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one-weird-trick

How I imagine what anonymous internet "lifters" look like.

Ever notice that the 1st rep in the overhead press (OHP) is always the hardest?

Not only that, but consistent progress and hitting 1RM's, along with repetition maxes in the OHP is not as frequent as the other major barbell lifts?

Last but not least, don't you find that your OHP is totally screwed up if your set up (unracking the bar off the hooks, walking backwards with the bar in your hands, and finally getting the right foot position on the floor) is even slightly off?

You are not alone.

There are 10's of thousands of men, women and transgendered lifters just like you, who struggle with the initial rep of the OHP in both 1RM attempts and in a multi-rep work set, and often have their set ruined because they couldn’t generate enough momentum from a dead step bottom position in order to drive the bar upwards and complete the rep.

Yet you and everyone else keeps on struggling with the OHP because of that pesky first few inches of the first repetition, while other lifts such as the squat, deadlift and bench press keep on progressing.

Fortunately, I've discovered this ONE WEIRD TRICK (trainers hate me) to blast through the hardest portion of the OHP, allowing you to continue making gains and crush OHP PR's.

Here's How

Step 1: Set Up The Bar

00

Set up the safety bars in the power rack to the same height as where the J-hooks would be for the OHP.

Tip: Place the J-hooks a little higher than the safety bars first, then place the bar on the J-hooks temporarily, then position the safety bars at the right height, and finally place the bar down onto the safety bars.

This can also be done with squat stands or jerk blocks set up at the proper height.

Step 2: Get In Position

01

Assume your OHP stance, and then bend your knees so that the bar is just underneath your chin.

Step 3: Stand Up With The Bar

02

The force of your legs will drive the bar upwards.

IMPORTANT: Do not press at this point! If you do, it becomes a push press!

Step 4: Allow The Bar To Drop Back Down Towards Your Collar Bones

03

This is where the magic happens. Take advantage of the stretch reflex to help propel the bar upwards.

This bounce is similar to the bounce you get from the bottom of a squat, or the bounce on the repetitions following the first rep on the overhead press (assuming you’re not pausing at the bottom).

Step 5: Press

05

Now, press up!

Here’s what it looks like altogether, in choppy slow motion:

And here's a few videos demonstrating this one weird trick:

Why This Works

  1. Bar moves in a straight line up and down (or more specifically, up, down, UUUPPP, down)
  2. Don't lose balance from walking backwards
  3. Minimal time holding the bar before pressing
  4. Eliminates the need to unrack, step backwards and get in position before pressing
  5. Harness the stretch reflex to help move the bar up (something I wrote about on AllThingsGym.com a while ago, back when my 1RM was 255 lb)

How I Discovered This One Weird Trick

As I imagine with most people who perform the overhead press, I typically set the barbell on J-hooks at around armpit to shoulder level, take the bar out of the rack, take a few steps backwards, get my feet in position before finally initiating the press.

You know, the traditional way of executing the OHP.

Now, this works well most of the time (during warm ups and work sets), but when you're trying to get the elusive and increasing difficult to obtain 1 rep max with the OHP, you want to save all your energy into driving the bar up. The act of unracking, stepping back, getting into the right position before actually pressing, not surprisingly, takes a bit of energy to perform. Not only that, but any sort of missteps may cause you to lose balance, not get into perfect position, which will extend the “holding the bar before pressing” time, making you a little more fatigue before even initiating the lift. This extra fatigue can make or break an OHP 1RM.

I've figured out a while ago that cleaning the bar off the floor will paradoxically make the overhead press feel a lot easier. It's probably because of a combination of getting your <broscience>CNS primed and revved up due to the explosively picking up the bar off the floor</broscience>, and eliminating any horizontal motion of the bar before pressing (i.e. you don't need to unrack and step backwards).

Here’s an example of what I mean:

The problem with this (at least for me) is that I can press more than I can power clean (current “max” is 245 lb for the power clean, which was done before OHP it for 3 reps), so I'll always be limited by why I can pick up off the floor and bring to my shoulders.

Now, I know what some of you internet lifters are thinking:

“This is not a strict press you cheater! It should be done from a dead stop, heels together with a perfectly straight back!”

Listen, the press is not a competition lift, so it's no big deal. As long as the knees are locked during the press (i.e. not a push press), it's fine IMO.

And pressing in this fashion is probably similar to squatting in a monolift, in the sense that you don't have to unrack the bar, step back, and get into proper position before starting the lift:

You're already in position to execute the lift, more or less.

On a continuum of easy-to-hard variations of the overhead press:

Press off the safety bars as described in this article > Unrack off the J-hooks > Clean the bar off the floor before pressing > Strict, heels together "military press" that I never see done correctly

The order may vary between people, but you know what I mean.

Summary

Try this “One Weird Trick” of setting the bar on the saftey pins of the power rack before you overhead press. Eliminate wasted energy unracking and walking backwards with a loaded barbell, and take advantage of the initial stretch reflex to make the first rep a lot easier.

Experience how well this works for you, and let me know what kind of GAINZ you make!

Over the course of this year (2014), I've set about 85 new personal records (PR's, also known as personal bests) in the high bar squat, low bar squat, front squat, bench press, deadlift and overhead press.

In fact, my last 30+ training sessions resulted in at least 1 PR per workout.

Now, this may be typical for someone in their novice stages of training who undergo the stress, recovery and adaptation stages, getting stronger from workout-to-workout and hitting a PR every time they touch the bar. However, I am no longer at this novice stage, yet I'm still able to set a PR nearly every training session with relatively heavy weights.

Many have wondered how I do this.

It's partially summed up in this picture:

Michael-Scott-Wayne-Gretzky-Quote

If I feel I can do it, I'll go for it.

I'll take the shot: if it's good, it's good. If I miss, then I'll try again another time.

There are people and programs out there that advocate sticking with the program and not deviating from the prescribed sets and reps. I think that this advice is suitable for a novice, or anyone who has a problem sticking with any sort of program and aren't making any progress because of their program hopping and general fuckingarounditis.

There's also an idea that's popular in some circles where people are discouraged from attempting a 1 rep max unless it's in a powerlifting meet. This is fine if you're a prolific competitor who has a meet every few months or so. But personally, I'm not this type of person and so far have done 1 meet per year, so I don't subscribe to this advice. If you don't have a competition anytime soon, or don't even compete, then what's the point of holding back?

Also, I train because I want to, and not because I was scouted and selected at a very young age so that I could train at a weightlifting facility in hopes to be a potential Gold metal Olympian in the future for the pride of communist China, so part of training (at least for me) is that it's supposed to be fun! Abstinence from 1 rep maxes every now and then would take away from the anticipation of lifting a weight I've never lifted before, the satisfaction conquering that weight, and seeing how all the hard work I've put in has paid off.

I'll let you in on my, for lack of a better term, “SECRET” on how I hit PR's all the time, and how you can use the same methods and incorporate them into your own training.

But first, let's cover some bases:

PR (AKA Personal Record, Personal Best or PB)

You probably know what a PR is, but for the sake of completion, a PR (AKA personal record AKA personal best AKA P.B) refers to a lifter's best weight lifted in an exercise and given repetition.

So, if a lifter deadlifts 500 lb for 1 rep, and can't possible do any more repetitions, then that's his or her 1 rep max (or, 1RM) PR for the deadlift.

If he or she deadlifts 505 lb for 1 repetition the following week, then the have set a new PR for the deadlift for 1 rep.

PR's aren't limited to 1 repetition. They can also be 2 reps, 3 reps...bear with me here...4 reps, 5 reps, ad infinitum. And they can be done for a variety of different exercises.

Here's how to organize your PR's:

The PR Table

The PR table is where you keep score of your best lifts, and, long story short, the trick to hitting PR's all the time is having a lot of potential personal records to choose from!

So, here's what you need to do:

Make a table:

periodic-table-table

Not this type of table.

On the top columns, write down the numbers 1RM, 2RM all the way to 10RM (or wherever you want to stop).

On the side, write down the names of the lifts, and any sort of variations/modifications of the lift.

Then, start filling out the table.

It should look something like this:

1RM 2RM 3RM 4RM 5RM 6RM 7RM 8RM 9RM 10RM
Squat
Bench
Deadlift
OHP

Here’s what my PR table looks like.

I've created a template in Google Drive that you can use and modify to fit your training.

This is a really simple way of organizing your personal records. The drawback of using a table like this is that you don’t know what your PR’s were in the past for a given lift and RM because you’ll be replacing the contents of the cell with new data. It would be nice to see a progression of 1 rep maxes over the course of the past year or so.

In the future, I might (or maybe someone else who’s better at spreadsheets than me) create some sort of spreadsheet/pivot table thingamajig that can make the data (personal records) more accessible and easier to visualize. Stay tuned.

How To Use The PR Table And Incorporate PR Attempts Into Your Current Training

Whenever you train, take a look at the table and see what PR you want to break that day. Sometimes, there will be empty cells, so doing that for your sessions would be an instant PR.

Once you hit the PR, you can drop back down in weight and continue with your work sets.

So, to simplify:

Warm Up => PR => Work Sets

Here's an example for the Squat:

1RM 2RM 3RM 4RM 5RM
Squat 405 395 375 365

There is an empty box under “3RM”. This is an opportunity to hit a PR that's never been done (or at least, recorded) before.

Looking at the 2RM @395 lb, and 4RM @375 lb, it would be logical to select a 3RM weight from a conservative 380 lb to a more risky 390 lb (assuming we're going by 5 lb jumps).

At 380 lb, because the load only 5 lb more than the 4RM, it's possible that the weight is light enough that you can get another rep in, breaking your 4RM @375 lb.

At 390 lb, it may be difficult to get 3 reps because it's so close to your 2RM weight at 395 lb, so the chances of missing the 3rd repetition would be greater compared to 380 lb.

At 385 lb, it may not be too hard and it may not be too easy, because it's smack dab in the middle.

Depending on how you feel that day and during your warm ups (we've all had good days and bad days, and sometimes, how you feel is a lie until you get under the bar with a weight you're forced to respect) will guide you to what the appropriate weight to choose for a 3RM.

Was the last warm up set slow and difficult? Then go for 380 lb to stay on the safe side.

Was the last warm up set explosive and easy? Then you could try for 385-390 lb.

Keep in mind that if you choose 380 lb for a 3RM, you'll have opportunities in the future to make progress with 385 lb and 390 lb. If you choose 390 lb for a 3RM, it may be best to move on to another repetition PR other than 3 before attempting a 3RM again.

PR! Now What?

Well, you could push your luck and try for another PR! This really depends on how you're feeling after you set the PR. Sometimes, it's possible to get another PR in the same rep at a higher weight. Other times, you could go for a PR at a different repetition, but at a lower weight.

Once you're done your PR attempts, drop down in weight and move onto your prescribed work sets or back off sets to get in some volume.

Generally, if I hit a PR in the 1-4 repetition max range, I'll problem do some back off sets afterwards.

If I hit something 5 reps or higher, I may end the workout right there simply because I don't want to overdo things and I want to be fresh (more or less) for the next day.

Here's a couple of example training sessions spelling it out for you, step-by-step:

Example 1: Let's say your plan for the day is to squat 5x5:

Warm Up

  • 45 x 10
  • 135 x 10
  • 225 x 5
  • 315 x 3
  • 365 x 1

PR Attempts

  • 405 x 3 (3RM)

Work Sets

  • 330 x 5x5

Example 2: Here's another example. In this case, let's say it's supposed to be a “light” day. Instead of going light on back squats, you're going to do front squats instead.

Warm Up

  • 45 x 10
  • 135 x 5
  • 225 x 3
  • 275 x 1

PR Attempts

  • 330 x 1 (1RM)
  • 315 x 2 (2RM)

Work Sets

  • 275 x 3x3

Failed On A PR Attempt! Now What?

StarTrekTripleFacePalm

It would be nice to never miss a rep, let alone a PR attempt, but sometimes, we fail.

If you felt you fell out of the groove and could have gotten that rep, and you have the energy left over to make that rep, you can try that PR again.

On the other hand, if you really had no chance of hitting the weight you just missed, then it’s time to go with an on-the-spot contingency plan.

Simply look at your PR table, and look for another personal record you think you have a high chance of hitting. There’s no shame in cherry picking PR’s to stay on the PR train.

Sometimes I’ll usually go into a training session with a main PR I want to set, and a “back up” PR if I happen to fail my attempt. Occasionally, I’ll hit both the main PR and back up PR attempts in one day.

What To Do If You Can't Hit PR's Anymore or...How To Avoid Stalling On PR's

Let's continue with the example from above. If you managed to get a 3RM with 380 lb, you may be able to hit 385 lb the next week, and then 390 lb the week after that. You might be able to add another 5 lb and squat 395 lb for 3 reps, which is weight listed for a 2RM. Sooner or later, there will be a point where you cannot simply add 5 lb per week and get a 3RM all the time.

So what do you do? There's a few solutions:

1. Cycle Rep Ranges for PR Attempts

This would be suitable for those who like to be super organized and want things planned out in advance.

Here's an example, assuming we're doing the big 3 lifts, and working in the 1-5 rep range:

Squat Bench Press Deadlift
Week 1 5RM 3RM 2RM
Week 2 3RM 2RM 1RM
Week 3 2RM 1RM 5RM
Week 4 1RM 5RM 3RM
Week 5 5RM 3RM 2RM
Week 6 3RM 2RM 1RM
Week 7 2RM 1RM 5RM
Week 8 1RM 5RM 3RM

Looking at the squat, the first week you'll attempt a 5RM. If you miss 1 rep, that may be a 4 rep max.

The week after that, increase the load and attempt a 3RM, and then a 2RM the following week.

Finally, during week 4, attempt a 1RM.

Week 5 you'll start the cycle all over again, going from breaking a 5RM to a 1RM.

This simple organization is easy to follow and is logical. If you've hit a 5RM, then you could probably hit a 3RM. If you've established a new 3RM, then a 2RM shouldn't be too far behind. If your 2RM is higher than before, then it's not a far stretch that your 1RM is higher as well.

It looks good on paper, and I'm sure there are some people who like this planned approach, but like Mike Tyson says:

The downfall with this structured cyclical PR organization is that sometimes, you'll miss. The following week will not go according to plan. You could make further plans and “If-Then” rules (for example, if miss, then attempt again next week).

Personally I prefer the following method instead:

2. Going For PRs Based On What You Think Or Feel You Can Hit That Day

This is more of a “play by ear” method of choosing what PR to attempt that day.

"You never know when it's Christmas in the gym again and when it's there you have to take it"

– Kirk Karwoski

Kirk-Karwoski-I-Wanna-Hold-It

He wants to hold 1000 lb after squatting it for a double.

Sometimes, and I wish all the time, it's Christmas in the gym (as Kirk Karwaski would say) and you're able to set some big PR's on core lifts from session to session.

It can be “one of THOSE days” and it's better to catch the wave and ride it hard and as long as you can instead of letting go of the opportunity, because you won't know when it'll come again.

Other times, you need to cherry pick your PR's and grab the low hanging fruit instead of trying to break PR's that's out of reach. But in the end, a PR is a PR, and if you lifted something heavier and/or for more repetitions than in the past, you're getting stronger.

Here's how to do it:

After (or before or in between) your warm up sets, look at your PR table for the exercise you're performing that day, and based on how you're feeling, how the bar is moving during warm ups, and your most recent PR for that lift, choose something that you think you can hit that day.

For example, my final warm up set on the bench press at 365 lb for 1 rep felt really difficult, so, looking at my PR table:

1RM 2RM 3RM 4RM 5RM
Bench Press 375 365 350 330

I probably wouldn’t have success going for a 1 rep max or 2 rep max. I can be conservative and try for a 3, 4 or 5 rep max.

The next bench press session, I'll repeat the same process and pick and choose based on how I'm feeling and what I think I have a high chance of lifting that particular day.

If I don't think I can hit a regular bench press PR in any repetition, I'll do a variation of the lift such as a paused bench press, reverse grip bench press, or paused reverse grip bench press.

This might seem unstructured, but after some trial and error and through experience, you'll develop a good sense of judgement for picking weight for a personal record.

3. Use Different Variations Of The Exercise

Another way to continue to set new PR's is to have few different variations of the main lifts to choose from, and assistance exercises that have a carry over effect to the squat, bench press and deadlift.

Which leads me to the next section…

Exercises And Rep Ranges To Measure

Let’s start off by taking a look at a couple of quotes by a couple of guys you probably haven’t heard about:

“That which is measured improves. That which is measured and reported improves exponentially.”

- Karl Pearson

And:

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."

- Thomas S. Monson

The selection of exercises you should keep track of are:

  1. Main lifts – if you're a powerlifter, then the big 3 (squat, bench press, deadlift) of course. If you're a weightlifter, snatch and clean & jerk would be required
  2. Variations of the main lifts
  3. Assistance exercises that support the main lifts

For example, let's take the back squat.

This “one” exercise can be expanded like this:

  1. Low bar squat
  2. High bar squat

Some will find that they'll be able to lift more with a low bar position on their back compared to a high bar squat.

Let's add some variations to each:

  1. Low bar squat
  2. Low bar squat – no belt
  3. Low bar squat – paused
  4. Low bar squat – no belt, paused
  5. High bar squat
  6. High bar squat – no belt
  7. High bar squat – paused
  8. high bar squat – no belt, paused

As you can see from above, a simple “back squat” can turn into 8 different variations of the exercise. If you are tracking up to 10 rep maxes, that would be a total of 80 different PR's you can attempt on any given day! If you want to add even MORE variations, you could track squat PR's with and without knee wraps, knee sleeves, include exercises such as pin squats, and all the possible combinations.

The reason why you want to add in harder variations like beltless squats and paused squats is that if you progress in these lifts (in other words, get stronger in these variations), it will carry over to your main lift, which in this case would be the squat. Also, these variations will force you to use a lower weight because of a mechanical disadvantage, using less supportive equipment, pausing etc., so even if you have to have a “light” day, you can still make that workout challenging and fun.

Imagine this scenario: for 12 weeks, you squatted with a belt and put on a hypothetical 40 lb to your beltless 1RM. What do you think will happen once you put on a belt and test your belted 1RM for the squat? Chances are, it will probably go up.

Examples of Assistance Exercises

By focusing on exercises that have a carry-over effect on the main lifts, you'll get stronger. The selection is based on, “does it benefit the squat, bench press and deadlift in some way”.

For the low bar squat, bar position can change the mechanics of the lift to make it harder:

  • High Bar
  • Front Squat

For the bench press:

  • Wide grip bench press
  • Close grip bench press
  • Reverse grip bench press
  • Partials (board presses, floor presses, pin presses etc)

Deadlift:

  • Snatch grip
  • Partials (rack/mat pulls)
  • Deficit
  • Stance width (sumo/conventional)

You're going to have to experiment to find out what works for you, but the key is to keep track of the PR's for each exercise, and break them on a regular basis!

There are other things you could measure (and PR at):

  • Volume (example: best squat at 5x5)
  • Density (
  • #of repetitions at a given weight (for example, maximum number of reps with 225 lb on the bench press)
  • Training and meet PR’s

I'm sure in the future when bar speed measuring devices become commonplace, you could measure that too.

I personally only keep track of repetition maxes, because it’s simple, easy to track and it’s over and done with after 1 set.

A Note On Rep Ranges

repetition-continuum

Now, for powerlifters or anyone else who's primary goal is to improve the 1 rep max, there is a carry over effect of repetition maxes. If you focus on trying to hit a 1RM PR all the time, you're going to come to a stall sooner rather than later.

By training in and setting PR's in multiple rep ranges, you'll get stronger and your 1RM is bound to go up.

If you put on +20 lb on your 5RM, 3RM, and 2RM then it will be reasonable to assume that your 1RM would be higher as well.

Personally, even though I mostly work in the 3-5 rep range for my work sets, I track 1-10 reps for my PR's because it's simple, and fit's into my training goals of getting stronger and a little more jacked (hypertrophy). Also, “10” is a nice number.

If you're a masochist and are a fan of the 20 rep “widow maker” squats, you can add that to your PR scoreboard. But that’s too much damn cardio for me.

Additionally, when choosing what number of repetitions to hit for a PR, I generally go with 1,2,3,5,8 and 10 rep maxes.

4,6,7, and 9 are there to make the table complete, and if I happen to miss a repetition (or do more than I wanted), I can still get a PR at an unintended rep.

To explain what I mean, let's say I'm going to a 10RM on the overhead press with 210 lb. If I miss a rep and only get 9, it's still a PR at a 9 rep max.

Also, if I feel strong and want to crank out another rep, the planned 3 rep max (or whatever it is) will turn into a 4 rep max.

“Reporting” Your PR's

Let’s go back to the quote, and take a look at the second sentence:

"When performance is measured, performance improves. When performance is measured and reported back, the rate of improvement accelerates."

- Thomas S. Monson

This is really an option thing to do, but I think there's direct and indirect value to announcing your newly set (and newly missed!) PR's to the public. The “reporting” part of the quote comes from the business world, where employees report some measurement or key performance indicator to their overseer, but, unless you're working with a coach, you probably won't be required to report your PR's to someone else.

What you could do is announce them somewhere online, to a group of like minded individuals. Or just blast it out to everyone on Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, or some other social media network and make them envious and fearful of your growing power levels. The feedback you get and the fact that you know someone else is looking over your training logs will motivate you to continually hit PR's.

By making progress, breaking PR's, you're inspiring others to get stronger themselves and hit their own PR's. The feedback you get will then motivate you to continue to work hard to obtain new PR's. It's like a feedback loop of getting stronger.

But that’s not all…

Rivalries

anime-rivalries

Another benefit of sharing your progress is that they'll be picked up by others who are on a similar journey to getting stronger.

It seems to work like this: your progress and PR's pushes them to get stronger, and in turn, their progress and PR's pushes you to get stronger. Each person want's to out lift the other, and this little friendly competition becomes a influence on your training.

I have a made a few Internet rivals since I started lifting, and it spawned some nice e-friendships. I'm ahead on the numbers on some lifters, neck and neck with others, and chasing some others who are a bit stronger than me, and others who are way stronger. In the end, I like to think that we all support each other in the quest to add more weight to the bar.

Summary

Putting it altogether in an easy-to-follow flowchart, it looks like this:

PR Flowchart

 

By keeping score of your personal records for multiple, meaningful exercises and rep ranges, and, attempting to break a personal record every workout:

  • you look forward to breaking a PR ever workout
  • get stronger because you're always adding weight to the bar

If you are keeping track of your PR's already using your brain, piece of paper or a notebook, upgrade by using this template in Google Drive.

I've made it available to the public for anyone to use, because I'm sure most people are too lazy to make one themselves.

Fill out the empty boxes with the numbers of your own PR's (you can also insert a link if you have it uploaded to Youtube). Once that’s done, look at it prior to every workout, and pick something you think you can hit. Then, set a PR!

Welcome aboard the PR train.

I've been asked this question more than once, in one way or another:

You're making crazy gainz...What's your programming like brah?!??

So, I'm going to write a blog post and tell whoever in the future to read this instead of typing the same thing over and over again.

OK.

For those who don't want to reverse engineer my training log that I painstakingly put together day after day for the past few years, my current training split generally looks like this:

  • Monday: Squat Variation (usually high bar squat)
  • Tuesday: Press Variation (usually bench press or reverse grip bench press)
  • Wednesday: Squat Variation (usually front squat)
  • Thursday: Press Variation (sometimes overhead press, but now it's either bench press or reverse grip)
  • Friday: Squat Variation (usually high bar squat)
  • Saturday: Press Variation (usually bench press or reverse grip bench press)
  • Sunday: Buffet (usually sushi buffet, but sometimes McDonalds, Vietnamese food, pizza, or something else)

As you probably noticed, I'm not naming each day to be based off of a certain body part (ie. Squat instead of “Leg Day”). The reason why I do this is because I typical only perform one lift per day!

Why I Only Perform 1 Exercise Per Day

hack-away-the-unessentialsNow, for the handful of you folks that have visited my blog more than once, you may remember that I used to do the Texas Method.

It's a solid, simple, effective program, but due to circumstances at work, I couldn't continue training multiple body parts per day. It simply took too long and I would be exhausted afterwards, especially during “Volume Day”.

So, I kinda-sorta stumbled across this One-Exercise-Per-Day thing out of necessity. I still wanted to make progress, but couldn't spend all day training. I had to "hack away at the unessential", and focus on the core, fundamental lifts.

I ended up training 5 days per week from Monday to Friday, hitting only 1 exercise per day. I found it to be time and energy efficient, and it also made my day predictable and consistent. The most important part is that I made progress.

What I Do During Each Training Session

As far as what I do each day, it generally follows this template:

  • Paused Reps => Heavy Single(s) => PR Attempt(s)  => Work Sets/Back Off Sets

My "warm up" consists of paused reps, working my way up to a heavy single that's paused, and without a belt.

Then, I'll slap on a belt and pause some more, add on more weight and then do a heavy single without a pause.

Sometimes, the “heavy single” will be replaced or followed by a PR attempt.

Usually, I'll do some work sets after (these days it’s 2-3 sets of 3-5 or something like that), but if I'm satisfied with my PR, or I'm lazy, I won't do any sets after.

And that's basically it.

The volume that I'm doing is considerably less than before, (used to perform 5 sets of 5, and sometimes 10 sets of 3) but I'm still making progress now with the lower amount of work and getting still stronger. I think this has to do with the frequency that I do sets at high intensity, and finding a balance between volume and my ability to recover from training.

Progress has been steady and I don't feel completely exhausted after a high volume workout.

Progression

The progression from week to week is pretty simple. It's usually one or more of the following:

  • Add more weight to the bar each week for the work sets
  • Add more sets each week until hit desired sets x reps
  • Add more weight and try to break a PR

As long as you're adding more weight to the bar, you're getting stronger. By the same token, as long as I'm adding more weight to the bar, I'm getting stronger.

What About Lats, Biceps & Other Accessory Work?

"Biceps are like ornaments on a Christmas tree." - Ed Coan

These days, I'll randomly bust out a set of chin ups or pull ups. Usually before I bench, I'll do some bicep curls with an empty bar to get my elbows warmed up and pain free.

My back, including my lats have been built primarily with the squat. In the future, I may add in more consistent back exercises in the form of pull ups, chin ups and deadlifts. Might even throw in some jump rope for cardio and calves, and neck training again. But then, it wouldn't be "One Exercise Per Day" really, and I would have to change the name of what I'm doing. Ahh..we'll see what happens.

The Dreaded Deadlift

This was done on July 2, 2014. The last time I did deadlifts was in APRIL.

This was done on July 2, 2014. The last time I did deadlifts was in APRIL.

I've personally found that if my squat increases, my deadlift will increase too. There's a lot of overlap between the two exercises, but I've found that I can squat with much more frequency and recovery a lot faster between squat workouts compared to deadlifting.

It may be the case that because I don't train the deadlift frequently, it takes me longer to recover from any sort of deadlift training.

As long as my squat is good, and as long as my thumbs can endure the pain and pressure from utilizing the hook grip, my deadlift will be OK.

However, if I want to become a better deadlifter, I'll have to deadlift more often. Here are some possible changes to incorporate more deadlifting:

1. Deadlifting Once A Week

  • Monday: Squat Variation
  • Tuesday: Bench Press
  • Wednesday: Deadlift
  • Thursday: Bench Press
  • Friday: Squat Variation
  • Saturday: Bench Press
  • Sunday: Buffet

This arrangement replaces a squat session with a deadlift session in the middle of the week (when I normally perform front squats).

I've experienced that the more frequent you do something, the better you get at it (within reason), and deadlifting once per week is probably better than nothing.

Squats and deadlifts aren't performed back to back, so my back will always get at least a day of rest before being summoned to lift something relatively heavy again.

Overhead presses can be done on Thursdays, but now I'm focused on pushing my regular grip bench press along with my reverse grip bench press, so I'll probably alternate between the two for every “push” session. Also, I want to see what the effects of not performing OHP on a regular basis are, and see if they're really crucial for “healthy shoulders”. I'll definitely add them into the mix in the future though, because I would like to press LMAO3PLATES overhead one day.

2. Deadlifting Twice A Week

  • Monday: Bench Press
  • Tuesday: Squat Variation
  • Wednesday: Deadlift
  • Thursday: Bench Press
  • Friday: Squat Variation
  • Saturday: Deadlift
  • Sunday: Buffet

This arrangement strikes a balance between all 3 core lifts. Squat, bench press and deadlift are done twice per week per exercise.

Squats and deadlifts are done back to back, followed by a day or 2 days “rest” after the deadlift. And by rest, I mean not performing any exercises that involves the squatting or deadlifting. Now, the reason why I set squats first, followed by deadlifts the next day is because I'm more comfortable lifting something heavy after a heavy squat workout rather than the other way around.

Because there are two bench press days during the week, I would likely perform a regular grip bench press on one day, and then reverse grip bench presses on the other.

Now, there are many ways to arrange a One Exercise Per Day, 6 Days A Week training split, but these are the two that I'm looking to branch towards.

Is Training 1 Exercise Per Day Right For Me?

Maybe. Consider this - There are many ways to skin a cat:

skin-a-cat

There are also many breeds of cats, along with many different types of big cats along with domestic cats. And I'm sure there's many different knives and tools used to skin animals.

But the point is, there are many ways to get stronger, and hitting 1 exercise per day and training 6 days a week is just one of them.

There are a lot of templates, training splits and programs out there, and I think different programs will be suitable to trainees depending on their goals and level of progress (for example, novice, intermediate, or advance lifter). Not only that, different personalities, preferences and lifestyles will be a factor in determining whether a program will be “right” for you or not.

For example, a program with a lot of accessory work relative to the big 3 movements might be to the liking of someone with a lot of time on their hands and likes to do a variety of exercises. This 1 exercise-per-day deal might be too boring for them, no matter how effect it may or may not be. On the other hand, someone with a minimalist approach to life, and/or someone who does not want to spend anymore time than necessary to make progress, hitting 1 core lift per day might be more suitable.

Personally, I like my days to be consistent and somewhat predictable. If I allot 1 hour per day to train, and do it 6 days per week, then I know that my day will be more or less the same 6 days per week. I used to love volume days while I was running the Texas Method, but this left me exhausted and non-functional for the rest of the afternoons and evenings. Hitting an exercise hard, followed by a few work sets or back off sets is enough to stimulate progress at this point of my training, and doesn't turn me into a zombie for the rest of the day.

Also, I want to add that I don't have any plans to compete anytime soon, but if I was preparing for a meet, I would probably change my programming up so I have the conditioning to perform all 3 lifts in the same day.

Are 6 Days Per Week Necessary?

Probably not. There were times when I skipped a training session and only trained 4-5 days per week. I'm sure someone can do 1 lift per day and train 3 times per week and still make gains. It might not be optimal (in other words, not enough frequency or overall volume), but they may not have the luxury to train any more days per week, or may not have the time to cram in multiple exercises per day, or both.

I would suspect that someone who is hitting the squat, bench press and deadlift once per week are probably using loads and volume that require 1 week of recovery.

One reason why I like training 6 days per week is because I don't like rest days. A lot of times I find myself being restless on "rest" days (ironic right?!) and itching to train. By training one lift each day, and training 6 days per week (with Sundays allotted for buffets), this allows me to avoid the frustration of not training when I want to.

Summary

Aint Nobody got time fo that2

This is a very simple, no BS, bare minimum (I've seen some “minimalist” training logs out there with more than 1 exercise...ain't nobody got time for that!), “Occam's Razor” approach to training that works for me. I'm sure there's other people out there (past and present) who have trained in a similar fashion that I do who have gotten brutally strong. If this sounds appealing to you, give it a shot for a few months and see what kind of gains (or losses!) you'll make.

My Take On Supplements

June 26, 2014 — 2 Comments

I'm not the type of guy who takes tons of bodybuilding supplements. At least not these days.

One of the reasons why is in the past (when I was in high school, in the 90's!), I would be a sucker to all the latest advertisements in Muscle & Fitness, Flex, Muscle Media 2000 and other popular muscle magazines. Those advertisements contained “information” about the latest pills or powders that promised faster gains.

The results from those ads were backed up by before-and-after pictures, statistics, charts, numerical results (which probably made up by marketers) and pictures of a then-famous bodybuilder (who probably made their gains from other “supplements” other than the ones they were promoting).

Before-and-after pictures can be done in a DAY, which I found out many years later:

Sometimes, there would be an “advertorial” beside the magazine ad. For those who don't know, an advertorial is basically an advertisement disguised as editorial content. Since the advertorials looked like an article in the magazine, it seemed like the content itself was legit and didn't have any underlying agenda (like priming you to buy supplements).

I was still young, gullible, lacking in critical thinking skills and impatient at the time and was seduced by clever advertisements. Also, back then, information wasn't as readily available today, so doing “research” on different health supplements or ingredients was a bit more difficult.

I was heavily influenced by these muscle magazines and their advertisements, and I spent more than I would care to admit on various pills and powders that produced no desirable results.

Here’s an approximate image of me after taking Mega Mass 2000 back in the 90’s:

gainz

This habit of reading muscle magazines, being exposed to advertisements, buying supplements, then working out created an inadvertent dependency to have some sort of supplement before embarking on any sort of training.

In the past, working out with weights was always on and off. I would usually workout, get some mediocre results, plateau, get bored/frustrated/injured, stop, lose gains and then the cycle would repeat. Whenever I got “on” again, I would have this need to find some protein powder, weight gainer, or something else to ensure that I'd make the most use of my time.

I was so sold on supplements (much like many people today) that I couldn't justify lifting weights without taking anything! I thought supplements would maximize my results from working out.

Yeah, I was dumb back then. Much like this guy:

supplements

Well, turns out that I spent probably thousands of dollars on bodybuilding supplements without making any meaningful progress. Again, keep in mind this was late 90's early 2000's.

“Natty” “Gainz”

It wasn't until about 10 years later, when I got serious about strength training and getting as strong as my genetics will allow me to, that I decided that I was going to actually TRAIN and make my gains naturally (“natty”, I think that's what kids call it these days). In other words, I was only going to eat food and train hard.

I deliberately resisted the temptation to take any sort of bodybuilding supplement in order to workout again. That was pretty easy, because at the time, I was living in Bangkok and nutritional supplements for bodybuilders aren't as popular as they are in Canada. Plus, at the GNC store located inside the mall Central Rama III, the protein powders was about 3 times the cost as it was back home, so my money was better spent at buffets and various restaurants.

Turns out that I proved to myself that you don't need bodybuilding supplements to make progress! (duh).

I ended up joining the 200/300/400/500 club (pounds lifted for 1RM for the OHP, bench press, squat and deadlift respectively) while training at Fitness First in Bangkok while only eating real food before making my way back home to Canada and experimenting with supplementation again.

Supplements I'm Taking Now

I'm pretty jaded about bodybuilding and nutritional supplements because of my history of wasting money on them. Combined with the fact that I made more progress with FOOD and structured training, and knowing that the supplement industry is pretty much unregulated and full of snake oil sales companies, I'm VERY skeptical of claims about any sort of supplements. I'm generally unwilling to try out the latest pills or powders (unless it’s free), and would rather spend money on buffets than supplements.

But I still take some things. I guess I'm not natty now.

The stuff I take now generally follow one or more of the following criteria:

  1. Backed by research
  2. Works for me (meaning, I notice desired results)
  3. Convenient
  4. Cheap

And they are:

  1. Creatine
  2. Whey Protein
  3. Melatonin
  4. Multi Vitamin
  5. Fish Oil
  6. Caffeine
  7. Ephedrine

And that's pretty much it.

Some Notes

Creatine is pretty heavily researched, works for me (based on “did my lifts go up since taking creatine?”), convenient and cheap.

Whey protein powder is cheap if you buy in bulk (by the way, it seems like the more advertising a brand of protein powder has, and the more cool-looking the design of the container label is, the crappier and more expensive that protein is), very convenient to ingest and store for long terms, and makes my coffee taste better.

Melatonin seems to help me sleep better (better sleep, better recovery, more gains imo), is cheap (and available over the counter in Canada), and is backed by a bunch of research.

Multivitamins and fish oils are stuff I take just in case I don't get enough. To be honest, I don't think it'll make much difference if I stop taking them. I probably go to a sushi buffet often enough that I don't need fish oil. But I take it...just in case.

Caffeine and ephedrine aren't really nutritional supplements, but they're stimulants to keep me alert. I sometimes stack it with protein and creatine and drink it during my workout so I don't feel so tired after my training session.

The “backed by research” part is made convenient in this day and age partially by the Internet. I say partially because I think most of the stuff on the Internet is garbage, with forum posts from anonymous keyboard warriors and such. By the way, TV doctors aren’t reliable as a source of information, as shown by this video:

The thing is, I don't want to spend my time toiling through pages of research that I don't understand to try to figure out if something is backed by SCIENCE. And I don't know about you, but I am not a scientist, and I’m not trained to properly read scientific studies. I’m sure most of those who reference PubMed on internet forums aren’t either.

The whole process seems pretty damn tedious if you ask me, and I'd rather be lifting weights and crushing PR's than reading stuff I don't fully understand!

If I was a billionaire, I'd hire a bunch of geniuses to do the research for me, and tell me what’s good and what’s not so good in a way that I can comprehend easily. Good thing I don't have to.

Where I Do My Research (Or, Where I Research What Other Researchers Have Researched)

Thankfully, the website Examine.com that has a bunch of eggheads qualified experts (who probably spent a lot of money on their education and have more letters after their names than I do) who did the research, and summarizes their findings in an easy to read (and understand) format. It's like a Wikipedia for supplements.

Typically, any information on supplements would lead to some sort of sale or recommendation of a product that contains that particular ingredient(s). For example, if you take a look at articles pertaining to creatine on BodyBuilding.com, you'll find various links within the article that goes to a page that sells creatine supplements. That's how they make money.

To be honest, I initially found it weird that they don't shill different supplement products because they would probably make a tiny bit more money via affiliate sales. But when you think about it, it makes sense because they position themselves as an “independent organization that presents un-biased research on supplements and nutrition”.

They only provide information: via their website, “Supplement Goal Reference Guide” and their “Stacks Guide”.

The website itself well-organized, browseable and searchable based on the ingredient.

The Supplement Goal Reference Guide is a book with details on various supplements describing what works and what doesn't based on peer-reviewed scientific studies.

The Supplement Stacks Guides covers what combination of supplements work (and don't work) for certain goals, such as Testosterone Enhancement, Fat Loss Muscle Gain & Exercise Performance etc.

I wish they did some sort of laboratory testing of a variety of products to determine if what's on the label is actually what's in the container, and not just some filler ingredient(s).

Summary

I remember reading or hearing somewhere that there's an inverse correlation with the amount of supplements a person takes, and how strong/aesthetic/muscular etc. they are.

willywonka[10]

I think that's partially true. I observed this phenomenon in real life at commercial gyms, and have experienced this myself.

In my opinion, I think that people (novices, specifically) should train and not take any bodybuilding supplements until they made some decent gains on just food and hard work while following some sort of structured program. This will teach them to focus on training, food, and recovery which will contribute to the bulk of their gains. Only once they hit some decent progress, then experiment with supplements to see if whatever they're taking will actually work for them. But even then, the focus should really be on the PHUNG-dementals: training, food, and recovery (aka sleeping).

Again, this is my biased opinion based on my history of being overly reliant and spending a lot of money on supplements before realizing that most gains are a result of training, food and recovery.

But if you're going to take anything, it's best to do your research first and take a look at an unbiased, reputable source like Examine.com to find out what works and what doesn't before opening up your wallet.

Over the past few days I've combined my home gym with my home office.

Here's what it looked like before:

What a mess!

I had to move the boxes, luggage, and other stuff out of my home gym area. I also had to disassemble the desk in the basement and put it in the garage, and move my heavier, more aesthetic desk from my "office" room (which will now become a baby room) from the 2nd floor to the basement.

I'm not good at power cleans, regular cleans, or cleaning in general, so this took a while.

And here's what my home gym looks like after:

Now, time to train.