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Old 10-15-2011, 11:06 AM   #1
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Default Assistance work

I am wondering if I should cut some assistance work as I enter PR range. I am working the Madcow 5x5 and add chins or pulls, weighted dips or push ups, farmer's walks, barbell curls (only on one day) and tried to add some shrugs and side raises to help shoulders on top of ab work.
I feel a bit wrecked after it all.

Question is: Am I being a lazy bastard or is the level of assistance work I am doing wholly unnecessary on Madcow? The goal is to get stronger. I usually do 3-4 assistance exercises.
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Old 10-15-2011, 11:45 AM   #2
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The original madcow templates already cover assistance work pretty well. If you choose do use something different, I'd keep it to no more than 1-2 lifts which don't have to be easy but are very do-able and not "pretty hard" and above in regards to effort. I suggest using different movements each day as well as this will keep total volume a bit lower and make it easier to recover from and place these movements on days that don't have to much over lap or will possible take away from performance on the following training session: Day 1 - farmers, Day 2 - chins, Day 3 - dips.

As for PR's: If you plan on attempting a TRUE max (1rm, 3rm, 5rm, etc) its fine to taper off the assistance and total training volume in the 2-3 sessions before the attempt. If however you'll be attempting a training PR, keep things consistent and don't change a thing.

Also keep in mind there is a clear distinction between a true max and a training max pr. The true max is nothing more than a test; you can't constant do it and progress. A training pr is simply a PR you hit in training with everything else held consistent (you don't remove lifts, reduce volume, etc). Or in other words, the training PR is going from 5x315 on the squat to 5x320 on the squat, and 320 happens to be the heaviest weight you have happened to moved to date in regular training conditions.

Last edited by Pull14; 10-15-2011 at 11:48 AM.
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Old 10-15-2011, 11:52 AM   #3
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Essentially what you're asking about is how to manage the stress/recovery relationship. Depending on the potential of the lifter this problem can come very early on, or very late on in their training. Bill Starr made this comment in his Defying Gravity book about Bob Bernardski; that he basically used the same routine with little or no variation right up to where he won major competitions, you could say something similar about Reg Park for bodybuilding. Others like Starr would have to make some allowances for the fact that their bodies require variation.

So anyway, a few things you could do:

1) Begin to implement deloads. A week (or less) of lifting at 50%. A good guideline is 2 heavy weeks followed by 1 week light. I like this method because it doesn't interfere with the overall structure of your current plan, basically you just pick up where you left off.

Drawbacks: You need to be training extremely hard for this to work. If you're loafing and feeling tired for other reasons, the week off will weaken you.

2) Vary your intensity across the week: I know Madcow has some variation built in, but within the basic framework you could vary reps/sets and even timed rest periods.

Drawbacks: Not much. The drawback is really only mental, the general feeling is that you *should* stick to a plan, so mentally this *might* seem to be counter-intuitive. However the goal is progress not to see how long you can stick to one routine. This does require some guidance though.

3) Abbreviate the routine. This is a great (temporary) choice to eek out the last few pounds in a training routine. Drop the accessory work and pour all of your energy into the big lifts, this may allow you another few weeks, even couple months of progression.

Drawbacks: Not a long term solution. Volume is still required *most* of the time.

That's my take, any help on specifics let us know.
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Old 10-15-2011, 12:20 PM   #4
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Thanks lads. The thing is, the solution seems obvious to me because the big lifts themselves don't kill me (yet). The assistance is murder though. My worry is that easing off that is a lazy option. Going balls out on the main lifts is not a problem. I may try and abbreviate it and see how things go. I want a shedload of PRs (obviously) and the extra pressure I am putting on myself may be too much without me realizing.
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Old 10-15-2011, 04:08 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kuytrider View Post
Thanks lads. The thing is, the solution seems obvious to me because the big lifts themselves don't kill me (yet). The assistance is murder though. My worry is that easing off that is a lazy option. Going balls out on the main lifts is not a problem. I may try and abbreviate it and see how things go. I want a shedload of PRs (obviously) and the extra pressure I am putting on myself may be too much without me realizing.
Always keep in mind that assistance work is there to supplement the bigger lifts, not retract from them. If you find the assistance work your doing is taking away from progression on the main lifts, take a few steps back with the assistance; drop some weight, fewer sets/reps, or remove an assistance lift or two.

With a program like Madcow, the focus should be on the mainlifts. Everything that comes after those should be optional and limited because the bulk of the work necessary for progression comes from those 3 main lifts. I find that 3-4 additional assistance lifts may be a bit much given the program your using, BUT if your main lifts are continuing to progress, assistance work is not a problem yet. If you begin missing lifts, the first thing you'll want to look at is reducing some of the assistance.

As for assistance work in general (not just for madcow but any programming), these assistance lifts can feel very hard but if chosen correctly, will have a smaller impact on your ability to recover by the next training session. For example, if front squats are used as an assistance to your back squat, the front will feel MUCH harder with significantly less weight than the back squat. Despite difficulty it does less "damage" to the body because the load itself was not as great. The problem however is that assistance work is easy to over do and as a result can easily take away from the mainlifts in following sessions --- which lead back to the first paragraph of this post, supplement don't retract.
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:10 AM   #6
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One thing I will add regarding assistance has to do with rotation. I have always been somewhat of a minimalist in training, and use only a few movements per session. If I have competing movements that I like to use, I rotate them in an A/B manner.

Not sure if you have movements like this in your program but I thought I would mention it.
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Old 10-16-2011, 09:32 AM   #7
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You didnt mention what your strength levels are doing. If they're stead on the rise, suck it up and keep at it.
If they are suffering, back off on the assistance work til it picks back up. I've been going heavy 4 days a week including two heavy bench sessions and feel "a bit wrecked" as you put it, a good bit of the time, but progress has been amazing... when i feel too much cumulative damage, like right now where my wrist are hurting to type this, lol, i take a deload. That for me is not 50% like some people do. Thats coming in and playing with the 5 lb dumbells to pump some blood last time i deloaded for 4 extra rest days and came back with a vengence for another 4 weeks or so...
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Old 10-17-2011, 12:54 PM   #8
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"Don't major in the minor's"-Jim Wendler

What that means is keep the assistance helpful to the main lifts, do not let them detract from them. If you fell you are doing too much assistance, you probably are. When running madcows, you can just run the program as written and be fine without any assistance. I always like to add chins and powercleans to every routine as I feel the power carryover is huge.
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Old 10-17-2011, 03:00 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by austin.j.taylor View Post
"Don't major in the minor's"-Jim Wendler

What that means is keep the assistance helpful to the main lifts, do not let them detract from them. If you fell you are doing too much assistance, you probably are. When running madcows, you can just run the program as written and be fine without any assistance. I always like to add chins and powercleans to every routine as I feel the power carryover is huge.
I am definitely keeping cleans and chins. I will cut down on one or two things this week and see how things go.
And thanks for all your advice lads.
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