Category Archives: Strength Training

Know Thy Personal Records: Are You Aware of Your Indicators?

Everyone should be aware of their personal records (PRs). You should know multiple PRs for each variation.

Before I did 2 x 4 Maximum Strength, I didn’t have an adequate grasp of my PRs, therefore I wasn’t fully aware of my training efficiency.

Deadlift

I wanted you all to have this PR Sheet (click to download) from 2 x 4 so that you can know your indicators of progress. 

2 x 4 will help you determine these PRs within 14-weeks, which will benefit your training immensely. With my second time running 2 x 4, I found that my PRs were even more accurate/reflective of my true strength, and I believe that this made a big difference in helping me do well at the powerlifting meet a few weeks ago. Even if you don’t do 2 x 4, you should figure these PRs out over time.

Remember: pulls (deadlifts and block pulls) are reset, not bounced, presses (bench, military, close grip, and floor press) are paused for a one second count, and squats (back and front) are taken to parallel or deeper. Make your training harder so that competing (or testing 1RM) is easier.

With straight sets, you use the same load for all 3 sets. With ascending sets, you ramp up in weight so that your heaviest load is done on set 3 (so it can be thought of as a maximal set).

2 x 4 strength

Why Percentages Fail Some Lifters

The following is an excerpt from 2 x 4: Maximum Strength

Many programs utilize percentages for loading schemes. To name a few, Shieko, Smolov, and The Russian Squat Routine each provide the lifter with detailed set and rep schemes based off of percentages of 1RM. For example, a particular training day might have the lifter performing 7 sets of 5 reps with 80% of 1RM. These types of programs are very convenient as they take all of the guesswork out of the equation and allow the lifter to get in and get the job done.

Sounds incredible in theory, right? Problem is, programming just isn’t that simple. My colleague Brad Schoenfeld and I recently collected data for an upcoming study we intend on publishing that examines the EMG activation in the leg muscles with heavier weight (75% of 1RM) versus light weight (30% of 1RM) to failure. While we weren’t particularly interested in the number of repetitions the subjects achieved during exercise performance, we were intrigued to find that with the 75% of 1RM loading, the ranges of repetitions achieved by the subjects varied dramatically from one lifter to the next. While most subjects performed between 10 and 15 repetitions, one subject performed a whopping 21 repetitions, and another subject performed just 7 repetitions (with 30% of 1RM, the range was 30 to 71).

Klokov-Deadlift

This jives with my experience as a personal trainer. Thirteen years ago, I trained a very strong 107 lb female client who could squat 135 lbs for 20 reps below parallel and deadlift 155 lbs for 20 reps. Impressive, right? She could grind out reps like a champion. Guess what her 1RM’s were? 160 lbs for the squat, and 175 lbs for the deadlift. She could squat 85% of her 1RM for 20 reps and deadlift almost 90% of her 1RM for 20 reps.

Ten years ago, I trained a freakishly strong male 225 lb client who could incline press 385 lbs. He was one of the most explosive lifters I’ve ever seen. One time I wanted to see how many times he could incline press 135 lbs. He petered out at 20 reps. He could only lift 35% of his 1RM twenty times.

What does this mean for training programs involving percentages? It means that some of the lifters employing the program will receive a great training effect. The load, set, and rep scheme will be just what the doctor ordered to boost the lifter’s strength for the following week. However, for other lifters, the prescribed percentages will be too easy (and will therefore fail to elicit an optimal training stimulus), or they will be too hard (and the lifter will physically be unable to complete the reps). Something like 7 sets of 5 reps with 80% of 1RM would be very easy for the female client I described, but impossible for the male client I described.

Some lifters will thrive on these types of programs, others won’t be sufficiently challenged, and others will be run into the ground. However, a program such as 2 x 4 won’t fail any lifters because it’s centered on setting PR’s in a systematic fashion. 2 x 4 does use percentages for submaximal methods, but they are conservative percentages, and the methods can be adjusted to provide the proper dosage of stimulus.

The Bulgarian Split Squat Solution

The Bulgarian split squat is an excellent exercise. Ain’t no denying that! They highly activate the quadriceps, they create glute damage due to the eccentric stretch loading, and they build single leg stability.

BSS

However, I believe that there’s a better way to perform them. The standard way never felt right for me, so I figured out how to do them in a way that more closely matched the contour of my anatomy.

Watch in the video below how the crux of the foot/ankle interacts with the bar as I rise up and down during the movement. It’s so smooth and comfortable. Give this method a try and see if you prefer it over the standard version.

I’ve been doing them this way for over 6 years or so and it’s served me quite well. Many years ago at a commercial gym I used to train at, we’d even use the rounded pad on the lying leg curl machine (but we’d have to use dumbbells with this route). I suppose the Smith machine could be used in this fashion too – with a bar pad, and bands wouldn’t be needed to stabilize the bar.

The Block Pull: My New Favorite Exercise

Today, I set another PR. This time it was with the 3″ block pull. Many powerlifters prefer to pull off of 4″ blocks when they perform block pulls, but I like 3″ more.

Block pull

Since I started following the 2 x 4 template (which I will release on Monday), the block pull and the front squat have become my favorite exercises. I feel that they’ve definitely contributed toward building my powerlifting total.

The block pull is not the same as a rack pull. It just feels different. I never liked rack pulls much. But I freakin’ love block pulls. Some lifters are much stronger off of blocks than they are off of the ground, some lifters are equally as strong, and some are weaker off of blocks. The blocks do tend to keep you in better position, and they don’t beat you up as much as deadlifts from the floor, so they help keep you fresh. Here’s a video me pulling 585 lbs.

 

If you haven’t experimented yet with the block pull, I recommend giving it a try.