Thursday, December 20, 2012

Questions and answers, getting jacked, strong, and weight murder

What if I start off and don't get enough reps with the big-15 cycle?  

This one is pretty easy.  Just recalculate before the next workout and go from there.

Should I run the big-15 or strong-15? 

I am always confused when I get this question.  The big-15 should be used when you have a block of time that you want to dedicate to increasing muscle mass.  Will you get stronger?  Yes.  You also can't really take advantage of this cycle without a surplus of cals.  So make sure that is in place.  If you're a really skinny guy, just run it as long as you can.  Years?  Sure.  That's how I developed it.  It was developed through my own training, methods, and how I built my base of mass and strength.

The strong-15 is a peaking cycle.  Either for a meet, or just because you want to increase where you baseline or "everyday max" is.  Just remember to properly taper off AFTER the program.  If you do not, you will suffer that cliff fall off that I always warn everyone about with a peaking cycle.  Start back light after that, and ride the wave "down".  Because it will happen.

How do I figure out my "everyday max", in order to program with?  

Pretty easy really.  Take a "normal" feeling day, and work up to a single where you feel like 20 more pounds would definitely require some serious motivation.  Your everyday max, is something that requires some "internal gathering", if you will, but it's something you know you can hit almost regardless of how you are feeling.  This is your starting point for programming.  I would take 95% of that, and program with that.

"Paul, that's too low!"

Yeah yeah, I keep hearing that and I keep having guy after guy, and chic after chic, smash the fuck out of their previous bests.  It's amazing that all of the Russians that are strong as hell, RARELY go over 85% in their training.  Yet the constant mantra you see among American lifters is, "go heavy or go home".  Fine, I'll go home.  I lift in my basement anyway.

But seriously, you need to start getting your mind around the fact that you DON'T need to train above 90% to get strong.  I have no idea where this came from now, except geared lifting methodologies and guys who can't leave their ego at the door.  The 75-85% range offers you plenty of weight in order to get maximally strong.

I hate to talk about "bar speed" because I hate that fucking term now.  So I'm going to talk about "weight murder".

To give some preface before you read this, weight murder goes hand in hand with whether or not it's an 80% day, a +10 or -10 day.  This sort of rounds out the whole thing, doesn't it?  I will expound more on this after.

1st degree - Absolutely curb stomping and skull crushing a weight.

"Fuckin easy!" should be the phrase that enters your mind.

This is really what your goal is.  Moving the top level %'s of the weight in your cycle, with 1st degree weight murder.  If you never saw the fire hydrant scene in Irreversible, then it should look something like that.  Just destroyed to a degree that no one even wants to look at.

You may not always hit this with the top end intensities in your programming cycle.  However that is your goal.  You need to teach yourself to apply as much force as possible early in the cycle in order for that to carryover later.  So always try to crush the bar on the concentric portion of each rep to "learn" this.

Now, some people are natural grinders, and some people make everything look fast.  This is why I don't always like the "bar speed" method.  Something could look slow to the casual on looker, but feel stupid easy to you.  Everyone moves top end weights very differently.  With some people, if it goes, it's just going to look fast.  For others, every set on the way to their top weight looks hard as hell.

So this is an internal judgment for you.

2nd degree - 

"That looked strong!  You got a lot left in you!" would be a common phrase associated with 2nd degree weight murder.

It's very possible, if you program correctly, that you end up here most of the time at the end of your cycle.  You may not be destroying this weight in a 1st degree manner, but you pretty much owned it as hard as you can own it outside of a-bombing that shit.

This means a good 10 pounds or so can be added for the next cycle.  Which funny enough, should STILL be under your max.  Muwahahahaha!

3rd degree - You feel confident in the way you performed the set, or moved the weight.

This is still good, but it probably means that you're not ready to move up in terms of programming in a new max.  In other words, you may have programmed very solid, however the top level percentages didn't feel as strong as you would have liked them to.  This doesn't mean you did not have a very solid and successful training cycle.  You did.  It just means you may be be just right above the baseline.  You can imagine that 20 more pounds over this would be a bit of a grinder.

If you moved a top weight in the cycle with 1st degree, you're still ok but you may have programmed just slightly high.  Not a lot, but just slightly.

Now once you tie in weight murder with session grading, you can get a real good idea about how your programming has been going.

Ideally, this is what you'd like to see.......

80% session - 1st DWM - This means, you had just an average session (not good, not bad), but you had 1st degree weight murder.  This is the most ideal scenario.  This means the great majority of the time, you are crushing weights like Genghis Khan crushed trim.  This is quality programming (I'm not sure how much quality trim ol Genghis had, but from a quantity perspective it was off the charts).

"But Paul, if I'm crushing it on an "average day" doesn't that make it a +10% day."


If you're crushing your programmed weights, it means you programmed correctly, and the cycle should mostly be made up of 80% days, with 1st and 2nd degree weight murder days.

-10% session - 3rd DWM - If you have a completely shit day, you should still be able to commit 3rd DWM because you programmed correctly.  Now, it's possible late in the cycle, you could have a -10% day, and miss, or just feel like hammered shit.  That's ok, if the rest of the cycle was awesome.  Keep it all in perspective.

This is just a "fun" way to judge your training cycle and your programming.

Program low, PR high.


  1. Nice insights Paul, these do help.

    It's been hard to swallow my pride and just program light. Plugging my every day max +5lbs leaves me with a final paused triple of 285, even though I just did 315 for a solid triple.

    On the bright side, I'm really looking forward to feeling awesome all the time and getting some quality assistance in, instead of feeling like I am recovering from a fight all the time.

    Oh, did you intend for this post to read 1st degree, 2nd degree, 1st degree, or did you actually mean 1st, 2nd, and 3rd degree? either 1-2-1 was a mistake, or I'm just dumb.

    If I got that wrong, than this is the last time I will ever comment asking for clarification on anything, I promise.

  2. Paul, looking for a bit of bench advice or feedback. Because I'm still so new, I'm still figuring a lot of this out. When I'm really explosive on bench like I am right now just starting a Strong-15 cycle, I have a tendency to lose tightness in my upper back because the force of driving the weight up so hard and fast pulls my shoulders apart at lockout. So lately I'm focusing on driving the weight up while simultaneously squeezing my shoulder blades together pretty hard. However, for some reason this makes it hard to lock my elbows out, which kind of boggles my mind. Does this sound right, or am I massively fucking this up?

    1. The initial drive should be initiated with the LEGS. It sounds like you're initiating the drive with the upperbody. Go watch my "developing your raw bench" vid.

  3. Paul, after my last email to you, I completely adjusted the training maxes. I took my ego out of my squat, which just so happened to weigh 45lbs. And then took 10% off all the maxes I had. The result? reps up where they need to be and training is enjoyable.

    Question: Is "riding the wave" as simple as using a full 9 week Strong-15 cycle, or do you suggest taking a 5-10% deload from your last training max leading up to the meet?

    1. I recommend taking a week off after a meet, then having a 50% week. Then you can program another cycle if you want.

  4. I performed second degree weight murder on my squat test weight today. So I think I'm safe setting that as my training max. I really like the terminology . . . it is really easy to figure out which one you're at.

  5. Paul, just purchased 365 and I can't wait to get started. I know I'm a few months ahead of myself but just want to make sure I understand. On the Conditioning Acceleration Phase and the LRB Template (weeks 19-31) would I plug in something like 77-85% of my everyday max for my main lift???

  6. I'm starting the strong-15 tomorrow. I will follow exactly as outlined and report back with results periodically. Just so I don't screw this up off the bat "you only need to plug in your goals for the cycle below." Meaning if my everyday max on bench is 255 and I want a 15 lb PR i'd plug in 270 and excel does the rest?

    1. Just plug in 255. When the testing week comes around, tell me if you don't smoke a new PR.

      Trust me on this.

  7. Hi Paul,

    I was reading your SLL last night, and I have a question. When you dealt with patella tendinitis, how long did it take to go away?

    Mine came back almost exactly 6 months from my cortisone shot. I am going to stop squatting and just let it heal. Just wanting to have an idea of how long. Thanks!

    1. I dealt with it for a long while if I remember correctly. I wore the cho-pat brace when needed and remember switching to box squats and leg presses for a while because squatting did bother it.

  8. I have been battling with patella tendonitis my whole time lifting. Best advice is smash ITB with foam roller and make sure you have excellent hip mobility. When I get slack on either of these I feel it big time. Also high dosage of fish oil. I find high volume light body weight single leg work helps too.

  9. Hey Paul, quick question:

    When you talk about 75-85% being the strength rep range percentages, is this in relation to 1RM weights, or overall intensity? For instance, a squat 1RM of 300lb at 75% is 220lb, vs a squat 5RM of 250lb at 75% is ~190lb (assuming you're doing your work sets at 5 reps). Same percentages, but for different rep maxes.

    In a similar context, how does cumulative fatigue training fit into your views? For instance, a 10RM weight done for 4x7 (essentially starting at 70% as intensity/percentage naturally increases as fatigue sets in on later sets)?

    Thanks, and keep up the great work!

    1. Mike -

      You're onto it.

      If your max is 300, then a lot of work sets with 225 is a GREAT place to start, then possibly followed by a high rep back off set close to failure. So I think your thinking here and you'e on the right track.

      A decent place to start is Prilepins Table. I personally would scale that volume back but you're in the ball park. For example, I smoke that 405 front squat after never going higher than 275 for 5 weeks. And most of those weeks were spent at 225 and focusing on producing more "force" on the concentric portion of the rep.

      I don't think you even need to do 4 sets of 7 with a 10 rep max. I think that is going to eventually wear you the fuck down. You could do say 2x7 or 3x5, then 1 all out set closer to failure. Then limit the assistance work.

      But you're grasping the concept.