....and some other miscellaneous thoughts

By Wade Hanna

Well, there has been a lot of talk and speculation regarding the recent articles about the 3x3 German Training system in the last couple PLUSA’s.  Stephen Korte, who works for International Scientific Publishing, authors the system.  The system is a very basic and very simple in structure, it calls for SQ/BP/DL everyday 3x/ week.  It has its roots in the older studies conducted by the Soviet weightlifting machine of years past.  With that little tidbit out of the way lets look at the set-up and see how my little crack at it fared up.

Phase I: Conditioning Phase (4 wks.)

SQ/BP/DL 5-8x5 @ 58-64% (note: BP is 6-8x5)

-Pretty simple huh?  To figure your training weights you take your current 1rm and add 15-20lbs for the SQ, 10lbs for the bench, and 15-20lbs for the DL.  You start week 1 @ 58% and try to do the 8x5 (up to depending on how you feel, but never less than 5x5) and increase the training weight by 2% each successive week.  Week 4 you are using 64% for your 5-8x5 (6-8x5 for BP). 

Phase II: Competition Phase (4 wks.)

Mon.     Wed.    Fri.
SQ: 3x3 @60%   SQ: 3x3 @60%  SQ: 1-2x1 @80-95%
BP: 3x3 @60%   BP: 1-2 x1@80-95%  BP: 3x3 @60% 
DL: 1-2x1 @80-95%   DL: 3x3 @60%  DL: 3x3 @60%

      -Not too complex even in the second phase, the singles are done @ 80% for week 1 then add 5% each successive week until week 4 when you do your singles @ 95%.  All the singles should be conducted in the same gear set-up you will use in a competition.

      Okay, so that is the system (basically, and if I have left anything out then please let me know and I will do my best to correct it).  As soon as I read the first article about this type of training I got intrigued.  I had been a little stale with my Louie stuff as of late (more on that later) so I was interested in maybe mixing it up a little.  A few e-mails to Mr. Korte and I was underway.  My first 4 wks. were even lighter than the original set-up called for.  I spent those first weeks using 50-58% respectively to accommodate the extra volume.  In addition I played with “mimic” lifts to add a little variety to the whole scheme.  I felt that the big bonus of the conjugate method was in the addressing of weak areas so I was unwilling to give that up.  I would substitute every other day with something like Front Squats/ DB Bench/ Power Cleans and another cluster of lifts was Zercher Squats/ Floor Presses/ Stiff legged DL’s. (A quick note: doing 8x5 @ ~315-335 on Zerchers is reminiscent of some sort of “Zen” ritual-it will bring you closer to whatever deep cache of energy you have...sheesh, those were tough days, for me anyway!).  Okay, so I would alternate one of these types of clusters with a regular SQ/BP/DL day and also alternate between the two alternates (I hope that makes sense?).  
     Once I had completed my “adjustment” period I moved into a closer interpretation of the 3x3.  Now I would only alternate the Wednesday workout and Mon./Fri. were actual SQ/BP/DL days.  Needless to say the volume is extremely taxing and the first 4 weeks were a total nightmare as far as effort, but it was refreshing to push that hard.  I jumped about 8 lbs. In the first three weeks and held that pretty steady throughout.        Once I got into the actual conditioning phase I was accepting the volume pretty well, but my lower back was taking a beating.  I was thinking that this was a result of the set-up itself (which to an extent it was), but what was really happening was I had a bulging disc at S1-L5 and that was the real culprit.  
      On a side note, I have had this thing for close to a year, hard to say when it actually happened, but that is in my opinion why my conjugate stuff was getting stale.  I look back and wonder what I might have pulled in 98' had I not been working around this disc. 720 got whites, 730 went for a ride and just got me at the top, and I took 740 for a ride about halfway, but was unwilling to grunt on it for fear of hurting my back.  My squats were non-existent because the compression was painful, as it was 655 went for a ride in the gym with no real challenge, but it did hurt a little.  Needless to say, 99' should prove to be interesting since the disc is on the rebound and my first squat day was highly encouraging.  Unfortunately, hindsight is 20/20 and I saw the warning signs, but didn’t know what they were at the time.  We’ll just see what I can do this year and hopefully a healthy vehicle for my seriously revving motor will take me to new PR’s!
      Okay, sorry for the distraction, my back has been my number 1 nemesis for going on two years and I am REALLY jacked about the prospect of lifting healthy again.  Knowing what to avoid will help me make that sucker bulletproof again. I used to be able to abuse it and it would chew up and spit out anything I could throw at it. It just goes to show that no matter how strong you get your body is still relatively fragile.        Okay, really I will get back to 3x3 ;-), the volume was not an issue once I adapted to that type of training.  It was tough and I was working hard, but it wasn’t the gut wrenching experience the first couple of weeks were.  The bonus of doing this set-up was that my hips/glutes/quads got VERY strong.  I would use alternating stances on the squat, start narrow and work to extra wide (2sets x 4 stances) and then use 4x5 conventional and 4x5 sumo on the DL’s.  So the SQ/DL didn’t suffer from this, BUT the bench is another story.  
      Once I got into the competition phase I confirmed what I thought was happening in the bench.  It dropped, namely my front delts and triceps.  My triceps have regressed big time and since I am not a great bencher anyway it was catastrophic.  I have lost in the neighborhood of 35-50 lbs on my bench.  I am very confident it will come back quickly with my return to Conjugate, but it is set back on time.  Not only do I have to recover ground, but the gains I would have made in that time are lost as well.  This is my biggest complaint with the 3x3.  I have talked with people who have not had this problem, but our esteemed Webmaster experienced the same thing (except he was smart and stopped early ;-P). (editors note: my triceps are TINY and when I noticed them shrinking I knew it was time for a change - your mileage may vary.)  
      For this program to work for me I would have to include some type of extra tricep work, maybe even split the bench sets with Dick’s for two days and then focus completely on tri’s the third day.  I don’t know and I won’t find out for a while.  I will probably use this as filler to mix up my training once or twice a year, but I have to do some thinking about how I am going to approach the bench problem.  I want to re-iterate though, this is only my impression and I have talked with people who have had very good results so don’t condemn the whole system quite yet.  I think it has merit and it is based off some sound research and practical application in years past.  Fred Hatfield even trained similar to this at one point if memory serves.  I know he was a big proponent of the Soviet training methods and wrote some articles about their systems.
      My overall impression is more on the favorable side.  I would caution you to check your bench progress and address that as needed or maybe talk with Mr. Korte (he is on the Goheavy.com training forum) for some insight.  I think that this program will work for just about anyone, but better for some. 
      Let me finish with a few last thoughts here.   In the last couple of PLUSA’s there have been some articles that have talked about the elusive “secret ingredient” to getting big.  It is so simple that we tend to overlook it and get caught up in what new supplement is working and what new program is the “best.”  The simple answer is hard friggin’ work!  No matter what system I have ever used, the times I busted my butt was the times I grew the most.  I don’t think the system is as important to the individual, as the individual's application of the system is.  You bust your behind on any system and you will grow...if you believe in the system you use then the gains will be even better.  I don’t mean to sound like I am discounting science, there are some really bad set-ups around and you need to be informed on what combinations are proven to work.  My point is with the combination of proven methods you can’t go wrong, the problem stems from a lack of conviction in that application that then transfers to a less than 100% commitment to your training.  Each set-up is going to have to be personalized, but if you stick with basic principles that work and you bust your tail you can’t go wrong.  
      Let me finish with one last piece of advice that I thought was so important.  I don’t remember who said this or where I heard it, but it is very true.  “Strength isn’t gained, rather it is cultivated”, I don’t know if that is verbatim, but you get the point.  I think it talks about a principle that gets forgotten all to often in this fast paced world...patience.  Strength takes time and slow consistent training will get you strong faster than anything else will.  It takes a little longer, but it also insures you will be in the game for a long time...what fun is being the best if you can only do it for a short bit.  I want to get up to the top and stay there for a long time.

Happy New Year and good liftin’


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Reproduction of this article, in whole or part, for any purposed other than personal use is prohibited without written consent. Copyright 1998 Wade Hanna.