Category Archives: Training Philosophy

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.


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).


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.

Learning Proper Form in Strength Training

I have three simple rules when it comes to form:

  1. Due to anatomical differences, good form will necessarily look different from one lifter to the next
  2. All beginning lifters must master the basics
  3. Once a base of strength and muscle has been built, form adjustments can be made depending on the goal

Allow me to elaborate. Sometimes I read articles by various strength & conditioning experts and my jaw drops. I wonder if any of them really train people or pay attention to joint angles and biomechanics.

For example, I recently read that a good squat looks the same for every lifter. Having trained thousands of people in my life, I can assure you that there are many ways for a squat to look right, and that different lifters will have markedly different squat form depending on their body structure. I liken the torso, femur, and tibia to a lightning bolt. Everyone has a unique “lightning bolt,” and your lightning bolt will highly influence the joint angles inherent to your maximal squat form.

Lightning Symbol

Read THIS blogpost to see how pelvic and head-of-femur anatomy will influence squat form, but femur length, ankle dorsiflexion ROM, and body segment length ratios highly influence squat form as well. Arm length will highly influence deadlift form, and forearm length to humerus length ratios will highly influence military press and chin up form.

Nevertheless, there are various rules that must be learnt by beginners. All lifters must initially learn to brace their spines, hinge at their hips, keep their knees out in a squat, squeeze glutes at end-range hip extension, and so on and so forth. These are non-negotiables. Beginners must learn how to control their lumbopelvic region during heavy lifting and learn how to keep as much tension as possible on the active components (the muscles) rather than the passive components (the ligaments and joint capsules).

Good Form

After a couple of years of lifting, assuming that the lifter has built up appreciable levels of strength and muscle mass, then form can begin to be altered depending on the goal. If the goal is to demonstrate maximum strength, then the lifter may adjust technique in order to allow for greater loads to be lifted, as long as the lifter understands that these form decrements increase the risk of injury. Because the lifter learned the rules, he or she now understands how to bend the rules and get away with it. Don’t get your Konstantinovs on without first learning how to pull with an arch!


The Illustrated Guide to a PhD

This article is by Matt Might. What an excellent way to view a PhD! Using my situation as an example, I’ve read all the research on the glutes, I’ve conducted my own experiments, soon I’ll be collecting and publishing my data, and I’ll have expanded the boundaries on glute training. But in the grand scheme of things (taking the cosmic-overview, as my grandmother used to like to say), it’s just one small aspect of knowledge.

This is why we need all sorts of individuals pushing the boundaries in their particular areas of focus, so we continue to broaden the sphere of knowledge. Strength training research requires so much additional research and is slow-growing, but nevertheless we manage to make considerable progress each and every month (see HERE if you’re interested in strength and conditioning research). I hope you enjoy the pictures.

The Illustrated Guide to a PhD
By Matt Might

Every fall, I explain to a fresh batch of Ph.D. students what a Ph.D. is.

It’s hard to describe it in words.

So, I use pictures.

Read below for the illustrated guide to a Ph.D.

Imagine a circle that contains all of human knowledge:

By the time you finish elementary school, you know a little:

By the time you finish high school, you know a bit more:

With a bachelor’s degree, you gain a specialty:

A master’s degree deepens that specialty:

Reading research papers takes you to the edge of human knowledge:

Once you’re at the boundary, you focus:

You push at the boundary for a few years:

Until one day, the boundary gives way:

And, that dent you’ve made is called a Ph.D.:

Of course, the world looks different to you now:

So, don’t forget the bigger picture:

Keep pushing.

The Illustrated Guide to a Ph.D. is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 2.5 LicenseThis post originally appeared at Matt Might’s Blog.

This post originally appeared at Matt.Might.Net. Copyright 2014.