Saturday, May 1, 2010

Maximizing Training Economy

I gotta admit, one of my reasons for being as basic as possible is training economy. I don't just mean hitting the most muscle with the fewest amount of movements, I mean making as few changes during training as possible. For example if I am going to do good mornings, it's almost always after squats. Because if you're done with squatting you can leave everything in place, take a few plates off, and go right into good mornings. Total lower body workout done and you never even moved the bar from its place in the rack. I think in some ways I am actually lazy, which may sound strange coming from a guy that does as much conditioning as I do, but ease of training is a big deal to me. Sometimes I lift at home, and while I have a decent setup for all I need to do, I also have to be mindful of how many changes I need to make to keep training in a decent time frame.

So with that said, how can you setup your routine to maximize training economy? Not just from a movement standpoint, but from a convenience standpoint as well?

Squat Day -

Warm up - Lunges, foam rolling, stretching

Squats - King of all lower body movements yada yada yada. No need to belabor the point of how awesome squats are, we already know. So you work up to whatever you're doing for squats. Take 20% off and do...

Pause Squats -
Sit rock bottom, count in your head "1...2...3" and explode off of the bottom. Do however many sets and reps your heart desires. Take 20% off and do...

Front Squats -
Rinse and repeat here. I am a crappy front squatter and personally hate this exercise but I do it because it's supposed to be good for me. Leave the weight, or take another 10-15% off, and transition right into...

Good Mornings -
Through the "Wendler diaries" (some 700 reply e-mail Jim and I had going for a while) Jim and I discussed how lighter good mornings seemed to carry more benefits than heavy good mornings. In the past I worked up to some pretty heavy good mornings (heavy for me), in the 425-455 range for reps. This offered zero carryover to my deadlift. I also never felt the movement very well because I was so cautious with that much weight on my back in that position. When I go lighter I can really stretch everything out and I get terribly sore in the hamstrings from this. Try em light for a while and see if they feel better.

1-Legged Calf Raises - Just find a block or steps and do some.

Total lower body thrashing done and you never moved the bar. You just warmed up, and unloaded it then changed the movement slightly based on load.

Upper Body Push/Pull #1

Bench Press -
You know the drill here. After this take off 20% and do...

Close Grip Bench - Do some sets here. Take off a little less or leave it the same and do...

Reverse Grip Bench - Bet you thought I was gonna say wide grip bench? I am. Next. However do some sets with a wide reverse grip first, take some weight off then do...

Wide Grip Bench - Be careful on these as they are a little stressful on the shoulders. Just don't go to heavy.

Without taking any weight off the bar, stand on the bench and do your rows from there. Do not heave the weight, but get a good stretch at the bottom and pull with control.

Shoulder width barbell rows -As the name implies, shoulder width. If you need to add weight back do so after a few warm up sets.

Wide Grip Barbell Rows -These are harder obviously. But great for the rear delts as well.

Curl Grip Rows -Rinse and repeat. Yes all from standing on the bench. Look if it was good enough for Arnold it's good enough for you.

Good enough for the govna'.

If that's not enough you can take some weight off and lay back down on the bench and do...

JM Press or Skullies - Not great for the elbows but some people love em.

Barbell Curls - From here you could do....wait. You're in the rack, nevermind.


Deadlift Training -

Power Cleans - You can start here. Work up to some nice singles or triples, whatever. Add weight...

Block Deadlifts - These have turned into a favorite of mine. Block deads have taken my deadlift from the high 500's into the almost mid 600's. Just make sure and pull from below the knee. If there is anything that drives me crazy its guys pulling from above the knee with a 1 inch range of motion that has ZERO carryover to their deadlift from the floor. Work up to a top single or triple then move the boxes out of the way and do...

Deadlifts from the floor -Surprise surprise. As you take plates off and the load gets lighter transition right into...

Shrugs - Traps make the man. Just make sure you aren't doing that shitty half-inch bounce up and down thing I see some guys do. Contract the traps hard at the top then stretch em good at the bottom. Take some weight off and get into...

Stiff legged deadlifts -Same as with good mornings here, just worry about the stretch instead of overloading this movement.

Your entire backside should be trashed after this. This is good.

Shoulder and Chest Work on the elevator -

For this you only need one pair of medium-heavy dumbbells. I suggest only medium heavy because the rest will be minimal here.

Seated dumbbell press - Warm up with some dumbbells and go all out with the pair you select. Adjust the bench slightly downwards, taking only the time to put the dumbbells down, adjust the bench, get back on the horse and do...

High Incline Db Press - Again, go all out here. You might not get a ton of reps because this is still a lot of shoulder work, and they will be fatigued from the overheads. That's ok. Do what you can, then put em down and adjust the bench downwards again and do...

Incline Db Press - This should be at that normal incline height you see in the gym. Around 45 degrees or so. You might feel stronger out of the gate on this one as you are getting warmer and the pecs come into play more as the angle has decreased. Lower it a bit again and do...

Low Incline Db Press - Now you see why you need to be smart in dumbbell selection? Make it into a flat bench after this set and of course...

Flat Dumbbell Bench - This is the finishing point so go all out here. Which might not be much at this point. That's ok, this was good work.

Dumbbell Rows - Stick with the same pair of dumbbells. You did 5 adjustments on the bench, so match that with at least 5 sets of dumbbell rows. Get some work in here to make sure you at LEAST match all of your pulling reps. So if you ended up with 40 reps on the presses, get as least 40 reps in here. Doing double the amount of reps you did on the presses is highly recommended.

Cross Bench Db Pullovers - Lay across the bench and do these. These stretch the pecs, lats, and triceps out really well and even work the abs. This is great training economy.

Conclusion -

I put a lot of these ideas to work in my own training each week. It makes training convenient and fun (those words are synonymous with me). This whole layout could easily be your routine for mass/powerlifting/whatever. Everything is hit from top to bottom. If you are pressed for time you can easily cut it down to fewer things, or if you are having an awesome training day, you can add more and play with it. Either way, I find these sort of training very appealing and productive.


  1. Good Stuff.

    Shrugs: I have found that I get the most carry over into my deadlift and the best trap developement when I go heavy, use straps, and really try to high pull the weight. Obviously it isn't a high pull when you get into the 600s, but I always TRY.

    When I pulled 700 the first time I was using 600+ for 10s and using a lot of hip extension to pop the weight up.



  2. Yeah I've used dynamic shrugs in the past and man they get me sore as heck. Also on those, I always noticed that when I would get that hip extension involved my hams would work pretty hard as well. Those starr/dynamic shrugs are kind of a different exercise. When I do regular shrugs I stay strict and tight. If you're going to cheat, cheat em out, just make sure you get SOME ROM.

    The guys I am talking about are the ones that get so much out that their head just kind of goes back and forth and the bar doesn't even move. Pretty comical to watch.

  3. Rick what else were you doing when you moved your deadlift into the 700 range?

  4. Paul-

    I took the time to really dial in my form. I taped it and watched it from all angles, almost a paralysis by analysis, but not quite! I found what allowed me to move the most weight with the least amount of effort. Then I did he exact same thing with sumos, even though I am not a sumo puller.

    I forced myself to learn sumo and get good at it. I then alternated after sumos, I would either do conventional pulls standing on a 4" block or rack lockouts from mid shin (my sticking point).

    I was actually sumo pulling only 525 for 5s and 600 x1 I believe when I stood up with 700 in a belt with straps conventional. I wore straps because I had a messed up elbow/forearm.

    The other assistance work was handle squats and shrugs. I also believe the closer stance squats helped a ton for my pop off the floor.

    I have a blog over at BEYOND STRONG Paul if you want to check it out. I had about a 2 year layoff, but I am on the way back and training for a raw meet in September.


  5. I think I remember reading about your progress with that. I have been thinking about going sumo for a while to see if I get carryover. I've read a lot of guys switching to sumo then coming back to conventional and have a big boost.

  6. Paul,

    What are your thoughts on deadlifting from a deficit? I'm strictly following 5/3/1, but do all deadlifts standing on 1.5" blocks. I want to give it a good run before testing the 1RM again, but common sense tells me this should yield some good improvements when the ROM is reduced. Just curious if you're a fan of them or not.

  7. I like them lot, but the thing is I found with them is that the carryover isn't immediate. I have personally found pullingbox deadlifts to be more rewarding, i.e. pull with the weights on 4 inch blocks. This puts the bar about mid-shin on me. This spot is more "dead" than from the floor. I have found when I pull standing on something I use a lot of quads, but from the floor, I can't get that same reflex. Let me know how it works for you.