Simplest Advanced Training

When we’re talking about training advancement, we need to be crystal clear that we’re talking about the ability to make progress, not the amount of weight on the bar.

The younger you are, the less trained you are, the bigger you are, the higher the genetic ceiling, and therefore the longer linear, workout to workout progress will last.

After that, for most people the demands of life or even of sport do not require the use of programming that is more complicated than the Texas Method or the Heavy Light Medium method we discussed. So long as you squat 2-3x a week, adding weight as you are able, you’re doing it right.

However, in order to compete in a strength sport or to continue to add strength after exhausting the ability for an intermediate program, we need to become a little more sophisticated.

Here is an example program for a 315 pound bencher, looking to set a new 1 rep max in 10 weeks. First, each week, he’ll start with another Volume Day, doing 5×5 with 225. Over the course of this cycle, the weight here will stay the same. As he gets stronger, this weight will feel lighter and lighter, and that is the point.  BTW, if you look at west side training methods – this is the basis for the dynamic effort day. This isn’t what they do, but if you add up 8×3, that’s about the same as 5×5. And the original recommendation was 45-70% of 1RM – which is right where we are here. The inclination is to make things sound more complicated than they actually are. Resist that, and you’ll prosper.

Next, on his intensity day, he’ll start with 235 for 3 sets of 5, working down to a single set of 315 for a double in week 9.

It will look like this:

  1. 235x5x3
  2. 245x5x2
  3. 255×5
  4. 265×5
  5. 275x3x2
  6. 285×3
  7. 295×3
  8. 305×2
  9. 315×2
  10. New Max 335 would be easy, 345 doable, and 365 a stretch but still realistic possibility.

This is a conservative approach that all but guarantees a new 1RM in a short time.  For context, I did a very similar program for my deadlift last fall (which, in hindsight I probably didn’t need to do), where in I worked up to an easy double at 295 in week 9. Week 10 – when I tested – I pulled 345 for an all time PR. I didn’t do the volume work, and I skipped ahead on training advancement. Point is, this works for the exact same reasons as before, and when there’s a clear strength goal like a X amount for a 1RM, a simple program like this is the way to go.

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Heavy Light Medium

After exhausting the Advanced Novice Program, it’s a good idea to settle into a program you can do that will still deliver strength improvement on a week to week basis.  Probably the most famous intermediate template is the Texas Method, which we’ll go over in a separate post.

This is a version I like that more closely adheres to the Heavy day, Light Day, and Medium Day concept in the Texas Method, but is a little easier to run for a longer period of time.

Day One: Heavy Day

The purpose of day one is to drive the stress way up.

Squat 3-5 sets of 5 reps across, with 80-90% of your best completed working sets. rest up to 8-10 minutes between sets. This is hugely important, as this drives everything else.

Bench Press or Press – same deal 3-5×5, 80-90%of best completed work sets, same rest. You can alternate these as you have been

Deadlift – work up to a heavy single, double, triple, or five. The first time you run this, run it out, meaning you do 5s until you can’t, then 3s, then 2’s, and finally one ultimate heavy single. After you’ve exhausted that, you might want to do something like this: a week of 5, a week of 3, a week of 2, and a week of 1.  Each time you cycle through, try to improve on that week.

If you need to, you can split this workout up over 2 days; Presses one day, Squats the next or vice versa; Deadlifts always on the second day, after the other lift. This is really important if you need 5×5 on both squats and presses to drive your lifts up, and you’re older than 35, or you’re older than 55.  If you split it up like this – Presses the first day,and then Squat + Deadlift the second, you can do 3×10 Barbell Curls and 3xM dips if you like after the presses. This is everyone’s favorite because they get to do arm work.

Day Two: Light Day

Front Squat 3×3 across. Because of the leverage difference, front squats are no where near as difficult to recover from. They provide a little variety and stimulus. Alternatively, you can Squat 2×5 with 80% of your best sets.

Bench Press or Press – which ever one you did not do on your heavy day. 3×5 at 80% of your best.

Chins 3xM

Back Extensions 5×10

Day Three: Medium Day

Squat – work up to 2-3 sets of 2-3 reps at the next heaviest weight than Day One. This prepares your body to handle this load the next day one for sets of 5.

Bench Press or Press – same idea.  The lift you did day one, you work up to 2-3 sets of 2-3 reps at the next heaviest weight for the next time you do this on day one. The next light day you do that lift, use 80% of this weight.

Power Clean 5 sets of 3 or Power Snatch 6 sets of 2 – the quicker lifts drive up the DL on Day One. I suggest alternating each week, and also not worrying too terribly much about the weight, especially on the snatches.

You’ll notice right away that this program is much less prescriptive, and much less about driving progress from each workout. This is the ultimate slow cooker program; whereas in the novice program you were improving your squat as much as 40 pounds in the first week, here you might improve only 5 pounds a week. But, because you can run this program for a long time, that adds up, and gradually you’re lifting obscene weight as a matter of course.

You’ll also notice a little more variety – you’re able to handle some.

Last, about set up. If three days a week, Mon/Wed/Fri, Sun/Tues/Thurs or Tues/Thurs/Sat works.

Four Days will work best with

Sun/Mon/Wed/Friday OR Mon/Tuesday/Thursday/Sat.  I like to try to get a weekend day in because it is usually easier to schedule.

If you’re under 35, Mon/Tues/Thur/Friday is a possibility but I don’t like it as much.  If you want that set up, this is what I’d do instead:

Monday: Press Volume, Chins

Tuesday: Squat Volume, Deadlift

Thursday: Press Intensity, Chins

Friday: Squat Intensity, Cleans or Snatches.

I do not really recommend this, but other people swear by it. The key is progressing from Volume to Intensity over the course of the week. I am only using Press here for notational convenience but I would alternate Pressing and Benching here as well, so it would be Bench Volume, then Press Intensity, then Press Volume, then Bench Intensity, or you could alternate weeks of pressing and weeks of benching. Either way, when you are strong enough that this is what you’re considering, you should know best for your goals.

Friday March 10

3 hours sleep, preceded by 3 hours sleep the night before.

Squat

  • b/w 5×2
  • 45x5x2
  • 95x5x2
  • 135×5
  • 175×3
  • 205×2
  • 225x5x3 – this is about where I was before my kid was born, so I’m happy with this today.

Press

  • 45x5x2
  • 65×5
  • 85×3
  • 105×2
  • 120x5x3 – this is a PR as far as I can tell, definitely for volume on the press.

Deadlift, double overhand

  • 135×5
  • 185×3
  • 225×2
  • 255×5 – again, this is a double overhand DL PR, at least as far as I can tell.

Eating “Clean” is bullshit

The idea of eating clean is wrapped up in the concept that some eating must therefore be dirty. By extension, eating dirty also means that you, by eating dirty, are dirty. It is then a hop, skip and a jump from dirty to worthless.

When that’s the feeling associated with life sustaining food, you’re fucked.

It’s also terrible for every other physically system in your body, let alone getting stronger.

In no way shape or form am I endorsing eating food that we know is not good for you in large quantities. However, I am asking you to do something simple, nitpicky, and in my opinion, important.

I want you to start thinking about food as primarily either “good for you” or “enjoyable”. It’s honest, for one thing. And there’s no exclusivity between the two – fresh, in season fruit is both good for you and enjoyable, and so would be a nice cut of steak.

But do yourself a favor and start to break that catholic guilt you’re hanging around your head with “clean” eating and “cheat” meals and days.

“Off” days

You’ll notice a couple of things if you’re reading all of this.

The first is that for all of the programming, save for one or two posts about 4-day a week training, will be 3 days a week.

The reason is we know that adaptation to strength training can be had in about 48 hours and a week is a convenient way to split things up.  The natural question then becomes “So what do you do on the other days?”

Let’s start by what you should not be doing. If you were not already playing a sport where you run around a lot, like basketball or soccer, don’t start. If you are but you’re not in season, then stop, or at least greatly roll back. I’d really like it if you didn’t do anything hard at all in the gym or track. Activity is not the same thing as progress!

Besides, there are many many more important things to do. Everyone seems to have trouble getting enough sleep so that would be a logical place to start. More sleep equals more strength, every single time.

Grocery shopping, meal planning, or cooking would be good, especially because everyone wants to look better naked and the best place to do that is the kitchen, not the gym. Extra time reading or with your family will make everything better. Maybe you should take a walk or engage in a hobby, or even get a massage. Personally, I like a good yoga class, which is still exercising but checks off a lot of the things that strength training doesn’t directly address. You could spend some time foam rolling or even doing light calisthenics while watching TV, if you’re that anal-retentive.

The point is this: strength training is to help you live a better, more full life. Part of the point of a 3 day program is not just efficiency in the gym, it’s to create the time you need to live a great life. If you feel the need to crush yourself in the gym every single day you need actual therapy, not gym-therapy, because you’re carrying around a guilt you haven’t even begun to deal with.

 

Tuesday March 7

Warm-up: Walk up to gym.  I’m really enjoying the nice weather and having the mother in law/baby-whisperer around just so I can stroll.  A lot more fun than hopping on a hamster wheel.

Squat

  • b/wx5x2
  • 45x5x2
  • 95x5x2
  • 135×5
  • 175×3
  • 205×2 – not as fast as I would have liked.
  • 220x5x3 – solid but not great.

Bench Press

  • 45x5x2
  • 75x5x2
  • 95×5
  • 115×3
  • 135×2
  • 155×1 – very fast, good.
  • 165x5x3 – very good.

Dead Hang Chins

  • 10 – next time I’ll add 5 pounds to my weight for this set
  • 8
  • 7

Lots of knuckle heads

Sunday March 5 2017

Today’s session.

Warm-up: Walk to gym ~15 minutes.

Squat –

  • bodyweight x 5 reps x 2 sets
  • empty bar (45 pounds) x 5 x 2
  • 95x5x2
  • 135×5
  • 165×3
  • 185×2
  • 200×1 – this was my original plan for the day, but this felt so light and so easy I went up
  • 215×1 – this was the right bar speed for working sets.
  • 215x5x3

Press – I had planned on benching, but there was a wait there and I was already in the rack.

  • 45x5x2
  • 65×5
  • 85×3
  • 100×2
  • 115x5x3 – recent PR !

Clean 120x3x5 – This is the best these have been in a while.

 

 

The Advanced Novice Program

What Now?

First, if you’ve done the novice program, you’re much much stronger than when you started. If not, do not pass go, do not collect $200 and do not read this post. This is a sample program from Practical Programming for Strength Training:

Day One

Squat 3×5 add 5 pounds

Press 3×5 add 5 pounds

Chins 3xM

Day 2

Squat 3×5 with 90% of Day 1’s weight

Bench Press 3×5 add 5 pounds

Deadlift heavy set of 5

Day 3

Squat 3×5, add 5 pounds to Day 1’s weight.

Press 3×5 add 5 pounds

Pull-ups 3xM

Day 4

Squat 3×5 add 5 pounds to Day 3’s weight

Bench Press 3×5 add 5 to Day 2’s weight

Chins 3xM

Day 5

Squat 3×5 with 90% of Day 4’s weight

Press 3×5 add 5

Power Clean 5×3 add 5

Day 6

Squat 3×5 add 5 to Day 4’s weight

Bench Press 3×5 add 5 of day 4’s weight

Pull-ups 3xM.

Pull-ups are hands facing outward. Note too that you’re still squatting 3x a week, but only adding weight 2x a week.

 

 

 

The Novice Program

Credit to where it is due; this is nearly verbatim from Starting Strength: Basic Barbell Training by Rippettoe and Kilgore.

The novice program’s basic features are:

  1. Small number of barbell lifts
  2. Three Non Consecutive Days a Week
  3. Add Load each day to each exercise.
  4. Make sure to rest a minimum of 3 minutes between work sets with 5 minutes or more being better.

Each and every day, you’ll squat. Each and every day you’ll do a press. each and every day you’ll do a pull. The devil is of course, in the details, but that’s the jist of it.

The two presses you’ll do on this program are Pressing overhead (hereafter just “The Press”) and Bench Pressing. The three pulls you’ll eventually do are the deadlift, power clean, and chin ups.

Here’s Phase One

Day One

Work up to your working sets of squats, do 3 sets of 5 reps

Work up to your working sets of presses, do 3 sets of 5 reps

Work up to a heavy set of 5 in the deadlift

Day Two

Squats, 3 sets of 5 with 10 pounds more than Day One

Work up to your working sets of Bench Press, do 3 sets of 5 reps

Work up to a set of 5 in the deadlift with 20 pounds more than Day One.

Day Three

Squats, 3 sets of 5 with 10 pounds more than Day Two

Press, 3 sets of 5 with 5 pounds more than Day One

Work up to a set of 5 in the deadlift with 20 pounds more than Day Two.

Day Four

Squats, 3 sets of 5 with 10 pounds more than Day Three

Bench Press 3 sets of 5 with 5 pounds more than Day Two

Work up to a set of 5 in the deadlift with 15 pounds more than Day Three.

Day Five

Squats, 3 sets of 5 with 10 pounds more than Day Four

Press, 3 sets of 5 with 5 pounds more than Day Three

Work up to a set of 5 in the deadlift with 15 pounds more than Day Four.

Day Six

Squats, 3 sets of 5 with 10 pounds more than Day Five

Bench Press 3 sets of 5 with 5 pounds more than Day Four

Work up to a set of 5 in the deadlift with 15 pounds more than Day Five.

This marks the 2 week mark, and the end of phase one. At the end of this, your Squat should be 50 pounds heavier, your deadlift should be 70+ pounds heavier, and your presses 15 pounds heavier each. If they are not, and you are a healthy man between 18-35, you are not sleeping or eating enough or not resting enough between sets.

There is still so much more runway to continue to get stronger, but even if you went back to your knuckle head nonsense, you’re better off after only a few weeks.

If you are willing, the next few months might look like this, and deliver even more strength.

The big changes from here out involve the rate of increase and the introduction of a fifth lift, the Power Clean. The Power Clean is a simple version of the olympic lift the Clean and will help drive up the deadlift.  It will also give your back a bit of a break, as heavy deadlifts are very taxing. We’ll continue to go up 5 pounds in the presses, and cleans will also be 5 pounds per session. Squats will scale back to 5 pounds per session too, and deadlifts will go to 10 pounds per session.

Next, you’ll alternate these two:

Workout A

Squats 3 sets of 5 reps, add 5 pounds each time.

Presses 3 sets of 5 reps add 5 pounds each time

Clean 5 sets of 3 reps add 5 pounds each time

Workout B

Squats 3 sets of 5 reps, add 5 pounds each time.

Bench Press 3 sets of 5 reps, add 5 pounds each time.

Deadlift Work up to a set of 5 with 10 pounds more than last time.

 

In Phase 3 we introduce Chins to the program, because the Deadlift and Power Clean are too strenuous to recover from so workout A becomes

Squats 3 sets of 5 reps, add 5 pounds each time.

Presses 3 sets of 5 reps add 5 pounds each time

Chins 3 sets of maximum repetitions

Workout B becomes

Squats 3 sets of 5 reps, add 5 pounds each time.

Bench Press 3 sets of 5 reps, add 5 pounds each time.

Clean 5 sets of 3 reps add 5 pounds each time OR Deadlift Work up to a set of 5 with 5 pounds more than last time

This way, we distribute the stress of the heavy deadlifts even further apart.The big if here is your willingness and ability to recover.  Resetting is simple. If, for 3 consecutive workouts you can not get all 15 reps at a given weight, drop 10% and start again. so 335 becomes 300, giving us some runway to continue to adapt.

The only real question is are you willing to set aside your ego and do hard work.

In a few months, you can be stronger than you’ve ever imagined.

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