I have trained all my life in some form or fashion and have tried everything, from Cybergenics to EDT. Through experimentation I have found some simple ways to design your training that would serve you well for a long time. Ladies and Gentlemen, meat and potato training:
(1) The Meat – No matter your goals, concentrate your efforts in getting strong in the big three. There are all types of training methods with different tempos and crazy exercises but if you want to get bigger then the easiest, fastest, and measurable way is to get stronger in those three basic exercises.
I have never run into a really strong guy in the big three that didn’t look like he trained. No matter if you want to lose or gain weight, use the weights to build strength and the muscle will follow.
(2) The Potatoes – Concentrate on the meat and if there is room eat the potatoes (assistance lifts). Don’t believe that there is some special exercise that is going to do something that the big three doesn’t. The best assistance exercises actually mimic the big three and build your strength for them.
Pause squats, close and wide grips, board presses, rack or block pulls, and still-leg deadlift have their place but never forget that they are there to make you stronger in the basics. Eat the meat first.
(3) Dessert – If there is still room then use the rest of your time doing exercises that can help you stay balanced and healthy. Rear delts, curls, what have you.
(4) Programs – No special programs. Beware the ones that move you away from the meat and potatoes. I don’t care what program you do, as long as you are consistently hammering the basics it’s a good program. Pick one and give it a shot.
Don’t jump around! I did this constantly and it led to nowhere.
(5) Consistency – This is what builds strength and muscle. Results will always be cyclical. My bench took off and my deadlift lay stagnant for months. Then my pulls increase but my bench may have gone up five pounds in the last couple of months.
It doesn’t matter, just keep training and pushing. It’s the sum that matters not the parts.
(6) Competing – Your lifts will take off once you send that entry form in and begin regularly competing in whatever your sport is. I asked Dave Tate what was a good total to start competing and he told me zero. Great advice. I ignored it to my detriment.
It doesn’t matter what you lift, you are competing against yourself and there is always somebody stronger. So go for it.
I started competing three years ago with a 365 Squat, 315 Bench, and a 455 pull. I competed 5 times that first year and my lifts moved to 475, 365, and 540. More progress than I had made in 15 years!
I took a year off from competing and actually totaled less at my first meet back. Learned my lesson and competed six times this last year and moved to 545, 400, and 605. Remember, it’s about your progress.
How to design your workouts
The following is a great way to keep your workouts simple and effective no matter what your situation. It would probably help Jim Wendler in having to answer a million questions about assistance lifts.
You look at your workouts like a meal (steak, potatoes, vegetable, dessert). According to your goals, every lift falls into a different portion on your plate. If you are looking to get bigger and stronger:
- Dead lift
Potato (main assistance):
- Squat Dinner: Pause or Box Squat
- Bench Dinner: Board, WG, CG bench. Military
- Dead lift Dinner: SL dead, Racks, RDL
Vegetable: (secondary assistance)
- Lower Dinner: Leg curl, GHR, Rows, Shrugs, Abs
- Upper Dinner: Chins, Dips, Rear Delts
Dessert: (whatever you like)
- Calf raises, curls, whatever
Like I said it will be different according to your goal. An Olympic lifter will have the Snatch and Clean and Jerk as his steak and maybe front squats and Jerks as his Potato.
Now you are always going to eat as much steak as you can first, then the potato maybe some vegetables and after all of that maybe a little room for dessert. Just like your hunger varies, your time and life commitments are going to vary.
Got a lot of time and well rested. Eat a big meal. Only got thirty minutes to train. Just eat the steak.
- Squat first and bust your butt. Do not try to save room for anything else.
- Pause Squats: A little bit of potato and I am really feeling full.
- GHR: a few sets and that’s it I am full for today.
- No dessert for me.
Watch out for menus (programs) with a lot of everything else and no meat. Too many people major in the minor. You have to prioritize things because you don’t have infinite energy or time. Do not waste it on the dessert.