Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Grease the Groove: Explosive Strength and Power

Grease The Groove

For Explosive Strength and Power


     There are several good methods and training programs out there for building large amounts of strength and power.  One of the best methods—one that many lifters will find works the best for them—is to practice what Russian and other former Soviet lifters call “greasing the groove.”

     Olympic and powerlifting coaches from the former Soviet republic—as well as Eastern Bloc countries—held the belief that the more frequently you performed a lift, the better, and, therefore, stronger you became on it.  Even now, it’s not uncommon for Russian (and other countries from the former Soviet Union) powerlifters to squat and deadlift three to four days per week and bench press as many as eight times per week.

     For years, the success the Soviet Olympic lifters and powerlifters had was attributed to large amounts of anabolic steroids and/or great genetics.  I’m here to tell you, however, that this is just not the case.  I’ve seen too many natural lifters get great results by training their lifts very frequently.

     At this point, you’re probably asking yourself how you can possibly train your muscle groups so frequently without overtraining.  Professor Vladmir Zatsiorsky—one of the greatest researchers ever in the field of strength and power—summed it up best when he said the key to getting stronger is “to train as frequently as possible while being as fresh as possible.”  In other words, you should work hard, but not too hard.

     If you are wondering just what this “grease the groove” stuff should look like as far as sets and reps per session goes, take a look at the table below.

Optimal Training Conditions

% of one-rep maximum     reps per set     sets per lift

                             70%                                    3-5              12-20

                             80%                                    2-3              8-12

                             90%                                    1-2              3-6


     These optimal training conditions are based on both Russian and Eastern-bloc research.  When you train outside these parameters, results are diminished.

     Looking at this table, you are probably still wondering what a week’s worth of training might look like.  Below are two example programs.  The first is for lifters new to serious strength training.  The second is for those who are seasoned strength and power athletes.

Just Starting Out—the Beginner’s Program

Day One (Monday)

Squat—3 sets of 2 reps at 90% of one-rep maximum.  These should be performed with the stance that most suits you—in other words: the stance that lets you use the most weight.  If you are not familiar with your “squatting footprint,” then start off with a medium-wide stance.  Make sure you take each rep as deep as possible, at least going below parallel.

Bench Press—5 sets of 2 reps at 90% of one-rep maximum.  Use a medium grip.  Bring the bar down slowly, pause on your chest for a second, then explode back to lockout (at least, try to explode).

Dumbbell Bench Press—3 sets of 10 reps.  For these, don’t use a weight that’s a percentage of any kind.  Instead, use a weight that allows you to get 10 reps on 3 sets with the same weight.  Only the last set should approach failure.

Incline Sit-ups—3 sets of 15 reps.  Perform this exercise on a steep incline bench.

Day Two (Wednesday)

Deadlifts—5 sets of 1 rep at 90% of one-rep maximum.  Like the squats, use the stance on these that most suits you, be it a “conventional” or a “sumo” stance.  If you aren’t familiar with what stance works best for your body type, then I suggest starting off with a “conventional” stance.

Incline Bench Press—8 sets of 3 reps at 80% of one-rep maximum.  Use a medium grip.  Bring the bar down until it touches your upper chest, almost to your neck.

Bench Dips—4 sets of 15 reps.  Use your bodyweight on all 4 sets.

Day Three (Friday)

Squats—12 sets of 3 reps using 70% of one-rep maximum.  Use the same stance as on Monday’s workout.

Bench Press—10 sets of 5 reps using 70% of one-rep maximum.  Perform these using the same grip as Monday’s workout.

Wide Grip Chins—4 sets of 10 reps.  Use your bodyweight on all 4 sets.  If you can’t get 10 reps, then do as many repetitions as you can.

Hanging Leg Raises—3 sets of 15 reps.  Use your bodyweight on these sets.

The Full (Strength) Monty—Serious Strength Athletes only!

Day One (Monday)

Squats—4 sets of 2 reps at 90% of one-rep maximum.

Bench Press—6 sets of 2 reps at 90% of one-rep maximum.

Squats—8 sets of 2 reps at 80% of one-rep maximum.

Incline Bench Press—10 sets of 2 reps at 80% of one-rep maximum.

Dumbbell Bench Press—5 sets of 10 reps.  Use a weight where only the last couple of sets approach failure.

Standing Good Mornings—3 sets of 10 reps.  Take each set a couple reps shy of failure.

Abs—4 sets of 20-30 reps.  Pick an exercise of your choosing.

Day Two (Wednesday)

Deadlifts—5 sets of 1 rep at 90% of one-rep maximum.

Bench Press—12 sets of 3 reps at 70% of one-rep maximum.

Rack Deadlifts (pins set at knee level)—8 sets of 2 reps at 80% of one-rep maximum.

Parallel Bar Dips—4 sets of 6 reps.  Each set should be one or two reps shy of failure.

Abs—4 sets of 20-30 reps.

Day Three (Friday)

Squats—8 sets of 2 reps at 80% of one-rep maximum.

Bench Press—15 sets of 3 reps at 70% of one-rep maximum.

Squats—12 sets of 3 reps at 70% of one-rep maximum.

Skullcrushers—4 sets of 10 reps.  Each set should be one or two reps shy of failure.

Abs—4 sets of 20-30 reps.

Day Four (Saturday)

Deadlifts—12 sets of 3 reps at 70% of one-rep maximum.

Bench Press—8 sets of 2 reps at 80% of one-rep maximum.

Wide Grip Chins—5 sets of maximum reps.

Abs—4 sets of 20-30 reps.

Final Thoughts

     Stick with the first program for a minimum of eight weeks if you are new to this sort of training.  Even though the second program is for seasoned strength athletes, you might still want to perform the first program before moving on to the second—even if you are not new to strength and power training.

     If you find, after training on both programs for a while, that you are getting good results but you want a little variety, then don’t be afraid to substitute other exercises.  Just make sure that the exercises you substitute with are just as “tough” as the conventional ones.  In other words, if you don’t want to do conventional deadlifts each week, then try rotating other exercises.  Sumo deadlifts, deadlifts while standing on blocks, rack pulls from various heights, deadlifts with a pause at the knee level, and stiff-legged deadlifts would all be good substitutes.

     If you have never performed this sort of workout before, and are hesitant to do so, then I encourage you to give it a try.  If you haven’t been getting good results with other programs, then what do you have to lose?

Saturday, August 22, 2009


     The following is an article I wrote for Iron Man magazine probably more than a decade ago.  If you have read some of my more recent articles, then this one definitely reflects a difference: I used to recommend a lot more rest between workout sessions.  Nonetheless, it's still a good program.  (And the bulk-building diet at the end of it should be all that a beginning lifter needs to pack on some solid mass and—of course—bulk.)


Forget about isolation exercises, ultra-high reps, machines and the like. For bulk-building you absolutely must use the compound movements for a limited number of sets. That means heavy bench presses, squats, deadlifts, barbell curls, rows, push presses, cleans and shrugs. Another factor you must pay attention to is recuperation. The following workouts all have those two things in common – heavy compound lifts and plenty of recuperation time. Use each for at least a month before switching to another, and six to eight weeks per routine may be even better.


This routine’s great if you’re just starting out or if you’ve been doing multiple workouts per week for a long time. Don’t worry about the infrequent training. Perform if correctly and you won’t want to work out more often.


1.) Deadlift – 5 sets of 3 reps.

Make these triples progressively heavier, with the first three sets being warmups and the last two being your only REAL work sets. On the final set it should be next to impossible to get out the three reps.

2.) Bench Press – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Perform the first two sets as warmups and use the same weight on your three work sets, adding weight when you can get five reps on all three sets.

3.) Wide Grip Chins – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Same as benches.

4.) Bench Press Lockouts – 5 sets of 3 reps.

Make these triples progressively heavier, with the first three being warmups.


1.) Squat – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Squats are the best single exercise for adding bulk, with deadlifts a close second. Perform the first two sets as warmups and go HEAVY on your three work sets., using the same weight on all three and adding weight when you can get five reps on all three sets.

2.) Clean and Press – 5 sets of 3 reps.

Use either a barbell or dumbells, and make these triples progressively heavier. The first three sets are warmups.

3.) Barbell Curls – 5 sets of 3 reps.

Same as the clean and press.


For those who absolutely insist on working out every day, this is the routine for you. The key is to train only one muscle group at each session and train the smaller muscle groups on the days after you train the larger ones.

Monday – Chest

1.) Bottom-position Bench Press – 5 singles.

Perform these single reps in the power rack, starting the exercise from the chest. Increase the weight on each successive set.

2.) Incline Press – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Perform the first two sets as warmups and go heavy on your three work sets, using the same weight on all three and adding weight when all you can get 5 reps for all three sets.

3.) Dumbell Incline Bench Press – 2 sets of 8 reps.

No warmups here. Go straight to two very hard sets and use the same weight on both. Don’t take it easy because you’re fatigued.

Tuesday – Arms

1.) Barbell Curl – 5 singles.

Most people aren’t used to such heavy arm training, but it’s underrated. Work these singles hard, and don’t worry about high reps being more effective for building big biceps. They aren’t. Increase the weight on each successive set.

2.) Lying Barbell Extension – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Perform the first two sets as warmups and use the same weight on all three work sets, adding weight when you can get five reps on all three.

Wednesday – Legs

1.) Squat – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Perform the first two sets as warmups and use the same weight on all three work sets, adding weight when you can get five reps on all three.

2.) Squat Lockout – 5 sets of 3 reps.

Make these triples progressively heavier, with the first three sets being warmups.

3.) Stiff-legged Deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Perform the first two sets as warmups and use the same weight on all three work sets, adding weight when you can get five reps on all three sets.

Thursday – Shoulders

1,) Push Press – 5 singles.

Increase the weight on each successive set.

2.) Behind the Neck Press – 5 sets of 6 reps.

Use strict form on these. The first two sets are warmups, then use the same weight on all three work sets.

Friday – Back

1.) Rack Pull (deadlift lockout) – 5 sets of 3 reps.

Make these triples progressively heavier, with the first three sets being warmups.

2.) Stiff-legged Deadlift – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Perform the first two sets as warmups and use the same weight on all three work sets, adding weight when you can get five reps on all three sets.

3.) Wide-grip Chin – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Perform the first two sets as warmups and use the same weight on all three work sets, adding weight when you can get five reps on all three sets.

4.) Bentover Row – 5 sets of 5 reps.

Perform the first two sets as warmups and use the same weight on all three work sets, adding weight when you can get five reps on all three sets.

Make sure you get plenty of rest over the weekend because you’ll be needing it as the weights go higher. Also, if you’re new to such ultra-heavy training, take it easy for a week or so until and allow your body to adjust to the triples and singles. If you don’t, you’ll be so sore after the first workout with singles that you won’t be able to lift for two or three days.


Here’s a great old-time routine for building strength and bulk that you don’t see people using much anymore, despite the fact that quite a few lifting writers have been advocating it again in recent years. Pick one exercise in each session and do 10 sets of 3 to 5 reps. Whatever rep range you use, choose a weight you can get the reps with on each and every set. If you decide to do 10 sets of 3, choose a weight you can usually get six hard reps with; if you’re doing 5’s, choose a weight you’d use for 10 hard reps. Take only a minute of rest between sets. Here’s a sample week’s workout for the 10-sets method.


1.) Deadlift – 10 sets of 3 to 5 reps.

2.) Wide-grip Chin – 3 sets of 5 reps.

3.) Barbell Curl – 5 sets of 5 reps.


1.) Bench Press – 10 sets of 3 to 5 reps.

2.) Overhead Press – 5 sets of 3 reps

Increase the weight on each successive set.

3.) Plate Front Raise – 3 sets of 8 reps.


1.) Squat – 10 sets of 3 to 5 reps.

If you work as hard as you’re supposed to, you won’t need any other exercise. Remember, 1 minute rests between sets on the 10 set exercises.


Beginning Old School Diet:

Meal 1.) – 2 eggs/2 slices toast/bowl of oatmeal/glass of milk.

2.) Slice of cheese/glass of milk.

3.) ¼ lb. hamburger/baked potato/glass of milk.

4.) 2 eggs/glass of milk.

5.) 12 oz. steak or chicken/baked potato/slice of bread/2 glasses of milk.

6.) banana/2 glasses of milk.

Once your system can tolerate this amount of food, begin adding progressively to each meal. For example, add an egg, bacon or a slice of toast here, and a glass of milk or another baked potato there. Think progressive, no different than adding weight to your work sets. Follow these routines for a minimum one month each. By increasing food intake along with your top end weights you should see good results at the end of three months.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Consolidated Volume Training

     The following blog post is actually an e-mail from a friend of mine here in Tuscaloosa—Jared Smith—who sent me this workout, and wanted to know what I thought about it.  He calls it "consolidated volume training".  I kind of like that title.  Wish I would have thought of it myself.
     Check it out:

Consolidated Volume Training
     I was reading some of Mentzer's writing and though I think that training balls to the wall heavy all the time will inevitably lead to injury. However, I do agree with his ideas on consolidated training. Using only a handful of key compound exercises which will sufficiently stimulate all muscles of the body to their fullest. The program I have in mind is a 3 day a week program. Each muscle will get trained 3 times over the course of each week which is a significant difference from the once a week programs that most people do. But if people notice, successful lifters train major lifts several times a week. The rep ranges will differ each workout for the sake of making sure all muscle fibers are stimulated and we all know that you can only drive a vehicle full throttle for so long before it brakes.
Day 1
Incline Barbell Presses  5x10-12
Underhand grip barbell rows  5x 10-12
Standing calf raises          5 x 10-12
Squats                            5x10-12
Note: Some may question the rational for doing arguably the most difficult bodypart last. The reason being is that it is the most draining and if done first I feel that it may take away from the amount of intensity and focus that you could give your other bodyparts.
Day 2 Rest
Day 3
Flat dumbell presses 5x6-8
Palms in Chins         5x as many as u can
Front Squats            5x6-8
Note: Notice calves aren't trained on each day that you train since they're doing thousands of reps each day as you walk.

Day 4 Rest
Day 5
Flat Bench Presses 5x 4-6
Squats                   5x 4-6
Deadlifts 5x4-6
Day 6 Rest
Day 7
Dips 5x as many as u can
Seated Dumbbell Shoulder presses 5x8-10
Dumbbell Pullovers                        5x8-10
Take 2-3 days off then repeat the cycle.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Emptiness Alive with Fullness

     The famous Mahayana saying goes like this: "emptiness is form, form is emptiness."  And, of course, emptiness is nothing other than form, form is nothing other than emptiness.
     Here's the problem: sayings like this have become so commonplace—even more so with the advent of the internet, and even more so with Twitter and whatnot—that they no longer have much meaning to those who hear them, or read them, all the time.
     They are just words, of course.  Words that point to the real thing.  But they are not the real thing.

     For spirituality to be true, for it to be capable of transforming your life (your interior life as well as your exterior one), then you must make it your own.  You must experience the truth of the words that are spoken, and then live those words with your entire being.
     Inner creativity must explode into outward creativity—the creativity of living.
     But here's an important point: Although you must make this lived spirituality your own, it must be a spirituality that is a Truth.  Not a belief—a belief in and of itself is quite capable of being worthless—but a truth.  (There's a difference.)
     And you must experience this truth—otherwise it's not true—and then put words into what this truth means to you.
     The Mahayanist knows that emptiness is form and form is emptiness, not because he has read the words, but because he has experienced the living truth of it.  And then has applied it to his life.

     So, here's my truth:
     Emptiness is not fullness.  Fullness is not emptiness.  (I simply don't understand that to be true because it goes against—and goes against it only ever so slightly—my experience.)
     No, the truth is that the All is emptiness—shunyata—but it's an emptiness alive with fullness.  It's an emptiness alive with a Divine creativity.
     I understand emptiness.  And I understand the Divine Creativity that pulses in and out of it, weaves its spell through the whole of that utter no-thingness that I call life and Reality.
     I understand it because I have experienced it, so I have made it a Truth.

     What is your Truth?  Are you just playing at being spiritual?  Are you turning True Spirituality into nothing more than spiritual materialism or Boomeritis spirituality?
     Discover your won Emptiness that is alive with Divine Fullness and pulsating Creativity.
     Make this emptiness your own and leave behind the narcissism that threatens to destroy the very heart of Truth.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Cradled by Amida's Embrace

     Tonight I went to the movie theater to behold—I think that's the only word that does justice to the film's power—the movie "District 9".  The movie was definitely a sight to see—equal parts allegory, tough-as-nails action movie, and deft tale of human transformation—but it was also extremely violent.  I am usually not apt to enjoy a movie quite that violent, but I thought that the underlying messages of the movie at least partially excused all of the gore.    Nonetheless, I was looking for some quiet time—some moments of contemplative silence to recover from the in-your-faceness of the movie—and so I went to the local Books-A-Million.  The bookstore is always quiet on a weeknight—rather like the silence of a library—due to the fact that most people in town seem to hang out at the local (and louder) Barnes & Noble.  I wanted to peruse the theology and philosophy bookshelves just to see if there might be anything new—not to mention good—that had recently arrived on the shelf.
     Once my psyche was feeling more peaceful—a bit more in tune with its usually tranquil self—I decided to leave so that I could come home, lift weights for 45 minutes or so, and then sit down and attempt this blog piece you are now staring at on your computer screen, but having no clue what that blog piece might be about.  (A lot of times I don't really know what I'm going to write; I just sit down and write it.)
     When I opened my car door—my mind and body still rather peaceful—I was struck by the sight of one of the most wondrous sunsets I have ever seen.  It wasn't just beautiful—I have seen plenty of beautiful sunsets in my life, but this was wholly different—it was powerful.  It was partially obstructed by clouds of a kind of abstract divinity, bold—dark and bright at the same time—and blood-red.  So blood-red that, for a moment, I had the thought that its color was something like the eyes that must emerge from the seductive, beautiful face of a female vampire just before she sinks her teeth into some prey.  (Odd, yes, but that's how I felt.)
     Then something else struck me.  It was That something else that is so beyond words that perhaps even attempting to type this is a blasphemy.  It was the That which is just this.  But it wasn't "just this"—to attempt to equate it with some sort of "Power of Now" belarney really doesn't do it justice.  No.  It was more like a "just this" transcendence.
     And then, the word that came to my mind was Amida.  And I think I knew—truly knew—what it was that Shinran was trying to get at all those years ago in feudal Japan.  Some creator god didn't have to make those clouds, and that sunset, and all of that color, but it was imminently soaked with Divinity none-the-less.  And this imminence is also a transcendence; it's a transcendence that we can trust, surrender, and put our faith in wholly and completely.

     Once I got in my car and was driving home—my mind both lost in transcendence and yet also fully aware of everything in the present moment—the "a-ha" moment I had just had, and the thought of Amida that had come with it reminded me of a conversation I had recently had with a very kind, good-hearted Christian friend of mine.  My caring friend is also quite conservative—as Christians are apt to be here in the deep South—and he was having a hard time understanding how in the world I could be what I told him I was: a Christian-Buddhist (or a Buddhist-Christian; take your pick of what label you want to place first in the order).
     I attempted to explain it to him—how good religion is more of a way of being as opposed to a way of believing, and then how religion seems to function best as a set of practices rather than a set of beliefs.  But I'm not sure if he really understood what I was getting at, for it is hard to undo a lifetime of cultural conditioning; conditioning that ingrains a mythic-sky god mentality in you from an early age.
     As I bid farewell to my friend, a thought came to my mind.  It was a thought that I'm positive my friend would never have understood.  A good religious inclination, I thought—whether it's inclined toward Buddhism, or toward Christianity, or toward an amalgam of both Traditions—is something like being cradled by Amida's embrace.  It accepts that there is a Transcendent Reality inherent in nature and in our lives.  But it doesn't assume that this Transcendent Reality is going to somehow take care of us by answering our prayers of petition, or (likewise) by watching over everything we do and damning us to hell if we are sinners.
     No, the truth is that this Reality—the transcendence that is Amida, and is the Logos made flesh yet Who also always was— just is.
     God is.  Amida is.
     And that is good enough.

     The blood-red sun.
     The peace of Amida.
     The Just This transcendence.
     Good enough.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Monster Deadlift

 Monster Deadlift

Tips and Routines for Monstrous Pulling Power

     When it comes to developing functional strength and awesome pulling power (the type of power required to do real work), the deadlift stands above all others for measuring that strength.  But rarely do you see lifters and bodybuilders performing the type of routines that build the deadlift.  Why?  Many powerlifters find the deadlift the hardest of the three lifts, so they focus instead on their benches and squats.  And bodybuilders don't think that the lift has much to offer them, so they stay away from the routines that work their lower backs and hips and focus more on the "showy" muscles of the back: the lats.

     Another problem that many trainees who are not physically built to deadlift have is that when they start training it hard, they find that their deadlift actually starts to regress.  And why train it when it's going to go down, not up.  Right?

     Well, it's time to change all of the above things.  In this article, we'll unlock all of the keys to building that big deadlift.  Then, I'll outline a routine that incorporates these tips.  Use it as planned and there's no reason that you can't have a bigger, stronger and more powerful back.  One that's even stronger than it looks.

Tips For a Monster Deadlift

     There's a lot of misinformation out there when it comes to boosting this lift, and most of it revolves around the fact that trainees in America still use a bodybuilding-style routine, one that revolves around multiple sets and reps and the repetitions are often performed in the same speed cadence (i.e.- 2 seconds up, 2 seconds down).  Unfortunately, this type of training does little to promote speed strength (explosive power) or maximal strength.  Don't worry, though, all of these problems (and more) can be corrected with the appropriate routine.  Let's look at these tips for designing our routine.

Make It Dynamic

     When you hear someone talk about dynamic work, they're referring to speed—or explosive—training.  You build speed strength through numerous sets of low reps with a fairly light work load—50 to 60% of the trainees one rep max seems to work the best.  If you use a weight lighter than this, the load isn't heavy enough.  If your load starts to hover around 70%, then the weight doesn't move fast enough to increase power output significantly (unless you are strictly incorporating singles).

     Dynamic work is very important for the deadlift, probably more so than any other lift.  Why?  It's very easy to overtrain the movement pattern on the deadlift when you constantly use heavy weights.

     The best exercises to use for building speed strength on the deadlift are, of course, the deadlift and the full squat performed with a wide stance to stress the glutes, hips, and hamstring muscles to the fullest.

     The best set and rep range for speed training seems to be between 8 to 12 sets of 2 to 3 reps.  Each set should only take a second and a half to two seconds to perform.  No longer than it takes you to max out on a heavy deadlift.

Train Heavy Or Go Home

     If you want to make gains of any kind in strength training, then you absolutely have to train heavy.  If you're not willing to abide by the "train heavy" principle then you might as well pack it up and head for the house, because you'll never be strong.

     When I say heavy, I mean heavy.  Heavy sets of five reps should be about as light as you go on your core exercise for your heavy day.  Sets of 3s, doubles, and, yes, singles should also be common place.

     The reason most lifters don't get the results they expect out of ultra-heavy training, however, is that they perform the same exercise for the same amount of sets and reps all the time.  If, at every workout, you perform 3 sets of 3 reps on regular deadlifts then you will never see great results, no matter how recovered you are or how much protein you are eating every day.  The trick to not hitting a plateau with your heavy training is to change up the sets and reps when using the same exercise or to change up exercises when using the same sets and reps.  Which brings us to our next tip...

Variety Is The Spice Of Training

     In the countries of the former Soviet Empire, primarily Russia and the Ukraine (the two countries that absolutely dominate world competition in powerlifting), they threw out old-style progressive resistance training a long time ago.  Why? Because no matter how good they ate or how much "assistance" they received through pharmaceuticals they could only add so much weight to the bar for so long.  Their "secret", of course, was variety (and lots of it).  Sometimes they would change exercises, although it was usually just a variation of a classical lift, and a lot of times they would simply change the loading parameters of their exercises (i.e.- their sets and repetitions).

       Remember this:  the more advanced you are, the more variety you need.  While a beginner can get away with using the same routine for a couple of months and obtain good results, the intermediate needs more variety, and the advanced athlete needs even a greater level of change.  As a rule of thumb, make at least some type of change to your routine once every three weeks.

12 Weeks To Resurrecting A Stale Deadlift

     Vince Gironda once said, "are you on a training program or are you working out," and the great powerlifting coach Louie Simmons wrote, "no attitude is "working out" and a killer attitude is "training"- a big difference."  In other words, have a specific plan of attack when you hit the gym.  If you work out in a haphazard manner, you will receive haphazard results.  With this in mind, I want you to faithfully adhere to the below training program for resurrecting your stagnant deadlift.  Do it and I guarantee that you will receive great results.  Thirty to fifty pounds on the deadlift would not be uncommon—and those of you who are built for deadlifting will probably get a lot more out of it.

     This is a 12-week program that involves two phases.  Perform phase 1 for six of the twelve weeks, though not consecutively, and the same for phase 2.  In other words, perform phase 1 during weeks 1-3 and weeks 7-9 and perform phase 2 during weeks 4-6 and weeks 10-12.

     Here it is.

Phase 1 (weeks 1-3 and weeks 7-9)

     This phase is comprised of two workouts to be performed in a single week.  One is a "light" day where the emphasis is on speed and hypertrophy and the second workout is a "heavy" day that focuses on absolute strength and maximum power.  You perform the first workout, wait three days and then perform the heavy session.  So you would train on, say, Monday and Thursday, Tuesday and Friday, or so forth.

Workout 1

-Speed Deadlifts- 6 to 8 sets of 2 reps.  Select a weight that's approximately 50% of your one rep maximum.  Perform the reps as fast and explosively as possible.  After the first rep, let the weight pause on the floor for a couple of seconds before performing the next repetition.  Rest no more than one minute between sets.

-Seated Good Mornings- 3 sets of 12 reps.  Sit down on a flat bench with a barbell across your upper back.  Bend forward until your forehead touches the bench.

-Close Grip Chins- 3 sets of 6-8 reps.

-Hyperextensions supersetted with Reverse Crunches- 3 sets of 20 reps.  Supersetting these two exercise should create quite a burning sensation in your lower back and abdominals.  Supersetting exercises helps to raise your work capacity, creating a more capable and "in-shape" lifter.

Workout 2

-Wide Stance Squats, Rack Pulls, Sumo Deadlifts, Deadlifts Off Blocks, or Good Mornings- 5 to 6 sets of 1 repetition.  Work up over 4 to 5 progressively heavier singles until you reach 1 to 2 sets of maximum single attempts.  In other words, the last set or two should be an all out max at a weight that you have never tried before.  Rotate exercises at each workout.

-Barbell Shrugs- 3 sets of 8 reps.

-Box Squats- 2 sets of 8 reps.  Utilizing a box that is set below parallel, squat down and sit on the box.  Relax your hip muscles for a brief moment before trying to explode back to lockout.  This exercise is very good for building explosive power at the start of your deadlift.

-Hanging Leg Raises- 3 sets of 20 reps.  Take very little rest in between each set and concentrate on getting a good "burn" in your abs.

Phase 2 (weeks 4-6 and weeks 10-12)

      For this phase, we're going to decrease the frequency of training and increase the volume at each session, performing just one workout-per-week for the deadlift.  This is a trick I stole from the Bulgarians, who used to train at a very high-intensity for three weeks, followed by three weeks of less-intense workouts.

     Here's the workout for phase two:

-Deadlifts- 3 sets of 7, 5, or 3 reps.  Perform these in conventional style.  On weeks 4 and 10 perform sets of 7, weeks 5 and 11 perform sets of 5 and weeks 6 and 12 utilize sets of triples.

-Box Squats- 8 sets of 3 reps.  These are to be performed in an explosive manner, with 50% of your one-rep maximum in the conventional squat

-Stiff-Legged Deadlifts supersetted with Pause Squats- 3 sets of 6 reps.  These two exercises will put the ache in your hamstrings, hips, and lower back.  Use a heavy weight on all three supersets that allows you to barely get 6 repetitions.  On the pause squats, make sure that you squat "ass to the floor" by utilizing a narrow stance to really stress the lower back at the bottom and pause for a count of 2.

-Bulgarian Squats- 2 sets of 5 reps (each leg).  As a finisher, it's hard to beat this exercise.  Put a heavy pair of dumbbells in each hand.  With your back foot elevated on a box or bench, squat down until the dumbbells touch the floor.

-Reverse Crunches- 3 sets of 20 reps.  Once you're through with these, the workout's over and it's time to head to the house.

Summing It Up

     There you have it: a fantastic routine for the next twelve weeks that's sure to knock that stale deadlift from its grave.  Give it a try and you should be pleasantly surprised at the results it will bring.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Accelerative Low Rep Training

     This type of high-set, low-rep training has become popular among strength coaches in various sports, and has been used by powerlifters and Olympic lifters for quite some time.  It only makes sense that bodybuilders should start taking advantage of it as well.

     Powerlifting super-coach Louie Simmons uses a form of it to achieve the awesome results he gets with his lifters.  Another proponent of this training is strength/bodybuilding coach Charles Staley.  His method is similar to what I prefer when it comes to building muscle mass.  It's probably the method that would best be preferred by the majority of you out there who just want to pack on some more muscle mass.

     Basically, for accelerative low-rep training, the force produced by each rep is more important than the amount of reps performed in each set.  More sets are performed to compensate for the lack of volume.  Let me explain.

     Let us assume that you can perform 10 reps in the bench press with a weight that is approximately 70% of your 1 rep maximum, and you set about to do so at your next workout.  After your first set, you rest several minutes and then perform another set of 10 reps, just barely getting all 10.  After a few more minutes, you perform a third and final set and this time you also manage, but only barely, 10 repetitions.

     You just performed a total of 30 repetions.  Now, what if I told you that the better way to perform those 30 repetions was to perform 10 sets of 3 reps (accelerating as fast as possible on the positive portion of the rep) with the same weight, instead of 3 sets of 10.  With 10 sets of 3 reps, you perform the same total workload but each rep is much more productive because you are able to put maximum force production into each and every rep.  This is what builds raw strength, in addition to muscle.  The 3 sets of 10 reps might build muscle, but it also makes the lifter very slow.  Accelerative training builds explosive power and gives you the same, if not better, hypertrophy response than the high reps.

     You might be scratching your head a bit at this point, but don't worry.  Give the below routine a try and I promise you'll be a believer.

Day One: Chest, Lats, Shoulders

Bench Press- 10 sets of 3 reps.  Use 70% of your one-rep maximum, taking no more than one minute of rest in between each set.  Use about a 2 second negative, pause on your chest for no more than one second and then explode to lockout.

Wide-Grip Chins- 10 sets of 3 reps.  Stay with the same 70% rule as above and perform each set with the same rep cadence.

Dumbbell Bench Press- 5 sets of 5 reps.  These sets should be heavy.  Rest two to three minutes between each set.

Bent-Over Rows- 5 sets of 5 reps.  Same scheme as the Dumbbell Benches above.

Seated Behind-The-Neck Press- 10 sets of 3 reps.  70% of your one-rep maximum should be used once again.

Day Two: Legs, Hips, Lower Back

Squats, alternated with Deadlifts- 10 sets of 3 reps (each exercise).  You might have thought the first workout was easy, but you'll be feeling the pain after this one.  Use 70% of your 1 rep max on both exercises.  Perform a set of squats, rest 1 minute, perform a set of deadlifts and so forth.  Never take more than one minute between each set.

Hack Squats- 8 sets of 2 reps.  Since squats don't work your lower quadriceps very hard, perform these as well.  Once again, use 70%, but with 2 fewer sets and only 2 reps per set.

Day Three: Off

Day Four: Arms, Calves

Barbell Curls- 10 sets of 3 reps.  Once again, use approximately 70% of your one-rep maximum.  Make sure that you use 70% of a "no-cheat" maximum, in other words, whatever you can curl in strict form.

Lying Barbell Extensions- 10 sets of 3 reps.  Using the 70% rule, alternate these with the above exercise.  In other words, perform a set of curls, rest 30 to 60 seconds and perform a set of curls, alternating back and forth between the two until you have completed all 10 sets of each exercise.

Standing Calf Raises- 10 sets of 3 reps.

Day Five: Off

Day Six: Repeat Day One

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

No More Second Hand God

     The following post comes from a very progressive Christian pastor named Ian Lawton.  He is the pastor at Christ Community Church.  If you like what you read below, I would suggest visiting Christ Community's website.  It has a lot of great sermons just like this one.  (By the way, if you're of more of a Buddhist or a Vedantist, you'll still find plenty to like in his sermons.)

No More Second Hand God

The practice of being spiritual is not exactly a precise science, is it? Spirituality dwells in the realm of mystery, metaphor and inner growth which are all so hard to measure. I equate it to watching the weather channel. If you use language that is ambiguous enough and statistics that are pliable enough, you can prove anything. The weather channel says there is an 80% chance of rain. Great. They can’t lose. If it rains, it’s the 80% chance. If it doesn’t rain, it’s the 20%.

Did you know that 42.7% of all statistics are made up on the spot?

I read a great example of this during the week. Brad Pitt came out as an atheist. Sort of. He was asked if he believed in God. He said he was 20% atheist and 80% agnostic. That doesn’t leave much room for his Southern Baptist upbringing. And it answers the age old question- Yes, you can be an atheist and be extremely hot. I’m sorry- You can be an atheist and be an extremely moral person.

Statistics about religious affiliation and belief in God have been intriguing over the last couple of years. Only 73% of church going Protestants are absolutely certain that a personal God exists. That means that 27% of Protestants are agnostic. At least I think it does. But I’m agnostic about what the statistics mean.

At the same time, 72% of US adults who never go to church do believe in God. Why don’t they go to church? It has nothing to do with God. It has to do with the people who work for God. 72% of them don’t go to church because the church is full of hypocrites. 44% say that Christians “get on their nerves.” view article

Here is my favorite statistic: 21% of atheists say that they believe in God. 12% of atheists believe in heaven and 10% pray at least once a week. Over 50% of agnostics say they believe in God.

atheistIn the same study, 75% of American Buddhists say they believe in God. That is really surprising considering that Buddhism is a non-theistic religion. view article

Drilling down the results one step further, respondents were allowed to choose between a personal God and an impersonal force. Atheists and Buddhists were more likely to opt for an impersonal force. So maybe there is something in that distinction. Today I want to explore what it means to believe in God, and how it relates to spirituality.

Belief in God and Religion?

Clearly organized religion (or “organized superstition” as Bill Maher calls it) does not have a monopoly on God. Maybe more to the point, Christianity does not have a monopoly on God. In the same study, 61% say the Christian God is “no different from the gods or spiritual beings depicted by world religions such as Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism, etc.” This is exciting, as it indicates a trend towards a more open and accepting theology.

Enough statistics. Lets dig into the language and the trends a little.

Spiritual interest includes but is much larger than religious practice. Or to put that another way, practicing religion is one valid way of being spiritual, if we define spirituality as life’s journey of growth, connections and meaning.

I suspect the problem with the surveys is that they are missing a box for people to check. Asking people whether they believe in God or not doesn’t get to the heart of the issue. I want to explore this point further.

One of the features that I think many modern people share in common is the trend away from a second hand God. No More Second Hand God

No More Second Hand God is the title of a book by Buckminster Fuller, 20th century inventor and visionary. Bucky, as he was known, was SBNR (Spiritual but not Religious) in the 1940s. He had no interest in religious doctrines such as the afterlife. There is too much to be done and experienced in this life. But he did speak about God. God for Bucky was a verb and not a noun. God was the evolutionary process, the unity of the universe. He took seriously his own role as part of this universal process.

water2He had a radical sense of activism that grew out of his own life experience. When he was 32, his life was hopeless. He was unemployed and bankrupt. His first born had died, he was trying to support his family, and he was drinking heavily. He contemplated suicide. In the moment of contemplating suicide, as he stood at the edge of Lake Michigan, something shifted in him. He was convicted that his life was not his own. It belonged to the universe. He decided to work on behalf of all humanity.

He tirelessly practiced God as a verb. He sought ways of doing more with less. He pioneered ground breaking structures, like pre-fabricated dwellings and streamlined cars. During WW2 his geodesic dome was widely praised as a solution to world housing shortages. Many of his ideas would now be out of date. However for the time, he was a leader in ecological design.

Bucky was a pioneer of the type of experience of God that translates into practical compassion that many people in and out of the church today aspire to; where God is a personal experience and not a being in the sky, and this experience is direct and first hand. One story stands out for me in relation to Bucky and a first hand experience of God as a verb. Bucky was great mates with the American poet, E.E. Cummings. The two of them would awaken early when they were together and greet the rising sun. They would face east, and feel the quiet solitude and rhythms of nature. After the colors of the sky began to emerge, Bucky would raise both arms to the sky and welcome the morning with the words, “Thank you, thank you, thank you.”

Read the rest of the post here.