Monday, December 10, 2012

Thoughts about life, crap, training, and stuff - Monday "light" edition

It's been a while since I have been able to get one of these in, with traveling and doctors appointments and all sorts of shit going on.

I had the MRI on my leg last week.  Finally!  I haven't heard anything back yet, however let me bitch for just a minute about the miracle of "modern medicine".

First off, we really don't cure shit.  Cancer and AIDS are still sticking around, killing the fuck out of people.  I know someone will post a link to something we cured that kills 7 people a year but seriously, we don't cure shit.

So I go in to get this "open MRI" done, because a lot of people can't do the closed MRIs because of claustrophobia.  Oh yeah, I might be talking about myself when I say "a lot of people".  The MR machine looks like the god damn Star Trek Enterprise.  I lay under it, face just a couple of inches from the bottom of it, feet taped together and I can't move, while Slayer and Cannibal Corpse battle it out for worst repeated power chord.




I was told 45-minutes.  Two hours later, the length of time a LONG MOVIE runs, I was finally finished.  All for a leg.  A LEG!  Not a full body scan with happy ending by the nurse.  Just......a.......leg.

I don't understand how it is, we can send a rover to mars to test for water droplets, have aircraft that can fly insert-classified-speed-here that is completely undetectable by highly advanced radar, put railguns on battleships, have a satellite take an image of a mosquito's penis as he jacks it in the African jungle, etc so forth and so on, but we don't have something that can just scan my leg in like, 5 minutes.

We have sonogram machines now, that can show you the 3-D image of a baby inside the mothers womb, but I have to lay under the Enterprise for over two hours to get my leg scanned, while my extremities go numb to the point that I couldn't stand properly after it was done (both feet were completely asleep).

So now that it's done, I hope to hear something in the next week to let me know if they could spot anything wrong with my leg.  It's having more good days than bad at the moment, however I would love to eliminate the bad days all together.  Though smashing a 405 front squat with ease, I might add, felt pretty good since I haven't been able to squat heavy in forever.

Speaking of heavy, I made that post about my new training ideas and things I've been working on, and sure enough the "singles group" showed up to balk about it.

People have asked me for a while now "why were the guys from the 70's and 80's so much stronger than the guys now?" Because they trained for mass, and rep strength 90+% of the time. It's kinda like how you see all of the top raw guys now. They are jacked. Why? Because you can't bench 500 raw without some muscle mass. You can't squat 700+ raw without some wheels. Yet you see all sorts of big numbers come from guys in gear, that don't even look like they lift. This isn't a "gear vs raw" debate, because I don't care one way or the other. But if you're not getting stronger PERIOD, then your training isn't thought out very well. And too many guys now, spend all of their time trying to hit their maxes in the gym. Why? It serves no purpose. Period. Gym lifts DO NOT COUNT. If you're talking rep PR's, awesome. If you're talking personal PR's, awesome. But they don't go into a book, and training near max singles is for the most part, an ego tool.

Again, all old things become new. It's amazing to me how so many guys are doing soul searching in their training and all finding the same place to progress again. It's the same place guys found that worked 30 years ago. But you still have a large group of guys that want to balk at this, because they are fucking lazy. It's not hard to walk into the gym and pull some singles. I don't care what anyone says. That shit is infinitely easy compared to going in and doing rep work. If it wasn't, they would do the rep work. I mean, when a guy tells me "anything over 2 reps is cardio" I generally know he's fat, and weak.

Your training cycles should be made up of 5-20+ reps.  Anyone that tells you that getting a higher 20 rep max doesn't equal into a higher 1 rep max, is full of shit, and didn't work hard enough.  You just have to take the time to allow that strength to be applied.  Tons of strongmen do 20 rep squats, and they are far stronger than powerlifters.  One of the reasons that is, is because they live up and down the rep range.  Sure, they do heavy singles, however because strongmen have to do reps in a contest, or do an event that involves some conditioning as well, they can't just sit around and do some singles here or there.  They actually have to you know, get fucking stronger.  An 800 pound deadlift is considered the bees knees in powerlifting.  Yet in strongman, it's really the bare minimum for competing at a high level.  THE BARE MINIMUM!  Lots of strongmen can hit 500 benches, and then follow that up with 350-400 pound overhead presses.  In powerlifting, a 500 bench is the fucking balls.  And how many of those guys can do heavy overhead presses?  Few and far between, aside from T-Rex armed bench specialists who aren't strong to begin with (sorry, being a 1 lift wonder doesn't make you strong).  

I find it funny that so many people want to argue this, then tell me I am dogmatic.  ME?  I've done the "singles shit".  I use singles in my training.  However, they are not used for the purpose of building strength.  They are used to prime the body for the strength building work sets, and for testing strength.  It's generally them that don't want to venture outside of "you gotta do max singles to build top strength!"  

From an article from Poliquin's site about how the Russians structured their squat training.......

Using the 1RM percentage system, the Russians would organize their training into intensity zones, such as the following: 60-65 percent of 1RM, 70-75, 80-85, 90-95 and 95-100. The designers of the Russian Squat Program put most of their workouts in the 80-85 percent zone and said that “large and limit weights” should comprise only 16 percent of the total volume in squats.

Jesus jumped up on a cross!!!  

You mean the guys that have been kicking our ass in strength sports and powerlifting for a while now, didn't do fucking 90+% singles more than 16% of the time?!?!  Not possible.  I'm told by fat and weak asshats that I MUST do heavy singles in order to get stronger at doing heavy singles.  So all of those people, who run my programs, and listen closely, that only end up with a few weeks in the 90% range, and smash all of their previous PR's EASILY, are doing shit wrong?

I guess we'll just keep doing it wrong.

Since the Russians have had this figured out for a while, let's examine a little closer.

Smolov introductory cycle - 

165%x8x3, 70%x5, 75%x2x2, 80%x1
265%x8x3, 70%x5, 75%x2x2, 80%x1
370%x5x4, 75%x3, 80%x2x2, 90%x1

The best part is the notes PRECEDING this cycle......

Like every other program that works off percentages you have to plugin your one rep max in order to find the weight you should be using. Use your best raw squat or a projected max using this calculator. Whatever your max is you should subtract 10-15 pounds just to be on the safe side. Below are the first three days of the first week of Smolov.

So you're STILL not even using 90% in day 3, when it calls for 90%.

Here's the cycle.......

4RestRestwork up to a near max singlework up to a near max single

So, you spend how many workouts going over 90%?

None.  Zero.  Guess what you do?  You test that in week 4.

How the fuck is it, that people have used this cycle for such a long time, with such awesome results, and did not do heavy singles?  Oh guess what, there isn't a single workout of actual singles in the entire cycle!


Oh hey, since people will say "well yeah, but that's the Russians and they train multiple times a week, so they can use lower percentages."

Lamar Gant's bench routine.

week 1: 135x10, 190x12, 190x12, 190x12, 190x12, 190x12

week 2: 135x10, 200x12, 200x12, 200x12, 200x12, 200x12

week 3: 135x10, 210x12, 210x12, 210x12, 210x12, 210x12

week 4: warm-up then 240x6, 240x6, 240x6, 240x6

week 5: warm-up then 250x6, 250x6, 250x6, 250x6

week 6: warm-up then 260x6, 260x6, 260x6, 260x6

week 7: warm-up then 280x3, 280x3, 280x3

week 8: warm-up then 290x3, 290x3, 290x3

week 9: warm-up then 315x1, 315x1, 315x1, 315x1
Now what?

He did 1 week of singles before the meet, to TEST, where he was.  He spent the previous 8 weeks building strength with reps.  Once a week.  Using low percentages.

Ed Coan - "My cycle for the deadlift is 12 weeks. It consists of 3 weeks of 8 reps, 4 weeks of 5 reps, 4 weeks of 3 reps, and the week before the meet includes just a double at or around your opener. "

Really, Ed?  Well what the fuck do you know about training and hitting big lifts, Mr "I never miss a lift in training".

Hey wait, how on Earth would someone program, so that they never missed in a lift in a 12 week cycle?  Think about that.

Jim said a quote to me, that I laughed about because I couldn't believe he was serious.

"That's smart.  People should train for their opener."

Train for your opener.  Wait.......that's around 85% of your "goal" or should be.  No my gawd, I just slapped my head and said "I coulda had a V8!"

I'm going to beat this god damn horse for a while.  Not because I'm trying to win arguments or battles or because I'm being "dogmatic" (which is just fucking stupid to talk about with me, because I'm willing to try anything).  It's because this is where so many of us advanced guys find ourselves later, when guys had this all figured out years and years ago.  Shit the Russians have had it figured out for decades now.  You don't need to lift your near max weights, in order to get brutally strong.

So eventually YOU have to ask yourself, are you willing to drop your OWN dogmatic approach to training, be willing to leave your ego at the door, and look at the big picture?  That is, getting brutally strong but not always being able to "show it", i.e. maxing at the gym.  Not only that, are you willing to stop doing all of the stupid shit you've been doing, like fucking reverse banded chained safety squat bar deadlifts while standing on a decapitated midget?

What the fuck happened to strength training so much that people can't do it without just a bar and some plates?  I thought that's what strength training was.  A bar and some plates.  Apparently it's not.

My goal is to get bigger and stronger and jacked as fuck.  If that is not your goal, and you are fat, weak, and not jacked then keep doing what you are doing, and keep your mind closed.  Or believe the non-sense you've read from todays mondern age of "max singles" land that it's the best way to get strong....all the while we keep getting our asses handed to us by guys who DON'T train that way.

Also for the guys of "I did X lift" ok that's great.  There's some Russian that did that weighing 100 pounds less than you as his warm up, that never did a "max effort" day until he TESTED where he was.  Even then, it was SUB MAX.  Hence the term "near max single".

Singles should be in every cycle.  So don't mistake the message I am sending here.  It's how they should be used that matters.  

Build strength, don't demonstrate it.

I await all of the pissed off people who will show up about this.


  1. I love reading these kind of posts. I'm a super-noob and it's toooo easy to overthink training and jump into crazy programs or try to hit useless maxes each time you step into the gym. I try to keep myself reeled in and dialed in and doing what works. So far, that's been volume (reps) at 50-65%. I always feel better than when I walked in and I feel a hell of a lot stronger, even though I've only been hitting it for about 2 months. Thanks for this kind of inspiration. Keep up the killer work.

  2. Question:

    On the Smolov intro (65%x8x3, 70%x5, 75%x2x2, 80%x1), the 70%x5, how many reps? Is it 70%x5x1?

    1. As a side note (if you're confused, Jody)

      8x3 = 8 sets of 3 reps.
      65%x8x3 = 3 sets of 8 reps at 65% of 1RM/training max.

      When the weight is included, it's read differently.

  3. I got caught in the "max lift in the gym all the time" for a while, and all it did was build up my ego and make my form worse.

    I started 5/3/1 3 weeks ago and did my first 1+ day on military press last week - to my surprise I set a rep PR on my lift, with better form and with 1-2 reps left in the tank, despite the fact that my numbers I had been using for the previous 2 weeks were much lower than before.

    Anyways, I have added a lot more volume to my assistance work, and been forced (by way of the program) to take a lot of weight of the bar, but I have been suprised with how much better my body feels, and how much more motivated I am to train.

  4. I know I'm pretty young and not very accomplished with lifting but I really don't get how some people have so much trouble understanding this. Look at Marshal White, Kaz, Coan, Phillipi, the Lilliebridge squad, anyone named or surnamed Magnus, and Ronnie Coleman or Jay Cutler. They got where they are on reps, and heavy ones at that. Yeah they occasionally do singles, doubles, and triples but they follow it up with heavy rep work.

    I keep seeing guys on sites like reddit and fitocracy who get all soggy in the pants over "hurhur I did X1x hurhur with my dbol/trenboner at max capacity" and then you see their routine and it's stupid shit like nothing but single, doubles, and triples. Then they wonder why they tear something or can't break a plateau. It just boggles my mind.

    Like you've said dozens of times reps build thickness in the muscle and the connective tissue. Reps truly break you down to build you up. I've seen insane gains from your programming + some ultra high rep work (100+ reps at lower weights). For instance, several months ago I could barely get 405x2 grinders on DL. Now I can crush it for 4-5 with speed. Why, because I built myself up with reps. I know it's not very impressive but for an ex-pill fiend who spent 10 years on self abuse that's a god send and it's also proof that this shit works.

  5. I've had the same experience, Eddy.

    Great rant, Paul; I love it. Just have to add, I took my now-wife to see Cannibal Corpse on our third date; that's how I knew she was a keeper.

  6. "So you're STILL not even using 90% in week three, when it calls for 90%. "

    Small correction: Day 3, the intro cycle is only a week long.

  7. Paul, I notice that Jamie keeps getting thrown out there as an example of getting stronger using singles. I don't mean to speak for him, but based on what I've written down from his books here is what he seems to advocate:

    Issuance of Insanity - 1-3 reps with SHORT rest times (45-60 sec.), and in a sample 6-day workout week he does singles twice. The rest of the time he does doubles, triples, and he goes as high as 4 and 5 reps on some compound BB movements, and goes for high reps on some bodyweight and/or isolation movements. Sometimes he also picks a weight and does reps for time.

    Destroy the Opposition - A mix of Heavy, Medium and Light days on the big movements with Heavy = 6-10 sets of 2-4, Medium = 4-6 sets of 6, and Light = 3 sets of 8.

    I'm far from an expert on any of this, but I sometimes think he gets mis-characterized on this stuff. I never read him and think he's really advocating singles all the time, just that he believes in working a variety of rep ranges PRIMARILY above 80% which is maybe not the same thing as doing lots of singles?

    1. I think Jamie has found what he likes to do and works for him, but I don't know anyone else that trains like that, that is strong. And his bench has been stuck for a while. hahahaha

  8. Hey Paul, what are your thoughts on using heavy singles, doubles, and triples to increase the CNS's efficacy to recruit muscle fibers? "Learning to grind," as some call it?

    That is essentially the argument behind the conjugate method in question: the principle that "learning to strain" by performing singles/doubles/triples on max effort day gets you stronger by training your CNS to recruit a higher percentage of fibers.

    A staple principle of Vladmir Zatsiorsky's research is that the maximal effort method reduces CNS inhibition, essentially making your CNS more efficient at recruiting the muscle you have.

    Are you of the opinion that higher-rep work can accomplish the same thing? I've gotten stronger training both ways. I will say that I prefer your methods to the conjugate method, but I've seen good results with both, as a raw lifter.

    For what it's worth, Mike Tuscherer (a damn smart man) wrote the following article that lends some great credibility to your argument:

    1. You cannot "train your CNS". That's broscience talk. Stop it.

  9. Just saying. I used to be a huge singles guy. Then I started doing heavy sets of 5-15 routinely. I'm bigger and leaner than when I was just rocking singles,even with those singles having super short rest periods. Totally wrong before. Reps work.

  10. It seems like half the people that comment on your articles/on reddit backing you up Paul have been lifting less than 5 years and rave about how reps got them from a 135x3 bench to 10 reps of 225.

    I still think you're right and my personal experience has been similar (growth from reps, peaking from singles before a meet) though I'm not in same strength category. But it is annoying that half the tards on the net that back you up are talking about all the dopes that do singles when they cant squat 500+.

    So, in summary, you are right...and you provide meaningful content (god fuck elitefts lately and all their holiday wish lists)...but fuck weak people.

    1. I don't know if this was a passive dig at my comment or the general redditards. I can agree with you on some of this. Yeah some people need to just shut up and lift (e.g. 135x3->225x10 guy), but not everyone backing up Paul in places like these forums and on reddit is a weak tard who can't squat shit. A few know their stuff, or are at least semi-accomplished. Besides, shouldn't those of us who are strong be supportive of the ones trying to get there rather than saying "fuck weak people" as a blanket statement. What is weak?

      I think we can all agree that singles don't do shit regardless of your level of expertise but that some people are just more qualified to talk than others.

  11. Great post Paul, i have a question.
    Do you think 20 rep sets should be used regularly on squats, presses and deadlifts?

  12. All that really matters is what kind of protein you're on dawg.

  13. The real question is where is 365? And the bullet to the chest shirts? Hahaha

  14. Paul, did the strict Pendley rows that you talked about with no hips. What a bitch, a lot harder than I thought. 3 sets at 185 was enough for me, at the end i was fatigued and started to use the hips and stopped right there. thanks for the instruction.

  15. Hi Paul,

    First time poster here, but I've been reading for a good 8-9 months now and I bought SLL which is a great read on all things training and otherwise. I've only been lifting for 15 months so it all seems WAY too advanced for me at this point, but I love reading your advise. I have a question kinda related to this article...

    I've gone from SS and Greyskull LP to Texas Method which I'm doing now. As a result, I have almost exclusively worked with 5 reps, which has worked well for the most part. I plan to keep going with this for the next 2 years to get from my current 300x5 squat to around 405x5, taking that as an example lift.

    At what point does it become necessary or more beneficial to program training more like you and jim and what not and start using percentages, doing mass cycles etc etc. In short how do you know you are ready for advanced programming?

    Great blog Paul, hope the scan is good news.

    1. I was doing a lot of the style of mass training that I talk about now, after 2-3 years.

      As far as how Jim and I program, that's 40+ years of experience and getting the most of your training economy. Most guys don't know how to do this for quite some time so I'd just stay the course with what I talked about intermediates doing.

    2. It's funny, I read the book twice and still miss things that I need to come back to. All I could find was the section at the back with the one on one off off-season mass split.

      I totally buy into the nutrient partitioning you talk about so I'm cutting down to 10%bf over the next few months and then maybe I'll give that split a whirl for a few months. Do you think running a mass gain phase then a strength program and repeating that would be more beneficial than just sticking to one intermediate strength program?

    3. Just run the intermediate split, get into shape, and go from there.

  16. That's a great post Paul. I live in Poland and here most of lifting has been influenced by the Eastern block.

    nobody lifts that heavy here as lifters in the US (with all respect). high volume at lower % and higher frequency are the two key factors.

    squating 2-4x a week, benching 2-4x a week, pulling 1-3x a week.

    % usually between 65-85%. never above 85%. testing maybe like once in 3-4 months.

    you do 5 sets of 2 with your current 85% and if it was reasonable easy then you up the current max by 10-20lbs and start over.

    this approach has many advantages: you don't kill joints, you perfect forms, you train your CNS, you do not overtrain.

    great log Paul, I can't wait to buy your programming manual.


  17. The only problem I have with using the 1RM as a training parameter for loading is that it does not remain a constant. Your 1RM can and does fluctuate during the course of day, week, month and so on. Which means that all your other calculations have to be adjusted up or down accordingly. If I remember correctly, this is what Paul "tests" with the extensive warm up. Getting "well-lathered" as he calls it is where you tune in to what your approximate 1RM will be and from which you can then derive your work sets. This would be a prime example of the benefit of experience, because most people talk about their 1RM like its carved in stone.

    1. This is another reason why under-programming works. Because even on a bad day, you can get the workload in.