Category Archives: Training Philosophy

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).

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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.

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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.

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If You Could Only Do One Lift…

I can’t think of a question that comes up more in Strength & Conditioning interviews than, “If you could only do one lift, what would it be?” Most of my colleagues absolutely loathe this question, believing it to be absurd since nobody is ever in a position where they can only do one exercise for the rest of their lives. I, however, happen to love these types of questions. Taking the time to ponder this question helps coaches ponder the efficacy (capacity or power to produce a desired effect) and efficiency (the ratio of the output to the input of any system) of an exercise (or combination of exercises if more than one exercise is allowed).

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