Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Texas Volume Training Part Two: Adding Muscle Mass

     This is a second part in a series on (what I call) Texas Volume Training.  It would serve you well to read the first article before starting this one.  The program presented here is strictly for powerlifters (or lifters who want to spend some time building their powerlifts) who are interested in building muscle – whether it’s purely for ascetical reasons or whether it’s because they are interested in moving up a weight class.
     The program presented here is not for lifters who need to stay in the same weight class or who are trying to drop bodyweight.  (To be honest, the original article on Texas Volume Training isn’t for this class of people, either.  The volume is just too high, making it well-nigh impossible to not gain some amount of muscle.)
     What follows is much of the original article (including the “template” from the first article) with a lot of additional commentary for changing up the program so that you are adding muscle.
     First, let’s look at the “template” for this program.  Once the template is properly understood, we can discuss the nuances that add the most muscle mass.
Day One – High Volume Squatting, High Volume Upper Body
Day Two – High Intensity Deadlifting
Day Three – Recovery Squatting
Day Four – Off
Day Five – Maximal Squatting, Maximal Bench Pressing
Day Six – Off
Day Seven – Off
     Day One should be the toughest training day of the week.  You should be training with percentages and volumes that don’t make you look forward to the training day.  For starting out, I recommend a minimum of 8 “working” sets on squats and whatever bench pressing exercise you choose.  I think 10 to 15 sets should be even better.  Do a few warm up sets, then commence with 10 to 15 sets of either 5 reps, 3 reps, or 2 reps on the squats.  Use a weight where you know you can get all of your sets and reps, but a weight that’s still tough – between 75 and 85% of your one rep maximum is probably ideal, depending on the reps.  When you are finished with the squats, you probably won’t feel like performing an upper body pressing exercise, but do it anyway, and use the same set/rep scheme that you used for squats.  If you’re weaker on your upper body exercise that you’re used to, that’s okay.  You’ll adapt.  It may take a couple of weeks, but you’ll soon be utilizing weight that’s comparative to what you were previously using when not squatting before benching.[1]
     Since your goal on this program is to gain as much muscle as possible, you need to make sure that your set numbers are on the high end – 10 sets minimum for squatting and bench pressing, instead of my original recommendation of at least 8 sets.  Let me say right here, however, and this is something that needs to be made perfectly clear: there’s no way you can do this much work unless you have built up the work capacity to do so.  If you are new to training, this methodology is obviously not for you.  Also, even if you have been performing fairly frequent training (something such as one of my H-L-M programs or something similar), make sure you spend at least 8 weeks doing a basic TVT program that doesn’t have any extra work associated with it – in other words, no assistance work on any of the training days.  Simply squat and bench press on the volume and intensity days (nothing more), and do nothing other than deadlifts on your deadlifting day – whether it’s an “intensity” day or a “volume” day.  Also, on the recovery day, perform squats and nothing more.
     With that being said, once you have built up the work capacity to do this program, it’s time to crank up the volume even more.  Here’s what Nick Horton has to say about his “Squat Nemesis” program and I think his line of thought is perfectly applicable here (and this is for those of you who are reading this and thinking there’s no way in hell that you can possibly perform the kind of volume I’m going to recommend):
     “Americans have a strange and obsessive fear of over-training syndrome. And yet, in all of my years of coaching, and as hard as I have tried to over-train my athletes – on purpose – I have failed to do so, miserably.
     Every year, I have upped the amount of work I expect from my lifters. And every year the results come faster.
     If you think hard about this for a second, it makes sense why this has happened.
·         Do you think Navy Seals take light days?
·         Do you think the Samurai did?
·         Do you think wolves in the wild avoid sprinting after their prey because they did HIIT yesterday?
     Of course not. Our species, like most, is built to do work – a lot of it.
     All throughout history, we have been forced by necessity to work our tails off every single day. But now, because our new modern default is to sit around for 17 hours a day and sleep 7, we can’t imagine working out hard in the gym more than 3 times a week.”
     With that little bit of wisdom out of the way, here’s what I want you to do once you are finished with the squats and bench presses: do more work!
     If you were looking for something more profound – or, more likely, more specific – sorry, I hate to disappoint.  But the volume day is the volume day, after all, and that means that the more advanced you get, the more work you need to do.  What you do is up to you, but I will offer a few specific suggestions to help out.
     The first option is what I call the “Sheiko” option – since it mirrors how a lot of Sheiko programs work.  Once you are finished with your bench presses, return to the squats and pick a “volume” set/rep combo to utilize.  I like the classic 5x5 workout, but anything will work – 10 sets of 10 reps, 5 sets of 5/4/3/2/1, 3 sets of 15 to 20 reps, or even one all-out “death set” as a finisher.  If you want, you can also commence with some extra bench press work once the squatting is complete.
     A second option is to include some “bodybuilding” work for either legs or chest (depending on which bodypart/lift needs the most work).  Select 2 or 3 additional exercises and perform each exercise for 3 to 5 sets each.  You can utilize any rep range you want to – 3 to 5 reps, 6 to 8 reps, 12 to 15 reps.  Just do the work!
     An option that I like the best is to perform a “double-split” workout on your volume days.  (Obviously, this is only effective if you have the time to make it to the gym twice in one day.)  At the first workout, perform a typical volume session using just the squat and bench press.  At the second workout, perform the same amount of sets for a higher number of repetitions.  It could be with the same exercise or it could be done in the “bodybuilding” fashion.  If you use the double-split format, this doesn’t necessarily mean that you should be doing more overall work.  It will allow you to “recover” better, especially if you take advantage of peri-workout nutrition.
     Day Two is your sole deadlifting day of the week.  And, yes, you are going to be sore on this training day, and there is a good chance before you start the session that you will not want to deadlift.  Do it.  Your body will adapt to the training.  (As the Bulgarians say, “Your body becomes its function.”)  Also, you may be surprised at just how strong you are on this day, despite your soreness.  Despite using the same muscles (or at least some of the same muscles) for deadlifting that are used for squatting, the muscles are “challenged” in a different manner, and the bar path is entirely, wholeheartedly different, which is one reason that lifters are often able to deadlift a lot the day after squatting a lot.  (If anyone has performed one of the Sheiko programs, then you know what I’m talking about.)  Also, and this is perhaps entirely unscientific, but it could be that the squatting on the previous day actually neutrally enhances your deadlifting capabilities on this day.  I have personally broken some of my deadlift records the day after I had a big squat session.  When this first happened, I was a little surprised (especially considering how blasted sore my ass often was the day after squatting), but I eventually accepted the fact that that’s just “how it is.”
     For this day, you have a couple of options depending on how you prefer to train your deadlift with maximal loads.  You can simply work up to a max triple, double, or single, or you can do multiple singles with 90-95% of your one rep maximum.  I prefer the second option – at least for the majority of the sessions.  When you are finished deadlifting, then add in an assistance exercise or two.  Deficit deadlifts, high pulls, power cleans, power snatches, are all great complimentary exercises for your deadlift.
     (When attempting to add muscle while on this program, I don’t think you need to do anything extra than the above work on your deadlift day.)
     Day Three is your “light” squatting day.  Work up to about 80% of whatever weight you used on Day One, and perform a few sets of 3 to 5 reps in the squat.  You should feel good when you are finished with this session, better than when you started.  (And, once again, yes, there’s a good chance you will be really sore before this workout.)  This workout really does aid in your ability to recover – not just from Day One’s squatting session, but from the deadlifts too.  Remember this: it’s always better to recover by doing something, than by just sitting around and “resting”.
     Day Four is your first off day.  You should be happy – especially for your first week or two of training.  Enjoy the day off from lifting.  (An “off day” should always be taken because you need it, not because you want to take one.)  Make sure that you are consuming plenty of calories on this day, and on all of your other off days, as well.  One of the primary mistakes lifters make – when trying to gain muscle – is not consuming enough high-quality calories on their off days.  Often, it’s what you eat the day before you train that has the most effects on building muscle.  I discovered this a few years ago while following a H-L-M program.  When I would consume the majority of my calories on the weekend when I wasn’t training (I trained Monday, Wednesday, Friday), I would gain muscle a lot faster than when I didn’t eat as much on those days.  In fact, those days would often be my “cheat days”.  If you want a more scientific explanation as to why this is, this is what Scott Abel has to say about it:
    “I'm not sure where this one (eating less on off days) comes from, but it reflects a bias toward seeing our body as being on the same man made 24-hour clock that guides us from one day to the next. Quite simply our bodies do not work this way, on this time schedule.
     This assumption draws two conclusions that are faulty at best. One is that you can somehow get fat in a day. Not true. Once we've re-programmed the body to be a fat burning machine, then you won't get fat in a day.
     The other assumption is a negation of the hypertrophy process. This process is complex and metabolically expensive. Satellite cells will only fuse with the myocyte to create a bigger cell when very specific conditions are met. These involve a supercompensation effect. Cells must have full storage of nutrients and energy.
     Only at this point will the body build up actin/myosin components triggered from a training effect. This takes time and an understanding of creating supercompensation to energy stores within the cell. Once this happens and cells are properly hydrated, only then will there by a signal for higher concentrations of IGF 1 and 2, which will then, combined with other growth factors, create a bigger cell.
     What all this means is that concentrating on always 'burning off' nutrients, neglects proper storage essential to real growth. Most dieting bodybuilders will tell you they're always hungriest on off days of training. This is essential biofeedback.
     Hunger means two things — fat is being burned (hence the hunger signal), and the body is in "need" of something. This is a very simplistic extrapolation, but true none the less. On the Cycle Diet, my clients and athletes are instructed to take their cheat days, or spike meals on off days from training, and the reason is simple. It's so they can eat MORE, and store MORE.
     Remember, once a fat burning metabolism has been established, then energy goes to where it's needed most. With proper training stimulus, this means nutrient supercompensation within the cells, which is exactly what the aim should be. Eating less on off days misses this entirely because once again the focus is too micro analytical.”[2]
     Of course, you need to eat plenty of your training days too, but there’s no reason to go overboard.  Your body needs enough protein, carbohydrates, and fat in order to grow muscle, but too many “lifters” use heavy power training as an excuse to eat whatever the hell they want to – pizza, beer, buffalo wings, you name it.  Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of all those foods myself, but everything should be done with sensibility and moderation.
     Back to the training:
     Day Five is your “maximal lift” day for squatting and bench pressing – this is probably the best day to actually perform the flat bench press, instead of some derivative.  Work up over 5 to 7 progressively heavier sets of 5, 3, or 2 reps until you hit your max weight.  Occasionally do some singles – about once every 6 weeks should suffice.  If you have performed a Bill Starr H-L-M program (or one of my H-L-M programs on this blog), then you know exactly what this day should look like, since it should almost mirror the “heavy” day on those programs.
     How you feel on this day should determine whether or not you add any extra work to this training day.  If you feel really strong after performing either the squats or the bench presses, don’t be afraid to utilize some “back-off” sets.  Two or 3 sets of 8 to 10 reps on squats and/or bench presses should do the trick, but don’t go overboard on this day.  Save all of that overboard stuff for the next high volume day.
     The last two training days of the week are “off days”.  On these days, make sure you eat plenty of food – good carbs, good protein, good fat – to prepare yourself for the next high volume squatting and upper body days.  Since you should now understand the importance of getting enough calories on your off days, make sure you are doing so.  For those of you who can’t seem to eat enough – on off or “on” days – here’s my “old school” diet that appeared in my article “Bulk” many years ago (when I was writing for Iron Man magazine).  This should give you a good idea of what kind of diet a “98-pound weakling” should follow:
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.


[1] I’m not going to get into all of the details here, but I believe this is one reason the Sheiko programs are so effective: you are doing more than one exercise each day, and you are forcing your body to utilize a lot of force, despite the fact that you are more “winded” than you think you should be on a powerlifting program.  There’s also just something about this kind of training that adds mass fast.  In fact, that may be one of its drawbacks for lifters trying to stay in a weight class.
[2] “5 Things That Drive Me Nuts” by Scott Abel, from the online magazine T-Nation.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

The Bulgarian Method for Massive Muscles

     Here is the complete, unedited version of my "Bulgarian Method for Massive Muscles" that appeared in Planet Muscle a few months ago.  I included an excerpt of this a couples months ago on this blog, as well, but here it is in full.
     Please, if you haven't attempted this kind of training before - or you haven't performed it long enough to give it a "proper test drive" - then don't dismiss it.  You will be pleasantly surprised with the results.

The Bulgarian Method for Massive Muscles

     In previous articles for PM, I have discussed the efficacy of high-frequency training.  High frequency training is effective because the more frequently you can train a muscle group, the faster you will grow muscle and build strength.  Notice that I didn’t say that the more frequently you train a muscle group, the faster will your results be.  For instance, there’s no way that you can do a typical bodybuilding workout (lots of sets, lots of reps, sets to failure, etc.) for each muscle group multiple times per week.  However, there are other forms of training high frequency training that you can do (and should do, at least periodically).
     This article is about one such method.  But before we get to the details, a little backtracking is in order.
Frequency, Intensity, and Volume
     Any well-designed program must take into account three important variables: frequency, intensity, and volume.  Programs that fail are ones that don’t properly manipulate and control these variables.  For instance, if you were to perform a program for lots of sets, lots of reps, and lots of intensity multiple times per week, you would be setting yourself up to fail – and would surely do so.  If any two of the variables are high, then the other variable must be low.  (But I’m getting ahead of myself; we’ll get around to that shortly.)  First, a brief discussion of each variable.
     Frequency is the number of times that you train a muscle.  A lot of programs will take into account how often you train each muscle on a monthly (or even yearly) basis.  But I don’t think all of that’s necessary.  What is necessary is that you monitor what you are doing on a weekly basis.  (Obviously, the more frequently that you train a muscle group each week, less volume and intensity should be used.)
     Intensity is a bit more confusing for a lot of readers.  In bodybuilding circles, intensity tends to refer to how hard you train each muscle group.  Such is the case with Mike Mentzer’s “heavy duty” training or Eric Broser’s articles for Planet Muscle.  However, in this article, I’m going to be using intensity as its referred to by most powerlifters and Olympic lifters.  In this case, intensity refers to % of your one-rep maximum—basically, the heavier that you train, the higher your intensity.
     Volume refers to the amount of total work you do in each workout session, and then in the course of a week of training.  Volume is the one variable that a lot of bodybuilders have the hardest time controlling.  It’s easy to add sets and reps during a workout, and let your total volume exceed what your body is capable of recovering from.
     As I was saying earlier, two of your variables can (and should) be fairly high, which means that the other variable must be relatively low.  Take the traditional bodybuilding program (the kind that you typically see in the pages of PM).  It is relatively high in volume and intensity, and low in frequency.  I think this kind of program is most common because it’s easy to design, control, and understand – it doesn’t take a lot of thought, and (of course) it’s effective for a lot of lifters.  Basically, you just “bomb and blitz” a muscle with a lot of sets, reps, and plenty of heavy weight, then you give it a week to recover.  But it doesn’t mean that this is the only way you can train.  (And it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s even the best way to train—although this kind of training should be used at times during a training year.)
     In Europe and in countries from the former Soviet empire, powerlifters, Olympic lifters, and (yes) even bodybuilders take a different approach.  Russian lifters (and those lifters inspired by Russian-style training), for example, tend to keep volume and frequency high, while intensity is low.  Whereas lifters who use the Bulgarian approach tend to favor high intensity and frequency, with fairly low volume.  Of the two, the Bulgarian method is the easiest to control – and thus it’s more ideal for the average lifter.  Which brings us around to the training program in this article.
The Bulgarian Method
     “If your family was captured, and you were told you needed to put 100 pounds on your max squat in two months or your family would be executed, would you squat once per week?  Something tells me that you’d start squatting every day.  Other countries have this mindset.  America does not.”
­­—Olympic lifting coach John Broz
     The Bulgarian “method” really isn’t a method at all; it’s more of an approach to training.  It basically involves working up­ to a max single on a select few exercises, and doing this multiple times throughout the week.  For instance, a lifter may work up to a max squat and a max clean on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, and may work up to a max front squat and a max snatch on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.
     When lifters in the West see this kind of training, they usually dismiss it outright.  Unaccustomed to seeing such frequent intensity, they believe this kind of training can only be done by the genetically gifted and/or the chemically enhanced.  But this isn’t necessarily the case.  There are instances of lifters who are not genetically gifted, nor are they on any kind of performance enhancement drugs, who have achieved great results on this kind of program.  Olympic lifting coaches such as the aforementioned John Broz have lifters who thrive on this kind of training, even though their lifters often have families and full-time jobs.
     The Bulgarian method works for a couple of reasons.  First, the volume is relatively low.  You will not be performing a lot of hard sets for multiple reps.  This allows your body to recover in a relatively short amount of time.
     Second, your body becomes its function.  You will never be fully recovered between each session.  But that’s okay.  You will eventually adapt.  Let’s say you have a job hauling hay.  All day long, you’re picking up heavy hay bails, tossing them around, and by the end of the day you’re sore and tired as hell.  The next day you get up to do it again, and it’s even worse.  You have a hard time even making it through an entire day’s work.  But do you quit?  No, you need your job.  And, eventually, within a few weeks you’re tossing hay bails as if there’s nothing to it.  Your body will adapt!
The Program
     The following program is performed 5 days per week.  It’s very basic, but this doesn’t mean that it’s easy.  Let’s take a look at the program first, then I’ll give you some pointers for getting the most out of it.
Day One:
  • Squats: Work up to a maximum single.  Take your time, making sure you do enough “ramp up” sets.  The heavier your max, the more sets will be needed.  Let’s assume you have a max squat of somewhere around 315 pounds.  Your sets may look something like this: empty bar x 5 reps, 135 x 5 reps, 185 x 5 reps, 225 x 3 reps, 275 x 1 rep, 305 x 1 rep, 315 x 1 rep.
  • Squats: 3 sets of 3 reps.  After you work up to your maximum single for the day, take off some weight and perform 3 sets of 3 reps.  These should be tough, but not all-out.  Our 315 max squatter, for instance, should go down to around 225 pounds for all 3 sets of 3 reps.
  • Power Cleans: Work up to a maximum single.  Use the same method of “ramping up” as the squats.  The difference here is that you will not do any down sets of 3 reps.
  • Standing Overhead Presses: Work up to a maximum single.
  • Standing Overhead Presses: After you work up to your maximum single for the day, strip off some weight and perform 3 sets of 3 reps.
Day Two:
  • Snatches or Power Snatches: Work up to a maximum single.  As with the exercises from day one, take your time, making sure that you perform enough “ramp up” sets.
  • Bench Presses or Dumbbell Bench Presses: Work up to a maximum single.
Day Three: Repeat Day One
Day Four: Off
Day Five: Repeat Day Two
Day Six: Repeat Day One
Day Seven: Off
     Here are some tips for getting the most out of this program:
  • On the second week of training, once again you want to start with the “Day One” workout.  This means that every week you will be squatting, cleaning, and overhead pressing three times per week.  These exercises are easier to recover from, and should be performed more frequently.
  • Do not add exercises or sets.  You reach a point of diminishing returns with this kind of program, where extra sets and reps lessens your results.
  • After a few weeks of training, it’s okay to change to some new exercises.  Front squats, dumbbell overhead presses, overhead squats, and clean and jerks are some exercises that lend themselves well to frequent training. 
  • Do not deadlift frequently.  It’s hard to recover from a deadlift, due to the direct stress it places on your lower back.  If you want to incorporate deadlifts into your program, do them about once every 10 days, in place of squats or power cleans.
  • Do not get “psyched up” for any of your maximum singles.  Doing so makes it harder to recover from your workouts due to the stress it places on your nervous system.
  • Do not perform barbell bench press more than twice per week for an extended period of time.  Overhead presses are good for your rotator cuffs; bench presses are not.
  • Do eat a lot of food while performing this program.  You need the calories to grow big and strong, and to promote as much recovery as possible.  Eat at least 12 to 15 times your bodyweight in calories on a daily basis, and consume 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight daily.
     After a few months using this method, you will probably want to switch over to a more conventional program.  But if you’ve never tried this kind of program before, don’t be afraid to give it a shot.  You may just be amazed by the results.  In fact, you may decide it’s the best kind of training imaginable.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

High Frequency Training for Strength and Power, Part 3: Building the Squat

High Frequency Training for Strength and Power, Part Three
Building the Squat

     A few months ago, I began to write a series of articles on high-frequency training specifically aimed at building strength and power.  It really began even before that, with a post I did on Anthony Ditillo-inspired training, and then before that a post written by Ditillo himself (from an old issue of the once great Iron Man magazine from the ‘70s).  Before you continue reading this article, it would probably behoove you to read the first two posts on HFT for strength and power, and the posts on Ditillo training.
     And, now, on with this post:
     Squat training lends itself specifically well to high-frequency training.  Or, as the Russians would say (or, perhaps, this is just a quote from someone who was fond of Russian-style training): “If you want to squat more, you have to squat more!”  Unlike some of the other lifts—bench presses somewhat, deadlifts decidedly more pointedly—you can get great results on your squats through HFT by simply squatting a lot.  However, that doesn’t necessarily mean that you should simply squat really frequently with heavy weights Bulgarian (or Ditillo) style, but you certainly could.
     Here, for instance, are a couple of HFT programs that are great for those of you who simply want to (whether it’s because you enjoy it more or whether it’s because you decided some time ago—like some kind of wise prodigy of Sheiko and Smolov—that all you need to do build up your squat is squat a lot) use the squat as your sole squat-builder:
Monday: Squats: 8 sets of 5 reps (working up to a max weight of 5 on the last set)
Wednesday: Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps (using the same weight on all 5 sets)
Friday: Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps (working up to a fairly heavy set of 5 on the 5th set), followed by 3 sets of 2 reps (working up over the last 3 sets to a near maximal set of 2)
     And for those of you who would prefer a more Bulgarian-style program, you could always do this:
Monday-Wednesday-Friday: Squats: Work up over several progressively heavier ramps to a “max” set of 1 rep.  Follow this with either 5 sets of 5, 5 sets of 7, 5 sets of 3, or any damn-well crazy thing you can think of doing as a “finisher”!  (For more on this style of training, check out Nick Horton’s “Squat Nemesis” training here: http://weightliftingacademy.com/nemesis/)
     However, let me add something—and it’s a certain “something” that’s important for the rest of this article: I think you will get the best results by incorporating things other than just the good ol’ back squat into your program.
     Now, one more thing needs to be said at this point: The workouts above (and you should already realize this if you’ve read the other posts in this series) are not comprised of just squatting.  If you chose the first option above, for instance, then you would also be doing some type of pulling and/or pushing movement on each day in addition to the squats.  This might include plenty of power cleans, power snatches, and deadlifts, for example.  Another thing to keep in mind is that when training with HFT for strength and power, you will also be training for several consecutive days in a row, which means that the muscles that you squat with will get worked two, three, maybe four days straight in some instances.
     But—and this an important “but”—while deads, power cleans, snatches, et al work the same muscles as the squats (for the most part, or many of the same muscles, at least), it doesn’t mean that they are the best “assistance” exercises for the squat.
     The numbers on your squat are best elevated by (a) squatting a lot and (b) choosing the correct assistance exercises.
     Front squats are an excellent exercise to choose as an “assistance” movement.  They are especially good for lifters who need to bring up the muscles of the their quadriceps.  They are also an excellent choice for powerlifters who train “raw.”  Work front squats in on days when you don’t feel as if you are “recovered” as you should be.  No matter how heavy you train on front squats, you won’t be able to approach the workload you can do on the other squat varieties.  For this reason, the front squat is particularly good as an exercise to use the day after you’ve performed heavy back squats.
     If you’re an equipped lifter—or a competitive lifter who uses gear when you compete—then box squats are a choice a priori that you should consider.  Box squats work well in mimicking the squatting movement you achieve with gear.  They are also a good choice for building reversal strength, as long as you pause long enough to relax the muscle of your hips and hamstrings (but keep your back tight) when sitting on the box before beginning the concentric portion of the movement. 
     One of my favorite exercises for bringing up my numbers in the squat is the bottom-position squat.  About 13 years ago, I was training for a meet and discovered just what a tremendous squat builder this exercise can be when worked hard.  I had been reading the book “Dinosaur Training” at the time—Brooks Kubrik is an almost raving fan of bottom-position squats for those of you who are unaware—and I thought, “what the hell, I’ll give bottom-positions a try.”  I had used the exercise some already, but no so exclusively as this.  For the meet, I lost more weight than usual so that I could compete in the 165-pound class.  And, literally, the only thing I did for my squats was heavy bottom-position squats performed twice per week.  At the meet—weighing only 162—I squatted 510 pounds wearing nothing but a lifting belt.
     Bottom-position squats have several benefits.  For one, they don’t take much of a toll on your nervous system due to the fact that you don’t have to spend time walking the weight out of the rack and getting set up properly.  Two—and this is the most important—they build a lot of power coming out of the hole, as might be expected.
     The final exercise that I’m going to recommend here are Olympic-style pause squats.  My original hero/idol in strength coaching, Bill Starr, always said that Olympic-style squats were the best form of squatting that you could do.  Here’s Starr in his own words:
     “High-bar, or Olympic, squats, are in my opinion, the best of the lot because they work the muscles of the hips, legs and back much more directly – and therefore more completely – than any other version. If you want to do full cleans or compete in Olympic weightlifting, it’s imperative that you do this exercise.

     High-bar squats are so named for the simple reason that you place the bar high on your traps, which helps to keep you from leaning forward and so forces the powerful muscles in your hips and legs to provide the power. You move up and down like a piston, and the strict upright stance carries over to racking cleans and recovering from the deep position.”

     But Olympic-style pause squats aren’t just for Olympic lifters.  I also think they are—or should be—a preferred choice for anyone wishing to aesthetically improve his leg mass.
     Another thing to consider—when specializing in leg training on a HFT program—is that you can (at least occasionally, as in once, maybe twice per week), incorporate two squatting exercises into your program.  Here is what a week of training may look like in this methodology of training:
  1. Squats: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps
  2. Deadlits: 3 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps, 2 progressively heavier triples
  3. Overhead Presses: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps
  1. Front Squats: 5 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps
  2. Power Cleans: 5 sets of 2 reps
  3. Chins: 5 sets of 5 reps
  1. Power Snatches: 5 progressively heavier doubles
  2. One-Arm Overhead Presses: 5 progressively heavier triples
  3. Bench Presses: 5 progressively heavier triples
Thursday: Off
  1. Bottom-Position Squats: 3 progressively heavier sets of 5 reps, 2 progressively heavier triples
  2. Olympic-Style Pause Squats: 4 sets of 5 reps
  3. Deadlift Shrugs: 5 sets of 3 reps
  1. Sled Drags: 8 sets of heavy weight for relatively short distance
  2. Farmer’s Walks: 5 sets of distance
  3. Squats: 5 sets of 5 reps
Sunday: Off

     I hope this article has shed some light, once again, on how effective high frequency training really can be for strength and power.  In the next installment, I’ll include my thoughts on building massive pressing power using this system.
     Until then, train heavy, train often, and get strong!