Monthly Archives: September 2014

RTS Classroom

classroom

RTS Classroom is one of the best ways to invest in your knowledge of the sport

Today I wanted to mention one of the best resources available for students of the sport of Powerlifting. I’ve read a lot of literature on Powerlifting and strength training (except for Supertraining, no one reads Supertraining). I’ve certainly learned a lot from reading but if I’m to be honest I’d have to say that I’m generally better at learning via auditory means. I find training literature to generally be extremely dull and it takes a lot of concentration to finish it.

When I heard that Mike Tuchscherer was starting a series of online lectures about powerlifting I immediately jumped on board. I’d read his book and bought several DVDs from the site and I learned so much just from those alone. I’ve been subscribed since the beginning and I can honestly say I’ve learned more about the sport in the past year via RTS Classroom than from all of the strength literature I’ve read. Mike has an amazing ability to organize, condense, and summarize important training concepts.

One of the best aspects of RTS Classroom is that Mike is constantly growing the amount of content and also the topics it covers. In the past few months he’s had Mike Zourdos (of DUP fame) come on board and give lectures he’s originally prepared for his university students. Ben Esgro has also been giving lectures on Nutrition including IIFYM and reverse dieting.

Here are some examples of the topics that have been covered in RTS Classroom:

  • Autoregulation Fundamentals
  • Block Periodization
  • Exercise Selection
  • Concurrent Training
  • Skeletal Muscle Physiology
  • Nutrition Fundamentals and Fallacies

One of the points I made in my recent article published by RTS is that you can’t go wrong by learning more about your sport. In my opinion, RTS Classroom is one of the best resources available today for those looking to increase their knowledge and become a student of the sport. I highly recommend it and encourage you to sign up.

I wanted to note that (other than being a moderator on the RTS Forums) I am not affiliated with Reactive Training Systems. I am advocating for RTS Classroom solely because I think it is a fantastic resource for anyone who considers themselves a student of the sport.

Advertisements

Week of 9/21/2014

Tuesday 23, Sep 2014

#Deadlift w/ belt
345 x 5 @6
365 x 5 @8
345 x 5 @7
345 x 5 @7.5
Work capacity is crap

#Bench
205 x 3 @6
215 x 3 @7
225 x 3 @7.5
215 x 3 @7
215 x 3 @7
Feeling some elbow discomfort. Gonna hammer shoulder mobility

Thursday 25, Sep 2014

#Front Squat
205 x 6 @6
215 x 6 @7
225 x 6 @8
215 x 6 @7
215 x 6 @8

#Floor Press
195 x 6 @6
205 x 6 @7
215 x 6 @8.5
205 x 6 @7
205 x 6 @8

Friday 26, Sep 2014

#303 Tempo Squat
245 x 4 @6
260 x 4 @7
275 x 4 @7.5
260 x 4 @7
260 x 4 @8
This movement does not lend itself well to RPE

#Pin Press (chest level)
205 x 4 @7
215 x 4 @8
205 x 4 @7
205 x 4 @8

#3ct Pause Deadlift
225 x 6 @7
245 x 6 @8
235 x 6 @8
Wow, my fucking coach sucks

Decided to group my training log posts together so as not to spam my blog with them

How I stopped my Squat from leaning to one side

This one’s a bit more practical and one of those “this has worked for me”. Obviously, if you’re having the same issue this might not work for you. However, I wanted to toss this out into the ether just incase I might be able to help someone out there.

When I first became serious about Squatting I was plagued with elbow pain (which hasn’t fully abated but has a different cause), specifically in my left elbow. This is a fairly common phenomena with Low-Bar squatters. Around the same time I noticed, from constantly filming my sets, that I had a significant lean to my right-hand side. Perhaps this is best illustrated by a video from my first meet:

This seemed to correlate with elbow pain and conceptually it made sense to me. If the bar was lower on the right-hand side it would pull up on my left arm irritating the connective tissue. I figured something was tight and pulling my right shoulder lower than my left. So I spent a lot of time hunting for trigger points on my right-side, specifically foam rolling the lats as I felt they were probably the primary issue. It got me largely nowhere.

I was able to compensate for the issue by actively shrugging my right shoulder up during Squats sets. This was suggested to me by Tom Campitelli and it worked fairly well until heavier sets where it was difficult to concentrate on keeping the shoulder higher. The pain abated but the issue persisted. Eventually the pain came back as well and I began hunting, once again, for an answer to the issue.

I had assumed that my shoulders were just asymmetrical as a result of an anatomical anomaly. I asked the 70’s Big guys if they had ever seen anything like this and Mike Battaglino made the correct call. He’d said that in the past his scalenes and traps and gotten tight in the past and he’d seen something similar. This was an entirely new idea for me as I’d spent all my time trying to treat the opposite side of the body than where the tightness had been occurring.

Scalenus.png

“Scalenus” by User:Mikael Häggström. ¹

Trapezius Gray409.PNG

“Trapezius Gray409” by Mikael Häggström. ²

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The trap/neck area is a hard area to hit. You can’t foam roll it, it’s pretty tough to hit with a lacrosse ball (other than the top of the traps). I had some success with a theracane. But what worked the best (and has continued to work) is hitting the area with a car buffer prior to Squatting. The car buffer works well for this because the machine does most of the work (as opposed to other methods which require your bodyweight or manual pressure). You can also push on it to apply additional pressure.

What’s worked for me is starting with the top of the traps and grinding on as much trap as you can reach back for, then working on the top of the traps and grazing the scalene muscles as much as possible. The neck is a very sensitive area (at least for me) so gentle pressure is all that’s required.

For further reading on this topic check out Paul Ingraham’s post on neck trigger points.

References:

1. “Scalenus” by User:Mikael Häggström. Original uploader was Mikael Häggström at en.wikipedia – Transferred from en.wikipedia; transferred to Commons by User:IngerAlHaosului using CommonsHelper. (Original text : Image:Gray387.png). Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

2. “Trapezius Gray409” by Mikael Häggström. When using this image in external works, it may be cited as follows: Häggström, Mikael. “Medical gallery of Mikael Häggström 2014”. Wikiversity Journal of Medicine 1 (2). DOI:10.15347/wjm/2014.008. ISSN 20018762. – Image:Gray409.png. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Reactive Training Systems: The Pitfall Programs

If you haven’t seen it I had an article published by Reactive Training Systems. The Pitfall Programs

Monday 22, Sep 2014

#Squat w/ belt
325 x 5 @6
345 x 5 @7
365 x 5 @8
345 x 5 @7
345 x 5 @8
Widened my stance a bit. Wow, feels so great.

#Competition Bench w/ belt
195 x 5 @7
205 x 5 @7
215 x 5 @8
205 x 5 @7
205 x 5 @7.5

#Press
95 x 7 @8
95 x 7 @8.5
95 x 7 @9.5

So glad to be back to volume work

The Program is Important

I’ve come to realize that at this point in my life I’m a “middle-of-the-road” kinda guy. It wasn’t always this way. There was a time when I followed fad diets and exercise routines. But now that I’ve, I suppose, “grown-up” I favor more of a moderate approach. Despite what I’ve personally learned, there is a lot of extremist thinking in the fitness industry. “This is bad, That’s good.” Regardless of the context. One of these lines of thinking is the “just pick a program and work hard” crowd.

Examples of this reasoning include: “Sheiko, 5/3/1; these are all good programs and they work. Just pick one, stick with it, and work hard.” Of course, I wouldn’t be a moderate guy if I didn’t admit that there’s some truth to it. You do need to work hard and you shouldn’t program hop. But jumping on any old program is rolling the dice. If it works it’s because it provides what you need at that point in time to progress.

A program isn’t a program. Clearly 5/3/1 is very different from Sheiko. We know this, it’s very easy to see that is the case. For a newish lifter, Sheiko will be unnecessary and potentially too much. For a very experienced lifter adapted to high volume and high frequency, the vanilla 5/3/1 is probably not going to work so well. The program needs to fit the lifter. If it doesn’t the lifter will often stall and regress.

This is why, in my opinion, custom programs will always be better than cookie-cutter programs. To be most appropriate for the individual their program needs to take into account their current requirements for volume, intensity, frequency, exercise variation, etc. Even those trainees that make great progress on pre-defined programs will generally modify them to fit their needs. I’m a big fan of taking charge of your own program and making small tweaks to variables over time to make it better and to learn exactly what works for you as an individual.

The lesson here is that there is no one single important variable that will make a trainee successful. Sleep, nutrition, exercise technique, these are all important but no more important than the program. All of these aspects work in synergy.

Thursday 18, Sep 2014

#Front Squat
165 x 4 @6
195 x 4 @7
225 x 4 @7.5

#Floor Press
165 x 7 @6
195 x 7 @8

This is a good performance after the transition block

Wednesday 17, Sep 2014

#Deadlift w/ hookgrip
315 x 2

#Deadlift w/ belt
315 x 4 @7
335 x 6 @7.5

#Bench
195 x 4 @6
205 x 4 @7
215 x 4 @8

Ready for more volume! Coming next week…

I think I have the mechanism of my elbow pain nailed down: forceful bicep extension. I can feel pain in either bicep when doing so.
This would explain the pain from deadlift as I was attempting to do that to keep from flexing my elbow.

Tuesday 16, Sep 2014

#Squat w/ belt
315 x 6 @7.5

#Competition Bench w/ belt
195 x 6 @8

#Press
125 x 6 @8

First week of my Early Prep for 2015. Nursing a sinus infection so took it fairly easy.

Autoregulating the Texas Method Part 3: Template and Exercise Selection

This is the third article in a series on Autoregulating the Texas Method.
Click Here for Part 1: The Basics
Click Here for Part 2: Fatigue Management
Click Here for Part 4: Periodization and Final Thoughts

The original Texas Method program utilized a very simple template and exercise schema: three full-body days with very little exercise variation. Other than rotation of the Press with the Bench Press and Front Squats on Wednesday the program was very vanilla. This post will present some of my ideas on how to customize the template and exercise selection to the individual.

Full-body vs Split

Before we get into the nitty-gritty I wanted to comment on whether the split template is better or worse than the original full-body template. The reasoning behind the split template is that Recovery Day doesn’t really do much and using a Split allows for more accessory work after the competition lifts. This is true but a consequence of this change is a potential drop in frequency of the lifts. If you’re Squatting and Benching (maybe even deadlifting) 3 times a week and you drop to two it could have negative consequences. One way of thinking about this would be comparing it to practicing a musical instrument. If you practice the oboe three times a week but then drop to only practicing two times a week do you think you will keep making progress at the same rate? Probably not. Now, Squatting and playing the oboe are quite different but Strength is a skill. A workout is as much practice as it is training. In my opinion the split template is only good for those who are only using a two times frequency to start with.

The Microcycle

While the original template used kind of hand-wavy justifications for the microcycle setup I think we can provide some better descriptions:

Day Name Definition
Monday Volume Day Focus on hypertrophy and work capacity adaptations
Wednesday Development Day Focus on weak-point and technique training
Friday Intensity Day Focus on neurological adaptations

The biggest change between this version and the original is renaming Recovery Day to Development Day. The reason for this is two-fold: Recovery Day was meant to provide “active recovery” to allow you to recover from Monday’s workout by Friday. I believe the name was part of the reason it was eventually dropped in a lot of Texas Method implementations. The other reason for the name change is that we can use this day to work on improving the lifts in a more specific fashion, with technique work, weak point training, etc.

Template and Exercise Selection

Here is an example template with some suggested exercises:

Monday

Squat: Competition Squat, beltless Squat, Front Squat, Tempo Squat
Bench: Competition Bench, Touch and Go Bench, Close-Grip Bench, Slingshot Bench
Deadlift: Competition Deadlift, beltless Deadlift, Deficit Deadlift, Paused Deadlift, Deadlift w/ chains

Wednesday

Squat: Paused Squat, Pin Squat, Squat w/ chains, Front Squat, Tempo Squat
Bench: Long Paused Bench, Pin Press, Bench w/ chains
Shoulders: Overhead Press, Push Press, Incline Bench

Friday

Squat: Competition Squat
Bench: Competition Bench (~1s Paused)
Deadlift: Competition Deadlift

Discussion

For Monday’s workout we use hypertrophy focused exercises. If you’re not sure what to use you can just use the competition exercise. But if you know you’re lagging in musculature in a certain area this is a good day to work on it. Wednesday is focused on your weak point. If you’re a raw lifter (and more than likely you are) that will be out of the hole in the Squat and off the chest in the Bench. If you’re not sure what to do here start with paused variations. Friday is of course Intensity day and it remains unchanged. It’s conceivable that you could rotate exercises on this day but more than likely you should stick to the competition lifts.

For Monday’s and Wednesday’s workouts you have a lot more flexibility in which exercises you select. If you’re a fan of variation and get bored easily you could select something new every week. On the other hand you could stick with the same set of exercises for several months. In my opinion, something in the middle would be best. Select a set of exercises and stick with those for 3-4 weeks at a time so you can easily track improvements.

A Note Regarding The Deadlift

If you’re coming from a traditional TM setup you’re probably only used to deadlifting once a week. If you’re still making good progress on that setup you can certainly sub Monday’s deadlift slot for something else (perhaps another Bench slot). However, if your progress is slowed you will more than likely see good results from increasing your frequency.

Stay tuned for the next installment of the series where I’ll discuss periodization and my Final thoughts on the program. I’ll also present an 8 week version of the program in a free downloadable PDF.