Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Minor changes to spur on progress

If there is one constant the quest for bigger numbers or rep PR's or muscle mass, it's the ever present question of "what could I change to make things better?"

This question often causes more chaos than a room full of Charlie Sheen escorts on Ecstasy.

Guys will then scour the interwebs for every possible routine before they settle on something, and settle on something "because that dude is swole".  This is an excellent reason to pick a program.  Oh wait, it's fucking not.

The truth is, your lifting goodie bag already consists of all the movements you need to get as strong and as developed as you're ever going to get.

Squats - regular, front, safety bar
Deadlifts - regular, block, elevated, stiff legged
Chest Pressing - flat, incline, decline, db variations
Overhead Pressing - standing, seated, db and barbell variations
Support Work - chins, rows, curls, face pulls, various triceps

So that covers everything.  There's really no reason to venture out to find every exotic movement known to man in order to reach strength and development goals.

You don't need to make wholesales changes to a template or routine in order to get past plateaus.  Here are some of the things you can do to get past a sticking point once you become frustrated.........

Do bodybuilding - 

If you've been doing a ton of low rep work with higher rep work on the assistance, switch over to bodybuilding style workouts where you rep on every damn thing.  Do a bodypart split, and wear bright clown colored clothes.  Seriously, switching over to doing reps when you have been doing singles, doubles, and triples can be quite eye opening.  Most guys don't want to do this because they are lazy and out of shape.

Do powerlifting - 

If you have been doing higher rep work, switch gears and hit some singles, doubles, and triples for a while.

Drop a stubborn lift - 

If you love something, set it free.  If it comes back to you, kill it and eat it.  Ok I don't think it goes like that, but either way, sometimes when a lift is just being a pain in the ass the best thing to do is to drop it, and switch to a variation of it.  For example......

Deads - go to stiff legs
Bench - go to incline and overhead
Squat - go to front squats and hacks
Overhead Press - pick a new variation
Chins - go to heavy pulldowns

Drop the lift for 4-6 weeks then come back to it and start light again, and ramp back up.  Often times this will help you past a stubborn weight.

Fix bad technique - 

This generally helps a lift right away.  If you don't know how to fix bad technique, get a good coach.  Finding a good coach is usually the hard part.

Supercompensate that lift - 

Train a lift into the fucking ground over a two week span.  Train it three to four times a week for two weeks, then take a break for 8-10 days and come back and test it.

Change rep tempo - 

One thing guys don't use much when training for sheer muscle mass, is the negative portion of the rep.  The eccentric actually has more potential for growth than the concentric.  This is one reason Dante of DoggCrapp emphasized the negative portion so heavily in his training.  He had a great saying about this....paraphrased it was.........

"Think about getting the weight back up, just for the purpose of lowering it slowly again."

Best rep advice ever.

Explode as hard as possible on the positive, and use a controlled negative.  Yes, your lift will take a bit of a dive first, but it DOES come back.

Work harder - 

This one isn't as easy or as straight forward as you think.  For example, lots of guys doing 5x5 think they are working hard.  Then I have then take weight off and do a set of max reps in the squat and they writhe around on the floor for the next 20 minutes in agony.  Sometimes the key is just forcing the body to do shit it hasn't been doing.  Remember, you're trying to get the body to do something it doesn't really want to do.  Building huge amounts of strength and muscle mass is something it does slowly because it's not in the best interest of survival to do so.  Often times, you need to do shit that is just flat out puke bucket hard for a while to get where you want to be.  You have to get out of your comfort zone and work harder than you have ever worked before.



  1. Thanks for this post Paul. I've deadlifted 405 for a PR a little while ago but recently something happened. My form has gone to shit. For some reason my hips are acting up and I've strained my back and/or hips every deadlift workout for the last two months. I know something is wrong with my form but even 250 starts to hurt my back. I'm going to take a break from them to heal up and maybe start doing some light RDL or stiff legs. Then I'll get back to working on my deadlift form. There is a new black iron gym in the area, I'll see about a coach. Good luck with everything!

    1. Sounds like you just need the break from pulling for a while.


    PC - is this guy in or out of his comfort zone? lol.
    He is extremely strong, but the entertainment value is priceless.

    1. Strong kid......but I've never been a fan of that shit. If Ed Coan can lift world record weights without making a peep everyone else should shut the fuck up.

  3. Hey Paul,

    On concentrating the eccentric portion, do you think this works well with the negative portion of the deadlift? Perhaps not with mega heavy weights, but with lighter work sets?

    Just wanted to say you were spot on about getting a better feel for the weight since ditching the belt, and my poundage is quickly getting back to belt use numbers - thanks.

    1. Not with the dead, no. With a romanian or stiff leg? Yes.

  4. Hi Paul,

    With 50% sets when do you normally increase the weight for that movement??? Is it when you beat the number for 2 weeks in a row?? Thanks


    1. That's another change. The staple movement won't change in terms of the back off set. You will stay with that weight for the 6 weeks and try to add reps every week. Think of it like this. If you go from pressing 300 for 8 to 300 for 19, you're going to be a lot fucking bigger and stronger.

    2. Thanks Paul. What about with assistance work? If you started with DB Rows, and you beat last weeks number would you stay with DB rows and beat it again next week, increase the weight or go to another variation???


    3. You won't use rows that way in the template.

    4. Would you still use the over warm up on the main movement??? Sorry for all the questions, it's just I'm pretty intrigued about this template.


    5. The over-warm up will be used on staple pressing, chins, and staple leg movements.

      This will all make sense eventually.

  5. first off cool article, great points, nothing new to you though!

    secondly, wen your knees start to come in as your squatting is that a sign of fatigue in the legs? and/or bad form, seems like its fatigue induced since it comes with the later sets, have had knee problems though, and this is a minor concern.

    1. Generally that's a technique issue, and a problem with glute med being weak, so it shifts the load directly to the adductors.

      It's actually very bad, so get it corrected. If you think about driving more with your hips off of the bottom this generally ends up fixing it. Most guys think too much about driving with their legs.

    2. would you recommend doing a normal legs day then following with extra work, or back off from squats until this issue is no more.

      Sad thing is I can tell my legs have more in the tank, but as soon as the knees come in I don't want to risk anything.

      Thanks again

    3. I had this same problem for years. So I know how frustrating it can be when you have the strength to move a weight but then those damn knees cave in.

      Honestly, it just went away for me over time as everything came up and I improved my technique. My advice is to peel back in weight to something that allow you to get more feel for that drive out of the hole, rather than grinding it up.

      Also add in some abduction machine.

    4. I had the same issue as well. My fix was to sit on a low box (a cinder block worked for me) so I was at parallel, with a miniband doubled around my knees. Just push out against the band and hold for 3 sec. I'd do 3-4 sets of 10 between my squat warm up sets. Fixed the problem almost immediately.

      It's a glute issue, but while it could be weak, it could just be not firing because humans sit all day now.

      Couple this with some general glute warm ups, Bird Dogs/Lying Hip thrusts/etc and you should be golden.

  6. "switch to a variation of it. For example......

    Overhead Press - pick a new variation"

    Yeah thanks for clarifying.

    Naw man I'm just kidding, lots of sensible advice in this article.

    1. new variation.......seated db, smith, pbn, viking press..etc