Saturday, October 12, 2013

Simple Strength Cycles II: Application, Application, Application

Josh Trammell

A few weeks ago, I wrote a piece detailing a ‘Power to the People!’ routine – how to set it up, when to use it, and essentially how to use it. While for many people that may be enough, I wanted to demonstrate how I’m personally using it right now while training for a powerlifting meet in December.
There are a couple of things to keep in mind while looking at my training routine:
  1. I’m a full-time college student with two jobs, who helps teach a Strength & Conditioning Class at 6 AM twice a week and who is also training for a powerlifting meet – self discipline in regards to recovery is paramount.
  2. I have ‘medial epicondylosis’ in both elbows; that’s just a fancy way of saying that both of my elbows are pretty crappy.
  3. As of now, my elbows bother me too much to bench consistently or pull more than once a week - making it easier to recover from heavy squats.
  4. I’m working out between 6-7 AM 3 out of 4 training sessions – early morning lifts suck but they ARE doable.
  5. Day-to-Day Volume is LOW, but the overall training load throughout the week is relatively high. Still, recovery is made easier in light of this.
Keeping all this in mind, let’s get on with it.

12 Weeks Out from the meet:

Back Squats – 3x3 – work up to a ‘top’ set of 3, drop the weight by ~10%, perform 2 more sets of 3, all beltless. Weights are only increased after hitting that same weight for two consecutive sessions.This will be performed 4 days per week.

Tues: BS – up to 1 x 365lbs (around 80-85% of my 1RM), 1x3 @ 325lbs, 2x3 @ 265lbs

Thurs: BS – up to 1 x 365lbs, 1x3 @ 325lbs, 2x3 @ 265lbs

Fri: BS – up to 1 x 365lbs, 1x3 @ 330lbs, 2x3 @ 270lbs
     Sumo Deadlifts: up to 1 x 405lbs, 3x3 @ 315lbs
    Weighted Straight-Leg Box Jumps – 3x5 @ 45lbs to a 24in box.

Sun: BS – up to 1 x 365lbs, 1x3 @ 330lbs, 2x3 @ 270lbs
     Barbell Glute Bridges – 3x10 @ 185lbs
    Weighted Straight Leg Box Jumps – 3x5 @ 45lbs to a 24in. box.

Tues: BS – up to 1 x 365lbs, 1x3 @ 335lbs, 2x3 @ 275lbs

Thurs: BS – up to 1 x 365lbs, 1x3 @ 335lbs, 2x3 @ 275lbs

Friday; BS – up to 1 x 365lbs, 1x3 @ 340lbs, 2x3 @ 275lbs
     Sumo Deadlifts: up to 1 x 425lbs, 3x3 @ 325lbs
     Weighted Straight Leg Box Jumps: 3x5 @ 50lbs

And so on…

9 Weeks Out (Here’s where it gets fun): Belt is added in.

Tues: BS – up to 1 x 370lbs beltless; 1 x 385lbs Belted; 1x3 @ 365lbs belted, 1x3 @ 330lbs no belt, 2x3 @ 275lbs – no belt.

Thurs: BS – up to 1 x 370lbs beltless; 1x3 @ 365lbs belted, 1x3 @ 330lbs no belt, 2x3 @ 280lbs no belt.

Fri: BS – up to 1 x 370lbs beltless; 1x3 @ 365lbs belted, 1x3 @ 335lbs no belt, 2x3 @ 280lbs no belt
     Sumo DL: up to 415 x 1 no belt; 455lbs x 1 belted, 1x3 @ 405lbs belted, 3x3 @ 345lbs no belt
        Weighted SL Box Jumps – 3x5 @ 50lbs to a 24in. box.

Sun: BS – up to 1 x 370lbs beltless; 1x3 @ 370lbs belted, 1x3 @ 335lbs no belt, 2x3 @ 280lbs no belt
     Barbell Glute Bridges: 3x10 @ 195lbs
    Weighted SL Box Jumps – 3x5 @ 55lbs to a 24in. box.

… And so on and so forth.

This leads on to a number of other things, first and foremost being KEEP RECOVERY IN CHECK. I’m incredibly busy, get AT MOST 7 hours of sleep a night, and typically am not at home from 5:40 AM – 9:00 PM. Now add intramural soccer into the equation and having to slightly diet down (4lbs left to go) for the competition and you can imagine how stressful this is. Fortunately, there are a number of ways to combat this, most of them (but not all) having to do with food:

Have your post-workout shake READY TO GO the night before. That way, all you have to do is take it with you the morning of.
Cook 99% of your food for the week on a weekend. I prep all my food for the week on Sunday and put it in containers for each day so all I have to do is take it out of the fridge and take it with me to work.
Easy foods to do this with: EGGS, Blocks of cheese. Cut the block of cheese into 4ths or 5ths and have a little each day throughout the week.
On the big, heavy days, eat for recovery. I typically have something like a pound of meat, lots of veggies, and something like 3 cups of rice cooked.

One of the most important things to the everyday lifter and/or strength athlete is soft tissue quality. If you don’t foam roll already, you need to start. Additionally, I get a 90 minute massage once every 2 weeks to keep everything nice and smooth and pliable.

“What if I’m feeling like weak-sauce one day?” The answer is simple…work up to a moderately heavy single and maybe ONE set of 3. If you still feel weak, call it quits for the day. If you have 2 off days in a row, either just warm up on the next workout or skip it all together. I wouldn’t recommend doing this very often, but I typically cut short/skip 1-2 sessions every 3-4 weeks. It keeps me healthy and allows me to enhance my recovery while still getting stronger. You HAVE to recover. You can’t expect to lift heavy weights day in and day out without feeling somewhat beat down sometimes. It’s just going to happen.

“What about de-loads?” I don’t typically plan de-loads – but if I have more than 2 bad sessions in a row, I cut the next 1-2 sessions either in half volume-wise, or cut them out altogether.
Additionally, if you’re following the program as laid out in Part I, a de-load is already ‘built-in’ to the program. After every 8-12 sessions, add 5-10lbs to your starting weight and start again. This is an inherent drop in weight that should give you a little extra recovery time. So:

  1.  Session 1: 315lbs x 5
  2.   Session 12: 340lbs x 5
  3.  Cycle 2, Session 1: 320-325lbs x 5
 "Why do you hit the same single every session?" The answer is simple, really. I KNOW I can own 370lbs without a belt ANY day of the week, whenever I want to. I OWN that weight. Once I know I can own it, I move the single up by 5 lbs (typically every 4 weeks or so). The same principle lies behind increasing the weight only AFTER hitting it in 2 consecutive sessions. If one of those sessions was bad, yet you still hit the weight, you know you could hit the weight under any condition, versus maybe only being able to hit it on a good day.  

I hope all that brain dumping made some sort of sense. If you would like to see more articles like this, have any questions or comments, or just want to say hey, be sure to leave some comments below or send us your questions at

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