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Old 12-05-2011, 04:19 PM   #1
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Default The evolution of my training

Inspired by Fazc and Steve's thread of win, I thought it might be of interest to some of you as to how my training has evolved both over the long term since I started training for strength two years ago and more recently how I have evolved my Westside template to work for me. I daresay this could get a bit of a long post so I'll divide it into sections. In this one I will try to cover what I did in the first year of my strength training which was last year.

I started the year having just realised that although I liked getting bigger, what really floated my boat in the gym was lifting heavy things. Now at the time the things that I was lifting really weren't all that heavy but I guess that's a matter of perspective

Best lifts January 2010 were approximately:

SQ - 130kgs probably a little high
BP - 102.5kgs touch and go
DL - 155kgs with straps and poor technique

For the first few months of that year I tried a couple of routines and finally landed up with 5/3/1. I set up a decent template and rode that for some decent strength gains. This was all while dieting down (3 months on a cyclical ketogenic diet) and hitting a low weight point of 78kgs with a single digit bodyfat.

What I liked about 5/3/1:

Forces progression
Allows for high rep' assistance work to gain size
Gives you lots of main lift practice to get technique sorted
Encourages a good push/pull ratio
Designed for RAW lifters

What I disliked:

Planned deloads which come too often
Too much high rep' work on the main lifts
Not enough work at 90% +

Overall:

I liked 5/3/1 but I think it's worth bearing in mind what stage Wendler was at in his training when he moved from Westside and developed this. The story I believe goes that after squatting a grand in competition he realised that he was fat, out of shape and only good for waddling up to a bar and squatting it. So he switched to a higher rep' RAW style of training and did a shed load of conditioning work to get lean. If your goal is similar to his and you have a decent level of strength already, I think this could work for you. If, like me post wedding you are looking for brute strength with a side order of mass, I think you could do better.

So I ran 5/3/1 up until the week before my wedding. I then went on honeymoon for two weeks where I did plenty of cardio and thought about what I needed to do to get stronger and hit the numbers I wanted to at my first meet in December. I had roughly 11 training weeks once I was back so I did a simple plan. I took the numbers I wanted to hit (130kgs paused bench and 200kgs pull) and simply worked back from there in a progressive overload fashion. I added 2.5kgs per week on bench and 5kgs on squat and deadlift. I did the same for my second meet in January of this year as well. I did a bunch of high rep' assistance trying to stick with Wendler's push pull ratio of 1:2 sets. This was also my first foray into twice weekly pressing. I had been running push presses on 5/3/1 and as they got heavier, catching the bar was hurting an old injury in my shoulder so I rotated my second weekly pressing session between CGBP, Floor Press and OHP/Push Presses. This didn't work well though as I ended up going heavy both times so as the weights got higher on the bench press progression.

Now my approach to progressive overload was very simplistic. There was no accumulation or realisation or all of that well planned stuff. I simply took the numbers I wanted to hit, worked back in weeks, calculated number of rep's for top sets using Prilepin's table (http://muscleandbrawn.com/forums/pow...ins-table.html) and then just smashed weights.

What I liked:

Progression every week
Lots of bench pressing and variations like floor press and (when I was too beat up) dumbell pressing
Lots of upper back work (balancing pressing and striving for 1:2 ratio)

What I disliked:

Two heavy pressing days per week mashed up my forearms and elbows
Weekly heavy deadlifts (towards the end of the cycle) killed my lower back. At one point last Christmas I could barely wash dishes at the sink without getting the most brutal pump imaginable
Weekly heavy straight bar squats were also contributing to the general joint mashing

Still it worked. At the December meet I hit my goal deadlift with more in the tank and would have hit my bench if I hadn't had to change from benching on toes to flat feet on the day (READ THE RULES). In January I aimed for a 520kgs total in the 90kgs class. I weighed in 88.75kgs and hit 530kgs. So similar to moving from 5/3/1 to overload, I took what I liked and dropped what I didn't and found Westside.

This is probably quite a long post now so I'll call it a day on this part. I welcome all questions and comments and I'll try to detail the Westside chapter later this week.

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Old 12-05-2011, 04:41 PM   #2
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Quote:
Best lifts January 2010 were approximately:

SQ - 130kgs probably a little high
BP - 102.5kgs touch and go
DL - 155kgs with straps and poor technique
Great work Ltl, as I have told you many times. The progress you've made is a testament to what happens when hard work and persistence are cornerstones. I've seen you lift through a marriage, the birth of your daughter, while dieting and through several minor injuries.

You never miss workouts, continue to learn, keep an open mind and always understand that training is 90%.

Quote:
What I liked about 5/3/1:

Forces progression
Allows for high rep' assistance work to gain size
Gives you lots of main lift practice to get technique sorted
Encourages a good push/pull ratio
Designed for RAW lifters

What I disliked:

Planned deloads which come too often
Too much high rep' work on the main lifts
Not enough work at 90% +
Excellent analysis.

Quote:
What I liked:

Progression every week
Lots of bench pressing and variations like floor press and (when I was too beat up) dumbell pressing
Lots of upper back work (balancing pressing and striving for 1:2 ratio)

What I disliked:

Two heavy pressing days per week mashed up my forearms and elbows
Weekly heavy deadlifts (towards the end of the cycle) killed my lower back. At one point last Christmas I could barely wash dishes at the sink without getting the most brutal pump imaginable
Weekly heavy straight bar squats were also contributing to the general joint mashing
I have to add that the fact you took the time to experiment and find out what works and doesn't work for you at this point was a good move. At some point programs need to be custom tailored. This is the bridging step (which could last a while), in my opinion, between the intermediate and advanced lifting stages.

You allowed yourself to play a bit and learned a lot in the process.
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Old 12-05-2011, 04:45 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by LtL View Post
Best lifts January 2010 were approximately:

SQ - 130kgs probably a little high
BP - 102.5kgs touch and go
DL - 155kgs with straps and poor technique
Holy crap Al, that's amazing progression!

Very interesting write up, I like the clear focus that you had with that linear cycle.

Are you going to write up your WSB experience as well?
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Old 12-05-2011, 05:23 PM   #4
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Thanks Steve.

Yes Fazc I will make another post on the Westside stuff later in the week.

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Old 12-05-2011, 08:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by LtL View Post
Thanks Steve.

Yes Fazc I will make another post on the Westside stuff later in the week.

LtL
Looking forward to it. I'm generally a positive guy, but I find very useful your analysis of the "cons" here. I do see some cons with the Westside methods, and some have been addressed in newer workouts (including mine).

For example, the original templates didn't include much rep work at 90+% on the main lifts, and so many lifters are now adding that in.

Also, 2 bench days a week is hard on the elbow joints, so lifters have found ways around that (e.g, using the Slingshot and doing partial lifts).

Finally, the original templates didn't include singles at 50-60%, which I think are important to develop explosive strength on the main lifts. Those can be added on dynamic days, as many lifters now do.

But let's hear what you have to say -
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Old 12-06-2011, 11:10 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by jp_ottawa View Post
Looking forward to it. I'm generally a positive guy, but I find very useful your analysis of the "cons" here. I do see some cons with the Westside methods, and some have been addressed in newer workouts (including mine).

For example, the original templates didn't include much rep work at 90+% on the main lifts, and so many lifters are now adding that in.

Also, 2 bench days a week is hard on the elbow joints, so lifters have found ways around that (e.g, using the Slingshot and doing partial lifts).

Finally, the original templates didn't include singles at 50-60%, which I think are important to develop explosive strength on the main lifts. Those can be added on dynamic days, as many lifters now do.

But let's hear what you have to say -
Excellent post.
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Old 12-06-2011, 12:01 PM   #7
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Al, thats is impressive improvement and though I have only been here for a while (well posting actually) this is a very good write about your experience with 5/3/1
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Old 12-06-2011, 06:51 PM   #8
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Many congratulations, LTL.

Attitude is everything. Life has a way of providing us with whatever we're expecting it to provide, whether positive or negative. How we approach each day, our attitude, makes all the difference in how we experience life and in how well we respond to life's challenges.

You have the all the internal fruits within your personal attributes to build good roots and I salute your pursuit. May a good attitude always be at your side as an asset to your intelligence.

Great job, bro.
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Old 12-09-2011, 05:13 PM   #9
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So this is the second part of the evolution of my training, starting from after my meet in January when I switched to Westside and taking up to my current version of the Westside split.

So when I started Westside I did a lot of reading and research across the internet. Now as a RAW drug-free lifter there are two main problems with 99% of the literature available on Westside:

1. It is written by and for guys on gear
2. It is written by and for guys in gear

Great so here I am, RAW, natural trying to find a needle in a haystack. I eventually came across this template:

Westside Template for the Raw lifter

Monday ME Upper

1. ME Upper variation work up to a heavy triple or single
Choose from the following:-
 Floor press
 Incline BP
 CG BP
 CG Incline BP
 Flat BP
 CG Floor press

2. Supplemental press exercise 3-4 sets of 8-12
Choose from the following:-
 DB BP (palms in or out)
 Incline DB BP (palms in or out)
 BB BP variations

3. Triceps low intensity/high volume exercise 3-4 sets of 8-12
Choose one of the following:-
 DB skull crushers
 BB extensions
 Pushdowns

4. Horizontal Back work 3-4 sets of 8-12
Choose one of the following:-
 Seated row variation
 T bar rows
 DB rows
 BB rows

5. Shoulder prehab 2-3 sets of 12-15
Choose one of the following:-
 Scarecrows
 Lateral raises
 Rear delt machine

6. Bicep variation 3-4 sets of 6-15 reps
Choose one of the following:-
 BB curls
 Incline curls
 Preacher curls

Wednesday ME lower

1. ME lower exercise Work up to a heavy triple or single
Choose one of the following:-
 Squats
 Box squats
 Dead lifts
 Rack pulls
 Front squats

2. Supplemental Quad exercise 3-4 sets of 6-12
Choose one of the following:-
 Lunge variations
 Split squat variations
 Squat variation

3. Lower back/hamstring exercise 3-4 sets of 8-12
Choose one of the following:-
 SL dead lifts
 Hypers
 Glute ham raises
 Stability ball leg curls

4. Abs 3-4 sets of 6-12
Choose 1 or 2 of the following:-
 Leg raises
 Cable crunches
 Incline Sit ups
 Stability ball cable crunches

Friday DE upper

1. Speed Bench 8 sets of 3 (using various grips) 50-60% 1RM

2. Heavy pressing variation 3-4 sets of 2-8 reps
Choose one of the following:-
 BP
 CG BP
 Rack lockouts
 Floor press
 JM press

3. Vertical Pull variation 3-4 sets of 6-12
Choose one of the following:-
 Chin ups
 Pull ups
 Pull down variations

4. Vertical press variation 3-4 sets of 6-12
Choose one of the following:-
 Seated/Standing Military press
 DB press
 Bradford press
 Single arm press

5. Arms superset 3-4 sets of 8-12:-
Group A:
 BB curls
 Incline curls
 DB curls
 Preacher curls

Group B:
 Pushdowns
 DB skullcrushers
 BB extensions
 Tricep pullovers

6. Grip training

Sunday DE lower

1. Speed squats 8 sets of 2 (60-70%)

2. Supplemental Quad exercise 3-4 sets of 6-12
Choose one of the following:-
 Lunge variations
 Split squat variations
 Squat variation

3. Lower back/hamstring exercise 3-4 sets of 8-12
Choose one of the following:-
 dead lifts
 Hypers
 Glute ham raises
 Stability ball leg curls

4. Abs 3-4 sets of 6-12
Choose 1 or 2 of the following:-
 Leg raises
 Cable crunches
 Incline Sit ups
 Stability ball cable crunches

First thing you notice about this is that there is a LOT of volume in there. I had come off 5/3/1 and periodisation and was not used to volume in any form really. I had been running very much on a less is more mentality. So the first thing I did was to cut all of the assistance work other than the main lifts for the day, down to 2 sets per exercise. Other than that I pretty much ran this template as is, 4 days per week and saw what happened.

So the first thing that I noticed happening was on the Max Effort days I was feeling a little flat. The problem was that after the speed work on dynamic day, I either worked up to a heavier set of 1-3 or I put a lot of volume in afterwards, often in the form of a competition for rep's with the guys. For example after speed bench I would keep the bands on and work up to around 80% of my max for a double or after speed squats I'd do a couple of sets of goblet squats and then rep' out. Basically I was burning myself out. So what did I do? Two things:

1. I cut back on the stupid competitions on $hit that didn't matter like reverse grip bench press.
2. I made sure I knew what the aim of the dynamic day was: to concentrate on improving bar speed and technique on the speed work and then to work on weak points through assistance. It is NOT to go heavy. The geared guys could get away with it, I couldn't.

So now the speed days were a little easier and I could concentrate on upping my work capacity by taking less rest inbetween sets and slowly adding in more volume. This isn't strictly chronological but while we're on the subject of dynamic days, I may as well talk about the second major problem that I had on these which is that without the heavy work or the rep' outs, they were dull. I got into powerlifting because session after session of high volume, moderate weight bodybuilding routines bored me to tears and somehow I had ended up with a routine which was 50% like this again. I knew I needed some heavy work in there but I also knew I couldn't handle full ROM so first of all I added board work on dynamic effort upper day. This was done after the speed sets and I often left the bands on to lower the bar weight even more and not tax my CNS and joints as much. I would run through various different close grip variations including:

- Tricep hell (search YouTube for Dave Tate's video of this if you're not familiar)
- CGBP lockout work off the 3 board, with or without bands/Fat Gripz
- CG rep' work off the 3 board

And lastly sometimes I would just use my competition grip and lockout some uber heavy weights off the 3 board. This worked great but I was still missing something similar for dynamic lower. I was struggling locking out heavy deadlifts so Fazc suggested GMs. I added them after speed squats and they worked perfectly. Now I rotate through variations of those each week, keep the rep's high generally but sometimes I'll drop down to a triple and throw some plates on. Feels good and I'm hoping Sunday will show that it's helping my pulls.

So that pretty much covers the changes that I made on dynamic effort days. I took some stuff out and then have gradually adding stuff back in. Now to move onto max effort days. I have to say that there wasn't a lot that I did for the lower day other than drop the assistance down to one exercise instead of two as I was knackered after squatting or pulling heavy. On upper day it wasn't so simple. First off I didn't like the selection of max effort exercises so I used board presses. So for around three months I pressed heavy off my chest at best one week in three, possibly one week in four. This did NOT help my competition press. I had basically been ego pressing for three months. Now this wasn't without benefit: my tricep strength had gone through the roof but I didn't have the bottom end strength or stability to take advantage of it so I went back to the drawing board and switched to an alternating system: one week off the chest working to a single, double or triple and then the next week I'd do the same but on a partial ROM. The partial exercises I used were mostly things which made presses harder:

- One board presses
- Floor Press
- Incline CGBP (not really partial ROM but not flat bench to chest either so it gets included here)

I also included overload work with:

- Reverse band benching (reverse light bands taking around 15kgs at the chest)
- 2 board press

After 2 months of this, I put 7.5kgs on my PB and felt a lot stronger at the bottom of the press. Shortly after this I easily paused a weight just 5kgs under my touch and go max. Long may this continue

After my daughter was born in July I was determined to continue training the same and for three weeks I did. Four days per week, every week but it took its toll. I was averaging around 4.5 hours sleep per night but more importantly with working late on top of training, I wasn't seeing my family so I cut down to 3 days per week. To counter the lost day I did two things (you'll notice I like to double up on action points but never more than that. Any more and you can't track what's working.)

1. I upped the volume on speed days with more sets for assistance concentrating on quad's, posterior chain and tri's. Quote from Mark Bell @ Supertraining who trained under Louie Simmons for some years:

Quote:
If you're training Westside right, the whole back side of your body should hurt all of the time.
2. I stopped deloading. When I was doing 4 days per week, I could only handle five to six weeks of full training before I felt broken and had to rest. With the three day per week protocol, two weeks in four are lighter weeks with two dynamic sessions and one max effort so that took the place of the deload.

Last problem I had was that my pull wasn't progressing as much as I thought it should. Westside pulls heavy from the floor infrequently which I was fine with but I wasn't doing enough speed work so I added in speed pulls on dynamic effort lower day.

Wow. I haven't looked back to check yet but I'm sure this is the longest post I've ever made. It probably won't all fit in one So I'll finish now and just add one post after this with my current template and exercise choices. The choices are pretty much just guidelines though. I choose assistance exercises based somewhat on feel. For example if I've pulled heavy on Saturday, I wouldn't do any back work to include lower back, I'd do some machine work to give it a break. If it felt fine though, I'd push through.

Thanks for reading and well done if you got this far

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Old 12-09-2011, 06:57 PM   #10
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More great win. Thanks for taking the time to write this.
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