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Old 12-05-2011, 04:19 PM   #1
Max Brawn
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Join Date: Jan 2010
Location: Reading, Berkshire, UK
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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% +


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 ( 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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