I'm all out of snappy names lately, so I'm just going to call this Base Building because it's centered around your everyday max (sound familiar?) and simply working with volume at lower percentages within that range, in order to build your foundation.
This is needed by everyone. However, the way I am going to lay it out, is for guys who already have a decent foundation, and are ok with increasing their base slowly, and methodically.
This is the kind of training you're going to want to be doing well outside of training for a meet, though we can easily ramp it upwards. Essentially it's the primer. It improves your base strength and working capacity. It is not meant for driving strength up fast, but at a more steady rate, with limited needs in the way of "deloading" or layoffs. That's what the strong-15 and peaking cycles are for. The downside to those things, are of course, the "fall off the cliff" as I like to write about. The faster you ramp strength, the faster you have that downslide after you peak, and the further you fall down it. That's the ebb and flow of training. You harder you push that stimulus curve, the higher the supercompensation curve and then the bigger the slide back down becomes.
Go ask someone who ran one of those super duper squat specialization programs, hit a PR, only to find themselves back where they started a few months later, or even regressed. That peak cannot be held, and the higher you push the peak, the steeper the recovery curve becomes. Part of recovery sometimes, is regression. To give another example of this, think about a time where you were hitting PR's left and right for a few weeks, feeling awesome, then you have two or three -10% sessions and then get "burnt" and need to take a lay off. That isn't you getting weaker. That really makes no sense. It's just that people talk about recovery, but then never see fatigue as part of it. Indeed, it is.
The best I have seen this explained is in this handy dandy article right here.
The graph I like best there is the last one.
All your base are belong to us...
If you look at the line running straight across, that's "base" level strength/fitness/ability. The line ascending there isn't a sharp line upwards. It moves moderately upwards. This is what good base building should look like on a curve. There is fatigue, but it is not incredibly great, and then there is compensation, and supercompensation after recovery from fatigue. The less sharp the curve is, the more you increase your base, or foundation, level of strength. You not "peak", but you improve gradually, and consistently.
This is the kind of training that will build a foundation that does not go away very easily, and does in fact, make you stronger without "testing" strength, or having to demonstrate it. I know this, because I've been testing these theories out for months now, and it has worked fabulously. Funny enough, as the months went by the more information I found that was backed by this kind of training by a lot of very strong people.
I will say this, training this way probably has a lot to do with where you are in your training life. When I was younger, I trained very hard and heavy 99% of the time. Constantly pushing for limit rep PR's and going balls out. At almost 38 now, and with around 25 years of lifting under my belt, I don't really want to train that way anymore. Nor do I think I would hold up under it for very long mentally or physically. That's not me being "weak", it's just that my body doesn't do as well with that style anymore, and eventually I dread training. Not a place you want to be for solid and sustained progress.
For beginners and intermediates, I really suggest you learning some of these things, and pushing boundaries and the envelope. Your 90-95% range isn't going to be as taxing for you as it is for an advanced guy. Neither will pushing the perceived intensity or volume. You will need to play a bit to figure some of these things out. That's a big part of lifting, and too many people want to be hand held.
Do a program "as is" the first time around, or even the second time around. If you think you can make changes to improve it FOR YOU, do so. That's what becoming a better lifter is about.
If you have a good base under you, this kind of training may suit you very well.
Here are how some of these things are being laid out in my training since I'm pretty far out from the meet still.
Press Behind the Neck
Abs ( you must say this in a Jersey accent....you know you just did in your head...ahhhhbs)
100 rep work for pre-hab (curls, leg curls, front raises)
Rows - 350 method
That's really it. I have narrowed training down even further because well, every year I do that, I get a little better. Squats are in there as well, they are just taking a back seat to front squatting at the moment.
So how to implement base building?
Mainly through manipulating the usual factors of training.
That's training in a nutshell.
Heavy/Low - Light/High
One of the reasons I think the LRB template worked so well for people, is because it didn't ask you to go into the gym, and crush, kill, destroy yourself workout after workout. For a lot of guys this is how you end up dipping further and further into that fatigue area, and then flat line back out of it, instead of benefit from it over the long haul.
So as I am massaging these ideas, I am still using heavy days with lower volume, then the next week using lower percentages, with higher volume.
Heavy is still "relative" and can change greatly from a day to day perspective. You need to be able to be "ok" with where you are at on a given day rather than trying to force what isn't there.
Read that a few times, and think about it. Ok, I'll give an example instead.
Last week you pulled 500 for a triple, and it was solid, but it was a really good day. You go in to pull today and you can barely get 500 for a single. Did you get "weaker"? Of course not. It's just that the "curve" is still in the recovery state. I feel like this is what a lot of guys call "CNS burnout". However their failing there is relating it to the movement itself, and not the body as a whole. "Hey brah, you've been deadlifting too much so you need to switch movements in order to avoid CNS burnout." /facepalm
The body itself has not recovered. It wouldn't have mattered if you were benching or squatting or doing lat pulldowns. Until the body has curved out of that state of fatigue, you're not going to experience the upward trend that is "strength improvement".
I feel like this is one reason the LRB split really worked so well for so many people. It asked you to train heavy once or twice a week, then get in your base level work once or twice a week on the opposing week, so that the dip into fatigue didn't really get deeper.
So expanding on this idea is what has been shaping my "offseason" training ideas. I have evolved the LRB split into something slightly different, and more specific for getting ready for this meet. So where the LRB split, is a general split, what I am doing now is slightly more geared for powerlifting performance in the offseason.
Still training heavy -
I don't think you can get away from heavy training. I know as I've presented these ideas to people that may think I have. But it's not the case. It's that the ideas are ever evolving and so is the philosophy. I do think that most guys overuse heavy lifting far too much, then brag about their gym lifts, never really being honest that they haven't hit a PR in years or gotten past a certain point because they already think they are "strong". They refuse to develop new ideas because hey, they pull or squat or press X amount, and that's "pretty good" so obviously what they do works.
But if you haven't improved in the last 6 months, year, or even two years......it's not working anymore.
There should be a mix weekly of still stressing the body harshly, and then allowing it to recover, and massage progress along steadily as well. Finding this balance can be tricky, which is why I haven't just laid everything out yet.
What I have found, I think, is that a nice balance across two weeks works very well. Most guys think it terms of 7 days, but I've found that thinking across 10-14 days is better because you can distribute the volume, intensity, frequency, and recovery in a more even fashion.
Week 1 -
Day 1 - Heavy Pull/Lower Volume
Day 2 - Light Squat/Higher Volume
Day 3 - Light Press/Lower Volume
Week 2 -
Day 1 - Light Pull/Higher Volume
Day 2 - Heavy Squat/Lower Volume
Day 3 - Heavy Press/Higher Volume
If you want a day to overhead press, you could fit that in as well. Just minimize what else you're doing. In other words, if you're overhead pressing, JUST overhead press. That's it for the most part. Just manipulate the volume.
Week 1 -
Day 1 - Heavy Pull/Lower Volume
Day 2 - Heavy Overhead Press/Higher Volume
Day 3 - Light Squat/Higher Volume
Day 3 - Light Press/Lower Volume
Week 2 -
Day 1 - Light Pull/Higher Volume
Day 2 - Light Overhead Press/Lower Volume
Day 3 - Heavy Squat/Lower Volume
Day 4 - Heavy Press/Higher Volume
From a general high level overview, this is how the template could be laid out. So even in the 4 days a week split, you only have 2 heavy days, and 2 light days.
I personally like the first split best because you end up with only three heavy sessions over two weeks, and those will have calibration built into them. Which I will talk about later.
On the heavy pressing weeks, you actually do MORE volume and on the light weeks, LESS. I have a reason for this however (which I already hinted at) but I'm not going to go into it until Part 2........
Part 2 will cover -
Calibration on "heavy" days
Manipulating Volume on light days
What you may have been doing that is hurting your main movements in regards to assistance work
Curving intensity ranges upwards over a period of time
I hope err'body has a great weekend.
I take it the Big-15 was your first stab at this type of programming. I'm definitely interested in seeing how all this unfolds. I can say from my experience doing Big-15 for the past 6 weeks I feel stronger now than I did when I started, and never once felt like I went into a session with that fatigue "fog" as I call it.ReplyDelete
I'm still on the intermediate side of things, but I like not hitting over 90% most of the time right now. I still say the 100 rep work sucks, but in the best way possible. It's hard, but it pays me back more than I invested in it.
Are your thoughts more along the lines of staying with the base building 90% of the time and only doing Strong-15 when you are preparing for a meet?
The big-15 wasn't my "first stab" at all. It was something I did for decades but never put it into programming. I just knew what it looked like on paper. I built 90+% of my mass and strength using that method.Delete
And yes, base building should be something you are doing when you are not preparing for a meet.
Thank You. Thank You Thank You...that should cover it. Coming from an endurance background originally, I've been struck by how few people in S&C, (strength "experts" specifically) really grasp the concept of base and any day of the week ability. Most of your training time should be like sharpening an axe, not a razor. These sharp upticks in volume and intensity to hit an eight week "peak" just leave you fragile. A broad blunt edge lasts longer.ReplyDelete
That's a great analogy. I like it.Delete
> Light Press/Lower VolumeReplyDelete
> Heavy Press/Higher Volume
Are those supposed to be light/higher and heavy/lower like squats and deads are? Same question for OHP.
Nevermind, I'm a moron and asked the question before I finished reading the article.ReplyDelete
Come on man you always have the best names! What about something like the LRBB template?ReplyDelete
Maybe I'm just too lazy for it today. I may think of something.Delete
That explains what happen to me just this week. Thanks, Paul.ReplyDelete
A lot of what you have been talking about recently makes me think of sheiko. Not so much the routine itself, but the principles he goes over in regards to tracking volume, number of bar lifts and intensity. I wish I could read Russian because the most interesting part of the 4 chapters that are translated is definitely that last one.ReplyDelete
Interestingly enough, I've never read THAT much about Sheiko but I do think the more my training evolves, the more I can see what I know about it in parallel.Delete
The guy who commented above about doing marathons made a great example that I'm going to expound on in part 2.
Very good article and I totally agree. I will add though that a lot of these people do the super russian programs wrong and that's why they get the big dip. Smolov is just a 3 week volume block. Kids will do it, take their week off (in which they peak) hit the PR and then regress like you said. However planned smartly like you also suggested they can be very good for sure. Follow it up with a 3 week block of higher intensity work aaaand you realise or secure the strength by keeping chipping away instead of recovering to peak and having the massive dip that follows.ReplyDelete
Peaking and deloading is for prior to meets right? Makes no sense to do this when you're not near a meet lol
Paul, I have no idea how you put out so much material on a weekly basis but it's awesomeReplyDelete
My coconut is always churning. Sometimes shit, but still....Delete
Paul, quick question about the LRB template.I will be starting it this week and I understand that the strong-15 is used. Since a 3 week wave will last 6 weeks, is it ok to only use the 3rd wave % of the strong-15 for the template? Thanks in advanceReplyDelete
I wouldn't run it that way, but I like programming lighter now.Delete
So u would suggest running all 3 waves of the strong 15 with the LRB template?ReplyDelete
You can if you want. But remember, you don't squat every week, so that becomes a LONG time. If you adjust your programming right, you can do it. Just don't get overzealous.Delete
Paul, I think an idea a lot of trainee's struggle with, myself included, is the idea of "How do I know when I've done enough?"ReplyDelete
Of course, ANY training that is "hard" has the potential to be productive I think, but it seems what really separates someone into that advanced category is knowing how much is enough, how much is too much, and when to back it off or push it.
Do you just go by a general volume and a certain percent? Go by feel? Or is it just something you have worked out for yourself over the decades that lets you know "That was enough for today" ?
I'm sure we'd all love to hear your thoughts on your philosophy of this idea.
I've touched on this some, but I think it's worth elaborating on more. I actually thought about this earlier tonight so maybe I will for part 3.Delete
and some more low percentage work by Terry HollandsReplyDelete
and some more low percentage work by big Terry Hollands
That looks awesome.Delete
Sorry for double postDelete
Echoing on the comments concerning endurance training. I work with a high end triathlete and have asked how do you train to get faster? He always answered: by building my base. In his case, this means slow, consistent increases in volume and intensity over time. Training at this level yielded consistent gains over the last 10 years while at the same time minimizing injuries. He continues to get better/faster at the age of 40.ReplyDelete
This is how MOST athletes train really. They train in order to set themselves up to reach or exceed a goal in competition. Powerlifters and strength athletes, well, so many of them this is completely lost on.Delete
The more and more I read your writing, the more I see we have shit in common. We may not be on the same boat about everything, but you're putting out some legit perspectives. I have already created a program out of my needs and what works best for me. I for one, am sold on the 100 rep work for assistance work.ReplyDelete
Not only that, i can testify (and this should be general common sense) that the heavy n' light methodology works like a charm. Going heavy all the time is just going to constantly crush you. There are days when you should just ligthen up and crush the weight instead.
As for coming up with a fancy-schmancy name---there is no need. Base-Building is the key to super strength. Everybody needs to acknowledge that. Just how they say the basics never fail. Base-Building will never fail.
Paul, So for the average guy who is never going to compete, is there any advantage to doing a strong 15 or peaking routine? If your going to regress after the cycle to possibly where you started at when you began the cycle, seems like a waste of time. Big 15 seems like the way to go year round. Slow and steady. Thanks for your sharing your knowledgeReplyDelete
You always regress just a little bit after a very good peaking cycle. That's because you push the supercompensation curve up very high. This is normal.Delete
If you're not going to compete, then you don't really have a need to run a full fledged peaking cycle, however you can still run the strong-15 and be conservative with your programming and not ever really bust into the 93% range, and do just fine.
So would you say having heavy and light workouts are important for bodybuilding too and not just when you're trying to increase strength?ReplyDelete
Yes. that's what I did with the new big-15 split in SLL as well.Delete
This was awesome Paul, thank you, I can't wait for you to expand more on this topic.ReplyDelete
It's comes at the right time for me as I'm at the point now where I can't realistically expect to keeping adding weight or setting rep PR's every week to week and more often than not, after I get to about the 5th or 6th week of doing that, I fall off the cliff, my joints start to hurt like fuck and my strength nosedives.
The last 2 weeks I've had a lot of -10 workouts after a good run of about 6 weeks where I was setting rep and weight PR's consistantly in the 5-8 rep range. It sucks when this happens, but really, it's to be expected when you think about it logically.
I was thinking over the weekend that I need to tweak some things in my training - not so much my approach to the lifting itself, but more to do with that whole recovery/supercompensation curve you've talked about and how I can program better around that so that I don't beat the shit out of myself and keep building that base level up for longer without having to "deload" or my joints get banged up. A heavy/light system seems to be the logical approach and to my surprise, I checked on here and you've written an awesome post on just that.
I can't wait for you to get more into this as I'd love some food for thought on how to manipulate those variables. I've said it before, but a lot of your whole training philosophy mirrors my own thinking as I also looked to those greats from back in the day (Coan, Karwoski, Kuc..etc.) and tried to learn from that - only you're a hell of a lot more experienced and stronger than I am so I appreciate you sharing that knowlegde you've gained over your 20+ years of lifting. It makes me feel a little more confident that I'm on the right path and I continue to learn from this blog.
Thanks again man, keep up the good work :-)
wow, always wondered if you were really a warrior geek. Now i know "All your base are belong to us....." well played....ReplyDelete
15 years in IT and a unix engineer.Delete
That's funny, you don't look like a guy who works in IT...lol.Delete