Posted By: NIK
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Weight loss is a challenging and long journey. Cutting down fat and transforming your physique into a lean, strong, and healthy body takes much more than people imagine. You need to be determined and consistent. But, it always helps if you have little help.
Have you been having a hard time focusing on a certain task, or have you been having low sex drive lately? The fact is you might have low testosterone levels in your bodies.
Studies have shown that testosterone levels in men will be at its highest during the age of 18 to 19 years old, and they will slowly decrease throughout the years of their lives as they age.
In the quest to become more powerful and athletic, many athletes may be thinking that if they perform explosive exercises with added load, that when they go back to performing similar or sport specific movements at bodyweight, they’ll be that much more explosive. This write up aims to serve as an introduction and reveal whether or not loaded explosive movements are necessary, and which types of athletes they are best suited for. I will focus my attention on exercises aimed a increasing the vertical jump and the sprint. For the vertical jump, examples of weighted exercises are: Olympic lifts, jump squats while holding dumbbells/ balancing a barbell on the back, or wearing a weighted vest. For sprinting, many athletes will use the aforementioned exercises, along with other methods such as sprinting with, or pushing, a weighted sled.
While Newton et al (1999) determined that weighted jump squat training has been shown to increase force output and rate of force production, it is no superior than unweighted plyometrics in terms of increasing vertical jump height. Vertical jump training via resistive band training has demonstrated limited improvement in vertical jump height compared to plyometric training (McClenton et al, 2008). Jumping with a resistance band means that you are slowly your body down at a time when you want to be speeding up!
On the other hand, resisted sprint training with a sled has been shown to increase an athletes sprint time over the acceleration phase, or initial 20 metres, of a sprint (Hrysomallis, 2012).
The Role of Acceleration
Why are towing & pushing sleds, along with the Olympic Lifts great for acceleration?? A short amortization (ground contract time) phase is one of the most important aspects of explosive movements such as jumping, and during the top speed phase of sprinting, however, a long amortization phase is critical for effective acceleration during the first 20 metres of a sprint, and during multi-directional sports. The reason why resisted training is so effective for training the acceleration phase of sprinting, is because this type of training increases the ground contact time and requires greater acceleration. This increased ground contact time is simulated while sprinting with resistance via a weighted sled, for example.
It is important to make note that when training for the vertical jump, training with a weighted vest, with an added load only 10-11% of the athletes bodyweight may be the most effective method. A study by Khlifa et al (2010) found that the ‘temporary hypergravity’ or ‘overspeed’ effect imposed by the weighted vest on plyometric exercises led to superior results compared to an unloaded plyometric program. This can be explained by the faster eccentric muscle action that will result from your body’s increased weight. Using a weighted vest compared to holding weights in the hands or on the shoulders also allows for greater safety, use of arm action, and use of more dynamic plyometric exercises for the experienced athlete.
How much weight?
When taking into consideration the force/velocity curve, it is important to select a load that will optimize power output. In Supertraining (Siff, 2004), the optimal load in which to perform weighted explosive training is listed at 25% of the maximal force an athlete is capable of producing. However, an effective training routine should also periodically include a variety of resistances across the force/velocity spectrum.
If you are training for an athletic movement that requires more acceleration and maximal strength (accelerating out of a cut, making a tackle, pushing a bobsled), then you should use explosive exercises with a greater load more often than movements that require short ground contact time. Movements that require more starting strength and a short ground contact time, such as jumping and top speed sprinting, should be trained with a greater involvement of explosive exercises utilizing a lighter load or no load at all.
-A high ‘in game’ vertical jump requires short ground contact time
-The first 20 metres of a sprint, or short burst sprints in multi-directional sports require high acceleration capabilities
-When training for the vertical jump, use lighter loads of approximately 25% or less of maximal strength capabilities more often than with heavier loads.
-When training for the vertical jump, resistance bands are LESS effective than both weighted and unweighted explosive exercises due to their increased ‘drag’ and negative effect on ground contact time.
-When training for acceleration (up to 20 metres) during track events and multi-directional sports, weighted sleds are effective. Resistance bands should also be avoided here.
-To make a well rounded athlete who is capable of demonstrating explosiveness in a variety of sport scenarios and body positions should perform explosive weighted movements with both light and heavy resistance, along with bodyweight exercises which stress reactive ability.
Speed ladder drills are about quality and form rather than producing overload. The drills are not meant to leave you fatigued or breathless in the way that shuttle runs might, for example.
It is better to perform these drills at the start of a session after the warm up. Your muscles should be fresh to ensure good quality of movement. And because they will not leave you exhausted you can perform resistance or endurance training afterwards.
Important Tip: Print this page out and have it with you when you practise these ladder agility drills. It’s a good idea to have half a dozen dummy runs on each exercise before you begin to perform them at speed.
Here are some general guidelines for all the ladder agility drills below:
Improve explosive power with this full body med ball workout
Medicine ball training has been around since the ancient Greeks discovered health benefits from exercising with weighted balls. It is one of the oldest forms of strength and conditioning used to improve health, explosive power, and speed. Medicine balls are versatile, portable and a fad that lasted the test of time. Several styles and sizes exist – some are made of rubber or leather, some absorb load, and others bounce really high. But how can a weighted sphere be so simple, yet have the potential to be so functional?
ENTER EXPLOSIVE POWER TRAINING
Power, in relation to exercise and athletics, is the product of strength and speed or force and velocity. Therefore, the more powerful you are, the more force you can develop quickly. Research has shown us that the ability to generate maximal power typically results in enhanced athletic performance1. The medicine ball serves as an excellent tool that can be used to enhance your power output. The freedom of movement allows for endless variations of exercises that can be tailored to your needs and more importantly, it teaches the body to work as an integrated system, which is key for improving athleticism and sport performance.
The ability to produce maximal power depends on many characteristics that go far beyond the scope of this article; however, your goals when training power should focus on movement coordination and efficiency with the ballistic intent to move the medicine ball as fast as humanly possible despite its weight. Force depends on your ability to recruit what are called high threshold motor units, which are muscle fibers that have the ability to contract very fast and explosively2. This ability is also known as neuromuscular efficiency and is enhanced with explosive medicine ball training.
THE MEDICINE BALL WORKOUT
This full body workout incorporates med ball training with traditional full body exercises. Focus on the quality and speed of execution rather than quantity. If your repetitions start to slow down, terminate the set. Warm up with this simple med ball routine: Perform 2 sets
- Med ball wall chest throws x 10
- Med ball wall overhead throws x 10
- Med ball lateral wall throws x 10/side
- Overhead med ball squats x 10
- Med ball hug single leg Romanian deadlifts x 10/side
- Med ball hug lateral lunges or Cossack squats x 10/side
Sets x Reps
|A1. Med ball Squat Jump Throw from bench||5 x 5||60-sec|
|A2. 30-yard sprint||5 x 1||2-min|
|B1. Pull Up (weighted if possible)||3 x 5||60-sec|
|B2. Overhead Med ball slam||3 x 8-10||2-min|
|C1. Pushup (weighted if possible)||3 x 5-8||60-sec|
|C2. Explosive Supine Medicine Ball Chest Pass||3 x 8-10||2-min|
|D1. Rotational Med ball throws||3 x 8-10/side||30-sec|
|D2. V-sit Med ball Chest Throws||3 x 10-12||60-sec|
THE MEDICINE BALL EXERCISES
SQUAT JUMP THROW – FROM BENCH
Focus: To develop full body explosive power
How to: Stand on an exercise bench holding a medicine ball. Step off the bench, land on the floor and quickly jump up as fast and high as you can throwing the medicine ball in the air at the peak of your jump. Do not bother catching the ball, just let it fall. Grab the ball and complete all reps.
EXPLOSIVE MEDICINE BALL SLAM
Plyometrics work on hip explosiveness and leg drive, and can tremendously improve flexibility in the hamstrings and lower back. I am going to share a couple useful technique-oriented tips that you can use and share to make sure your athletes are performing plyometrics the correct way.Athletes of all levels can properly perform most plyos as long as you teach them correct form and the exercise is modified to their own ability level.
Box Jumps for Height
Many athletes will perform box jumps and try to jump atop the highest box possible. This is not safe and form will be compromised. A good rule of thumb is to pick a box in which the athlete can jump onto and get both feet completely onto the box. This ensures the athlete won’t miss the box and become injured.
The athlete should also be able to land in the same position from which they took off. Most athletes you see will land in an extremely deep squat. This means that the box is too high. This also translates to performance on the field. When will an athlete ever jump in competition and land in a full ranged deep squat? Almost never. The athlete will usually land in a half squat athletic position. This is what we are looking for when an athlete completes a box jump. For your more advanced athletes, single leg box jumps can be performed following the same protocol.
Being able to jump vertically is extremely important in such sports as basketball, football, and volleyball. Many athletes I have worked with will ask me how they can increase their vertical jump. They ask, “Should I squat and power clean?” “Yes you should,” I say, and then ask, “But are you actually practicing your vertical jump?” In most cases, the answer was no.
The vertical jump involves a lot of technique. There are some easy corrections that can be applied to increase your vertical jump based on technique alone. Starting at the feet, we want them to be shoulder width to slightly less than shoulder width apart. As the athlete descends to begin the jump, make sure he or she is pushing the glutes back (similar to how you would when you perform a squat). This will enable the athlete to use maximum power from the glute and hamstring muscles, which will enable the highest jump. The arms should work simultaneously with the rest of the body on the ascension/descension.
As the athlete begins to jump we should focus on three key issues:
The Soviet Secret of Plyometrics
This jumping work eventually became known as plyometrics and the foundation of this field came from the research of Soviet researcher Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky and his American friend and translator of his work, Dr. Michael Yessis. However, the field of plyometrics has changed considerably compared to Verkhoshansky’s original writings on depth jumps.
Dr. Verkhoshansky began his career in the 1950s as a track and field coach for many of the great Soviet teams. His athletes went on to attain greatness and to break world records. In the 1960s, Verkhoshsansky started publishing research on his methods. His research is methodical in how he varied conditions to find what led to the most effective outcomes (see diagram above showing one of his original experiments comparing depth jumps to other methods). Much of his work focused on the depth jump.
What is the Depth Jump?
The depth jump is performed when an athlete drops off a box, lands briefly absorbing the shock, and then immediately jumps as high as possible. The landing period (or amortization phase) is usually less than 0.2 seconds.
Verkhoshansky originally called this method shock training as the body was absorbing a great shock and then using it to increase the following vertical leap. Below is a video from Dr. Yessis showing the depth jump:
Mechanisms of Action
In the short term, the depth jump leads to a higher jump than a static high jump because the athlete is absorbing momentum and kinetic energy and using it on the subsequent jump. Dr. Fred Hatfield was known to jump up and quickly grab the bar, while performing deadlifts. He applied the same mechanism to absorb energy and transfer it into the bar.
This deadlift technique is probably not recommended as the landing and set up has to be completed very quickly. It is probably wise to spend a bit more time setting up for a deadlift.
The effects of depth jumps are not only short term as they lead to greater strength changes and more explosiveness. Verkhoshansky found that highly trained volleyball players undertaking a depth jump program gained 14% in their maximal strength.3
There are three reasons for the effects of the depth jumps:
- Greater CNS Stimulation: The shock of the depth jump leads to greater muscular excitation.
- Myotatic Reflex: As the muscle lengthens, the myotatic reflex (also called the Liddell-Sherrington reflex) causes the muscle to tighten and shorten. You can see Andy Bolton use this reflex as he attempts to deadlift. He does three hamstring stretches and on the third stretch he begins his lift.
- Neurogenic Effects: Simply put, neurogenic effects occur when the time between stretching the muscle and the subsequent shortening become quicker as the pre-motor cortex anticipates the shock. Over time, the firing rates increase in the myotatic reflex.
Dr. Verkhoshansky at work.
Requirements for Successful Depth Jump Training
Research indicates that dropping from around thirty inches leads to the greatest explosive strength and reactive abilities. Thus, a running back or a soccer player would benefit the most from these heights. Dropping from around 42 inches leads to the greatest maximal strength development. Dropping from higher heights are not recommended until an athlete can squat at least 1.5 times his or her bodyweight. The shock from the drop can be three to four times the person’s bodyweight.
The best strategy is to start around a person’s maximum vertical jump height. Depth jumps should never be done for high volume and should only be completed one to two times per week.Fewer than ten repetitions is a good standard as the jumps are taxing on the neurological system. These are a speed-strength tool and not an endurance tool.
Other Exercises With Similar Benefits to Depth Jump
What is Periodization
If you do a rudimentary internet search of the term periodization you will find all sorts of lovely text book sounding definitions. However in plain English it is the act of planning your training out into distinct phases each with a separate short term goal (fat loss, strength, power, speed, etc). These individual phases are designed to build on the prior one to culminate in you reaching peak condition for what is commonly known as the competition phase.
How you split out the phases (duration, focus, exercise selection, intensity, training volume etc) will depend on a number of things including the physical requirements of your sport, the needs of the individual athlete, and the frequency and duration of the competition season.
For example Olympic lifters might cycle their training to peak once every four years (an Olympic cycle) whilst a pro basketballer has to focus on getting ready for a new season every year.
An Olympic weight lifter also has to focus on training for an event that essentially requires them to lift once in a matter of seconds. A NBA basketballer on the other hand needs to be able to compete over 48 minutes using a combination of speed, power, strength and endurance.
It is stating the very obvious to note that different sports have different training requirements and as such a periodized approach must be tailored to address those specific needs.
Why Does Periodization Work
Periodization works because it ensures you are always taking steps forwards towards an ultimate goal. In our case, we want to jump higher. So do we build our strength with heavy weights, or maybe we should we drop body fat to make ourselves light? Maybe we should concentrate on plyos to get quick and explosive?
Each of those three traits are important in developing a huge vertical jump, but each requires different sorts of training. The key is to identify which one you need to focus on first, then train for that. Once you have reached a certain level of proficiency, then you start training for the next requirement and so on.
Training this way is much better than a hotch-potched approach of weights one week, plyos another, maybe a bit of both in there somewhere.
By focusing your training on the attainment of one short term goal you will reach it much quicker. To illustrate you see people in gyms who say they want to lose fat and build muscle. Whilst this isn’t impossible, they are essentially two mutually exclusive goals. Burning fat and getting lean requires calories restriction, and cardio on top of weights. Building muscle on the other hand requires calorie surplus, little to no cardio, and plenty of heavy lifting. It is easy to see why aiming for these two things at the one time is doomed to fail.
If you just focus on building muscle you will get there much quicker by just lifting heavy and eating more. Once you have the muscle you can progress to the next goal of fat loss (the extra muscle will help with that too). In the long run, you will make more consistent, more rapid and much greater gains.
If we were to look at this from a vertical jump perspective we might start off with a reduction of body fat phase, then go to a strength phase, and then a more power/plyo based phase. It makes no sense to try and lose body fat whilst at the same time trying to build maximum strength. You just end up sending confusing signals to your body and limiting your improvement.
Downsides to Periodization
The type of periodization we discuss here is known as Western or linear periodization. The two most common criticisms of this type of approach are that in focusing on only one athletic trait at a time the others tend to deteriorate, and also, not all athletes have the available time to spend working through all the phases.
These are both valid arguments against a linear periodization approach. With regard to the loss of one athletic trait as you change phases, modern interpretations of periodization recognize the importance of certain traits and accordingly programs are designed to minimize any losses of these abilities by incorporating continued maintenance work during the other phases.
For example, an athlete trying to improve their vertical jump having high levels of strength is important as it is the base for their muscular power. Consequently even in the later phases of the program (transition and competition – see part 2 of this topic) they are advised to continue some heavy lifting in order to maintain the gains they made earlier.
The criticism of time constraints is also valid. To a certain extent this can also be mitigated by shortening the duration of the less directly beneficial phases to allow for more prioritizing of the important ones. For example, if you are already an experienced lifter with decent muscular size and aren’t carrying any serious injuries or imbalances, you probably do not need to spend too much time in either the adaptation or hypertrophy phases.
Who Should Use Periodization
This type of planned out training methodology isn’t necessarily for everyone but there are two groups of athletes we feel can benefit greatly from this kind of approach. These are people who are new to weight training, or who have the luxury of longer periods of time can benefit the most from taking a linear periodized approach.
For our money the main benefits that it provides are in the way it progresses from phase to phase.
This foundation will not only help you minimize injuries, but also helps you to learn the correct techniques of the various lifts, helps you set baselines from which you can improve, and also helps you progressively adapt to the ever increasing demands of the training.
For more advanced athletes, or those with time constraints there is another popular periodization technique known as the conjugate method. This system is preferred by the world class powerlifters at Westside Barbell and many Eastern European countries. This involves mixing and matching exercises, loads, rest, tempo etc in order to train more than one strength trait at a time whilst also avoiding burnout.
The 5 Phases of a Periodized Training program
According to famed athletic coach Dr Tudor Bompa in his book Periodization Training for Sports (2005), there are 5 major training phases a power based athlete such as a vertical jumper should work through in order to maximize their performance. These are:
1. Anatomical Adaptation
3. Maximum Strength
5. Competitive and Transition
As was mentioned in part 1, and as we will show you further along in this article, each of those phases develops the building blocks on which you progress your training towards your ultimate goal (in our case an improved vertical jump).
So without further ado lets get into them in detail.
Phase 1: Anatomical Adaptation
For a vertical jumper the goal of this first phase of periodization is to prepare the athlete for the future demands of their more focused training. During this phase you would work on your flexibility and co-ordination, rectifying any muscle and strength imbalance concerns between agonist and antagonist muscle groups, aerobic and anaerobic work capacity, strengthening ligaments and tendons, and also in the treatment and recovery of any injuries the athlete currently has.
The idea is to expose the athlete to a wide variety of exercises in order to have them functioning efficiently. This often takes the form of circuit training or a series of full body workouts.
The length of this phase will depend on a variety of factors including how long you have to devote to your total program, your level of experience in strength training, the level of importance of strength in your sport or activity, and your starting levels of general fitness.
Phase 2: Hypertrophy
The Hypertrophy phase of periodization is as the names suggests designed to increase muscle size and strength. In theory bigger muscles are stronger muscles. The reality is that bigger muscles have the potential to be stronger muscles. This is what we are aiming for here. To build muscle so that you have greater potential to gain strength in the next phase.
The training in this phase consists of weights with loads of approximately 65-85% of your 1RM for 6-15 reps per set. Rest periods are generally shorter at around 60 – 90 seconds between sets.
Once again the duration of this phase will depend on the experience of the athlete and the importance of strength for the activity. For vertical jump training strength is obviously very important, but also must be tempered against building too much size as this can have a negative impact on your jumping ability.
Phase 3; Maximum Strength
Unless you’re one of the few players that has a shot at getting drafted, you’re going to have three choices when it comes to training…
1) find someone to train you for free,
2) foot the bill for your training yourself, or
3) you’re going to train yourself.
When you try out for teams, they’re probably going to test you in the combine drills (40 yard dash, 3-cone drill, etc.), so why not train to get better in them?
Today’s post is about the vertical jump test. Teams use the vertical jump to get a feel for your lower-body explosion and power.
Below, you’ll find information you can use to improve your performance in the vertical jump.
The gentleman in this video educates you on what your body goes through when you jump.
Then he explains the impact flexibility, stability, and dynamic stretching make on how high you jump.
He even gives examples of dynamic stretches you can use to warm up before you begin your training sessions. To do some of the exercises, you’ll need a foam roller, and these can cost about $40.00 or so.
Here’s part 2 of the series. Here, he introduces the importance of strength, and explains how improving the connection between your brain and your muscles can optimize your physical performance, and a lot more.
I like that this guy basically reinforced much of what the guy in the Shot Science videos above said in-regards to what’s actually happening in your body when you’re jumping.
He goes on to give you some exercises you can do to increase your vertical jump.
Side note: Is it just me, or does this guy sound like he’s about to burp every 10-to-15 seconds when he’s talking?
Now this is a promo video for Parisi training videos, but from just watching the short video, you can see examples of exercises you can do to improve your vertical.
If you pay close attention, you can pick up a few subtle tips how to jump in the vertical jump test, just by watching the demonstrations that are taking place during the video.
VERTICAL JUMP TEST TIPS
In Dirty Tricks for Higher Vertical, Joe DeFranco, premiere athletic trainer, gives you 5 “Dirty Tricks” that he says should help you jump higher in the vertical jump test.
The first of his “dirty tricks” is a suggestion that you do static stretches for your hip flexors before you test for the vertical jump.
He admits, like the gentleman in the first video above says, that dynamic stretches are best when you’re about to engage in stuff where you need to be explosive, but says that “static stretching your hip flexors before testing your vertical jump is the exception to the rule!”
He explains that static hip flexor stretches reduce the amount of friction in your hips, and that less friction in your hips allows you to jump higher.
Check out the article for yourself, and decide for yourself if it’s advice you want to take. What he says makes sense, though… at least to me.
Here’s a run-down of the rest of Mr. Parisi’s “dirty tricks…”
2. Strengthen your flexor hallucis longus
Some people admire this; others get jealous and choose to ridicule my methods. Some of my methods are mainstream and other times I have to dig into my bag of “dirty tricks” to get the desired result. Training athletes for the vertical jump test is no exception. I get more questions each week regarding the vertical jump than any other training topic. Most athletes seem to be obsessed with their vertical jump. This is where I come in.
Below you’ll find some of my favorite coaching “tricks” that I guarantee will improve your vertical jump. These underground techniques have helped over 2-dozen of my athletes jump over 35″ on this popular athletic test. Some may call these techniques trickery; others may call them smart coaching. Call them what you want, they work!
++++++ DIRTY TRICK #1 +++++++
STATIC STRETCH THE HIP FLEXORS
BEFORE TESTING YOUR VERTICAL JUMP!
This dirty trick works so well it gives me chills! Well, not really but it’s damn effective.
Have you ever noticed that the day after you’ve performed a lot of jumping that your hip flexors were sore? I’ve personally pulled hip flexor muscles while testing my vertical jump. What I eventually figured out was that the rapid, full body extension that followed the rapid descent into the jump was tearing them up. After further analysis, one could conclude that if these muscles were getting torn up, that meant that they were probably resisting the height of the jump.
Hopefully we’re all well aware that static stretching isn’t recommended before any explosive activity. Static stretching your hip flexors before testing your vertical jump is the exception to the rule! You see, since the hip flexors aren’t prime movers in jumping and they tend to resist our jump, the goal is to weaken them and put them to “sleep” before jumping. Static stretching accomplishes these goals. Static stretching your hip flexors will create less friction during your jump. Less hip flexor friction during your jump equals higher vertical jump heights!
Below is one of my favorite hip flexor stretches, but go ahead and choose your favorite and perform 2 sets of 20-30 seconds on each side.
NOTE: The hip flexor stretch pictured below is a great stretch to perform before squatting as well. It will help you get deeper into your squats as well as prevent getting pulled forward during squatting. Give it a try!
+++++++ DIRTY TRICK #2 ++++++
STRENGTHEN YOUR FLEXOR HALLUCIS LONGUS!
The flexor hallucis longus is the least known of all the “jumping muscles.” Don’t get me wrong, this muscle isn’t going to improve your vertical jump as much as well-developed hamstrings, glutes, and spinal erectors; but this is an interesting muscle that can make a noticeable improvement in your jumping ability.
The flexor hallucis longus originates on the lower two-thirds of the fibula and inserts on the distal phalanx of the great toe. It plantar flexes the foot and also flexes the great toe. These muscle actions are an integral part of the vertical jump as well as sprinting. Getting this often-overlooked muscle stronger can be that added inch on your vertical jump that you thought was impossible.
The best way to train this muscle in the weight room is by performing single leg calf raises while holding a dumbell. (See pictures below.) When performing this exercise, try to keep most of your weight on the big toe of the working leg.
Crunching your toes in your sneakers/shoes while at work or school is another “economical” way of strengthening these muscles. Try 3-4 sets of 20 reps. No one will ever know!
Crunching a towel up in your toes while watching TV or working on the computer is another way to train these muscles without wasting any extra time.
++++++ DIRTY TRICK #3 ++++++
FOCUS ON RAPIDLY DESCENDING INTO YOUR JUMP!
Most athletes focus so much on the “jump” portion of jumping that they forget the importance of the descent of the jump. Through extensive research and observation, I’ve found that the speed of the descent is the most important factor in an athlete’s vertical jump height .
The bottom line is that the faster you can descend, the higher you will jump. Sir Isaac Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion supports this statement. It states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction . Knowing this, we can conclude that the faster we can descend into our jump, the faster we can take off. This translates into an explosive, jaw-dropping jump. Unfortunately, time and time again, I feel like I can go out to lunch and come back in the amount of time it takes an athlete to descend into his/her jump. If you want to jump through the roof, you must practice descending rapidly.
In order to perfect the descent, you must set up in the perfect position. Your vertical jump position should resemble that of an Olympic diver standing on a diving board. Your arms should be fully extended over your head, eyes looking upward to where you’ll be jumping, your back should be slightly arched and you should be standing on your toes. This position puts all of your muscles on stretch and sets you up for an explosive descent. Remember that an optimally stretched muscle can contract faster/harder.
Start the descent by throwing your arms down to your hips. As the arms fire downward, your head/neck will flex forward as your trunk and knees flex as well. In the bottom position, your hands should be slightly behind your hips, trunk flexed slightly forward and your knees bent at about 15-20 degrees. (Don’t get too caught up with the angle of your knees. Always remember that the angle of knee flexion is NOT as important as the speed in which you descend.) You are now ready to take off into a record-setting jump!
++++++ DIRTY TRICK #4 ++++++
PEAK FOR YOUR VERTICAL JUMP
BY PERFORMING 50-REP RHYTHM SQUATS!
The author, Kelly Baggett, is a very well-known fitness coach who specializes in speed and agility training, with a strong emphasis on increasing an athlete’s vertical jump. He has spent many years perfecting his training methods, mostly by using himself as a guinea pig. I was pretty amazed when I read about how he went from a 23″ to 42″ vertical using his training methods. You can read more about this on the Vertical Jump Bible website.
I decided to try this program because I had used other programs that didn’t work (Air Alert, ehem), and the VJB is incredibly cheap compared to a lot of other programs. I think it’s down to $39 or something ridiculous like that. Anyway, I was actually a little overwhelmed by the amount of info this product had. The Vertical Jump Bible goes extremely in-depth when it comes to explaining all the little intricacies of the vertical jump.
Here is a sample of some of the things you’ll find in the Vertical Jump Bible:
Effective exercise methods based on proven results.
A program that can be customized to fit your needs, and how to determine what type of jumper you are.
10 qualities you need to focus on in order to improve your vertical jump.
How to determine what your weak points are and how to fix them.
6 different categories of plyometric exercises and how they should be implemented into your workouts.
An understanding of different jumping styles and how they apply to you.
Information about training aids (jumpsoles, weight vests, etc.)
Understanding your body structure and how to use it to your advantage.
Learn what your potential jumping ability is.
Effects of race on jumping ability.
Body composition, and how to limit fat gains while gaining muscle.
My Results With The Vertical Jump Bible
I was extremely pleased with the results I saw from this program. It helped me gain 4 inches in two months! This is something I had never thought possible. With so much hype on a lot of these vertical jump websites it’s kind of hard to believe the claims that they make. However, the Vertical Jump Bible really followed through with its promises.
The thing you have to remember is that you can’t just buy a program like this, try it for a few weeks, and then give up. You really have to dedicate yourself to it. If you think you have the motivation and determination to improve your vertical jump I would highly recommend this program. You can also check out some of the other programs mentioned on this site by going to this link if you don’t think the Vertical Jump Bible is for you.
Things That Could Be Improved
Overall, this program really impressed me. There were very few things that i didn’t like about it. However, a couple of things that could be improved are as follows. First, the exercise descriptions are kind of vague and sometimes hard to understand. But no worries, you’ve got this site! Second, there is no video that comes with the Vertical Jump Bible. I guess this isn’t really a problem…just a nice benefit to have. And third, there is a TON of information. This isn’t such a bad thing, I just think it might get a little overwhelming for some people. However, this problem is pretty easy to work around
Final Jump Bible Review Thoughts
Remember that it takes a lot of hard work and dedication to reach your goals. If one of your goals is to jump higher, and you think you’ve got the perseverance to do it, I would urge you to try this program. After all, it’s one of the cheapest and most effective ones out there. The VJB worked quite well for me and I’m sure it can do the same for you if you just stick with it!
With that said, it is time for us to begin reviewing more intermediate and advanced powerlifting programs. I suspect this is going one is going to be particularly popular; today we are focusing onMadcow’s 5×5 Routine also known as Bill Starr’s 5×5.
If you’d rather watch than read:
Madcow’s 5×5: Some Context
As always, I like to provide context for the programs that I discuss. Let’s talk about the origins of the Madcow program. First of all, “Madcow” is the username of a poster from the old EliteFitness forums. Using the Madcow2 pseudonym, he unwittingly released one of the most popular internet lifting routines of all time. Let’s look at how that transpired.
Madcow’s program is a modification of Bill Starr’s 5×5 program for football which is presented in the book The Strongest Shall Survive.
Starr’s original program only made use of three exercises: the squat, the bench, and the power clean. The program was incredibly simplistic and made use of ramping sets of 5. Starr was trying to accommodate the fact he often worked with 10, 20, or 30 athletes simultaneously.
Now, Madcow, being a member of the EliteFitness BODYBUILDING forums, came up with a modification of that original 5×5 program for… the purposes of bodybuilding. Madcow wanted to give natural trainees a legitimate alternative to what Jason Blaha calls the “pump and fluff” routines that were so popular in that time period. Basically, he was looking to provide a hardcore program for naturals who wanted to build strength and muscle without wasting their time on silly body part splits from muscle mags.
As such, you need to keep in mind that the entire Madcow’s program was designed for natural bodybuilders.
However, please do note that the new version of Practical Programming spends more than 100 pages discussing possible variations and alterations to the program for a variety of goals including: MMA, weightlifting, football, powerlifting, and a lot more. The book discusses how to progress, when to move to the next “Phase” of the Texas Method, how to incorporate dynamic effort and maximal effort protocols into the program, and so much more. If you’re planning to do this program, the bottom line is that Practical Programming 3rd Edition is mandatory reading. You absolutely will not get the best gains possible without reading through the intermediate program section of that book. If you’re interested in the Texas Method, I highly recommend that you snag a copy of Practical Programming.
If you’d rather watch than read:
The Texas Method: History and Background
As far as I can tell, Olympic Weightlifting Coach Glenn Pendlay was the first person to popularize the Texas Method on the internet. As the legend has it, Glenn, working out of Mark Rippetoe’s Wichita Falls Athletic Club, had his Olympic lifters squatting 5×5 on both Monday and Friday. After hearing one of his lifters moaning and complaining one hot Friday afternoon, he issued him a challenge: if you can squat a PR set of 5, you only have to do one set for the day. The lifter readily agreed, summoned the requisite psychic energy, smashed a PR, and helped give birth to the Texas Method. Instead of 5×5 on both days, the program now called for a PR set of 5 on Fridays.
Now while Pendlay may have initially popularized the program online, it was Mark Rippetoe who first brought it into legitimate publication in Practical Programming. Because of the enormous success and following of his novice program, Starting Strength, many trainees were inclined to also use the intermediate program he was recommending. From there, the Texas Method really took off.
This all said, it is important to keep in mind that the Texas Method was birthed, primarily, in the training of Olympic lifters and general strength athletes – Glenn and Rip’s primary clientele at the time. Like I said before, the program is more of a template, but the reality is that all versions of that template seem to include power cleans and an extremely high ratio of squat volume to deadlift volume. This is for two reasons: a) Rip buys into the idea that deadlifts are so hard to recover from that you shouldn’t perform them for volume and b) the program is not explicitly aimed at powerlifters who need to maximize their deadlift strength for competitive success.
The Texas Method Program
Unlike Madcow’s, the Texas Method is brutally simplistic.
Texas Method: Explanation
Without delving too much into the specific programming, the idea behind the Texas Method is that Monday serves as the “volume” stimulus (aka “Volume Day”), Wednesday is a lighter day which prevents detraining but allows for more recovery (aka “Recovery Day”), and by Friday you’re recovered and ready to smash a new PR (“Intensity Day”). Each week, you’re supposed to go through, and fully complete, a stress-recovery-adaptation cycle. You’re not supposed to accumulate fatigue on the Texas Method in the way that you do on Madcow’s. The program is intended to be run in the long term, week after week.
Texas Method: Progression Protocol
The progression on the Texas Method is incredibly simple. You simply add 5lbs to each Friday top set per week. Because the bench and press alternate, this works out to 2.5lbs/week on the upperbody exercises and 5lbs/week on the lower body movements.
The Texas Method is very easily adapted to a competitive schedule. In fact, if you wanted, you could compete with virtually no changes whatsoever. All you’d have to do is skip your Friday workout and then compete on Saturday. Remember, the entire idea behind this program is that you’re fully recovered and stronger by each Friday.
That said, because you never know when you might stall, and fatigue tends to accumulate even when it isn’t supposed to in theory, it is a good idea to take a light week before a meet.
Here’s what it would look like:
All you have to do is change volume day from 5×5 to 3×[email protected]~90% of whatever your last volume day was. For example, if you did 405x5x5 last week for volume day, and this week was meet week, you would do only 365x5x3 on volume day this time around.
This is going to allow any accumulated fatigue to mostly dissipate and you’ll receive a performance boost come game day at the meet.
The Texas Method does not employ periodization in the sense that there are specific periods focusing on hypertrophy, technique, strength, the bench, the squat, or the deadlift. It doesn’t even vary volume from week to week. The program is a true, blue intermediate program.
The programming behind the Texas Method is devastatingly simple and effective. Unlike most advanced programs, which have you spending a few weeks accumulating volume, a few weeks recovering, and then a few weeks trying to set new PRs, the Texas Method squeezes the entire process inside of a single week. So, each training week is a full mesocycle and each training session represents a distinct microcycle: Monday – Volume Day; Wednesday – Recovery Day; and, Friday – Intensity day.
This variation in volume from workout to workout is literally perfect for the new intermediate trainee. It just isn’t necessary for them to introduce variations from week to week just yet. Eventually it will be, but not in the early stages of intermediate training. In my opinion, this makes the overall programmatic structure of the Texas Method about as good as it gets for that particular demographic.
The biggest failing of the Texas Method is specificity. As we’ve covered elsewhere, in my opinion power cleans are a silly addition to a powerlifting program. In a sport where rate of force production basically doesn’t matter (you can lift as slow as you want so long as you complete the lift), doing three times more power clean volume than deadlift volume just doesn’t make sense. Additionally, the 1:1 overhead press to bench ratio is an incredibly bad idea for an aspiring powerlifter.
Beyond those issues, which are typical of all Rippetoe programs, we see that the program features 20 “pulling” reps per week (15 on the power clean and 5 on the deadlift), but features 40 squats per week. The actual squat to deadlift ratio, in terms of reps, is 8:1. This doesn’t make sense for a competitive powerlifter. The deadlift is too important to deprioritize like that.
Additionally, there is far more lower-body volume than upper-body volume – another issue common to Rippetoean programming. While the lower body receives 60 reps (90-105 if you include GHR), the upper-body receives only 45 reps. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, this is fairly backwards. Most people, if anything, need more upper-body volume than lower-body volume to achieve the same levels of fatigue in each respective area of the body. They certainly don’t need LESS upper-body work than lower-body work.
Now, I can already hear you guys saying that most of these issues are readily fixable: substitute power cleans for stiff-leg deadlift or deficit deadlifts, don’t alternate the press and bench, and reduce the squat volume a bit on volume day. Presto! The Texas Method is far improved. Okay true, but that is why I acknowledged this is more of a template than a program at the very beginning. If you want examples of these types of modifications, I highly recommend Practical Programming.
When I release the PowerliftingToWin Intermediate Program, it will be very clear that I drew upon the programmatic structure of the Texas Method to create the base.
The Texas Method employs basic progressive overload. You simply add 5lbs to your top set on Friday every single week. Given the overall structure of the program, and the fact it is aimed primarily at early intermediates, this is perfectly acceptable.
The biggest strength of the Texas Method, in my opinion, is in its fatigue management. As I’ve already outlined, the program condenses the more traditional “block periodization” approach into a single week. Rather than spending a few weeks each in “accumulation” (high volume), deload/transmutation (recovery), and intensification (go for PRs), on the Texas Method, this whole process occurs every single week. This is to accommodate the fact that an early intermediate trainee simply doesn’t need that much time to adapt to a new stimulus; they can still do it weekly.
The programmatic structure of the Texas Method allows for an optimal rate of progress for the early intermediate trainee. You are maximizing the amount of full stress-recovery-adaptation cycles that you go through in a given amount of training time.
In these books, Wendler offers, quite literally, several dozen different versions of 5/3/1 that address a variety of goals from improving conditioning, getting faster and jumping higher, improving general strength, and, yes, setting PRs on the big three for powerlifting purposes.
Please understand that it would be virtually impossible to offer a comprehensive review of every single variation of 5/3/1 in a single review. Unless you guys want to read a 100,000 word article, or watch a four hour video, I’m going to have to stick to the basic, popular versions of 5/3/1 that are floating around the internet.
Whenever possible, as I am addressing the original 5/3/1 program, I am going to make notations about revisions Jim has made in the more current book Beyond 5/3/1. Keep in mind that the original 5/3/1 was published five years ago in 2009. Wendler has made substantial changes and, in my opinion, improvements to that original template. Nonetheless, most people still use the original variation and our review is going to center upon that particular version of 5/3/1.
That said, I’d strongly recommend that you consider picking up a copy of Beyond 5/3/1 if you’re interested in doing ANY variation of the program. The book contains Wendler’s latest and greatest ideas with regards to 5/3/1. If you’re not familiar with “First Set Last” or “Joker Sets”, your knowledge base on 5/3/1 is out of date. Without understanding of these concepts, which are discussed in Beyond 5/3/1, you’re not actually doing Wendler’s current program.
If you’d rather watch than read:
5/3/1 History and Context
As always, we’re going to start with a bit of context about the origins of the 5/3/1 program. Ironically, given its popularity in the powerlifting community, 5/3/1 was the program Jim Wendler invented when he decided to move away from the sport. That’s right; Jim Wendler invented 5/3/1 when he quit powerlifting.
In his own words, more or less, Wendler was tired of being a “fatass” who wasn’t good for anything other than waddling up to a monolift and squatting. He claims he was so out of shape that he actually lost his breath just walking around the block. As such, he wanted to come up with a program that took a more holistic approach to strength; he wanted to incorporate conditioning and mobility into his overall plan of attack.
Wendler decided to strip away the complexities of the Westside style of training that he had been using and he reverted to a simple percentage based program. In all likelihood, 5/3/1 was probably influenced by the Bigger, Stronger, Faster lifting program that Wendler was almost certainly exposed to as a youth football player. This program, designed with the competitive athlete in mind, served as a fantastic frame work for someone looking to improve their overall condition rather than focus explicitly on powerlifting performance.
To make my point explicitly clear, Wendler’s original program was specifically designed as an alternative to powerlifting training. 5/3/1 was never intended to be a powerlifting-centric, powerlifting-specific program. You must keep that in mind.
5/3/1: The Actual Program
Let’s take a look at the bones of 5/3/1.
As you can see, 5/3/1 is a program with a monthly mesocycle. There are four distinct microcylces: 3×5+ week, 3×3+ week, 5/3/1+ week, and a deload. The key notation to make is that the “+” sets mean you do as many reps as possible (AMRAP). You’re not supposed to go to failure on the AMRAP sets, but you are supposed to come within a rep or so of failure.
The entire program centers around the concept of the “training max”. Essentially, using a rep max calculator, you estimate your true one rep max. You then multiply this number by 90% in order to find your training max. Using this training max, all of your work set weights are calculated based on the percentages shown above.
If you don’t want to do all that math, you can have your 5/3/1 workouts calculated here.
At the end of each month, you increase your training max weight on the lower-body movements, the squat and the deadlift, by 10lbs; you increase your training max on the upper-body movements, the bench and the press, by 5lbs. From there, you repeat the exact same workouts that you did the month before with slightly heavier weights.
In addition to the monthly incremental increases, the program also allows for “rep maxes”. So, even if the weight increases are only monthly, you can still theoretically make progress from week to week by adding reps.
Although the original 5/3/1 program was never intended for powerlifters, Wendler has since addressed this issue in both 5/3/1 for Powerlifting and Beyond 5/3/1. In Beyond 5/3/1, Wendler offers an 11-12 week meet peaking cycle.
Here is what it looks like:
As you can see, the peaking plan is relatively simple and effective. In the first month, the lifter increases specificity by adding some heavy singles using his training max weight after he does his AMRAP sets. In month two, the lifter starts using his training max weight as the AMRAP set. In month three, you cut out all AMRAP sets and add an additional super heavy single.
During the last month, by eliminating the AMRAP sets, you allow for an extended “recovery” period where fatigue dissipates. By still including the ultra heavy single, you prevent detraining and encourage further acclimation to heavy weights. In Week 11, where even all the assistance is cut out, you ensure full recovery going into Meet Week.
Overall, this is a solid peaking option for the lifter who is using 5/3/1.
In Beyond 5/3/1, Wendler offers 26-28 week training plans that include periodized focuses on hypertrophy, conditioning, and strength. However, the original 5/3/1 template is not what you would consider periodized.
Unlike the other programs we’ve looked at thus far, the 5/3/1 program does feature a monthly mesocycle with once monthly weight increases. In reality, this makes the program most suited for “advanced” intermediate athletes. Early intermediates can make progress much more quickly than once per month. And even though 5/3/1 allows for rep maxes, it is much harder to add one rep per week than it is to add ~2-5lbs/1-2kg per week.
One of the biggest criticisms of 5/3/1 is the lack of overall frequency for the powerlifts. You perform each lift only once per week. For the vast majority of trainees, this simply isn’t optimal in terms of technical development. You’re going to need more weekly exposures to the lift in order to master your technique. Now, there are a variety of 5/3/1 templates that function to increase frequency. For powerlifting purposes, where technique is paramount, I think it is necessary to choose one of them. You can find many such examples in Beyond 5/3/1.
In my opinion, getting your squat and bench frequency to at least twice per week is going to be the minimum acceptable level. I personally prefer to see benching happening at least three times a week and even twice weekly pulling, but many people do just fine with benching twice a week and pulling only once. If you’re going to do 5/3/1 for powerlifting, make sure to use a variation where the frequency is increased.
In terms of specificity, I think you know what I’m going to say. The program isn’t specific enough because it wasn’t designed explicitly for powerlifting. The entire idea behind 5/3/1 was to move away from powerlifting centric training and focus on a more holistic approach to strength. The entire program is designed to allow for more conditioning, more overall recovery, and a better general sense of well-being. These goals and aims are well and good, but many run contradictory to maximizing powerlifting performance.
Like many other programs we’ve seen, the emphasis on the 1:1 bench to press ratio is just unnecessary and sub-optimal for powerlifters. The majority of the upperbody training needs to be focused on the bench press.
The biggest failing of 5/3/1, in terms of specificity, is in the percentages used by the program. Let’s do some math. If we’re taking 90% of our true max as the base for our program, and then take 85% of that number in Week One, 90% of that number in Week Two, and 95% of that number in Week Three, our “actual” percentages are: 76.5%, 81%, and 85.5%. In other words, for the vast majority of months that you spend doing 5/3/1, you spend exactly one week above 85% of your true max.
For a powerlifter, this is an absolutely sub-optimal approach. Now I’m not saying that you won’t get any stronger from working at lighter percentages, but I am saying that spending so little time in the powerlifter’s money range, 80-90%, is a recipe for sub-optimal progress. The lighter percentages, while great for long-term, sustained progress, completely bias the program towards hypertrophy and away from strength. It isn’t that uncommon for people to get 5-8 reps on their 5/3/1+ week which is supposed to be the “heavy” week.
Look, if you want to lift heavy stuff, you have to lift heavy stuff. It is really that simple. In fact, if we’re being honest, even Wendler has recognized that this was a weakness of his program for powerlifters. He addresses this weakness in 5/3/1 for Powerlifting through the following adjustment to the program:
As you can see, Weeks One and Two are switched. The AMRAP set is removed from the 3×5 week and heavy singles at your training max are added to Weeks 1 and 3. Now, this is a good start towards improving specificity. But let’s be honest here, do you really think doing a couple of singles, which still represents a relatively small amount of volume, is enough to override the fact that the vast majority of work that you do on the program is below 85%? Well, it isn’t.
In Beyond 5/3/1, Wendler further addresses this deficiency with the addition of Joker sets. With Joker sets, you can keep working up to heavier and heavier work sets after your AMRAP. For example, after you go for your rep max on 3×3+ Week, you can keep doing heavier triples. You are supposed to “listen to your body” and stop before you go to a weight where you would fail. In other words, you’re supposed to incorporate autoregulation, but you’re given no real guidelines as to how to actually do that. Beyond that oversight, the Joker sets do at least allow for you to get some work done in that 85%+ range. This is a key addition for all powerlifters. You can read more about Joker sets in Beyond 5/3/1.
5/3/1 employs a combination of basic progressive overload and attempting to add more reps. On the one hand, you increase your training max by a fixed linear increment every single month. This results in heavier poundages being used over time – also known as progressive overload. However, you also push yourself to new limits with the rep max sets. By going for new rep PRs, you introduce another element of progression. This unique combination is one of the more intelligent and useful aspects of 5/3/1 in my opinion.
While there are certainly programs out there that go way too far with how much volume and frequency they prescribe, the original 5/3/1 program actually goes too far in the opposite direction in my opinion. The original 5/3/1 contains too little overall volume and features unnecessarily frequent deloads.
In terms of volume, you’re only doing three work sets per week on each lift. The rest of the volume comes from assistance movements. Now, I can already hear many of you saying, “But I do the Boring But Big Template”! The Boring But Big 5/3/1 template features assistance work where you take 50% of your training max on one of the big movements and then perform 5 sets of 10 reps (5×10). This does, indeed, increase volume. For powerlifting purposes, how useful do you think doing 5×10 at less than 50% of your real training max is? It isn’t that useful at all. Remember, boring but big – the template is explicitly aimed at hypertrophy.
Even Wendler seems to agree with this idea. In Beyond 5/3/1, Wendler has introduced a new concept called “First Set Last” where you repeat your first work set of the day for another AMRAP set. Wendler now recommends this as a standard addition to the 5/3/1 program. I think that speaks for itself. Wendler himself has found that adding more volume to the original 5/3/1 program is a good idea. Even so, for powerlifting purposes, we’d like to see more of the volume come at 80-85%+ rather than doing additional sets at ~70-75%.
Similarly, deloading every fourth week means that you spend 25% of your training year not actually training. Unless you’re absolutely KILLING yourself in those three working weeks, deloading that frequently is completely unnecessary. And as we’ve already established that the original 5/3/1 program is light on volume if anything, the deloads are even more wasteful.
Again, Wendler seems to have come to this conclusion himself. In Beyond 5/3/1, he is now recommending that you do two full cycles before deloading. So, you now train for six straight weeks before deloading.
It looks like this:
As you can see, you simply run two 5/3/1 cycles before each deload. Training maxes are increased starting in Week 4 after your first full 5/3/1 cycle as per usual.
When combined with the Joker sets and “First Set Last” additions, this makes a ton of sense and dramatically improves the overall quality of the program. If you’re interested in 5/3/1, and you don’t consult Beyond 5/3/1 for ideas on how to improve your template, I just don’t personally believe you’re going to make the same level of gains that you otherwise would.
Compared to the other programs we’ve looked at thus far, Wendler is extremely progressive in his use of autoregulation. In the original program, the AMRAP sets allow you to make progress at your own pace. The AMRAP sets allow you to take advantage of good days and bad days. On good days, you’ll smash some rep PRs. On bad days, you won’t. It doesn’t matter either way because, as long as you get the minimum reps, you haven’t “stalled”. You can live on to fight again the next week.
Wendler takes this even further with the idea of Joker sets. Joker sets are essentially the same thing as setting an “initial” in RTS. Rather than predetermining your top set of the day, you simply work up to a top set. Again, this allows the lifter to autoregulate their heaviest training loads of the day.
Now, the original 5/3/1 program doesn’t autoregulate volume beyond the AMRAP set, which is a major fault considering that it is an advanced intermediate program. However, in Beyond 5/3/1, Wendler does provide a few templates where “advanced” lifters are encouraged to autoregulate assistance volume and given a few ideas of how to go about it.
Again, compared to other programs, Wendler is well ahead of the curve here. However, unlikeTuchscherer’s Reactive Training Systems, Wendler hasn’t yet figured out how to systematize autoregulation so that anyone can use it. Throughout Beyond 5/3/1, he simply mentions that he cannot teach you to “listen to your body”. You have to “learn it on your own”. Tuchscherer’s system proves this isn’t necessarily true; you can be taught to listen to your body.
Nonetheless, you can’t criticize Wendler’s newest versions of 5/3/1 for ignoring individual differences. If anything, I haven’t yet come across a resource that addresses so many different and varied goals and demographics. In Beyond 5/3/1, you’re very likely to find a program that is specifically tailored to your level of advancement and goals. The only issue is that there are soooo many templates and variations that the entire thing is somewhat of a jumbled mess that you’re going to have to sort out for yourself.
Admittedly, I am not a fan of the original 5/3/1 program. I don’t think it contains enough frequency, enough volume, I don’t think it has you handling heavy enough weights often enough, I think it calls for deloads too frequently, and it just generally isn’t specific to powerlifting. However, with Beyond 5/3/1, Wendler does a good job of giving the lifter a variety of tools to address virtually all of these deficiencies.
The main criticisms that remain, at least for me, is that he doesn’t provide a way to systematize the autoregulation provided by Joker sets and the overall volume done on assistance work. If you want the ideal 5/3/1 program for powerlifting, you’re going to have to do a lot of thinking for yourself. You’ll have to bring together all of his principles and create something coherent.
Now, while I still don’t consider the following template optimal, because I prefer at least three upperbody sessions per week, and because the volume still isn’t autoregulated, I do want to give you guys a starting point for making a 5/3/1 for Powerlifting template. I would combine the new Beyond 5/3/1 method and the heavier Boring But Big Variations.
Here’s what it looks like:
Let’s note the key points here. First of all, you’re doing two cycles before every deload. This means you get in a solid six weeks of training before taking that off week. You’re also using joker sets which means your top sets of the day are going to be autoregulated and they’ll be much heavier than the original 5/3/1 top sets. This increases specificity to powerlifting.
Additionally, the 5+ week and 3+ week are swapped. This means you never have two heavy weeks in a row. In Weeks One and Three, you use the Boring But Big Variation where you do 5×3 at 90% of your training max. This allows for more volume at heavier weights and thus makes the program more specific to powerlifting. On the 3×5 Week, you don’t do AMRAPs and you use the 5×5 Boring But Big variation. This week serves as a break from heavy loads, a bit of periodization, and a great way to keep the volume high without resorting to the extremely light, and practically pointless, 5×10 Boring But Big Variation.
Again, I don’t think this is an optimal routine or necessarily 100% the best way to use for 5/3/1 for Powerlifting. I just wanted to give you all a starting point for designing a more specific 5/3/1 template if you are just really enamored with 5/3/1 for whatever reason.
Overall, 5/3/1 is a solid choice for those of you out there who can no longer make progress on the simpler intermediate programs such as the Texas Method. By making some of the modifications we’ve talked about in this article, you’ll be well on your way to a 5/3/1 variant that is more specific to powerlifting and thus more conducive to improving your maximal strength.
Next up in the program cue is going to be Brandon Lilly’s The Cube Method. I am excited to take a deeper look into this one and analyze it for PowerliftingToWin.
If you’re seriously considering using 5/3/1, I honestly believe that you’re doing yourself a disservice if you don’t pick up a copy of Beyond 5/3/1. The material in Beyond 5/3/1 will help you to improve the original 5/3/1 program by leaps and bounds. Wendler’s current version is just so much better than the original! While I don’t consider Beyond 5/3/1 must read material for the average powerlifter, if 5/3/1 really appeals to you personally, you need to grab a copy and give it a read.
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In this review I want to approach this pill from every angle to really get a look at what it does, how it pulls that off, and of course what sort of expectations you should have when you use it. We’ll also talk about side effects and pricing so that you can get a complete picture of the product before you decide to give it a shot.
What Is This Product Called Phen375 All About?
This is one of those diet pills that should be classified as an extreme option, and the first thing you have to know is that it’s not the perfect solution for absolutely everyone.
As a very potent and powerful product it should only be used by those who need help shedding pounds, but have not been able to find success with regular diet and exercise.
If you are one of those people then something like this can seem like a beacon of hope. It can also be a good short-term fat burner for people looking to get into top shape quickly, but generally speaking, those people already know who they are. I would only use it in this way if I was confident in my own understanding of these types of products.
Technically speaking, this might be the most potent product of its type which is available without a prescription in the United States (This might not be valid for EU countries). However, that you are going to get a lot of power for your money here.
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For years, the countries of Russia and others from the former Soviet Republic have dominated international powerlifting and Olympic lifting competitions. And for years, there has also been an aura of mystique surrounding the methods they use to produce such phenomenal athletes, not to mention a lot of misconceptions about those methods.
In this article, I’m going to clear up those misconceptions by laying out the methods they utilize, plus I’m going to outline a couple of routines based on these methods. In fact, I think many lifters (including bodybuilders) in the Western world would achieve better results by incorporating these routines at least part of the year. (These routines are also excellent for any MMA fighters that might reading this, as these workouts build a lot of strength and power—functional muscle mass, not just bulk.)
Without further ado, let’s get down to the Russian principles that could make you a bigger, stronger athlete than you had previously thought was possible.
Method #1—Synaptic Facilitation. This is what the Russians base a large part of their training around. Some western coaches have called it “greasing the groove.” Synaptic facilitation refers to the body’s ability to improve strength on an exercise by performing the movement more frequently. As one Russian axiom goes: “If you want to bench more, you have to bench more.” In other words, the more you bench press, the better and stronger you will get at it. Frequent performance of lifts, in essence, teaches your body to do the lift more efficiently, thus making you stronger.
Method #2—Train More Than One Lift At Each Session. I believe one of the worst mistakes a lot of American lifters make is to perform only one lift (and the assistance exercises associated with that lift) at each session. It’s not uncommon to find American lifters squatting at one session, bench pressing at the next, and deadlifting at the third. The lifters who do this mistakenly believe that this will lead to improved recovery and, therefore, more strength on the lifts.
The problem with this type of training is two-fold. One, you never get in very good shape by performing only one lift per session. Two, you never allow your body to increase its rate of recovery by training so infrequently. Sure, you’re sore and tired when you first attempt to increase your workload so dramatically, but your body will adapt. And when it does, you will be a bigger, stronger bodybuilder, powerlifter, strength athlete, or MMA fighter.
Every time the Russian powerlifters train, they do some type of deadlifting or squatting with some type of bench press work. Doing this consistently makes a powerlifting contest an absolute breeze. If you will train so that your workout sessions are harder, more demanding than any contest you enter, you can be sure to dominate.
Method #3—Train Smaller Muscle Groups More Frequently And With More Volume. Another mistake many American bodybuilders make is to train their larger muscle groups with more volume than their smaller muscles. But a lot of Russian and Eastern-bloc lifters believe that the smaller the muscle, the more volume it can handle. This is the reason they train the muscles that are used in the bench press more frequently than their squats or deadlifts. While many Russians train their squats and deadlifts two to three times a week, many of them also train their bench press up to eight times per week.
Method #4—Perform A Limited Number Of Exercises At Each Workout. One method that Russians use (and one that goes against what is currently used by many Western lifters) is to rarely do more than bench, squat, or deadlift at each session. Sure, they do some slight variations of the exercises—like deadlifts off boxes or deadlifts in the rack, incline bench presses or close-grip bench presses—but they do little else in they way of assistance exercises. About the only assistance work they do are good mornings, dumbbell presses, or some type of abdominal exercise.
Method #5—Keep the Reps Low No Matter the Amount of Weight Being Lifted. Rarely will you see Russian lifters using high reps, especially on their core lifts. Most Russian programs are based around keeping reps between one and five on the three major lifts (or the two Olympic lifts). Lifters who keep their reps this low, even on warm-up sets, are able to recover from their workouts quicker. This allows the lifter to make better use of frequent workouts and synaptic facilitation.
Method #6—As You Increase Weight, Decrease Reps and Increase Sets. Most pyramid schemes used in the West involve increasing weight and decreasing reps on each subsequent set. There’s nothing necessarily wrong with this, as long as it’s performed properly. A lot of bodybuilders, however, make two major mistakes. First, they start out using reps that are too high. And, second, they decrease the number of sets that are used as the weights get heavier. Here’s what a typical set/rep scheme on the bench press looks like for the majority of bodybuilders:
Now, let’s take a look at what a pyramid scheme on the bench press for Russian lifters might look like:
The Russian scheme works better because it allows the lifter to warm-up properly plus reserve strength for the heavier sets. Also, it allows more sets to be performed which helps synaptic facilitation and allows the lifter to recover quicker.
Now that we’ve looked at the major principles the Russians use in their training, it’s time to design a couple of programs based on these methods. What follows are two workouts—a beginning and advanced—which are very close to the routines used by the majority of Russian powerlifters. The first program is a three-days-a-week regimen. The second is a four-days-a-week program.
As the programming series heads towards its finale, it is time to take a look at the Bulgarian Method for Powerlifting. To construct this review, I have consulted multiple works, but my primary influences were John Broz, Matthew Perryman, and Damien Pezzutti. In fact, much of the science behind recovery, overtraining, and its relation to the Bulgarian Method comes directly from Matthew Perryman’s Book: Squat Every Day.
I have to say, without a doubt, this is the single best resource that I have ever encountered for information on overtraining, recovery, and the neuroscience behind lifting weights. If you have a scientific mind, and you aren’t bothered by the fact that the books contains no real “program” to follow, I highly, highly recommend picking up a copy of Squat Every Day. This was one of the single most enlightening books I’ve ever had the chance to go through. I’d go as far as to say that Perryman successfully changed and influenced several long-held beliefs that I personally had regarding anxiety, arousal, and training stress. Again, I highly recommend the book.
Now, it must be said, right here, up front, at the beginning, that there isn’t a single powerlifter out there who truly uses the Bulgarian Method. If my reviews of Smolov and Sheiko are any indication, a lot of you are going to be upset by what I have to say about the Bulgarian Method. You must keep context in mind. Many of the criticisms I am going to levy here are not applicable to Ivan Abadjiev’s original system for weightlifters. Let me repeat that for emphasis: many of the criticisms I am going to levy here are not applicable to Abadjiev’s original system for weightlifters.
Our focus here is going to be upon the popular adaptations of the system created by powerlifters. In particular, we’re going to take a deeper look at what Matthew Perryman has to say about this system because, well, he is the only one who went to the trouble of writing a 200 page book on the subject.
Without further ado, let’s sink our teeth into the Bulgarian Method.
If you’d rather watch than read:
The Bulgarian Method: History, Background and Context
For those who don’t know, the Bulgarian Method rose to fame thanks to the success of Ivan Abadjiev’s Bulgarian weightlifting team. Despite a poor economic situation and a population not much larger than the state of New York, Adadjiev’s team produced multiple medal winners at the games.
Now, Abadjiev’s system gained notoriety because of the way he treated his weightlifters; he treated them like professional athletes. In other words, these guys trained, quite literally, eight hours a day almost every single day of the week. They’d perform an exercise, take a 30 minute break to smoke, eat or nap, and then they’d move on to the next exercise.
Who knows if the rumor is true, but according to Jim Moser, American weightlifter and weightlifting coach, Abadjiev got his idea for training all day, every day by watching the Harlem Globetrotters. He was amazed that they could run up and down the court all day long performing their various feats, wake up the next morning, and do it all over again despite constant travel. He figured if basketball players could do it, why couldn’t his weightlifters? Again, who knows if it is true, but it is a fun story nonetheless.
Again, and I really want to reiterate this point, there isn’t a single powerlifter out there, that I know of, who has the resources to be training like a professional athlete. There aren’t powerlifters out there training eight hours a day. So, really, no powerlifter is doing the true Bulgarian method.
Additionally, unlike American powerlifting which is often haphazard and recruits talent from a wide variety of pools well after the youth stages, Bulgarian athletes were much more like Sheiko’s athletes. A lot of people don’t understand that, in these Eastern bloc countries, children are put through harsh general physical preparation (GPP) in their PE programs for years. They begin specializing in certain sports before they’re done in grade school. By the time a Russian Sheiko lifter is competing in the IPF as a Junior, he has likely been training with Sheiko for 5-10 years.
With the Bulgarian weightlifting team, far more economic funding was put behind the program than is accessible to a guy like Sheiko. This is because there are gold medals available in weightlifting. Winning gold medals brings honor and prestige to a country.
So, just imagine an entire “feeder” system, not all that different to what Americans have for baseball or football, and what Europeans have for soccer, and you’ll have an accurate representation of the athletes who were coming into the Bulgarian team to do the Bulgarian method. These athletes went through a highly selective process and they had already been building their work capacity, volume tolerance, and GPP for more than a decade.
How many of you can say you come from a similar background? That’s what I thought.
The bottom line, in my opinion, is that most people who consider “sexy” foreign methods like Sheiko, Smolov, or the Bulgarian Method purposefully forget that the athletes who use these programs come from an entirely different physical background than they do. It isn’t to say these programs won’t work for anyone else, but it is to say that you probably aren’t a part of the intended demographic.
Explaining The Bulgarian Method for Powerlifting
As I said before, we can’t review the actual Bulgarian Method because there probably isn’t a powerlifter alive who is actually doing the real Bulgarian Method. If someone knows of a powerlifter who trains eight hours a day, please let me know. In all seriousness, I’d love to see what their training looks like.
That said, what we can take a look at is the basic gist of what guys like Matthew Perryman have to say about how to apply the Bulgarian “principles” to powerlifting.
For those who are completely unfamiliar with the method, the contents will probably shock you. The original Bulgarian Method calls for maxing out every single training session with a few caveats.
You are to employ a “daily max” that involves no assistive gear, no loud music, no stimulants and no psyching-up. This “daily max” is a weight that you can hit that day with zero grinding. The lifts, if not fast, must be smooth. Using Tuchscherer’s RPE scale, you shouldn’t be surpassing RPE 9.5 (maybe one rep left in the tank). The point here is to minimize the psychological and neurological stress of each workout as much as possible. In Squat Every Day, Perryman makes a compelling argument that, in many cases, the psychological stress of a workout contributes as much, if not more, to recovery debt than the actual workload of the physical activity itself.
After the daily max is set, the lifter takes off 15-30kg (~10%) and knocks out “two to three” doubles or triples – this advice is echoed from John Broz. However, you can employ autoregulation for these back-offs. Perryman suggests a 15-20 minute time limit a la Tuchscherer’s RTS. You do as many back-offs as you can, in that 15-20 minutes, without grinding any reps or making yourself nervous about whether or not you can do the next set. In other words, you stop at RPE 9. This is basic autoregulation.
It is important to note that Perryman includes other options in his book. This is just the primary back-off method discussed.
The main template Perryman offers is quite simple. You have two options:
3) Upperbody Pull
1) Lowerbody Pull
3) Upperbody Pull
Back squats are the mainstay, but front squats are also encouraged for “lighter days”. Perryman also suggests that you may incorporate box squats, SSB squats, or other variations from time to time if they keep you happy and productive. Keep in mind that that original Bulgarian Method used only a handful exercises: back squat, front squat, clean&jerk, snatch, heavy Olympic pulls, and power variants of the Olympic lifts. It isn’t quite with the spirit of the original program to make heavy use of variations.
For presses, Perryman suggests benching, overhead pressing, incline and push press.
For pulling, you might deadlift, do power cleans/snatches, or other variations such as deficits or block pulls. For upperbody pulls, you’re looking at things such as chin-ups and DB Rows. The upperbody pull is not meant to be taken to a max in the same manner as the other two movements. The upperbody pull is more there for shoulder health, balance, structural integrity, and all that jazz.
Perryman suggests pulling heavy once or twice a week. Echoing John Broz again, the advice is given to treat most of these pulling sessions as “speed” sessions where you do 6-10 singles or doubles with 70-80% of your contest max (not daily max). The goal, like all other workouts on the Bulgarian Method, is to have the reps be stress free, fast, and smooth.
Additionally, Perryman himself often would dedicate one workout to a heavy deadlift triple. On these days, you work up to a smooth triple and just call it a day. The theory here is that deadlifts are simply harder to recover from than squats and other pressing variants.
The “Dark Times”
It is critical to mention that, should you begin this program, you’re going to feel like complete and utter shit. This is especially true if you jump straight into a 5-7 times per week regime. You must keep showing up and lifting anyways. John Broz calls these the “dark times”.
Theoretically, and anecdotally according to lifters who have used this method, you must first go through a period of adaptation. You’ll never feel “100% recovered” as you had in the past, but you will learn to differentiate between feeling tired or beat-up and legitimate overtraining. The name of the game with the Bulgarian Method is: Squat Every Day – no matter how you feel!
Now, Abadjiev had his lifters working into these frequencies over time and Perryman tends to recommend something similar. He offers an introductory template where you begin this type of training on a thrice weekly schedule. When lifters would stall, Abadjiev would add another training day to their schedule in the form of a light day / speed work session. This isn’t Westside speed work but rather easy doubles in the 70-80% range. Over time, as lifters would plateau, these speed sessions would graduate to normal daily max sessions. Through time, lifters were built-up to the point where they were basically training all day, every day.
This said, both Perryman and Abadjiev used “unloading” weeks. This is not your traditional deload where you show up and basically do nothing. You’re limiting the weights you handle to about 80% of your best and the total volume gets cut in half. Maintain your frequent squatting habits. Abadjiev had his lifters “unload” every fourth week or so. As a newer Bulgarian user, Perryman suggests you might want to increase that number to every two or three weeks.
An Example Bulgarian Style Program for Powerlifting
As you can see, the Bulgarian Method “for powerlifting” is less of a specific method than it is a collection of principles that you need to apply for yourself. Here is an oversimplified, over-summarized version of those principles:
1) Work up to a daily max on the back squat and bench press
2) Do a couple of back-off sets using doubles or triples
3) Do not grind reps or use “psyche-up” techniques
4) Try to deadlift once or twice a week – primarily focusing on speed work
5) Show up and squat even when you feel like shit
6) Take light weeks every 2-4 weeks – cut volume in half, don’t lift above 80%
As you can see, in our hypothetical Bulgarian template, you’re squatting five times a week, pressing of some sort six times a week, and deadlifting twice. One of the deadlift sessions is a speed session and the heavier session is on Saturday right before your day off. Every three weeks, an unloading week is performed. I’ve included a minimum of variations, but they are present. You’ll notice two front squat days, two close-grip bench press days, and a push press day. The upperback work is also rotated.
Planning: Peaking on the Bulgarian Method
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