Sunday, September 21, 2008

Bastardized, So You Won't Have To;)

A lot of people send questions to forums wondering whether they should try something or not, whether it will be effective or not, yada, yada, yada. Essentially, thinking or Internet-ing it to death. I have no problem with a more empirical approach: I read about it or plan it, tweak it, try it for a 6-12 weeks, assess it at the end, save it to Excel (On, Kris has a very effective PR Spreadsheet you can download that is very effective for that purpose), put it in my toolbox or toss it out. Looking at my blog, one sees that I have almost 4 years of workouts, numbers, injuries, mistakes, PRs, and failures to sort through. I know what works and when because of it.

After success with EliteFTS Beginners Training Manual, the next logical progression for me was the Westside for Skinny Bastards III program. Both programs are very similar: my interest in the WSFSB III stems from my eagerness to get away from speed work for a while: I couldn't break my PRs in the bench or squat doing so, I only got so far. I figured that unless I had more muscle and basic strength first, more speed work was not the answer. For me, this template was a good jumping off point.

With WSFSB III, I kept the basic setup. I looked back at my past training and wants and used that to craft rep setups that would work for me for all the rep work. I wanted more rep proficiency than just sticking to 8-15 reps only.

To start, my goal is to get down to the low 190s while keeping or gaining as much muscle as possible. I weighed in at 207 this morning, down 31 pounds since April so I'm getting there. My back is bigger and wider, shoulders stronger and more pain free, traps thicker, overall everything is more solid.

My second goal is perfomance based. When I started out, I couldn't do a chinup or pull up. Now I could do 6. By the time I go home, I'm gunning for a 265 bench at 198 BWT (My best in training is 245 at 240) and at least 425 for a deficit deadlift. I'm gunning for a 365 squat: I won't be able to test it until I get home so since I've been using front squats as a max effort movement, my goal is 275-285 there (about 75% of my squat).

So, what are the tweaks:

1.) ME work is now 5RM for week 1, 3RM for week 2, and 1 RM for week 3. Who says you can't have it all.

1.) Chinups, Pullups, and Rows: At the time, when I was getting close to doing one I couldn't get close without a lot of kipping (flailing might be more like it). I thought of Prilepin's table for maxes in the 90% range (1-6) and started out with six singles but needed a higher volume of total work. The Monster Mini Band allowed me to do this without kipping, and the Average band let me do more reps afterward. 4 sets of each was a nice sweet spot. This replaced the back/rear delt superset on ME and RE Upper Body days. One of my better experiments. Next year, I will probably keep this setup but drop the mini bands, use bodyweight chins and light bands for the rep sets. Instead of doing a bench variation for 2-3 sets of a rep-out, I'm doing repetition work with rows to back up my chins/pullups, instead.

2.) Squats: improving my squat was a bigger priority than the deadlift. The first thought was to turn speed day into a rep day with the box squats: I wasn't good at all rep ranges and I wanted to change that. So I looked back at Chad Waterbury's programs and the New Rules of Lifting and gathered all the rep schemes I could find - - - 18 of them. I arranged them so that every 4th week, one of the schemes would be heavy and so that all the other ones would build up to something more: 5x5, 3x15, 4x10, 6x3, 2x25, 3x12, 5x6, 6x4, 4x12, 5x8, 4x15, 10x3, 3x20, 2x30, 12x2, 1x50, 2x25, 15x1. Then I set a planned progression: I knew from past training waves that I could put on 15 pounds on a squat in three weeks, so every 4th week, the max I calculate from moves up 15 pounds. The last three workout will be 15 singles at 90% of 365 lbs. Since I didn't want to have to worry about balance and just wanted to push weight up, it's all done on the Smith. When I test at home, I'll tell you if it was worth it.

This setup also solves a problem I had in 2005. Back then, I had done a cycle of nothing but front squats, reaching a PR of 275 but the first test of my regular squat afterwards only yielded 300 lbs - - - a 15 pound loss. Fast forward to 2008 and the end of almost two months doing nothing but single leg work, I was able to do ATG squats and had more control and stopping power but my box squat was a struggle at 275. With this setup now (Front squats every other wave and single leg work each leg day), the RE Squat day will make sure I don't lose the groove of the lift that really matters.

3.) Deadlifts: while I'm not making it a priority, I'd be a fool to give it up. Especially, when it is always a great aid in leaning out. So I made quality a priority. In the past, my heaviest deadlifts were always a bitch to get off the floor. I can't do snatch grip deadlifts here in Djibouti, because all the bars are bench press bars with no knurling at the ends. So I began doing deadlifts off a two inch block, conventional grip. These are proving to be a godsend for two reasons. In testing, it sped up my regular deadlift off the floor and made it easier. And in combination with the RE Squat work, my sumo deadlift has now become the near equal of my conventional deadlift.

4.) Bench Pressing: the RE work so far has proven to be a great help. I have control of the weight at all points, and more confidence. Taking a cue from having used the close grip benches and incline benches for repetitions work to good effect, I am just using 3 movements for ME Bench (in order): Incline Bench Press, Close Grip Bench Press, and Flat Bench Press. The first 3 waves are 5/3/1RM setup, in preparation for a wave load setup of the same movements in the last 9 weeks. No boards, no chains, no bands, no top end work. The RE work is all Blast Straps. We'll see how well simple works for me. The last 4 waves of deficit deadlifts and front squats will follow a similar setup.

5.) The same rep changes being used for box squats is being used for: leg curls, Hammer Strength ISO High Rows and ISO Rows, Seated Calf Raises, and Hammer Calf Presses. There really ain't much in equipment at this gym, and I just wanted to move as much iron as possible for some of the support movements.

6.) If you see a lot of bicep work, it has always been a weakness for me. I'm catching up, though. Same for shoulder pressing and shrugs.

7.) I've dropped using the body armor for aerobic work. When I lost my first bunch of pounds, it was a great help 2-3 times a week. But back then, only one of those days was really heavy and I was doing less work. On this program now, walking for an hour with the vest now leaves me a little TOO beat, sometimes even beat up.

8.) The same problem with the single leg movements. This wave, I was doing both Bulgarian Split Squats and Reverse Lunges plus the two squat days and it was just too much. So, I will use the assisted pistols on RE Lower Body Day after the box squats. On ME Lower Body days, I will use the Reverse Lunge with Front Squats and the Bulgarian Split Squat when doing Deficit Deadlifts.

9.) Calves. Why not? The benefits outweigh the negatives, and they don't take anything out of me. Simple.

10.) I'm working shrugs twice a week, sort of. If I'm deadlifting, I do behind the back shrugs on RE Upper Body day. If I'm front squatting, I use overhead shrugs for both upper body days for different rep schemes: I was going to use the trap bar shrugs for a movement but I've done those, and want to see how well the overhead shrugs work.

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