My Training History (Part One)

Note: Dave Tate’s series of articles is a lot more inspirational and entertaining.  These blog post should be called “Lessons in Mediocrity”

My Swedish 5/3/1 pal asked me about how I trained in the past – what worked for me.  I took a look at my training logs from the past 20 years.

They are in a crate in my office – folders stuffed full of papers, notebooks with pages falling out, tiny notebooks, binders, and one Ironmind ™ Training Log (high-quality but overpriced, like everything from that company – I got it for free). Fortunately, a few months ago, I had sorted these logs by date, labeled them, and condensed them from 3 crates to one.  (my wife saw me lugging the crate out again today and asked hopefully if I was throwing it away)

I studied through them exhaustively for almost 45 minutes.  It quickly became apparent that my hopes of producing a neat table like this –

11/16/02 Began training Westside BW: 195, Squat 385, Bench 275, Deadlift 420

– would be nearly impossible for several reasons:

  1. Some of it was nearly indecipherable (like the time I used one sheet of paper and a pencil for an entire semester)
  2. Some of it is missing (most pre-1998 stuff, and other important info from 2000-2004 which I will explain later)
  3. I made a very important discovery…

…I have not been doing competitive powerlifting for very long.  This came as a shock to me.  I get depressed when I think that I’ve been lifting for 20 years and have a mediocre total.  But the fact is that only for about the last 2 years have I been seriously training for powerlifting.  And before that, I lifted in a couple of meets in 2001-2003 but was involved in other pursuits.  Serious training for powerlifting, in my opinion means that:

  1. Your primary focus is the bench, squat, and deadlift.
  2. You lift in at least one meet a year.
  3. You are not involved in other sporting events that you a) consider more important and which b) negatively affect your total (e.g. wrestling, running)

So then, on with my training autobiography, which will be largely useless to everyone, including myself.  At the end, I will sum up some lessons learned, which might be interesting.

1990 – Junior High Student

Several times a week, the coach would send us to the weight room after practice and tell us to, “go ahead and get a lift in.”

Routine: Universal Multi-station machine, dumbbell curls, watching older kids bench press

Results: Ripped @ 98 lbs.  Hurt knee trying to leg press the stack (by arching butt off bench so that only my traps were braced on the top of the seat.)

Summer 1991 – High School Idiot

Bought a copy of MuscleMag.  Read it cover to cover, including ads, with extreme gullibility.  Got angry that my dad would not buy me Cybergenics.

Routine: (i’m not joking) Combining the “best” routines of famous bodybuilders for each bodypart, e.g. Arnold’s chest routine, Haney’s back routine, etc.  Training 2 hours a day at the high school weight room, 1 hour a day in my basement, and also running 3+ miles a day for cross country.

Results: Still 98 lbs but very tired.

1991-1995 – High School Wrestler/”Power Bodybuilder”

Learned from the high school football coach who gave me a copy of their program.  Also from my ex-powerlifter uncle, and Greg Zulak’s articles (the ones that had titles like “Basic Power Mass-Building for Hardgainers” – not the ones where he made up interviewed women for sex tips).

Routine: 10-8-6 and the like on big basic exercises.  Sometimes 15-12-10, etc. 8-6-4! Then assistance exercises.  Usually an upper/lower or push/pull/legs split.

Results: Actually got decently strong, considering I was running many miles a day, wrestling, and eating almost an all-carb diet when I wasn’t cutting weight.  Got up to about 140 lbs and was very ripped.  I think my senior year I benched 240 @ 135.  Note: The accuracy of my bench numbers until my first PL competition in 2000 is dubious.  I am pretty sure I knew that it was wrong to lift my butt off the bench, but considered it fair game to bounce the bar off my chest.

1995-1997 – College Wrestler/Bodybuilder

I was the second strongest kid on my high school team.  The strongest was a guy who benched (i think) about 275 @ 170.  I know that I squatted but have no record of what weights/reps I was using and no recollection if I was doing it right.  So I’ll continue to use the touch-and-go bench press as the measure of strength.  Being much stronger than my opposition helped me win matches.  (lets say my opponent and I both weighed 126 and he could bench bodyweight – I was almost twice as strong)  In college I continued to get stronger (let’s say my best “bench” was 300 @ 160) but so did everyone else, and the weak kids quit (so now my opponents could bench 250 @ 160, meaning I had about a 20% advantage), so my tactics of muscling people around simply failed.  I was the second strongest guy on a bad wrestling team, next to the heavyweights, but the coaches did not place much importance on lifting.  I remember my last season, we had a new coach and he gave us a program he devised himself, entitled “The All-American Program”.  Apparently all-Americans do 8 random exercises, 4x a week, all for 4×10.

Routine: continued the 10-8-6 stuff, but I also did a very strange routine I got from a MuscleMag.  I wish I could find it.  It was chock-full of complicated tables, with names like I708 (I for isolation) and G501 (G for general) and involved a lot of Week 1: 70% x 10, 75% x 8, 80%x5-6, 85%x3-4.  I think of it now as Sheiko for Bodybuilding.  Even though it seems very arcane, it seemed to work well.

Results: The aforementioned 300 lb bench, and overall strengthiness, but I hurt my knee wrestling and eventually quit the team.

1998-2000 – Bodybuilder

Routine: 10-8-6-ish stuff for mass.  Push/Pull/Legs split.  Higher reps for cutting.  Cessation of squat and deadlift in favor of leg extension and hack squat during cutting phase.  I know it is considered an urban myth now that high reps make you ripped, I did not feel like doing anything “heavy” while dieting/doing hours of cardio.  Also maybe they helped with hypertrophy because I never did high reps before.

Results: I got up to about 190 lbs and was, in the hilarious words of Jamie Lewis (referring to Goerner): “not fat about it”. I was also not strong about it. My best lifts were bench 345 (definitely with a lot of bounce), squat 340×2, deadlift 405×2. In my defense, I had knee surgery about a year previously. Also, (and this phenomenom has played a huge role in my – and many other’s – lack of development), I suffered from “Biggest Dog in Little Kennel” syndrome. Which means that I could bench more than almost everyone, so I was awesome. Nobody squatted (except these two 270 lb freaks I knew – that’s another amusing story) or deadlifted, so my pathetic weights were also admirable. I did a college bodybuilding show (my frat needed somebody and I was the only guy in reasonable shape) and cut down to about 170. I got pretty ripped and according to unbiased observers, looked the best (a lot of guys just tanned and starved themselves). (There were other parts to the contest – like formal wear – that I basically just blew off, i.e. I dressed like a hobo, so i did not place.)



4 thoughts on “My Training History (Part One)

  1. it is really interesting to read a history of lifting and training. even if some of your previous coaches might not have had any real knowledge, at least they seem to have taught you more more than my soccer coaches from when I was a kid ever taught me.

    getting stronger was not a priority at all. they reasoned that if you played a lot of soccer, eventually you would be good at it. while this holds true to a certain extent, it did not really improve the conditioning of our team.

    • I was a bit unclear. The encounter with the HS football coach came when he noticed that I was working harder/longer in the weight room than his players. Mostly because I was the last to leave and he probably wanted to go home. He asked what I was doing, and when I explained my “program” to him, instead of arguing with me or teasing me, he handed me a copy of the official “Commitment to Excellence Varsity Football Strength Training Program.” And said something like, “I think you have earned this.” It was nothing special: Bench 8,8,6,4 Mon & Thu; Squat 10,10,8,8 Tues & Fri, followed by assistance. But I got the message. That was all the help/encouragement he gave me. My wrestling coach in high school was the same as in junior high, basically saying that weight training was good and then leaving us to our own devices.

      For soccer, your coaches may have had the right idea if time was short. If they only had you for 2 hours, skill practice in that sport is much more important. For example, weren’t Pele and Maradona little twerps? Put me on the field with Sweden’s top 6 year olds (or probably, some randomly selected 6 year olds) and I will just embarass myself despite being 4x their weight and infinity x their strength. But you’re right, you must be in shape for play, bc it can certainly make a difference when skill is equal. OTOH, in American football, size & strength are much more important. Even with just an inkling of how to play, I would be unstoppable amongst 6 year olds!

  2. This is fkn awesome reading. Thanks mang. Kind of creepy but I’ve been wondering why you are doing the program you’re doing. I mean, 7 days a week???maxes all the time?? I enjoy reading where you came from

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