop trying to succeed. Teach others how to do the same.

The only true memorial is to live this way, to live honorably. Everything else is an obligatory charade.

Thank you to current and past veterans for making the choice to serve your country at the expense of limiting the most important values of all: freedom and liberty.

No Secrets

I’ve been away for a bit, and when I look around at the realm of strength and conditioning,  I see the good and bad.

The good? The training population swells with eager trainees aiming for a bigger deadlift, a beautiful snatch, or a better metabolic engine. We have awesome lifters in USAW, raw powerlifting is surging, and thousands of people train instead of fiddling around with exercise. This is good.

The bad? Everybody’s an expert. Strength and conditioning is interesting because if a guy is good at doing it, he is not automatically good at teaching it. Athlete X accomplishes Y and then opens up shop for consultations and seminars. I’m not saying there isn’t room in the market, but a lack of knowledge in physiology, anatomy, metabolism, programming, etc. results in a disservice to the student and customer. This is bad.

It’s rare that any of the new information is profound. Organizing performance training isn’t complicated and there are no secrets. Consider the following:

– Perform large compound strength movements like squat, press, bench, deadlift, row, and pull-ups on a regular basis.

– Address mobility and muscular imbalance/weakness issues.

– Don’t do a stupid amount of volume and avoid most aesthetic-focused programs.

– Understand “met-con” or “high intensity conditioning” does not mean “consisting of retarded shit all the time.”

– Organize the training week to apply stress and give subsequent rest.

– First, specify to your needs, then your wants.

These are the tenets of performance training. Stick to these concepts and you won’t really need a glistening six pack telling you “IF IT FITS YOUR MACROS.” I understand the “How and why?” are your limiting factor. Now that I’ve knocked some rust off, I’m here to help. If I can’t stream the content out, I’ll at least be a bubbling brook.

PEDs at the 2015 CrossFit Games?

Edit: The formula Romano/Roberts used accounts for body fat with the CrossFit competitors. They used a conservative estimate of 9%. 

Last year I wrote “Steroids and CrossFit?“. The article was an extension of my opinion regarding performance enhancement drugs (PEDs) as well as highlighting an article Anthony Roberts and John Romano wrote about the likelihood of PEDs in CrossFit (the original link is broken, but here is an image of their original article). Their article is interesting and provides the context for everything below.

Here’s a quick summary:

  • these guys are experts on PEDs
  • drug tests are very easy to beat
  • testing agencies are mediocre at best, purposely negligent at worse
  • every major sport (including the Olympics) has steroid users
  • given some formulas (backed by research) that look at musculature on a man’s frame, CrossFit competitors fit the mold of steroid use

The formula Roberts and Romano used is as follows:

The FFMI formula taken directly from the Romano/Roberts article.

The FFMI formula taken directly from the Romano/Roberts article.

Roberts and Romano plugged in the stats of the top ten finishers of the 2013 CrossFit Games. The research would indicated anyone with a value of over 25.4 would qualify someone as a potential PED user. They modified the variables in favor of the CF fellas (such as estimating a higher body fat percentage and allowing a cut-off coefficient of 26), and 5 of the top 10 finishers still fell in the “potential user” category.

This doesn’t mean they are using PEDs, it just means the conditions exist that achieving a lean body mass naturally are not probable due to researched norms. In defense of the CF guys, my values placed my coefficient around 25 as well.

Everything up to this point in this article is a recap to get you up to speed. If you’re lost, read both of the linked articles above.

A 70’s Big Reader crunched the numbers from the 2015 CrossFit Games, and here are the results:

2015 calculationsEveryone above the red bar has the bodily parameters for PEDs use. That’s nearly 30 competitors from this year’s CrossFit Games that have a muscularity and height ratio greater than Mr. Universes of years past.

Is CrossFit just like any other sport in that people will use PEDs to gain an advantage? Or is the realm of CrossFit and Strength and Conditioning such that we are making impressive physiques? Do I think that all of them are using? No, but we’d be foolish to assume all of them weren’t.

 

 

Hybrid Weightlifting Programs

Everyone wants it all. CrossFit. Powerlifting. Weightlifting. All of it. Well, unfortunately the body doesn’t work like that. The more performance metrics you aim for, the more you limit the development of one of them; this is the concept of specificity in training.

Sometimes you have weightlifters who want to get stronger, jacked. Some times you have lifters wanting to dabble in weightlifting. Sometimes they just want it all. Well, here are a few resources for hybrid weightlifting programs.

I couldn't find out who this is, but it's a sweet pic

I couldn’t find out who this is, but it’s a sweet pic

Pendlay’s Super Total Program

This is Glenn Pendlay’s answer to how he would structure training for both powerlifting and weightlifting. I like the template. It allows for decent squat work, benching, overhead work, and still leaves room for two weightlifting days. The first weightlifting day is lighter and technique oriented while the latter is a heavier day.

70’s Big – Transitioning to Olympic Weightlifting

I wrote this a long time ago for myself and some of my lifters. It’s similar to Pendlay’s program above, but the weightlifting day comes before the strength day. This allows the lifter to be fresh for the quick lifts at the expense of the squatting and pressing. Also, the set/rep scheme for the Olympic lifts is a bit different. The weightlifting sessions are set up where one of the lifts is done with light to medium weight while the other lift is heavy. There are all kinds of different set/rep schemes, including the newer ones from The 70’s Big LP that could be dropped in.

Another note about this template — it’s what I always recommend to strength athletes who are getting into weightlifting. Without fail, they will jump into a program where they snatch and CJ three or more times a week only to run into some kind of joint issue. Whether it’s sore knees, hips, elbows, or shoulders, I see it every time regardless if they are weak or strong. Do yourself a favor and use the “progressive overload” concept of programming and ease into new training.

Another 70’s Big Transition Program — 3x/week

This is just a 3x/week adaptation of the previous 4x/week program.


What are some other hybrid weightlifting programs you’ve used? Have any others to add to the list?