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?

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