Well blow me down with a fart, 20 Q&A sessions! That’s about a 4 on the “take it or leave it” scale. It’s PR Friday, so post your weekly training PR’s or training updates to the comments. I enjoy seeing how people train and it definitely helps me a lot when you add tidbits of programming by either giving me ideas or confirming others.
On Monday I thanked my DC homies and discussed the topic of coaching the female gender. Tuesday I traveled, and Wednesday was a post on being brief when coaching. Thursday was a reminder that there’s no easy way to success.
My reading list this week included:
Gant Grimes “Hybrid Programming” — This is by my dear friend, Gant Grimes, who is an exceptional man. All of these new CrossFitters don’t really understand that strength training was taboo several years ago, and Gant’s post on the CF discussion boards was monumental at the time. It had a large effect on my development and programming, and I just read through it all again last night. It’s something everyone here should check out. While there are some things that I’m sure Gant would change, the overall message still applies. (This was originally posted on the CF discussion boards, but it was summarized nicely in this post — all of it is Gant’s writing)
Judo tips by Gant — Since we’re talking about Gant, he coaches Judo and other martial arts, and is a very, very good coach. I’ve gotten to learn from him briefly, and need to get back on a judo mat somewhere. Here are tips if you decide to give it a go.
Bulgarian Training on Weightlifting Exchange — If you’ve heard of Bulgarian training but never really understood it, this will give you some good background. It’s focus is high intensity with specificity, yet is dependent on an advanced trainee with balanced musculature. In other words, lesser advanced trainees would need to adapt the concepts to their needs.
Biological clock graph — I thought this was interesting. I was reading about sleep cycles on Wikipedia when I saw it.
Beta-Alinine Dosing — Some new research is showing that dosing for beta-alinine is probably relevant to body weight (unsurprisingly), but more importantly beta-alinine may be a good supplement for short, intense, anaerobic endurance training. Interesting.
Now onward with the Q&A! Keep in mind that while some questions are specific, they will include general concepts applicable to everyone.
This is a shortened (TL;DR) version of a question from CriedTheFox. The whole thing was really funny.
TL;DR I was pretty fucking fat, then wasn’t, now I’m much stronger but a little fat. That’s like the PB&J of stories…classic.
TL;DR #2 I weigh 193lbs at 5’6″ and squat 315lbs, what do i need to do to squat 455lbs and weigh 175lbs?
Also: For example. How the FUCK. does Brent weigh sub 160 at 5’5” and squat well into the 400s?
I like you, you’re funny. Let it be known that if people comment on the site regularly, I will go more out of my way to help them. It is known. There are various points of emphasis to make here.
The first is that your acknowledgement that Brent has trained longer than you is very relevant. Consider the differences of both of your histories. Brent was a skinny teenager who fucked around with stuff and then fucked around with weightlifting. He was okay, then got decently strong, then learned about proper nutrition and is much stronger at lighter body weights (and undoubtedly healthier for it). You were, as you say, fat, and then used a calorie deficit and calorie burning program to lose weight. Then you started training. I can assure you, there was a time when Brent only squatted 315. We all have an expression of our genotype, but what we do in our lives will have an effect on the phenotype. In other words, given your genetic predisposition, you can still alter the process to adapt, even if your adaptation won’t be as significant as someone who a) was born in a way that would make them better than you or b) who has been trying to adapt longer than you.
The second concept is that I’m unaware of your training program. That will definitely play a role in your success. To be honest, the main aspect is going to be “consistency” over time. Squatting twice a week for the next 18 months is going to have a profound effect on your squatting, even if we weren’t concerned with the weight. However, altering the rep ranges will have an effect on the strength/size ratio of development. Fewer reps results in strength increases without size increases. There is a really good discussion complete with program examples (including “low repetition programs”) in “FIT“.
However, I know that your goal isn’t to not get bigger muscles, but instead to decrease body fat. You mentioned that your diet is not optimal, and this will clearly have a profound effect on your body fat, but also your program success. One important aspect is insulin sensitivity. If you are not sensitive to insulin, then your whole hormonal situation is fucked. Things won’t work as well as they need to, and this is why I give a shit about quality. Besides, if you have quality sensitivity to insulin, then you can generate a better anabolic response to improve training. I’m actually going to do a nutrition post next week on the concept of insulin sensitivity. But if you wanted specifics I suggest a consultation; I’m going to be vamping up the consultation process and am bringing someone in that has similar methodology for nutrition consultations.
The basic tenet is train and eat smart consistently over time. Align the program and nutrition to meet your goals. Solidify the foundation before focusing on the minutiae.
Craig R. asks,
I was thinking about something today regarding lever arms, hopefully I can make sense of this over email. A more efficient lever arm seems to be one that has more muscle mass on each lever. If that holds true, would a taller lifter benefit more from a higher rep scheme 3×8-10, that would produce some hypertrophy in addition to making strength gains, versus an average lifter who has normal lever arms. Or should 5 reps be enough to elicit strength and mass in most lifters.
On one of the Starting Strength roundtable vids on Tall Lifters it sounded like for someone 6’5″, such as myself, I would have to weigh close to 300 pounds to be an effective powerlifter, based on the lever arms. I weigh 255 right now at probably 20%bf. I don’t want to weigh 300 nor be a powerlifter, but I would like to do a competition sometime for squat or deads and maybe a highland games. Am I stuck being a tall freak that should stick to basketball?
Yes, the longer a segment length is, more musculature would need to surround it in order to have similar angles of attachment compared to a shorter segmented lifter. It’s a result of the lever arms in mechanics. However, the repetition continuum still applies to taller guys. A rep range of 8 to 10 would focus on hypertrophy, or muscle growth, while three reps or less would have more of a strength focus. Using 5s is usually a balance between the two. However, if you were to use 8 to 10 reps per set, you are going to limit the amount of weight you can use and also not gain as much strength as you could had you used sets of 5. It may be relevant to use various assistance exercises in that repetition range to grow a group of muscles, but that would apply when the group of muscles will directly augment a more important lift.
An “effective powerlifter” is kind of vague. If someone were going to maximize their mechanical advantage with respect to their segment lengths, then perhaps 300 is a weight that would maximize that, but the discussion is arbitrary. Especially because it doesn’t apply to you. I think you are worried about the wrong things. Continue doing squats and deadlifts, throw in some power snatches, and start throwing. Throwers are typically tall with long limbs because the angle of release results in better throws (read up on angular momentum and consider buying/reading this book — it’s very good). People would kill to have your height, so don’t be the guy who’s complaining about owning a chest of gold. Take what you have, and do something with it.
Generic second-hand question from a soldier in Afghanistan:
I’m curious as to your opinion on additional assistance work that might be considered more “bodybuilding” or “isoloation” style exercises. Things like leg press, calf raises, and flies. Do you think they are a relevant assistance work? What about for an underdeveloped lower body?
Isolation or “bodybuilding” type stuff has its place depending on the program. There are people who support this type of inclusion for the sake of hypertophy and aesthetics, but I know that your job requires more than sitting around (though you comically probably do a bit of that, too). For someone like you, I would simply say, “Squat.” If you squat three times a week for the next 8 weeks, then you’ll see the difference. As you know, squatting has a greater neuroendocrine response that is going to to create an anabolic response of growth much better than the leg press. It isn’t that leg press is bad, it’s just that squatting is so much better.
Plus, given the nature of squatting, it will translate well into moving through rough terrain with a load. Not to mention leg pressing would have more a net anterior force at the knee and could potentially irritate the knee when considering the other activity you are accountable for.
As for building up a lagging body part, whether for muscular size or strength purposes, I always prefer compound free weights. Think RDLs, barbell rows, and weighted pull/chin-ups, and dips. Once those are used regularly, you could utilize more isolation stuff like round back extensions, nosebreakers, french press, or curls.
If you are using each piece consistently for at least one to three months, the trend would be:
Frequency of primary lifts > Compound assistance > Strength-isolation assistance > Sprinkled BB movements
If you’re worried about squatting with respect to your job — some guys are understandably worried that fatiguing their legs could interfere — then I have some second hand information for you. I know some guys from OEF-8 who were in the (in)famous Korengal Valley. That fear existed, yet they trained anyway (though they weren’t squatting 3x/week). Some of the guys would even have races in full kit to get back to the OP — some ungodly climb of 800m or so (the PR was around 17 minutes I believe).
In light of your job, I would say squat. You could always hit up front squats as assistance, but if you’re squatting two or three times a week, you’re gonna see the difference. Just make sure they are deep with your knees out. Don’t even worry about the weight, just make it a bit challenging.