Thursday, April 8, 2010

Training Entry #3: The One with the Dan John Workout

First off, before you read this entry I would advise that you head on over to T-Muscle and read the latest article by Dan John entitled "The Problem with Hypertrophy Programs." Otherwise, you might just be lost.

With that out of the way, let's get to the post...

Training Entry #3:
The One with the Dan John Workout

Tonight, I had a cold. (Odd thing about these "training entries": When I wrote the first one, that was the last time I had a cold.) I didn't feel too good, but I also wasn't going to miss a workout. I don't miss workouts—period. I might take planned layoffs on occasion; even if the plan pops into my head a day before the workout. But the planned layoff is different—it's only because I know that my body needs a break to recover.

"I got a plan" I told Puddin upon his arrival at the Wreckin' Crew gym. (Okay, it's not really called "The Wreckin' Crew", but to understand you need to read the past entries.)

"You always have plans with our workouts," he replied. "You're like some sort of mad scientist whose twisted mind is locked in primordial battle with the bodybuilding gods. But..." he paused briefly, "there's nothing that you can throw at me that you haven't already done before." After another pause, he went on: "And... you happen to be sick. I'm not. Which means your butt is getting out-trained by yours truly." He had a great big smirk on his face. Trust me: it's a great big smirk. Puddin's head—like the rest of his frame—is enormous.

"Funny," I said. "But this one is different. We're going to perform a workout that we haven't quite done before."

I then explained to him the basics of Dan John's 2-3-5-10 workout.

"Nothing to it," was his reply.

Since I was sick—and Puddin' hates the exercise we chose for our quads, the hack squat (and when I say hack squat, I mean good, old fashioned George Hackenshmidt hack squats, not the crappy machine hack squats you see in most gyms)—we decided to go with an easy 205 pound hack squat.

The first cluster of 20 reps wasn't too bad. The second cluster—oddly enough—was the one that I found myself the most tired on, the third, fourth, and fifth clusters really weren't troublesome at all.

For the 2-3-5 portion, we moved very fast. In fact, I don't think we rested more than 20 to 30 seconds between each one of those sets.

On the sets of 10, we stayed strong throughout the workout. However, 205 really was too light—even though I'm sure my quads will still be sore tomorrow—so I was interested if the strength on the 10 rep sets would hold up when we switched over to a tougher upper body pushing exercise.

For our upper body pushing exercises, Puddin' chose the flat bench press and I chose the flat dumbbell bench press.

Puddin' benches around 400 pounds at the moment—but since he bench pressed 315 for a lot of sets of 3 reps on Monday—I decided that 225 pounds would be a good weight for him.

I used 80 pounds dumbbells.

Both of these weights—the 225 pounds for my partner and the 80s for myself—are good starting points for this kind of workout since they are the weights I would have chosen for us if we were to do a more traditional 10 sets of 10 reps program.

As with the hack squats, we moved very fast on the 2-3-5 portion of the workout. (I like using the dumbbells for this kind of workout—they force you to work more since you have to constantly pick them up, then set them back down.) 30 seconds rest between sets was the norm.

After we finished the sets of 5, we always rested a minute or two before doing our sets of 10.

Sure enough, as the workout progressed, not only did both of us stay strong on the sets of 10, we actually got stronger. I have a feeling this is because this style of workout potentiates your nervous system—which means as the workout progresses, you become stronger due to your nervous system becoming more efficient. (That might not be the exact science behind it, but I have a feeling that it's close.)

Although I never train just to get a pump, both of us had enormously pumped upper bodies by the time the workout was finished. I also have a very good feeling that my chest, shoulders, and triceps are going to be rather sore come the morning.

"Heckuva workout," Puddin' said upon completion. He vaguely reminded me of an odd hybrid of powerlifter/bodybuilder/polar bear/pit bull. Don't know why, but that's what crossed my mind.

"More of a workout than we realize," I said. "We just did 100 reps in no time flat, with more weight than any traditional workout."

It was fun, enjoyable, allowed us to use a high workload even with the lighter weights, and we'll definitely be doing it again.

(On a side note, I want to say this: Make sure that your workouts are always enjoyable. Sure, lifting weights can be hard and tough at times, but a workout should also feel good. It should be a pleasurable experience. It should be an expression of joy.)

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