Stop wasting your time!!

There are so many ways to sex up a program, and with the internet overflowing with information, it’s easy to get carried away. You see Vogelpohl lifting insane amounts of weight and you hear Louie Simmons go on and on about the conjugate method. You see Kai Greene pumping out thousands of reps – you hear about the extreme tempo manipulation of the bodybuilding elite. You’re confused!

Look no further. I’ve tried all of the above and here are my experiences:

The Dynamic Effort Method:

Bands and chains huh? That’s sexy. Speed work? FUCK YEA!

Thing is, just like CAT “invented” by Hatfield, dynamic effort work was created with one very specific group of people in mind. The insanely strong people. The dynamic effort method is a way to train a lift without having to lift enormous amounts of weight. This is a smart move if you’re squatting in the 400kg+ range. You pretty much have to find ways to limit the amount of weight you use if you want to be able to train.

Problem is – you’re not squatting 400kg+.

There’s a distinct difference between 90% of 1RM if 1RM is =430kg and 90% of a 120kg 1RM. Obviously not relative to the lifters strength, but relative to the amount of stress it puts on the bones, the connective tissues, the muscles and even the mind. 90% is not 90%.

speed kills

For a novice lifter it may be fun and sexy to do DE, speed work or CAT. But… It’s a wasted effort. Unless you’re already lifting serious amounts of weight – time is much better spent building base strength. Strength is the foundation for power and just getting stronger will increase your power output. That’s why a 200kg squatter always has a better power clean than a 100kg squatter all others things equal. There’s only so much powertraining will do for a 100kg squatter.

Using the dynamic effort method is very specific to training for maximal performance in the given lifts. There are more benefits than just being able to train without beating the body up quite as much, but the benefits are pretty much all very specific to powerlifting at a high level.

For a normal lifter or even an athlete who’s not already very strong, time is simply much better spent doing heavy squats. It’s not sexy, but it’s true.

The other end of the spectrum:

Slowing down lifts deliberately.

This is really stupid.

It’s important to point out, that I’m not talking about a 430kg squatter who’s applying tempo and pauses to limit the amount of weight lifted. Nor am I talking about any kind of advanced lifter doing it for a real reason.

What’s extremely stupid is when skinny weak guys use slow negs because it “burns” or because it’ll get them sore as hell. As with anything in training, no amount of tempo manipulation will get you jacked if you’re squatting 70kg. Time will be much better spent pushing a handful core lifts up aggressively. THEN when you’re squatting somewhere around 150-170ish you can play with tempos and/or pauses, but up until that point it’s not really worth your time (unless obviously you have specific issues).

Moving weights as fast as possible under control is good, slowing down deliberately is bad. At least for now. As with the speed work, it may be useful at some point in time.

Summing up:

I’ve said it before so many times, but I guess I’ll have to keep saying it as long as I can muster up the strength to do so. If you’re weak, your number one priority should be to get your strength up. No amount of pumping, sculpting, feeling, contact or whatever is gonna do shit if you’re not lifting a decent amount of weight. Best part is – if you’re weak it’s gonna be easy to build strength. Just read Starting Strength and get training!

I hate to admit this

This is really embarrassing for me, but I gotta put it out there.

It’s no secret that I’m big on simple, old school strength training. That just makes it even more odd that I’m only just finishing up Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training. Many years ago I wanted to get it, but got Practical Programming instead. Now I know that’s the wrong way to do it.

Starting Strength is really one of the first books you should read on strength training. But for some reason it’s a bit like the Bible – nobody has read it, yet everybody has an opinion on Rip’s teachings. Especially the “hip drive” part.

Rip puts it very clearly in the book though: the hip drive does NOT mean you change your back angle.

Instead of cueing “chest up” or something similar, Rip uses the hip drive. Why? Because an exaggerated chest up-position kills the power from the posterior chain. That simple.
You may not agree with the style Rip teaches the squat, and you may want to squat with a different (higher) bar position. That’s fine. I still believe you should read this book (multiple times) as it does a great job of explaining in detail the physics of lifting.

Something as simple as explaining WHY it’s safe to squat deep. Most people who train seriously know it, but if somebody you coach ask you why – you better have a better answer than “because I say so” or your coaching career is gonna be real short.

Rip has a reputation for saying “YNDTP” (You’re not doing the program) and being very set in his ways. I guess it’s got a lot to do with the retardedness of people on the internet. If one guy asks you if he can “run a little on the side” and you say “sure, you can run 2-4k on saturday at an easy pace” before you can drink a gallon of milk, he’s out there running 10k 4 days a week. Afterall, the basic program outlined in the book is not a “for life” kind of program. It’s an all-or-nothing assault on weakness and lack of bodyweight. Oh and Rip actually recommends that people with 20-25% BF control their carbs and eat a paleo-type diet WITHOUT the gallon of milk. The milk part is only for the skinny folks.

And you know what? It’s pretty good advice. If you can stay on a linear progression for just twelve weeks you’re gonna add 90 kg to your squat. You NEED tons and tons of calories to make that possible.

Starting Strength is not just a great book. It’s a great philosophy on how to approach strength training. Start off by going all-in on building a foundation. Disregard your abs – they’re easy to dig out again later. Keep adding weight and pushing your bodyweight up until you’re at ~20% bodyfat.

Stick to the linear progression as long as you can. Then dig deeper, eat more and stick to it a couple of weeks more. COMPLETELY exhaust the linear progression. Then reset and go at it again. Six months of basic barbell training is the best gift any training can give themselves when they’re starting out.

Everything is easier when you’re strong(er) and big(ger). Getting lean is easier, playing sports is easier, conditioning is easier and getting laid is easier.

What’re you waiting for?

Get the book here: Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training and get started. It’s NEVER to late to start over.

Going on vacation part 3 – the training

Time for the good stuff, eh?

First of all, I wanna make something perfectly clear. When on a vacation, you’re DELOADING. That means, you’re not gonna follow your regular program and you’re not gonna expect to get a decent workout in. Hotel gyms are shit, so you’re gonna have to wing it. Here’s the main reasons for training on a vacation:

  • Avoid too crazy soreness when you return.
  • Peace of mind.
  • Keep weight in check.

So with that in mind, you’re gonna have to look at the equipment available and make the most of it.

vacation

Unless you’ve really struck out (this is why you brought bands for pushups/upper back and jump rope), you should have access to the following:

  • Treadmill: put on a nice incline and set it at 15-20kph. Do 15s on/45s off sets of sprints. 5-10 should be good. Warm up properly.
  • Benchpress: do 5 sets of 10 with a medium weight – get some blood flowing. Superset with barbell rows using same bar.
  • DBs up to 20ish KG. Usable for: High rep DB presses and chest-supported rows.
  • If you’re really lucky you’ll have a dipping/chinning station, if you do you should just camp there and do a ton of reps.

Stick to compound lifts, do 5 sets of ten and take really short breaks. You could even throw in a barbell complex if you have there’s room for it. Notice that I didn’t put in any legwork – sore legs and various activities is a bad match – keep your focus on the vacation part of “vacation training”.

Training on a vacation is supposed to be easyish and not take up a ton of time (or space in your suitcase). Get in, get it done and get back to the pool. Enjoy your vacation – you probably didn’t spend a fortune to go see the inside of a crappy hotel fitness room.

What’s taking so long?

If your workouts are taking much more than an hour, this will be useful for you. I know mine often do, and whenever I use this easy-to-use trick, I end up having a great workout without spending hours at the gym.

So what is this trick?

gymboss_zwart

The “trick” is really simple. I usually do one or two big compound lifts for strength, and then take the reps up a notch for some pump/hypertrophy work. For the “assistance” work I do, I keep rests around a minute. Sometimes I’ll go even lower, but about a minute seems to be the sweet spot.

Cut the rest periods a bit to up the difficulty. It’s hugely satisfying to get a ton of volume done in a short time.

Five reasons I love sledwork

Pulling a sled is something I really like to do. It’s a very versatile tool, that can be used for building strength, muscle and lungpower, but it’s also a great recovery tool.

boy-pulling-sled-8775956

So, what are the five reasons I like sleds so much?

  1. You can load up the hips and legs without loading the spine. With all the squatting, deadlifting and other spinal loading you’re doing, giving the good ol’ backbone a rest is a good thing.
  2. Strictly concentric. Sledwork has no eccentric phase, which means it will not get you as sore as other types of training. This is great for strength, but even greater for recovery – it’ll let you flush the muscles with blood, without causing additional soreness.
  3. It’s “functional” as in, it has great carryover to the real world.Pushing/pulling stuff is great for starting cars, hanging out with the kids in the winter and/or handling the dog.
  4. You can pull a sled outside in the sun (and you can make a sled easily from a spare tire).
  5. The zombie walk sled pull and the controlled backpedal will blast your legs like few other things.
  6. It’s great for sprinting, because it slows you down, which forces you to overstride less, which again means lower risk of hamstring injuries.

Yea I know, that’s six, not five, but today I’m doing a little bit extra since it’s Monday and I had a great weekend with the family.

Bonus: 2 different DIY sleds:

Update from Famez HQ

Last week marked the ending of a five week cycle. It’s been great to get back on track and I feel like my plan has worked out very well. Except for the fact that I can’t seem to lose weight. On the upside though, my waist measurement has dropped a couple of cms, and I’m looking a lot tighter.

I’ve been able to train without any issues from my hip, which has been and will continue to be priority number one. If I can stay healthy, I’ll get stronger. It’s that simple.

My best lifts during this cycle were pretty light but I actually managed to make them feel light. 167,5kg on the back squat, 190kg in the conventional deadlift, a couple of triples at 145 in the paused squat and 11 reps at 77,5kg in the press. Nothing too impressive, but a good place to start.

ZombieKillerFP

Going forward, I’ll be sticking to training three times a week with an optional weightlifting day and an optional hill sprints day, the split is gonna look like this:

Day 1: Press, more press, chins and dips. This day is all about building the press, so I’ll also do some overhead triceps and possibly some DB/KB presses.

Day 2: Squats, paused squats, deadlifts and deficit sumo deadlifts. Lots of abs and unilateral legwork.

Day 3: Bench press, rows, more rows, upper back and guns. Back/arms day with a bit of bench press thrown in.

Lower body training will focus on getting strength back, while remaining healthy. Hypertrophy is not a priority at this point. Abs are a weakpoint, so they get extra work. Volume stays pretty much the same as for the past five weeks as that’s worked very well for me. Same with frequency – only squatting once a week has been good.

As for upper body, the bench press is back. I’ve also moved the chins to my pressing day, as I found it a bit too easy. Bench press will be programmed based on a conservative max, but this cycle should reintroduce some good weights on the other three lifts. After this cycle I’ll have a very good idea of what to expect from my next meet in November.

I’ve made another minor modification to the split and switched days 1 and 2. The reason for this is that I usually run hills during the weekend, and with only one weekly lower body day, I figured it was silly to do it so close to hill sprints.

Apart from that, I’m really enjoying training only three times a week (+hills +weightlifting), and the 5 week cycle was really good for me. I’ll be using a 9 week cycle based on the same principles (three singles and some backoff volume). This’ll also help me figure out how to plan the cycle leading up to TSK Cup in November.

The Deck of Death

I actually hate that name with a passion, though I like the idea on a couple of levels.

First, let me explain what it is:

I took a deck of cards and wrote a whole bunch of stuff on them. Whenever I have an extra ten minutes and some energy after training, I draw a card. So what’s on those cards? for me it’s a combination of mobility, cardio and weakpoint training.

cards

This accomplishes two things – you identify your weakpoints and feel like you address them (by putting them on the cards) AND you actually address them, albeit at random. Ideally you’d draw a card after each workout. Over time you will end up addressing the things you prioritize in your deck.

These are the guidelines I follow for all cards:

  • No more than 10 minutes tops.
  • No heavy loading. Preferably bodyweight stuff.
  • Easy to recover from, so no “how many lunges kan you do in ten minutes” card.
  • No strength work.

What I did was split the deck according to priorities. Some of you might want to have 50% mobility, 30% prehab and 20% cardio, while others would use other ratios. Analyze how your time would be best spent, and split the cards accordingly. You might have to use the same exercises on more than one card if you have a specific issue.

Just for inspiration, I’ll list my categories and a couple of sample cards from them:

1. Cardio (25%): 1k C2 for time (though I’ve trashed this card as my psoas doesn’t like the rower). 10x 30s on/30s off KB swings/burpees.

2. Wellness (40%): 10 min foamroll. Sumo groin mob and split stretch against wall.

3. Weakpoints(35%): 5×10 biceps/triceps. 5 sets of abs and grip.

If you’re a CFer you could throw in some cards with skills on them. Remember to keep it light. This could be 10 minutes of handstand/pistols practice.

This is a fun little way to help you identify and address weakpoints, though the base format is obviously a bit random. In the perfect world, you’d put down all your issues and address them in a methodical way, but for most people the element of surprise in the cards keeps them entertained. 🙂

Have a great one. <3