Monday, January 31, 2005

Speed Benching w/Pushups

In one of my last blogs, I outlined my plan for a Prilepin bench cycle designed to increase volume and speed. This blog entry is about that second day, a speed day using the humble pushup.

In December, I experimented with a cycle that used push presses as a maximum effort exercise and inclined pushups done on speed day. Originally, I was going to use Dave Tate's beginners cycle of 20-30% bench 1RM for 15-20 sets of triples. When I tried that, though, the weight was too light - - - it was like trying to throw a wiffleball real fast. The pushups were better for me for three reasons: at 60-75% of bodyweight, a pushup uses so many muscles it feels lighter than that; it's good for GPP; and it teaches you to sychronize your pushing muscles with your back muscles better than the bench. The result was a 205 bench, the best I've done without actually benching.

15 sets of 3 were tougher towards the end, though: the reps eventually started to get slower. So. this week's second bench day will start with the minimum number of reps per Prilepin's table for that weight range: 24 reps, or 8 sets of 3. My feet are inclined 18 inches high on a platform, and I will use pushup bars to get the required depth. Each rep is done with a moderately fast drop with an explosive push but not enough to make the hands leave the ground - - - just short of that, maybe. My goal by the time my heaviest Prilepin bench cycle ends is 20 sets of 3. Some cycles will run two weeks long, like the first one. The other benefit of this is, of course, that it will help on my Navy test and I'll still be handling something heavy while I do this light cycle.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Wk 2: Prilepin Lats/Midback

Seated Cable Rows (160): 40x6, 50x4, 60x3, 75x3, 90x3, 100x3, 115x3, 135x3x5.

Hoist Assisted Wide Pullup (122.5, Bodyweight 239.5): 79.5x8, 89.5x6, 101.5x3x5 (Put a 2.5 lbs disk in my pocket to get close to the scheduled 100 lbs)

Dumbell Presses (55): 20x10, 35x8, 40x6x2

Lying Leg Thrusts: Failure at 10, 8, 6, 6 reps

Incline Situps: Failure at 10, 7, 7, 6 reps

Sushi tonight!!!

Wk2: Prilepin Bench Day 1

Flat Bench Press (200): 45x10, 60x6, 75x5, 95x5, 110x5, 125x4, 137x4x5 (Added 1 extra one lbs collar to each side to get close to the calculated 138 lbs). Each rep was pushed very fast. I had to really keep tight as the bar was almost going too fast. At 137 lbs, all reps moved fast except on the last two sets, where the 4th rep was just a tad slower. I could now see why Westside likes using triples for speed work. All in all, a great workout.

Thursday, January 27, 2005

Analysis of A Bench Press Routine

It started with my incline bench workout a few days ago.

My flat bench press routine was just like it, but substitute 200 lbs in place of 185 lbs: 95x10, 115x8, 135x6, 155x4, 175x2, 200x1.

I design my own workouts for squat/deadlift that work, so why was I looking for bench press programs on the internet? Never cared much for the bench, really. But in boot camp, bench presses helped me build my pushups, and . . . well, I'm still in the Navy, so . . . . .

Besides, I need a bench press I can brag about . . . LOL.

I did numbers for the heavy day of Patrick Nyman's Prilepin bench program, heaviest week: 3 sets of 2 at 90% 1RM, based on a 300 lbs bench. I also did the numbers for a standard Westside Progression I might use, up to a 300 lbs max attempt:

Prilepin Day 90%; 1RM Westside
70 lbs x 6=420 lbs; 70 lbs x 6=420 lbs
95 lbs x 4=380 lbs; 95 lbs x 4=380 lbs
115 lbs x 3=345 lbs; 115 lbs x 3=345"
140 lbs x 3=420 lbs; 140 lbs x 3=420 lbs
165 lbs x 3=495 lbs; 165 lbs x 3=495 lbs
190 lbs x 3=570 lbs; 190 lbs x 3=570 lbs
215 lbs x 3=645 lbs; 215 lbs x 3=645 lbs
235 lbs x 3=705 lbs; 235 lbs x 2=470 lbs
270 lbs x 2 x3=1620 lbs; 260x1, 280x1, 300x1=840 lbs

Total Tonnage: 5600 lbs; Total Tonnage: 4585 lbs

What you see is that for me to be able to lift 300 lbs, I need to be conditioned enough to bench a volume of 4585 lbs to 5600 lbs in a workout. At least 6-15 of those lifts need to be in the 80-90% range, and/or at least 3 lifts above 90%. Now, do the numbers on my workout: I don't even crack 3900. You could have poured creamer and sugar in your coffee, stirred, and taken a taste while 200 went up! 1 lift above 90% 1RM, 2 above 80% 1RM, and they were slow. I'm the poster child for no bench GPP and no bench speed.

What to do?

I figured that I had dedicate myself to this lift to perfect it and build GPP. I also needed to teach myself speed. So I took the Prilepin bench program and made the heaviest week 70%. The first six sets of the progression matched those of the other two for volume, and the last sets of mine match the last sets of Prilepin's at 90%. In the 60-70% range of my progression, I kept the optimum number of reps at 24:

Prilepin Bench Day (Heavy); Heaviest Day (200 lbs 1RM):

Wk 1 (69%): 5 sets of 4 reps; 45 lbs x 10=450 lbs
Wk 2 (60%): 5 sets of 4 reps; 60 lbs x 6=360 lbs
Wk 3 (66%): 5 sets of 4 reps; 75 lbs x 5=375 lbs
Wk 4 (70%): 5 sets of 4 reps; 95 lbs x 5=475 lbs
Wk 5 (60%): 5 sets of 4 reps; 110 lbs x 5=550 lbs
Wk 6 (66%): 5 sets of 4 reps; 125 lbs x 4 reps=500 lbs
140 lbs x 4 reps x 5 sets =2800 lbs
Total Tonnage: 5510 lbs

On the working sets, you're probably wondering, "why not just do 4 sets of 5?" If you read the Prilepin article in my blog, you'll see that while they both have the same Intensity at Number of Lifts (INOL) of around .833, 5 sets of 4 splits it into less intense sets. Remember, I want conditioning without losing too much speed (reps at this range should be 3-6 per set.). In this manner, I lift with the same work as a 300 lbs bench presser but at lower intensity. Does this mean that I will lift 300 lbs in 6 weeks? No! I will still have to lift somewhere down the line at percentages above 85% and approaching 100% so that my nervous system learns to apply more than 300 lbs of force. This is strictly conditioning.

After this cycle, I will take a max, then start this cycle anew but the percentages will be adjusted to show the heaviest week at 80%. Same thing after that cycle but the heaviest week will be 90% of 1RM. The volume will remain constant through all this. Then, I will start training closer to 100%, Westside style and switch to a new style bench press movement. My second day will be for speed using inclined pushups but that's another blog. Stay tuned!!

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Wk2: Prilepin Squat/DL - Heavy

Front Squats (215): 50x6, 65x4, 85x3, 100x3, 115x3, 135x3, 150x3, 170x3x5. Went well below parallel on these and had good reversal at the bottom. I'm able to stay more upright as time goes on, probably because of the good mornings. The first three sets at 170 lbs were moderately easy, then my lower back started feeling the burn and I had to be extra careful the last two sets. That, and my legs were starting t0 get tired, too. I think I need to recover from my lower back work: My leg test Jan 13 had a good morning max taken after a squat max and the next week, since there were no fractional plates, I did 215 on good mornings vice 210. I should have done 205. Next leg day falls on Monday, so I'll do 205 on GMs then. That, plus the extra recovery time, will fix me up.

Assisted GHR (90 lbs assist): I told John McDonald at Lift n' Learn that I would do 4 sets of 6. But my workout logs show me doing 4 sets of 5 since late December so I gave 4 sets of 7 reps a go. It went well.

Seated Calf Raises (110): 55x10, 72.5x8, 82.5x6x2.

Standing Calf Raises (110): 55x10, 72.5x8, 77.5x8

Back Extensions w/2 kg ball: sets of 10, 8, 7, 7. More for GPP than building anything.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Wk1: Prilepin Shoulders/Lats

The rest of yesterday's workout. Weight at the gym today: 239. I know I haven't been eating more than I used to. More aerobics in my future, or the training is paying dividends.

Incline Bench Press: 95x10, 115x8, 135x6, 155x3, 175x1, 185x1. I've been considering something besides incline pushups, so this was my little experiment.

Hoist Assisted Neutral Grip Chins (142.5): 79x6, 89x6, 99x6, 109x3, 119x3x5. Solid reps.

Hoist Assisted Dips (219): 79x6, 89x6, 99x3, 109x3, 119x3, 139x3, 159x3, 179x3x5. I have never trained like this in the dip, and it was challenging. Not that I never handled heavy weight in the dip, just not this many times.

Lying Leg Thrusts: 4 sets to failure at 9, 8, 6, 6 reps.

Incline situps: 4 sets to failure at 10, 8, 7, 6 reps.

I had an epiphany when ab work came around, and this about decided for me whether I'll do pushups or not. My Navy Physical Readiness Test is in May, so I figured I could train for higher numbers in abs until then. Thus, training them to failure. I think for pushups, I'm gonna do the same - - - good GPP work for me. I just have to figure out a rep scheme, targets, and maybe even a target weight. Overall, a great workout. My legs feel pretty good today, tomorrow begins Week 2!!!

Monday, January 24, 2005

Wk 1: Prilepin Mid-Back Lunchtime Workout

Notation is weight in lbs x reps x sets.

T-Bar Rows (150): 35x6, 45x4, 57.5x3, 70x3, 82.5x3, 95x3, 105x3, 115x3, 135x2x3. I suppose at 89% 1RM, it shouldn't be easy, and it wasn't. To get more pull power, I let the weight go down faster so as to get a better stretch reflex at the bottom but even with that, holding it at the top tired me out. Back's a bitch to work, or I may have to start doing dynamic effort workouts for back pulls . . . . . hmmmmmm . . . . . . . .

Saturday, January 22, 2005

Assisted GHR

The first place I ever read about the Glute/Ham Raise was a kinesiology book by Dr. Michael Yessis almost a decade ago. Sounded like a great idea, but I've never seen one in any commercial gym, so I never gave it much thought. Then, I read about it from Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell and saw Kris from do a makeshift one and started to think about it harder. Problem: I workout alone and couldn't use the pulldown machine setup (It had no toeplate, either), and I had no miniband to do the ball setup (really, I'm a measurement freak so I couldn't control the resistance with the bands). Then I tried the setup I'm about to describe: It took me three tries to master it but it was worth it. Before, to work my hams, I ran a Prilepin cycle multiple times using seated/lying leg curls and Romanian deadlifts: the leg curls were done for sets of heavy triples, sometimes as a pre-exhaustion movement for the RDL. This worked wonders. When I got the GHRs nailed, my calves and hams were worked deeper on all ends and the muscle bellies - - - in one movement.

The first picture is the situp bench. It need two sets of rollers to anchor your feet, and the guide rod that controls the angle of incline must be straight (my gym has one with a more angled guide rod, I don't recommend it) as to get it as close to the pulldown/pressdown station as you can so that you can use the backpad as a toeplate.

The second picture is the setup. I use two foam pads for my knees and also to get a snugger fit for my knees and hams. I also use a rope attachment: it's easier on the elbows and makes positioning yourself easier. Now, the weight. experimentation is key. You want a controlled descent but not too much and at the bottom, you can't jerk it so that the weight stack yanks you back. That was the hard part, especially because leg curl strength won't help you here - - - the first time out, I had to turn my face to the side to avoid busting my nose, my hams were weak in this motion. Now, as the video shows, my motion is stronger and smoother. To each set, I will add one rep per week until I'm doing 4 sets of 10. Then I will find a weight that only allows me four sets of 5 and do the cycle again until I no longer need the stack. No rush here, control is everything. You don't want momentum doing the work.

My thanks to Kris at for hosting this video and if anyone has any suggestions or form critique, I'm all ears.

The Setup w/Bench, Pulldown Machine, and rope attachment Posted by Hello

Situp Bench w/double rollers Posted by Hello

Friday, January 21, 2005

Wk 1: Prilepin Squat/DL - Light

Front Squats (215): 105x10, 135x8, 145x8, 145x7. Decided this would be my leg assitance movement on light day, so my front squats will get better. It felt great, I love to squat for reps. Oh yeah, if anyone's curious about the Manta Ray or Sting Ray (which I used for the front squats), go to

Standing Calf Raises (110): 55x10, 70x8, 77.5x6x2
Seated Calf Raises (110): 55x10, 70x8, 77.5x6x2

Assisted GHR (90 lbs assist): 8 reps test max, 3 sets of 5. I got em but I had to really strain. Between the good mornings and the front squats and calf raises I barely had any calf, ham, or lower back strength for it. Almost like pre-exhaustion from Hell!!!

After my son's game, pigged out at Mickey D's. Funny how a Double Quarter Pounder and big Coke made me feel better!!!

Weekend's here. Yay!!!

Wk1: Prilepin Squat/DL - Lunchtime Good Mornings

This week has been tough. My son started his first week of the basketball season with 4 games!!! So Monday will be the last workout of the 1st week. And since my son has a game this evening, I split my workout so that I could still get him to pre-game practice on time.

Arched Back Good Mornings (255): 55x6, 75x4, 105x3, 125x3, 145x3, 165x3, 185x3, 215x3x4, 215x2 (I think seated rows worked my lower back yesterday, because I got such a pump that I knew the third rep would not happen. So I took 2 minutes rest), 215x1 (I had to get psyched to get this one up as quick as I wanted. Pins were set for this one, I didn't expect to get it).

Basketball game tomorrow.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Wk1:Prilepin Shoulders/Lats

Bodyweight: 237.7. I have to mention it, so you know how much weight I actually lifted on assisted machines after assistance is subtracted.

Hoist Assisted Wide Pullup (122.5): 77.7 x8, 87.7x6, 97.7 x3, 110.2x2x3 (I put a 2.5 lbs plate in my pocket to get 110 lbs)

Dumbbell Shoulder Presses (55 lbs each):12x6, 15x4, 20x3, 25x3, 30x3, 35x3, 40x3, 45x3, 50x2x3. The 50s were tough. The heavier the weight gets, the more balancing I need to do. Probably the most work I have ever subjected my shoulders to.

Incline Pushups (feet up 18" + pushup bars): Tested to a 12 rep max, then did sets of 5, 6, 7, 6.

Lying Reverse Crunch on Stability Ball: sets to failure at 9, 6, 5, and 5 reps. These torched my lower abs. My preexhaustion movement for the next movement.

Weighted Ball Crunches (45): 25x10, 30x8, 35x8, 35x6. Burned like crazy!!!

WK 1: Prilepin Rows/Light Day

All Notation: weight x reps x sets. Number in parentheses after the exercise indicates current 1RM; I do not test new 1RM until cycle is over.

Seated Cable Rows (V-Handle)(160): 40x6, 50x4, 60x3, 75x3, 90x3, 100x3, 115x3, 125x3, 130x3x5.

Afterwards, realized that the 125x3 set could have been omitted. Not that it affected anything, but I don't like to do more than I have to for strength training.

All in all, workout went great. All my pulls were strong, last two sets were a little tougher but I got it with no sacrifice in form. Rest of my workout is this evening.

What constitutes a great back workout? Back is tired, arms are not, all reps can be held in the contracted position. I always imagine a hand in the middle of my upper back that I must crush with my shoulder blades: this is the beginning of all rows. I also start with my arms slightly bent, to limit biceps involvement and protect my elbows.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

I See Good Spirits, I See Bad Spirits

Luckily, today was my off day. My ankle is really sore but since I took Aleve soon after the sprain and iced it fast, I could walk on it. I'm a bit sore, but from the long game of full court basketball. My quads are just tired and my hams feel fried from the GHRs. My calves are sore from the cramp: I started taking 1000 mg of calcium today, just in case. Since I do an every other day Westside-style split, my next leg day ain't until Friday. So my ankle and calves get a break.

Monday, January 17, 2005

Week 1:Prilepin Leg Day/Heavy

I was there at the gym when it opened at 10 AM. I decided to work my front squat different: I ran a test on it first, since the last time I tested on it was early December when I got my Sting Ray (All notation: weight x reps x sets), then did the Prilepin work sets.

Front Squat (205): 95x5, 125x3, 155x1, 185x1, 215x1 (10 lbs PR), 180x2x3.
Seated Calf Raises (110): 55x10, 70x8, 77.5x6x2
Standing Calf Raises (110): 55x10, 70x8, 77.5x6x2
Assisted Glute Ham Raise (90 lbs assist): 4 sets of 5 reps
Back Extensions w/medicine ball (kg): 0 kg x 10 reps, 2 kg x 8 reps, 4 kg x 6reps, 5 kg x 6 reps

Hours later, took my son and his friend to the gym. Played an unscheduled game of basketball, so my cardio was well taken care of. Then shot a few with my son, went for a long 3-point jumper, and on takeoff both of my calves cramped hard (Calcium, anyone?). Then I landed all wrong and sprained my ankle - - - damn, does bad luck come in threes? So right now, I'm limping a bit. I'll be fine by my next leg day. But right now . . . . OUCH!!!

Friday, January 14, 2005


Tested my last few lifts for this cycle and just had a MetRx bar for lunch. I'm gonna do aerobics today.

Testing is simple: 45% 1RM (previous max)x5 reps, 60%x3, 75%x1, 90%x1, 105%x1 and if that rep felt good, 111%x1. On the Hoist assisted dip/Chin station, weigh myself on the electronic scale and subtract the amount of assistance to get as close to my target weight as possible. Half or 3/4 reps or sloppy reps don't count. If I double a weight, I might use Brzycki's formula to compute 1RM: weight lifted/[1.0278 -(.0278xnumber of reps)]. And if I cannot hold the weight in the contracted position for even a slight pause, that rep does not count, either!!!

T-Bar Row: 145x2, computed to about 150 lbs.
Seated Cable Rows: 160 lbs single.
Dumbell Presses: 55 lbs dumbells for a single.
Hoist Assisted Neutral Grip Chinup: 142.5 (my bodyweight was 242.5 clothed minus 100 lbs of assistance) for a double, computed to about 147 lbs.
Hoist Assisted Wide Pullup: 122.5 lbs single
Hoist Assisted Dips: 212.5 lbs double, computed to about 219 lbs.
Squats: no warmups, this was to avenge Tuesday's embarassing lift. Stance was just a little wider than shoulder width, I didn't push my ass too far back, actually got a spotter so I wouldn't have to worry about my hands hitting the pins. My anger came in handy: 325 lbs came down easy, and went up slightly less easy. I know I have speed issues there: I can parallel box squat 305 lbs, and my old carryover was about 55 lbs to my squat. But I'll fix that eventually.

Prep School

In a little over six weeks, I'm going to go on a full Westside cycle, with Dave Tate's 9 week program as a template. I have never been on a full WSB cycle: it has always been experimenting with speed work or max strength work, or trying other things to work on weak ponts like Patrick Nymans Priplepin Bench cycle (adapted for hamstring or back, look on for details) or an add 50 lbs to bench cycle adapted to wide grip chinups on a Hoist assisted chin machine (brought my wide pullup strength from 92 lbs to 120, but was overtraining on it after week 4, too many negatives/work past 90% 1RM). Of these experiments, the Prilepin cycle is one of my favorites: it allows me to train with a lot of volume in the above 80% to 90% range without burnout.

For that six weeks I'll be doing a Prilepin cycle with the purpose of trying to get my rows/chins/shoulders closer to my 200 lbs bench as possible to balance that out, and a squat cycle composed of front squats with my trusty Sting Ray and arched back good mornings (I neglected quad work for the past 8 months to bring up my hamstrings). For assistance movements, I'm just going to work on calves, glue ham raises, and core muscles, no direct arm work. No speed work, just raw strength. It will be structured like this:

Prilepin Midback: T-Bar Rows (Heavy Movement), Seated Rows (Lighter). I'll do these at luchtime on leg day.
Prilepin Lats: Hoist Assisted Wide Pullup (Heavy), Assisted Neutral Grip Chinup (Lighter). Prilepin Shoulders: Dumbell Presses (Heavy), Hoist Assisted Dips (Lighter)
Prilepin Squat/DL: Front Squats (Heavy), Arched Back Good Mornings (Lighter)
Assistance exercises: Assisted GHR (Pictures forthcoming), Incline Pushups w/pushup bars, Static Back Raises, Parallel Box Squats, Leg Thrusts on Stability Ball, Weighted Ball Crunches, Seated/Standing Calf Raises.

I'll be testing on a few exercises today to test 1RM, then I'll begin next week.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

Well, At Least I didn't Puke!!!

In between holiday week taking care of my son and his cousin and a week spent sick, I had misgivings about testing on working out Tuesday. A thought confirmed when I decided to test on squats instead of doing my leg press workout. May be it was my body being asked to do a lot or my wider than normal wide stance, but 155 felt heavy for 5 reps and I had little speed. By the time I got to 305 4 sets later, it plastered me to the point where I had to grab the pins to help myself up (The Manta Ray held the bar to my back). My backside would just not engage, so I couldn't explode from the bottom. I adjusted my stance and got myself psyched up but my next attempt was no better than the last.

I then attempted arched back good mornings: starting at 65 lbs, I worked up to a max of 255, and all my reps were slow. I had nothing left for anything else but dragging my butt out of the gym.

Some change is in the works. Funny, the leg press/GM combination made my deadlift jump but not my squat so that experiment will be dumped early. That, and for almost 9 months I have neglected my quads to pound my posterior chain. I want to try the Dave Tate nine week cycle for beginners, to build a strong base especially for benching. But for the next 6 weeks, I'll be using a Prilepin cycle to build my squat plus a strong enough back and shoulders to back up my bench for that - - - I want my push press, Dips, and rows to get as equal to my bench as I can. I'll test tomorrow on rows to see where I'm at. Front squat will be my heavy squat movement, with arched back GMs being my light day movement. I know I can squat more than this. Maybe, I shouldn't have tried quite so soon!

Oh yeah, the backs of my legs all the way to my ass hurts so much I can barely walk!!!