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fter my article “Lock and Load” appeared in the August ’04 IRON MAN, I received a number of letters from readers. They all contained the same message—that I hadn’t elaborated enough on the subject of expanding the workload. One man coached youngsters and wanted to know how to build a solid base from the very first workout. Another was an experienced Olympic weightlifter who was preparing for the Masters Nationals. He was interested in learning how to increase his workload and how he could improve his numbers on the two contested lifts, the snatch and clean and jerk. I wrote to them and told them it was all Uncle Buddy’s fault. He didn’t let me put in my two cents’ worth when he was giving his lecture on workload at the gym. Here’s what I’d have said, if I’d had the chance, about widening the base and elevating the peak of your strength pyramid. I use the symbol of a pyramid to help explain the process of strength development—a pyramid in which the two sides and base are of equal length. Simply put, in order to raise the top of the pyramid, you must expand the base. You accomplish that by increasing the total amount of work you do in a given week and month and also by doing quality work. So gaining strength takes time and lots of effort. There are no shortcuts, not in the long run. Sure, using steroids will bring faster gains, but only for a limited time. Eventually, even those using the juice have to put in the extra work in order to move to a higher level of strength. I have a brief comment on quick fixes for those who plan to continue lifting into their 40s, 50s and beyond. While that bottle of Winstrol will elevate the numbers on all of your lifts, once you stop taking the drug, most likely because of the $140 price tag, those top-end numbers will start falling at an alarming rate. I watched a young athlete move his bench from 295 to 365 in a matter of months. He made no secret of the fact that he was on steroids. When he ran out, his bench slipped back to less than 300 in three weeks. To say that was devastating to his ego would be an understatement. It was so devastating, he quit coming to the gym. All he got out of the experience was a thinner wallet and most likely some sore joints.
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Well. It would take longer. I urge you to write down everything that might have an influence on your training: the weather. they invariably complain about the meager workout. Once you acquired it. Even if you’ve handled some big weights in the past. I keep the reps at five to six on the power clean so the athletes’ form isn’t adversely affected. In my fantasy world having strength would be like having money in the bank. plus any other factors such as injuries or unusual worries. and at the third use five. Most people aren’t able to recall what they did at their workouts a week ago. though not for long. If they’ve used a strength program in the past. Trust me. In addition to limiting the number of sets and reps at the initial session. the amount of rest you got the night before. To be successful in the quest for greater strength. If athletes would put forth the necessary effort in the gym and pay strict attention to nutrition and rest. At the second session they’re grateful that I didn’t have them do more. In addition. particularly your liver and kidneys. At the second workout move to four sets. not completely from scratch: Experience counts. Whether you’re rehabbing from surgery or trying to qualify for a major weightlifting contest. The act of writing down what you did in the gym each day is helpful in itself. During the second week do all the lifts for five sets of five. bodyweight. It enables you to review how you performed and then look forward to the numbers you want to hit at the next session. your diet. The body loses strength at a surprisingly fast rate. but so what? Most athletes don’t believe that’s possible. life isn’t that simple. So it doesn’t matter if you’re embarking on your first strength program or starting back after an injury or layoff. Use a journal to keep track of your workload. Weight selection for seasoned strength athletes is a tad harder. adding more work and running up the top-end weights on the final sets. but it isn’t. regardless of whether you trained. not the power 88 DECEMBER 2004 \ www. you need to proceed with common sense sprinkled with a dose of caution. Whenever I start athletes on a strength program—or restart them after an extended layoff—I restrict the amount of work at the first session to three sets of three core lifts. For beginners that’s easy. When in doubt. They’d forgotten how sore they could get. they could reach the same level of strength they get with drugs—with no risk to their health. In the event that I see him struggling with 225. Quick gains don’t give your joints sufficient time to adapt to the new stress. there’s no way for you to know for certain that you’re doing more than you did previously. that’s as high as he goes. I’ve always thought it as totally unfair that you can train diligently for six consecutive months. but I run the reps up to 10 on the other two lifts. From there it’s just a matter of moving forward in a systematic fashion. at any level. Everyone starts out in that fash- ion. To someone wanting to get stronger that may sound contradictory. supplements.com Model: Eric Domer . They also have muscle memory. I encourage all of my serious strength athletes to keep a workout book. affects your internal organs. Some joints. Seasoned lifters have mastered the technique on the selected exercises and have handled the numbers on the way up to their best lifts. you must keep accurate records.ironmanmagazine. I keep the weights light. do less rather than more at that first workout. biorhythms. the workout logs you keep while you’re just getting started can be most helpful when you climb to a higher strength stratum. Anxiety has a direct bearing on athletic performance. Long-term anabolic use can cause damage that will have traumatic health consequences somewhere down the line. I merely observe them and determine how much is enough. acquire an impressive degree of strength fitness and then lay off for a month and be forced to begin again from scratch. I know it is because I’ve seen it happen (see “A Natural Alternative” on page 91). Over the years I’ve noticed that those who took my advice and kept a detailed record of their workouts made greater improvements than those who didn’t. I use the big three: the bench press. are rather delicate and break down under undue strain. That makes you much better prepared. The procedure for getting stronger is really the same for everyone. Typically. any drug. then slowly increases the workload and improves your topend numbers. squat and power clean. Sadly. like the elbows and shoulders. 225 and 275. understand how their body responds to certain movements and have a confidence that gives them a huge advantage over someone who’s starting a strength program for the first time. Or what supplements you were taking. A football player who tested out with a 400-pound squat at the end of the off-season program in the spring will use 135.Only the Strong Shall Survive One of the problems of using any form of anabolic steroid to enhance strength is that the gains come too quickly. it would be there whenever you needed it. even something as innocent as aspirin. you have to approach the situation as a rank beginner. not only for your immediate needs but also for future reference. it starts with a routine that you can recover from. Otherwise. and by Friday you should be ready to add back-off sets on the squat and bench. so it’s impossible to remember the numbers from a month ago. You can look back and recall the auxiliary exercises you used when you achieved that 350 bench or the sequence of lifts that you were doing during the time you made your greatest progress. These records are valuable.
and the tendons and ligaments are the sources of strength. and do them for high reps. It was what they now call sport-specific training. and many powerlifters follow that concept as well. Vary the sets and reps and use the heavy. exercises per session. where progress comes to a halt. incline presses. incline dumbbell presses. you haven’t pushed the peak of the pyramid any higher. you have to include lower reps with heavier weights in your program. it’s not absolutely necessary.ironmanmagazine. and the overwork will most likely have an adverse effect on your next session. not the five sets of five on the core exercises. but not in the early going. I should mention that while I build lots of variety into my athletes’ programs. eight. For example. doing a double session a couple of times a week really bumps up the overall tonnage. Stay with squats for all three workouts. if your situation permits it. doubling your workload. Bill March. The solution—add another day. In order to do that. do them only on Mondays and introduce good mornings on Wednesdays and high pulls or shrugs on Fridays. since lifting was part of our jobs. then come back at four for a longer workout.Only the Strong Shall Survive clean. dips and overhead presses will fill the bill. Even though it’s short and you keep the weights relatively light. Over time you add three more sets of five. 15s or 20s for two sets. Merely adding to the work you do in a week or a month is. You rotate the sug- 90 DECEMBER 2004 \ www. Let’s say you’ve been doing 225 for three sets of five on the bench. At some point you might find that you’re staying at the gym too long. That way you max out on a primary lift every month. In the third week start including auxiliary exercises for the smaller groups as well as for any bodypart that needs extra work. A short workout is the perfect opportunity to get in those exercises that you can’t find time for in your regular workouts. The problem is. You could do extra work sets or add a second exercise for a certain bodypart. As you become more advanced. It can be a very light day. two or one. You need triples. There’s plenty to choose from: Dumbbell presses. you aren’t getting much productivity out of those final exercises. Of course. five. in itself. Homer Brannun and others followed that regimen with much success. If you’re stretching that to two hours or more. leg curls. you Follow a very heavy can include week with a less more than two demanding one. snatch and clean and jerk—and squats. Instead of doing power cleans three times a week. There are many ways to accomplish that. overhead presses and weighted dips. doubles and singles because they involve the attachments much more than performing higher reps does. light and medium system. I use four core exercises for upper body: bench presses. The sequence I like for nearly every lift is. Follow up power cleans with high pulls and overhead presses with push presses or jerks. bench presses. Do no more than two per workout. I’ve had several athletes who greatly improved their workload and max singles by doing inclines and weighted dips at the same session. A large number of lifters at the York Barbell Club only did the three Olympic lifts— the press. We would do a 45minute session at noon. At the end of the month you’ll be ready to begin building more variety into your program. In the formative stages it’s often the extra effort spent on upper arms and chest that pushes lifters into overtraining. Great athletes such as Bob Bednarski. That’s when you need to make some changes to further increase your workload and at the same time keep punching your top-end numbers up. inclines. I realize that not everyone is in such an advantageous position. where you’re in and out in a half hour to 40 minutes. triceps pushdowns. leg adductor work and machine calf raises. lat pulldowns. it will greatly in- crease your weekly workload. An hour and a half will be plenty. They never did any auxiliary movements whatsoever. If you have weights at home. Everyone progresses at his or her own rate. We were able to do that when I worked at York Barbell. You can make gains without doing that. For example. I don’t recommend doing back-off sets on any back exercise at any phase of the program. dips. straight-arm pullovers. For your upper body. however. three. leg extensions. you can do a short session with dumbbells or light weights on a barbell on the days when you don’t go to the gym. not enough to help you set a personal record on a particular lift. various curls.com Model: Chris Cook . everyone eventually arrives at a plateau. An effective method of expanding the workload systematically is to change the reps each time you do an exercise.
He contacted me. To make a long story short. A surprise drug test caught him off guard. light. Not having a lot of options—all his lifts had fallen drastically after he quit using—he agreed to give my program a try. amino acid tablets and protein powder for milkshakes. eat and look over his workout book. was able to afford the huge quantities of supplements he ingested daily and had the luxury of time to train. In other words. I adopted that percentage from the way long-distance runners train. bring up a weak lift. you’ll find yourself with a weekly workload of 110. The supplements he used were the basics: B-complex vitamins. He would be taking megadoses of everything. although not nearly as much as he’d been spending on several types of steroids. A and D. so you’ll be able to recover better.000 pounds a week.Only the Strong Shall Survive gested reps sequence for the various lifts so that you do a max single or double on one of them each week. you need to double 290 or triple 280 if you want to make that magical 300 single. Once a week I drove over to where he trained and checked out his form. Keep in mind that he was already an advanced lifter when he embarked on this program. Keep accurate. around 75. medium sequence of weeks each month. If you increase your workload by the prescribed percentage for the next four months. It so happened that I was living only an hour away from him when all this happened. wanting to know if I could help him get back to his former strength level without taking illegal substances. he remained in the top half dozen in his weight class for two years before a knee injury put him out of the sport. It’s not at all uncommon for athletes to double their workloads and increase the top-end numbers on their primary lifts by 50 percent in the first six weeks of training. gradually extend the base of your strength pyramid. a multimineral tablet. IM www. sometimes twice a day. in the event that it suddenly made the blacklist. even avoiding creatine. A simple way to achieve that is with exercise selection. not because of the amount of work they’re doing in the weight room but. In no time at all you’ll have the tallest pyramid in the gym— maybe the entire state. less heavy week. Knowing that he had the resources to purchase the supplements he’d need and had ample time in which to train. Runners know that they must run X miles a week in order to be competitive in a race. —B. Naturally.ironmanmagazine. Some trainees find they do even better if they include only one really heavy week in a month. as it gives you a goal to shoot for every week. Part of the deal was that he had to keep accurate records of every workout. calculate his daily and weekly workloads. add some new exercises or alter the quantity of some supplement. medium. and jack up the peak. vitamins E.S.000 pounds. He was bumped from the team and given a two-year suspension. the suspension would be for life. and he tested positive for anabolic steroids. the rate of progress slows down. although it might take six months or longer. Then we’d go to his apartment. That’s highly motivational. They also understand that if they try to add mileage faster than that. Distance is to the runner what workload is to the lifter. Should he be caught using again. you should increase your workload by no more than 10 percent the following month. The following. Take the above example. but the lower total poundage will be less stressful. he equaled his best snatch and bettered his clean and jerk by five pounds. That will bump all the numbers up a notch. A method I’ve found useful for nudging the workload ever higher without getting stale is to follow a very heavy week with a less demanding one. I stayed away from anything exotic. we decided on any adjustments to increase workload. because of a lack of rest and/or poor nutrition. but it’s a good rule of thumb. I told him that I believed he could do it. do deadlifts instead of power cleans and high pulls. which brings me to the obvious question: What’s the most you can expand your weekly workload without running the risk of becoming overtrained? Once you’ve reached a fairly high level. During the really heavy week. and push presses or jerks instead of overhead presses. note the supplements he took and the amounts and keep track of other factors such as rest and bodyweight. He’s the author of The Strongest Shall Survive and Defying Gravity. and I’ve had a few advanced athletes who benefited from following a heavy. While 10 percent a month may not sound like much of an increase. I can’t emphasize too much the importance of getting the rest you need and supplying your body with all the necessary nutrients when you’re attempting to expand your workload and increase your topend numbers. Some people can do better than that. they’ll become overtrained. Keep in mind that you must move your triple to within roughly 20 pounds of your target single and your double to within 10 pounds before you have a good chance of succeeding with it. it definitely is.000 pounds a week.com \ DECEMBER 2004 91 . and it would cost him a bundle. It’s absolutely critical for success. a magnesium-andcalcium combo. Editor’s note: Bill Starr was a strength and conditioning coach at Johns Hopkins University from 1989 to 2000. Together. almost straightlegged deadlifts in place of good A Natural Alternative An athlete whom I got started in Olympic weightlifting became good enough to earn a spot on an international team. won’t be easier because you’ll still push to limit. After he was reinstated. rather. mornings. C. Yet it proves once again that the natural route can be successful—with the only side effect being a better state of health. In many instances athletes becomes overtrained. seven months after he stopped using steroids. in which you’re handling 75. detailed records.