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What I've learned this semester

Urban

Savage Mystic
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After an injury that has decimated my deadlift numbers I have had to re-tool, fix my squat form and have taken a routine carnal gave me and applied it with great results. Here are some of the things I've learned:

  • Make progress every week. Do more reps per set, more weight and/or more volume. If you strive to do more each week (even if it's only by 5 more lbs, 1 more rep in a couple of the sets, or another set or two) you will be alarmed at how fast you progress. I do this on all my exercises from deadlifts to overhead presses to squats. If you use progressively heavier weight each set (like I do on squats and deads), next week try to add five lbs to each weight you used last week.

  • keep a physical log. Keeping one online is not nearly as usefull as having one you can take to the gym. Mine looks like this:
    notebook.gif
    each entry is formated as follows -
    [bodyweight written in margin on mondays]
    day 1: 11-21-05
    power squats - 5@135,210,230; 2x4@240
    etc.
    Notes: next week strive for 5 @ 240, 5 @ 245 on p-squats.
    This way I just turn one page back and I can see what I did last week and how I want to do better this week. Labeling my routine's days with numbers (day1, day2, day3, day 4) makes it easier to find the same session from last week. Get a mechanical pencil that will fit in the spiral so you always have comething to write with and you're good to go. You're going to rest in between sets anyways, do something usefull with that time and write shit down.

  • Forget about percentages. I have been lifting with high sets and low reps and it's been working wonderfully. On squats and lower body work I work with progressively harder weights for triples (so like 3@135, 155, 175, 195, 215, 225, 235, 240) until I miss a triple (maybe only 2 @ 250) then I lower the weight to something I can triple and work back up for a couple more sets (3@225, 230, 235 if I'm really not feeling it, or I may work up to another attempt at 250). I never think about percentages of my one rep max any more. On incline presses I do 6 x 3, so I'll use the first two to build up (3@ 135, 145) and the last four sets at a set weight (4x3 @ 150). If I don't fail on any sets I increase the weight next time.

  • Set goals small and big. I want to strict military press 200 lbs, that's a big goal of mine. However, I also want to hit 10x3 @ 120 in under 15 minutes before I increase the weight I'm using on day 1 of my routine, that's a more short term goal of mine, something I can achieve in less than a month. You need tangible long term goals (a total you want, a lift you want, whatever, something quantifiable), but more importantly you need goals you can achieve this month (another 10 lbs on an exercise, a rep goal inside a time limit, etc.). These short term goals will keep you really motivated and really moving.

  • frequency will fix your shitty lifts. I deadlifted three times a week last semester, and not surprisingly, I did really well with my deadlifts (which btw are a lift that will often progress despite neglect). What I didn't do well on were my squats and presses. However, this time around I've greatly increased my time under a bar (squatting or pressing) and have been making good gains. Got an exercise that sucks? I think much of the time you can solve this by performing it or its variants more often, adding more volume and avoiding extensive exposure to failure. This is particularly true for overhead lifts, which need some special attention throughout the week.

  • failure is not the enemy; it's just not your friend. I fail all the time in what I do now, but it's not something I strive for. If I fail on a set I lower the weight on the next set, but it's these sets where you're finding your limits. I don't "rep out" on anything and just keep cranking our reps until I can't. I have a rep goal each set, and I strive for that and based upon my success or failure with that goal, I adjust my weight accordingly for the next set or next week. Failing on more than 10-20% of your sets is too much.

  • Don't just go through the motions. Get psyched up! Focus on the movement. There's a lot of mental work that goes into progressing each week. If you get under the bar with a doubt you will fail this set.

  • Work hard. Unknown to me there were veterans on the board who suspected my shitty results were the result of shitty effort. I am sure that I thought I was working plenty hard, and that I would explain my reasoning for my latest paradigm shift and how this was going to work great... but then didn't. In any event, if you work hard, push yourself and strive to get better on a regular basis, you will get stronger. I promise.

  • When you find something that works, stick with it until it doesn't. Sure, read about all the latest crazes and whatnot, but stay away from them until what you're doing now stops working. For me, and my recovering abilities low reps high set work has been fantastic, but even with all the shit I've learned I'm tempted to go onto some "goofy shit" (as carnal would call it). Complex training DOES sound good, but I want to go as far as I can with what I'm doing now before I change. So complex training gets put on hold until I'm ready.

Some specifics:
  • Squatting is all in the hips. We all know to sit back and not down, but most people forget that the concentric portion of the movement is just the opposite. Push your hips forward (this is hip extension) and it will right your back position and stand you up right all in one fell swoop. Drive your head back and thrust your hips forward to squat.

  • Overhead presses require practice throughout the week. They respond well to greater frequency and avoiding failure better than most lifts. I
 
Nice post, Urban!!! A lot of the things you talk about ring true for me also.

Thanks for taking the time to share all of that.
 
Good post Urban, there are a fair amount of similarities in what you and I have learned this year. The main ones being progression and hard work.

Despite having a gym membership, I ordered an olympic barbell with 300lbs of weights that arrived today. I feel like I'm opening a new chapter in my training.

Good luck with yours.
 
this is almost sticky worthy

great post Urban

ps : today i pulled 300 lbs for the first time ever, it surprises me how much ive learnt from you guys here at the S&P forums

thanks alot
 
even with my limited training experience, the greatest thing i've learned is to enjoy training while listening to your body. I think keeping the gym as stress free as possible, is also another great thing.
 
Solid post-good info on squat form and i don't count % either-gets too complicated.

The only part i would respectfully disagree with is improve every week. While it would certainly be desirable at some point if you have responsiblities/interests outside your training this may not be realistic especially when the weights start getting heavy and your JKD class decides to train for power in kicks that week. My philsophy is listen to your body and remain flexible in your approach while keepoing your eye on your goals (blue belt and a 405lbs. squat). By improving every week you may be putting to much pressure on yourself, but by giving yourself room to go back down sometimes, over the long run you can still get there. My strength gains would like one of those stock market charts generally sloping up but with some dips along the way just as my bodyfat% looks the same but in reverse, sloping down but with some spikes up during the way.
 
Improving ca be ambiguous though, If you work on power kicks and get better at them, but have to keep your squats that week at the same weight. You've still improved to an extent. You've maintained your squat and improved your kicks.
 
hughes said:
Improving ca be ambiguous though, If you work on power kicks and get better at them, but have to keep your squats that week at the same weight. You've still improved to an extent. You've maintained your squat and improved your kicks.
Agreed. But if i do those kicks at the intensity we do them and was thinking that tommorrow is squat or lunge day ,forget it that has to be delayed for a couple of days. Thats why i could never stick to a schedule like M,W,F Pull-Squat-Press cause JkD has to be balanced into it somehow.(Which is also why i show-up at all sorts of different days and times for JKD) After those couple of days however i will squat or lunge cause i don't want to lose what i've earned . In that workout if i don't hit a PR its ok. I've done as many as 12 strength sessions in a month and as few as 7 some months(avg about 10) and overall my weights are still climbing.
 
I'll agree with that as well. I also don't like my lifting to be too structured.
 
Great post. The first part about making progress every week really hit home. I don't keep a workout log even though I know I should because I can always remember what exercises I did and how much weight I used. I usually forget how many sets I did at each weight, or how many reps. It's getting ridiculous. For months now every time I try to work up to a max deadlift, I can get 435 off the floor with no trouble, but 445 rarely moves more than a couple of inches. I think I'm going to start getting a few more singles at lighter weight in and start working up to max triples and doubles again, but if I'm going to be successful, I have to make an effort to chart the amount of volume I use.

I agree with you about the frequency of ohp. My numbers have started to fly since I started doing some sort of overhead pressing at every workout, so long as I alternate the rep ranges and mix in the db's at least once a week.
 
morganfreeman said:
Great post. The first part about making progress every week really hit home. I don't keep a workout log even though I know I should because I can always remember what exercises I did and how much weight I used.
I'm editing my original post to include this important tip: keep a physical log. Keeping one online is not nearly as usefull (at least it wasnt for me). Mine looks like this:
notebook.gif
each entry is formated as follows -
[bodyweight written in margin on mondays]
day 1: 11-21-05
power squats - 5@135,210,230; 2x4@240
etc.
Notes: next week strive for 5 @ 240, 5 @ 245 on p-squats.
This way I just turn one page back and I can see what I did last week and how I want to do better this week. Labeling the my routine's days with numbers (day1, day2, day3, day 4) makes it easier to find the same session from last week. Get a mechanical pencil that will fit in the spiral so you always have comething to write with and you're good to go. You're going to rest in between sets anyways, do something usefull with that time and keep a log.
 
Good post Urban. I myself am going to start keeping a physical log, something I've been wanting to do but just haven't done for whatever reason, your post has inspired me, thanks! Also, I am a strong believer in what the mentality of a person plays in lifting. Something I've started doing in the last six weeks, which has tremendously helped me on my ME lifts is visualization. I visualize ripping the weight from Earth's gravity and bring the floor up with it, this way I explode like hell and maybe one day I will bring the floor with the weight, hah. Thanks for the post!
 
Urban said:
  • Unilateral exercises are still an area of debate for me. I know they did not help my squats for shit when I was doing them, but everyone I know who plays a sport (field or combat) says they work well for them. Perhaps I
 
Sonny said:
I've been re-considering the value of uni-lateral lifts as well. In my case they're doing more harm than good.
Is a unilateral lift like a thruster or powerclean into a squat?
 
PariahCarey said:
Is a unilateral lift like a thruster or powerclean into a squat?

No, unilateral lifts are one armed/legged lifts. i.e. one legged squat or one armed press.
 
Urban, it sounds like you really hammer on lifts for a while, which is what i normally do, but recently I've been reading about adaptation and how its beneficial to mix up your lifts frequently. What's your take?
 
The tip for the Squat is nice. I found this out myself, but forgot to share. Shame on me!
 
Good post. I agree with adding weight.sets,etc, but sometimes adding 5pds is to much for the lift, such as the Dead, press, etc. 2.5pds, smaller increments go a long way on these.
 
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