Monday, October 1, 2012

4 Gems

1. Get stronger raw and in a leverage disadvantage. 

For powerlifters who compete equipped this is a big key.  Too many guys these days don't even look like they lift because they spend too much fucking time in gear, and then do a bunch of light/shitty assistance movements that wouldn't put muscle of a god damn gnat.  

No one ever got weaker in gear because their raw strength went up. You can get weaker raw, by staying in gear too often, however.  

You also need to do shit when you are not competing, or getting ready for a meet, that puts you in a leverage disadvantage.  Ed Coan said in the offseason he did tons of high bar squats, deficit deadlifts, and close grip benches.  This is because all of these things are HARDER.  I have written many times about this.  If you squat low bar, and you suck at high bar or front high bar and front squats.  Your low bar will respond quite nicely to the high bar work.  If you are weak off the floor, pull from a deficit and from mid-shin.  Both put you in a leverage disadvantage.  

I have no idea why any does touch and go bench.  Especially those who compete.  A big part of getting stronger is enforcing your will on the weight.  You OWN that weight.  OWN!!!!   O   W   N!  If you have to bounce shit off of your chest, or bounce your deadlift reps off the floor, I don't give a fuck how much you're using, you don't own that weight.  Ownage of a weight means you can pause it, and control it.  Using momentum to your advantage does not make you stronger.

Train yourself to be explosive and strong by always showing you have control of the weight.  Control on the negative portion of the rep, explosive as hell on the positive portion.  Do not ask me how slow you should lower it.  I will come to your apartment complex or house and burn it down.  You know when you're controlling a weight and when you're not.  

Some good ideas here are - 

  • If you squat low bar, squat high bar all off season.  
  • Sumo deadlift if you are a conventional guy.
  • Deficit deadlifts are good as well.  Just do not use a huge deficit.  Standing on a 100 pound plate is fine.  If the movement changes too much, you will be forced to alter your technique and the carryover will not be as great.
  • If you suck at a basic movement, do it a lot.  Front squats and military press seem to be the two main ones here for most guys.  Spend your "offseason" training doing those A LOT.  
  • Pause your benches.  You don't have to pause every rep, but the first rep or last rep should be paused.  I like to do this with benches and squats quite a bit.  Pause the last rep, then explode.  This will build strength very well.  
  • Train bottom position strength.  Pause your benches, do deficit deads, do pause squats.  The stronger you get in the bottom, the stronger you will be through the entire range of movement.  No one misses a raw bench at lockout.  No one.  If you say you know someone that does, it means you don't know what "lockout" means.  Period.  

2. Keep your percentages moderate most of the time. 

Use your own judgement on how much or little volume you need. Everyone is different in that regard.  Lately I've told people, even when you run the strong-15 program, if you respond better to more volume on the back off sets, do it.  Just don't bastardize the program by changing everything.  Doing more back off sets on the main lift, is about the best "assistance" work you can ever do.  The back off sets in my programs are set at the right intensity level for BUILDING STRENGTH.  

The time tested proven strength ranges are in the 75-85%, with a few scattered weeks in the low 90's. There's never any need to go over 93% in training in my opinion. All the strength you can ever build can be done without going into the 90's, and you don't tax your recovery as badly.  In the final week of the strong-15 you hit a single at 93%.  You spent the previous 8 weeks building strength to CRUSH that weight.  This will let you know that you are good for the planned goal.  The Russians are strong as fuck because they spend the majority of their training time in those 75-85% ranges.  They also adhere to my next point........

3. Save the big ones for the meet. 

No one gives a fuck what you did in training as far as PR's go. I don't care what you did in your moms basement on youtube or at your friends house.  It's completely irrelevant. At the end of the day you want those big ones in the books.  When youtube starts holding powerlifting championships maybe that shit will mean something, but on meet day it's not quite the same.  I wish I had a dollar for every time I heard a guy say "man I smoked that in the gym, I don't know why I had so much trouble with it at the meet."  

Oh I dunno, because your dumb ass was maxing out all the time?  

I can't for the life of me figure out why I see guys maxing out in the fucking gym.  If I never competed again, I'd never EVER test my 1RM.  Ever.  What's the point?  If you're a basement lifter (and I am), training for maximal strength doesn't require the demonstration of strength.  You can do a solid triple and have a idea of where you are at.  Taking 1 rep maxes serves no real purpose honestly, if you aren't doing them in a meet.  Train for performance, not for bragging rights.  The only reason you'd be maxing is to tell your frat buddies what you hit at the gym that day.  That's gayer than the vegetarian telling us all the reasons they don't eat meat.  

Besides, everyone hates that guy.  

"I benched 325 today, brah."  

I don't care.

Training for maximal strength doesn't and never has required max testing.  Are you training for show, or go?    

4. Always work on refining technique. 

This is another reason why lower percentages work so well. It's easier to "feel" what technique needs to be changed or when something needs to be fixed, when you can control the weight, rather than have it crushing your soul.  You know that lift, when you're squatting...and you unrack it and say to yourself "holy shit."  Yeah, you're not thinking about technique in that squat because it's so damn heavy.  But if your technique is not spot on for that attempt, then you're probably going to miss it.  Anyone who has hit a max, and grooves it perfectly knows what I am talking about.  How awesome it feels.  To have all your shit lined up.  It's not unlike being in the zone during a ferocious xbox 360 Forza tournament, where you are hitting all the corners just perfectly, and your heart is beating at the perfect beat per second count.  

Just for bragging rights I'd like to say that I competed in one of those tournaments, and ended up top 32 in the world out of 10's of thousands who entered.  Also, I'm beastly at Modern Warfare.  Jason Pegg and Jamie Lewis can verify this to you if you think I'm bullshitting.  I don't brag much, so I figured it was time I did so about something.  That was completely out of left field, but I just wanted to get it in there,

Those 4 are pretty much standard with anyone you talk to, regardless of philosophy.  This is not some massive new secret training memento.  Just some reminders we all need from time to time.  


  1. Paul, what is your opinion on the occasional alcoholic drink while taking PHs? When I say occasional, I mean a glass or two of wine on a Friday, or a beer/cocktail on a date night. I am about to run 4 weeks of H Drol with Cycle Assist, extra Milk Thistle and fish oil. C.E.L PCT to finish it up.

  2. Four gems is right. Everybody seems to overlook the simple points. Do people not trust something unless it's complicated as hell?

    Seems most people would trust three board banded bench press with a thick bar than plain old CGBP or pausing. I've been in that trap before, though.

    Also Forza is the shit, love that series.

  3. Nice article Paul. You have this knack for saying things that seem to pop up in my own training, and I'm sure everyone's training, that have helped make progress but always seem to not get the attention they deserve. Thanks!

  4. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. Are pause reps something I could incorporate into my routine I went over with you yesterday or would I be fucking with the program to much? IE on 5x5 bench do some pause reps on the 3rd and 4th sets.

  6. Maxing out isn't a good idea all the time, but it isn't completely worthless for strength or muscle gain. I brought my deadlift from ~450 to to 600 by doing nothing but weekly max attempts and a few backoff singles, and gained a very noticible amount of mass in the spinal erectors in the process. I'm not advocating doing singles all the time, it's not the way I currently train, and I personally agree with your view that the best results come from doing higher rep bodybuilding training part of the year, and maximal strength training at other times, but I've made way to much progress that can be attributed directly to maxing in the gym to write it off as useless. Other than in the lower back where I've gained very significant amounts of muscle from singles, I haven't gained any muscle anywhere else (except in the obliques) that I would attribute to singles. Maybe the spinal erectors are different?

    1. Maxing out with a 400 pound deadlift isn't the same as maxing out when you're pulling 700+. I don't know any guys with big pulls that max out weekly. In fact, Andy Bolton never pulls higher than 80-something perfect from the floor when he's training. Coan worked up to pulling his opener for a double over his whole training cycle.

    2. How many people pulling 700+ are reading your blog though?

    3. don't know? but all sorts of shit will work for people pulling 400. so it's not really worth noting to be honest. just pull at that point.

    4. I know. I wasn't saying that would be something an elite lifter should do. It's not something that works for me anymore. All I was saying was that maxing in the gym isn't categorically useless full stop.

    5. Well I think what you're proving is that when you have a lot of room left, then maxing each week may have some benefits. But I'm also not always writing to beginners or guys who have a ton of room either. A lot of my stuff comes through conversations I have with other elite level guys.

  7. REALLY liked this post. Especially about making movements harder. Getting strong as shit in a bad position will make you 10 times stronger in an advantageous position. When my pause squat went up my squat went up 40 lbs more

  8. I recently started working sumo in because I feel like it makes me work harder and I'm curious about your comment to use sumo if you DL conventional. This seems contrary to what you've said in the past about hating sumo. Can you elaborate on this? Are you saying work sumo and do PR attempts as conventional or should one alternate training sessions between sumo and conventional?

    My DL sucks something fierce (405x2 conventional) and I want to run a round or two of Strong-15 with it, but I don't know if I should program more sumo or go strictly conventional. Any thoughts?

    1. At 405x2 you just need to pull. Period. Work your technique, get some volume in. Not worry about getting fancy with finding muscular weakpoints. Just pull a shit ton of back off sets that feel easy. YES, EASY!

    2. Fair enough. My last two sessions (one session conv. one sumo) I've skipped pulling any singles and pulled 270x6x3 and drilled the shit out of setup, speed, and form. They pull easy enough for the first 5 sets but by the last rep of set 6 I start to lose my speed and my wind. Hopefully that'll be sufficient volume to break my weak ass DL out of the rut it's been in so I can hit my goal to pull 460 as an opener in May when I go to competition. Thanks for the reply.

    3. Also, TONS of volume on rows. TONS.