Now I was free from the Army, and no one was sending me on week-long camping trips or making me run 5 miles. Also, at this point my records become much neater and I started doing powerlifting meets again, which make comparison easier. I kept doing Crossfit for a little while, but then started doing…
11/2009 – 6/2010 – The Wave
Routine: As I explained in a previous post, this was a four-day a week routine. Squat, Deadlift, Mil Press and Bench were the main lifts. Then I would do 5-6 assistance exercises for 1 warmup set and 1 hard set each. Rep schemes for the main lifts varied in a wave-like fashion (get it?). 10-8-6, then 10-8-6-4, then 10-8-6, then 10-8-6-4, then 10-8-6-4-3, etc, with some other variations. You always tried to break all your records.
Results: When I started the program, my lifts were: Squat:340×3, Bench: 270×3, Deadlift 385×3. On 1/30/2010, I did a contest and lifted: SQ 410, Bench 320, DL 470 Tot 1200 @ 198. When I concluded the program, in June 2010, that week I hit SQ 410×2, BP 321×3, DL 437.5×2 (using thick bar, maybe 1.5 inches)
Why I stopped: Progress was great at first as you can see. Then it slowed. One of the annoying things was that the sets of 10 and 8, as they got heavier, seemed to detract from the ability to lift heavy weights in the later sets. Also, I was starting grad school and moving so I wanted a less frequent program.
6/2010 – 7/2011 – “HIT”
Routine: Squat, Bench, or Deadlift for 2-8+ reps for one set. Then about 6 assistance exercises. Usually I would get to the gym 3x a week for 45-60 minutes, sometimes 2x if I was busy.
Results: I did not get much stronger and did not enter any meets during this period.
Why I stopped: I found a better gym closer to my house & got less busy in life. So I could work out longer and more frequently. Also, I wanted to give Westside a real try.
7/2011-11/2012 Westside (for real this time)
Routine: Westside 100%. I downloaded and read every article Louie Simmons ever wrote. Took notes (during a 15 hour car ride) and listed exercises I needed to do & various ideas he had. I got various bands (chains are IMO very expensive for the benefit). I did it all, good mornings, dynamic days, GPP, special exercises, extra work, etc. This was not like last time when I sort of incorporated some Westside principles into my training. No sir. I became a disciple.
Results: Meet 12/03/11 – SQ 430, BP 310, DL 500 Tot 1240 @ 181. So yeah, a little stronger and at a lower weight class, but it was 2 years later. How much was due to WS?
Meet 3/17/12 – SQ 445, BP 330, DL 495 Tot 1270 @ 181. Good progress, even though my DL went down – I have to say this is not Westside’s fault. The meet director was insane and decided to go to a system where the “bar is always going up” for the deadlift. This meant that he called out 135, 140, etc. To show you what a weak meet it was, I had the 2nd highest DL there so I had to follow myself on all 3 attempts with 1 min rest. So missed my third attempt at, I think 525. Anyway, even statistics can lie.
Why I stopped: These meet results were good (for me). But I would test myself every 8 weeks in the gym and during the first 6 months or so, I would hit PRs. I had two consecutive max days at the gym where I was actually getting weaker.
11/2012-8/2013 Dinosaur Training
I liked doing real squats, and felt they were necessary. I liked partials in the rack. I was tired of a lot of the stuff I’d been doing.
Routine: 3x a week, I would do all three lifts (or a close equivalent) to a max single, then some assistance. So monday might be Squat, Pin Press, Deadlift. Wed: Bottom Position Squat, Military Press, Deadlift from box. Fri: Front Squat, Bench, Trap Bar DL. Assistance was about 3-5 exercises for one heavy set from any of the following: Abs, Neck, Prowler, Bis, extra pressing work, Rows, Chins, Dips, Traps. Workouts took about 90 minutes. Then I started adding medium-heavy squat singles if I wasn’t doing regular squats that day, working up to 405-455 lbs.
Results: Good. At a meet on 4/20/13, I did 465, 330, 510 @ 181 (1305). I continued to make progress in the gym after the meet, hitting a 485 squat and 345 bench. Deadlift is difficult to tell bc the most I’d hit in the gym is 485, but the bars suck. A Texas bar gave me 25 lbs. I got my gym deadlift up to 505. So theoretically that should be 530 in a meet.
Why I stopped: I started missing a lot of lifts in training. I was using micro plates and if you squat 476 (for example) and then the next week expect to hit 477.5, but got stapled with 455. So then what? My intensity was very high on these singles. I like singles. Singles make you strong. S/B/Dead 3x a week was no problem. It was working up to a 100% max that was beating me – when I missed. I toyed with the idea of doing back-off sets when I missed. But I wanted to try something new.
9/2013 – Sheiko Experiment
I read a lot about Sheiko and wanted to give it a try. There is a lot of nonsense about these programs on the web, so I made sure to get Russian source materials and translate them (I used Google Chrome or asked a Russian friend). Take it from me, you do not want to trust a) some spreadsheet made by a ninny, b) a random geek on a forum, or c) someone who is too weak/scared to do a real Sheiko program. The programs are scaled by what level lifter you are so there is no reason to be frightened. At this time I also read various scientific training books, including “Periodization”, “Supertraining”, “Science and Practice” and several others of that ilk. These helped me understand the programs better. What also helped was looking at ALL the Sheiko programs (at least the ones close to my level – I did not study very much of the World Champion ones) and comparing them in terms of volume, intensity, etc.
Routine: I did Sheiko #29.
Results: This is the 1st 4 weeks of a 16 week cycle, and I did it to experience a very different type of training. What would it be like to squat 5x3x80% instead of 1x1x100%? And etc. For me to say “Sheiko is great” or “Sheiko does not work” would be foolish.
But it was useful to me. The numbers on the spreadsheet are meaningless unless you know what x reps at X% feels like. Conversely, because the programs are very similar in terms of intensity/repetitions per session, I could look ahead and have some understanding.
I also learned:
- I needed more volume than my last Dinosaur routine.
- I needed to train more than 3 days per week.
- The Sheiko bench pressing was just too easy, plain and simple. I had to bump up the weights every workout.
- I did not get much out of the bench pyramids. Sheiko swears by them. Interestingly, although he seems to follow the teachings in textbooks I mentioned (his rep schemes also typically fall into Prilepin’s table), at least two of them (Supertraining and Science and Practice of Strength Training, I think) had quotes to the effect of “Pyramiding up and down is another tactic that has fallen out of favor since the 1960s” My opinion is not due to the books, just that I did not see the point of pyramiding up to 295x2x2 which was easy, then continuing down to 260×4, 240×6, 205×8, 175×10 which are all also laughably easy.
- I was nervous before doing the programs about rarely/never handling heavy weights. Afterwards, I still was, though I have faith since it has worked for others.
Why I stopped: At the conclusion of the four week experiment, I had several ideas. I could have done (there are a lot of lists in this post, I know):
- #30, the next Sheiko program. 3 days a week, but more volume. The workouts would have gone 2.5+ hours some days based on my experience without being significantly more challenging
- CMS level Sheiko program, since my gym lifts put me in that category. 4 days a week, and I liked the look of it, but then what? When to test max? Commit to the whole 15 week CMS cycle? What if it did not work?
- I made my own “Sheiko” program, which was 4x a week and following all of his principles and guidelines, but with exercises I preferred and no bench pyramids. This took quite a bit of calculating but the man himself recommends that his programs be individually tailored. I don’t feel I am being hypocritical when I criticize the modified Sheiko programs on the web because a) my program was just for me b) I would not claim it was written by Sheiko like some unscrupulous types c) it is not some sissy version for people who cannot handle the real thing.
10/6/13 – Present The Broz Experiment
Instead of doing any variant of Sheiko, I tried something new. This took a lot of thought. I figured I still have about 6 months until my next meet. If things go horribly wrong with whatever crazy scheme I try, I felt I could still go back to my old way and total high 1300s. I do not approve of “program jumping” and criticize it in others. Perhaps my history may seem otherwise, but consider that until a month prior, I really had only tried a few different _strength_ programs in 20 years: 10-8-6 types of pyramids, “Dinosaur” heavy singles, “Leistner” HIT and Westside. (I’m not counting strength/endurance or bodybuilding-focused programs)
Routine: Read my blog!
Results: After 26 days I hit my highest bench press ever @ 181. 21 lb PR in push press. Squats, no PR yet but I hope soon. Deadlift: well I should have listened to what Broz said and not assumed that I am a specially different robot who can pull heavy with over-under grip 7 days a week.
Disclaimer: I say “Broz” to label what I do in the gym because I got my program from an interview with him and from his answering questions about modifications for powerlifting in a web forum. I don’t know him and am not affiliated with him or his gym. I use his name because he developed the program (except the part that I fucked up – that’s on me), and if I didn’t, it could seem like I was trying to take credit for it myself. I have a lot of respect for him and his lifters and I admit that someday I hope to show good results that I can thank him for.
I know this post has been long. I will try to focus on what I gained from rereading my training logs rather than spouting general nuggets of “wisdom”
1. I spent a lot of time doing things in the weight room other than powerlifting. Rather than cry about being mediocre, I remind myself that I’ve been lifting in meets for less than 4 years and for most of my life, I was doing “general strength training”. Well, hurrah, I am generally strong…
2. …compared to most people at a commercial gym. If you find that you are the strongest person in the chrome-and-fern palace, rather than being satisfied – like I often was – FIND A NEW PLACE TO TRAIN. Or at least go on the internet and see who is better than you and be more like them.
3. You can do more than you think you can. You can do more than anonymous people on the internet say you can. You can do more than some old guy at the gym thinks you can. You should do more, and you should build up to this gradually (but not glacially). This, of course, applies to what I’m doing now. But some people thought I was crazy for lifting squat/bench/dl 3x a week.
3a. The only exception to this seems to be, if you are 14 and weigh less than 100 lbs, you cannot do a program that consists of an amalgamation of various pro bodybuilders’ routines.
4. Don’t miss workouts. Don’t quit. When I first started, I weighed 98 lbs and benched 65×10 for my 1st set ever.
5. Assistance exercises are overrated.
6. Whether you log your workouts in a computer, a notebook or scraps of paper, buy a nice 5-subject notebook and recopy your workouts, 1 week per sheet at the end of every week. This is the best way. I’ve done this for the past 4 years and I have 2 neat notebooks. I did not do it for the previous 16, and I have 60 chewed-up looking pieces of shit that I can barely read.
6a. Use your neat notebook to determine when you should switch programs, make minor changes, or keep going.
7. Okay, I can’t resist – this has nothing to do with my training logs. But learn to squat right. And I don’t mean worrying about your butt tuck or whether to look straight ahead or at the ceiling. I mean 99% of people I see can’t even come CLOSE to parallel because they just bend their knees and do nothing with their hips. It’s called youtube – use it for something other than watching “What does the Fox Say”. In my day, all we had was a poster on the wall with a badly drawn cartoon man and we figured it out.
8. Good program: anything inspired by Dinosaur Training. You can get stronger just by thinking about that book and making a growling sound. Try it now.
Awesome for multi-ply lifters: Westside
Not the best for raw lifters: Westside
Good for maintaining gains when you are busy: HIT (with free weights, multi-joint exercises, no forced reps, no super-slow silliness)
Good for squatting 315×12, but missing 400×1: HIT
overrated: 5/3/1 😉