Here’s the deal: if you fail to rotate through a number of different exercise variations, and choose, instead, to continually hammer-away at a few specific exercises — the bench, squat and deadlift are, to a great detriment, rarely rotated out of a “serious” trainee’s program — you will eventually stagnate, regress and/or tumble into an overtrained state, both physically and psychologically.  Why can I go heavy and hard with very few down periods?  First, I continually rotate exercises and I continually juggle methods, volume and intensity.  This keeps me mentally, physically, and neurologically fresh, and able to push each and every rep to attain maximum power output relative to the exercise load I’m handling.  At 60% of 1RM, yes, the bar speed is actually blazing fast.  At 98% 1RM?  The bar speed is noticeably slower to be sure, however, the intent to move the bar as fast as possible is present — it’s a mental and neurological habit that must be incorporated and nurtured.

Some trainee’s will claim that their “big three” lifts will suffer if they don’t pound away at these lifts routinely.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  And try telling that to Louie Simmons, and the rest of the Westside gang.  Ask them how often they actually perform a competition squat, deadlift or bench.  The short answer is rarely, and/or only at an actual competition.  They do, however, rotate through a plethora of similar exercises, performing max-effort lifts weekly in both the pressing motion and squat/pulling motion.  All this max-effort, balls-to-the-wall training results in a severely overtrained athlete, right?  Again, ask Louie how overtrained his athletes are, and how stymied each athlete’s progress is.  And before you think this applies only to powerlifters, think again — this is simply the application that the science has been applied to.  The science, is fact, is relevant across any discipline; all that must be tweaked are the discipline-specific applications.

One thing, though: don’t confuse strength and power development with the “10,000 hour” principle of skill acquisition; fine motor skills and “reflex”, or “do without doing” is an entirely different animal.

The Last Couple of Days Worth of Action:

Thursday evening: 40-minutes worth of intermittent-intensity fixie romping;  20-minutes on, break for library cruising (about 15 minutes), then 20-minutes on.

Friday morning iron works:

elevated feet ballistic push-ups: bodyweight x 5, each round.  Rebound fashion (i.e., “hot floor”, minimize hand-to-ground contact time).  Used as a set-up, or “prime”, for the press.

standing front press (minimal hip kick): 115 x 5; 135 x 4; 155 x 4; 175 x 2; 185 x 2; 190 x miss; 185 x 1, 1

pull-up bar muscle-up: bodyweight x 3, each round

8 total rounds of that, then a superset of:

dimel deadlifts: 135 x 20, 20, 20
flat DB triceps extensions (palms facing one another): 45 x 8, 8, 8

Very little rest time between movements, even with the heavy presses.  Total workout time was approximately 45 minutes.  I perform Dimel DL’s as a release-and-catch on the eccentric portion of the movement.  Not much load required in this movement; in fact, too much load will destroy the speed of the movement.  Find the sweet spot here between enough load and the maintenance of speed.


New Book in the Rotation

This one is a re-read of something I devoured many years ago, something that nudged me on to my own particular, spiritual path.  I’m curious to see how I relate to it now: The Way of the Peaceful Warrior, by Dan Millman.

What’s for Dinner?
Check this free-range egg scramble out: mushrooms, spinach, cherry tomatoes, raw, grass-fed cheese, all scrambled-up in a generous amount of bacon fat.  Yum-o!

12 COMMENTS

  1. I am a big fan of The Way of the Peaceful Warrior too. There’s a movie out as well, but the book is better. I’m not a big proponent of his vegetarianism though, and from the looks of that awesome dinner, neither are you!

    As far as cycling goes, I am with you. I exercise everyday and cycle exercises and intensity accordingly to avoid burnout. I love being able to stay active everyday and minimize burnout so these principles resonate strongly with me.

    • Heh, I’ve been called many things — a vegetarian, though, has never been one of them 🙂

      By the way, big congrats for making the Philippine National Rugby Team dude. Represent!

    • With all due respect to Ben Franklin, I do believe he got the “all things in moderation” thing wrong. No, Ben! It’s intensity in all things — just not the same thing repeatedly 🙂

  2. Very nice post.

    Is “overuse” for want of a better word also applicable here? In that injuries may arise because of repetition of movements rather than burnout or over training?

    • Most definitely. Classic example: a baseball pitcher’s elbow and rotator cuff. One must keep a careful eye on this when honing sport-specific technique. Remember that volume and intensity must be manipulated so as to be inversely proportional; that 10k-hours must be dosed and spaced appropriately.

  3. Keith,

    I disagree with the message here. I understand that you hint at the 10,000 hour rule — i.e., the notion that you need to put in the time to master the lifts first before you get to the level of seeing benefits from cycling exercises — but this is not explicitly stating something that I feel is essential to make clear: one needs to become an advanced lifter to make use of the techniques to which you are hinting. Most folks are better off using linear progression with proper form than alternating lifts/ exercises in the manners. The folks at Westside are advanced lifters who have mastered the squat, bench, etc. but I imagine most people are not.

    Again, in theory I agree with cycling exercises, but far too often athletes receive this advice prior to when they have maxed out simpler forms of progress.

    • You’re correct; this post assumes a base level of strength and proficiency. The problem is that many trainees remain stuck like low energy electrons circling the “linear progression” nucleus, and many S&C coaches perpetuate this fear of advancing beyond linear progression because (1) they don’t truly understand Conjugate Systems, and (2) they fear becoming irrelevant. Let’s face it, linear progression and distinct micro cycles are pretty damn easy to prescribe — Conjugate programming? Not so much. Not pointing fingers, it’s just human nature to poke holes in that which is not understood, and which very well may threaten one’s livelihood. The same can seen in mainstream “dietitians”, and their non-acceptance of the Paleo lifestyle. Much easier to lampoon than to directly confront the facts. In any event, yes, the progression beyond linear programming is another instance where n=1 methodology is a must. Is the trainee ready to progress beyond a 5 x 5, linear progression program? Some trainees may be ready to go after 6 months — others may never be ready to progress.

      • I agree in so far as, yes, one needs to assess one’s progress continually and be ready to embrace a more sophisticated workout palette as one sees fit. However, I would be weary of drawing a parallel between SAD dietary recommendations and linear progression exercise programming. This is because I think that under many circumstances linear progression in an exercise program is perfectly acceptable. However, (as I know you will agree) under no circumstances is a SAD dietary program acceptable.

        My point is, most folks in the gym, track, what have you, are dialing it in with bicep curls (in the squat rack, argh), smith machine squats and bench, and hours on the elliptical. Within this context, linear programming is miles ahead of the game. Generally speaking, it is my impression that folks tap out linear progression early often due to dietary shortcoming (both lack of nutrients and lack of calories).

        My last point would be that, with proper rest and nutrition, one could probably sustain most any training regimen for long periods of time (assuming that said regimen fits within the context of one’s training goals).

        Unrelated: do you keep the upper body tight on dimels so as to not mimic the pull of a clean?

        • Yes, a tight upper body; I want the lion’s share of the catch force, and resultant rebound, to come from the glutes and hams. The lower back should not be worked any more than is necessary to provide for stabilization.

          …Generally speaking, it is my impression that folks tap out linear progression early often due to dietary shortcoming (both lack of nutrients and lack of calories)…
          …or poor exercise technique, imho.

          “…This is because I think that under many circumstances linear progression in an exercise program is perfectly acceptable. However, (as I know you will agree) under no circumstances is a SAD dietary program acceptable…”

          Agreed. My point was more towards a theoretical acceptance vs an “in practice” comparison, if that makes sense.

  4. I don’t see many ALIVE and healthy super body builders in their 40s and beyond. The ones that talk about getting huge and consuming ridiculous amounts of empty calories seems to suffer the most. Why is is that you don’t see super huge guys in their 40s and beyond in the gyms?: Generally because they have health complications: heart attack, stroke, or some other dietary related ailment that either kills them or permanently debilitates their physical activity. So eating eggs and bacon, well, makes you feel good in your real or perceived circle of gym guys who are trying everything to “get big.” However, odds are we won’t be hearing from you much after 40.

    All of these caloric drinks, protein shakes, vegetable-sparse diets are coming back to haunt your health in later years, and in many cases in early years especially if you use steriods. Stay super strong and super lean and you will be around to enjoy the fruits of your body (women, money, pleasure, adventure, happiness, real achievement) for decades and decades to come.

    Also…don’t over train. Rest and diet are far more important that cranking in that extra workout if you have been training for a number of years properly. If you have to train extra just add some fun reps but continually maxing out the body, even if you cycle in “similar” exercises, will generally lead to submaximal gains over time.

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