By: Louie Simmons
Training: An Overview
Your training for an upcoming
contest must be thought out precisely. You must add muscle mass, speed,
strength, and coordination. The simplest method of progression (10ís, 8ís,
6ís: progressive gradual overload) works in the beginning, but what doesnít?
As you become more advanced, you will need a more sophisticated method.
If you choose to go from 10ís, 8ís, 6ís down to 2ís and singles, many bad
things happen. One is that the volume and intensity are impossible to control.
There is an optimal
number of lifts at certain percentages. For example,
weights at or above 90% of a 1-rep max are to be done for 1 or 2 lifts,
but many do 3-5 lifts on a regular basis. An Olympic lifter can do 4-10
lifts per workout with 90%, while a powerlifter should do 2-4 singles per
workout with 90% and above. With the old progressive overload method, 10
reps with 70% is common - what a waste. Through extensive tests of high-skilled
lifters 4-6 reps with 70% was shown to be optimal.
For all athletes, the better you are with reps, the worse you are with
a single. Think about this. Throw a basketball as high as possible. The
ball reaches its highest point before it lands and bounces. The first bounce
is the highest bounce. Each successive bounce is lower, as the ballís energy
dissipates. Similarly, when doing reps, you have a limited amount of energy.
With each rep, you will be a little less effective in your force production.
But, unlike the ball, you have a brain and spinal cord. You may learn to
conserve your energy to perform more reps.
This is a mistake. You will become slower and be unable to push effectively
with the heaviest weights. Remember, we are striving for speed, explosiveness,
and absolute strength.
Like everyone else, I watch TV. One of my favorite shows Is Kianaís Flex
Appeal on ESPN. Well, youíve probably guessed the main reason I watch,
but I also watch the high-rep bodybuilding boys do their best imitation
of plyometric training. They are slower than my grandmother. Why? This
is the result of slow, high-rep training (similar to H.I.T.).
Now let me get back to the old progressive method. It is based on a hypothetical
max. No one can project a hypothetical max. This throws off the entire
training cycle. You think you are at 80% when you are really at 90% of
your true max. Again, remember what training at 90% does to your CNS: after
3 weeks you will cease to make progress.
Another reason for the failure of the progressive overload method is that
close to the meet, most lifters will drop their assistance exercises. Why
do them at all if you are going to do this? The effectiveness of these
exercises is almost completely lost in 2 weeks. Also, because of stress
of doing max singles in all three competition lifts, you are mentally and
emotionally worn out before the meet. Itís stupid to spar with Mike Tyson
if you are going to fight Cecily Tyson.
With the progressive overload system, every type of training is used in
one workout. However, your body doesnít know what you want it to do with
so many different demands placed on it. One must train speed and endurance
separately, for example.
So whatís right? Personally I look at weight training for what it is: mathematics,
biomechanics, and physics. This is what we do at Westside (and the results
speak for themselves).
The work must be divided into special days: a
dynamic method day for the bench and one dynamic day for the squat and
deadlift; a maximal effort day for benching that occurs three days after
the dynamic day; a maximal effort day for the squat and deadlift. The week
should look like this: dynamic squat on Friday, dynamic bench on Sunday,
max effort squat/deadllft on Monday and max effort bench on Wednesday.
This sequence works best for weekend meets.
Letís start with the squat. We always box squat just below parallel. Without
bands or chains the bar weight is 50-60% of a 1-rep max. During the cycle
do 12 sets of 2 reps with 50, 52.5, and 55% and 10 sets of 2 reps with
57.5 and 60%, using only one percentage per week. When you reach 60%. Start
over with 50% the next week. This is a pendulum wave, much like that used
by Alexiev. It is easy to improve form and build speed and starting strength
by training with weights at these percentages.
When using bands or chains, 6 sets of 2 reps are used, including during
the circa-maximal phase. It is easy to monitor volume and Intensity with
After box squats on Friday, special work for glutes/hamstrings, abs, hips,
and spinal erectors are done. Every other week, we do 6 speed deadlifts
with 60-70% with short rest periods of 45 seconds.
Now letís stay with the squat and go on to max
effort day, Monday, 72 hours later. You must max out on a squat, good morning,
or pull. We recommend singles in the squat and deadlift and triples in
the good morning. You will need spotters because you are maxing out. Donít
be afraid to miss. Rotate from a squat one week to a good morning the next.
Most of these workouts are some variety of good morning. The squat can
be done in several ways: front squat, Safety Squat Bar, Manta Ray, cambered
bar, belt squat. With five different box heights, this adds up to 25 varieties
of squats. Adding bands or chains or both, you now have over 40 exercises.
Switch each week to a different core exercise if you are advanced or every
2 weeks if you are not.
After the core barbell lift, do 2-4 exercises for glutes, hams, low back,
lats, and abs. Rotate as often as necessary to maintain progress?
The time under tension is the key for the max effort work. You donít have
to do conventional squats or deadlifts to improve these lifts. For example,
world-class throwers throw everything except the official implement, from
medicine balls to hammers to long pipes, using objects of different weights.
This is the conjugate method in combination with the maximum effort method.
This system will improve form as well as build phenomenal strength.
The bench press has 2 days as well. On Sunday we use the dynamic method.
We have found that using one weight works best for the bench: No wave is
used. Instead, 60% of a no-shirt max or 50% of a max with a bench shirt
is used every week, 8-10 sets of 3 reps. the grips are moderately close
to close. It is easy to maintain the intensity and volume. If you bench
400 without a shirt, you would train with 240. One set of 3 reps = 720
pounds. Ten sets of 3 reps at 240 7200 pounds. Our experience with 25 men
who bench 550 or more and the data from scientific research have shown
that using these percentages will develop force production the best. On
dynamic day, you improve form and build starting and accelerating strength.
To build strength, the volume must be increased. A 400-pound bencher using
240 for his sets does a total volume of 7200 pounds. A 500-pound bencher
would require a total volume of 9000 pounds; a 600-pound bencher, 10,800
pounds. Remember, this day is not intended to develop absolute strength,
but rather to develop force. (The max effort day is used to increase absolute
strength; see below.) The weight on dynamic day is increased only when
a new contest max has been achieved.
After benching, concentrate on triceps work; they
are the key to a strong bench press. Do lats next and then upper back.
Some forearm work and a little biceps work wonít hurt.
Wednesday is max effort day for the bench. On this day, 3 lifts at or over
90% and a max of 7 lifts are to be performed. We recommend that a new PR,
or even two, be attempted in one workout. The higher skilled you are, the
more often you must rotate a core lift. For example: week 1, board press;
week 2, floor press; week 3, chain press; week 4, 150 pounds of band plus
weight for a max single or triple; week 5, incline press; etc. Use any
sequence you like, working up to a meet. Max out only on max effort day
in a core exercise. We frequently hear about lifters who hit huge numbers
in the gym yet seldom repeat them in a meet. Either these lifters lack
self-confidence, or they donít have a clue how to peak for a meet. I can
bet you that if you break records in your core lifts and have raised your
level on extensions, lats, and delt work, and you have developed greater
speed on dynamic day, your bench press will be up.
To increase your lifts, you must be stronger and faster and have very good
form. This program has few detraining phases because every type of training
is performed over the course of a week: max effort work, speed work, GPP
work, technical work, and restoration, modified for each lifterís individual
With progressive gradual over-load training, which
is used more often than any other method of training, in the beginning
the intensity is low and the volume is high. Later in the cycle, the structure
is reversed close to a contest. The injury rate is higher with this type
of loading. The volume is impossible to control because several intensity
zones are used in one workout. This is very ineffective. As the weight
gets heavy close to the contest, the special work for individual muscles
is neglected. This is when the injuries occur, because of a lack of GPP.
Letís forget progressive gradual overload. Itís a dead-end street. I found
out 17 years ago. By the way, this system was invented and abandoned in
the old Soviet Union over 35 years ago. One should learn about other periodization
models, such as those of Verkhoshansky, Vorobyev, and Medvedev. I personally
thank these men, as well as Drs. Siff and Zatsiorskl, for making it possible
for me to lift more at age 52 than I ever dreamed possible.
For books by these authors and others, contact Westside Warehouse at 888-854-8806.
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without written consent. Copyright 2000 Louie Simmons.