Monthly Archives: December 2015

Training Pyramid Part 4 – SRA

Afternoon Guys,
In the quest to understand how to write a solid program I have covered Specificity, Overload & Recovery which are realistically the three most important parts of a program.
Without specificity you will not really be able to progress because you don’t know what you want.
Without Overload you won’t adapt.
Without (Sufficient) Recovery you can’t keep training and achieving overload, thus meaning you can’t progress.
Okay, you can progress without specificity provided you get the second two right but you wouldn’t train like a body builder if you wanted to run marathon would you. This is why specificity is top.
I briefly mention SRA (Stimulus, Recover, Adaptation) in the post on recovery as they are closely linked.
When you program your training you will follow the rule of Stimulus (building phase)- Recovery (reduction in volume) – Adaptation (making progress). This can be programmed in or done naturally for the more experienced lifter – not for anyone who has less than 5 years training experience.
A good example of a program that follows this rule is The Texas Method (a 5×5 variation). In this program you would typically have your first lifting day programmed with 5×5 @80-90% of your 1RM (either a true max or training max), the second lifting day your weights would stay the same but instead of 5 working sets at 80-90% you would only have 2 if memory serves me correctly. When you approach the last day you simply ramp up to a new 5RM and then adjust your weights accordingly for the upcoming week.
The theory behind this program is such that you will stimulate the muscles sufficiently to force a positive adaptive response with the 5×5, then the 2×5 give your body a chance to recover while still staying primed neurologically (staying familiar with the weight) so that when it comes to your ramp on Friday you can work up to a new 5RM.
You don’t need to plan this in every week but personally I think having a light day programmed in will not only help your body but also your mind too. Check the post on recovery where I spoke about the use of Medium-Light-Heavy Days.

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Training Pyramid Part 3 – Recovery

Morning Guys,
We’ve covered Specificity and Overload, not it’s time for the third instalment of how to create a solid training program.
The topic now in question is one often missed by a lot of people and that is Recovery.
Understanding what you can/can’t recover from will put in in the best place to force your body to adapt and improve accordingly, while slightly overreaching (pushing hard for a couple of weeks longer than planned) is good and can be a very useful tool, doing it for tool long will lead to regression or worse, injury.
How can you establish what the maximum amount of volume/intensity that you can recover from while still making progress is? Educated guesswork.
Seriously, educated guesswork might sound like a cop out answer but I don’t know you, I also very much doubt you know you either.
When it comes to finding what you can handle tracking your workouts, nutrition, sleep patterns and even daily life (stressors) can play a big part, for example – you’ve not been eating what you need for a coupe of days and have a poor session where you miss lifts, does this mean you need to take a deload week? Probably not, it simply means you’re feeling fatigue because you weren’t eating enough calories for a few days.
Typically you will find that the reason for a session not feeling great is not that you’ve hit your limit but poor nutrition, broken sleep or a stressful time in life. A good rule of thumb is this: If you can train for longer than 8 weeks while increasing volume/intensity then you’re not doing enough and if you cant make it to 4 weeks then you’re doing too much.
There is a term that has become popular in recent times (it has been around for years but it’s only popular now due to the influence of social media), it’s called Auto-Regulation.
Auto-Regulation can best be described as listening to your body, it’s instinctual. Some days you may be able to go heavier than planned, if you feel good then go for it. Other days you won’t feel great so a reduction in that days volume or intensity might be in order.
Can you program Auto-Regulation?
Kinda, but not quite… Let me explain.
There has been the thought process of Medium Day, Light Day, Heavy Day surrounding not only full body workouts but also splits for many years. This concept is based around one day causing a stimulus, one day allowing recovery for that week and the last day is for setting new rep PR’s or realising some adaptation, or so the theory goes.
When you program your training you will follow the rule of Stimulus (building phase)- Recovery (reduction in volume) – Adaptation (making progress), you don’t need to plan this in every week but personally I think having a light day programmed in will not only help your body but also your mind too.
Your limits are your limits, you need to find them out for yourself but to get the most accurate summation of what they are you will need to track everything you’re doing.

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Training Pyramid Part 2 – Overload

Evening Guys,

Previously I spoke about the most important part of building a training program, in case you missed it here is the link to part one.…/training-pyramid-part-1-…/

The first and most important part of writing a program was and always will be Specificity because without this you’re literally training blind. Once you establish your specific goal and time frame you can move up the list to the second most important part of developing a good program, that my friends is OVERLOAD.

Overload put simply is the optimal degree of homeostatic disruption caused by training that you can recover from to allow adaptations to occur.

The stress caused in training must stimulate a response that says “If this happens again I want it to be easier.” if you do too much your body will more likely follow the route of “All I can hope to do is survive, let alone adapt.” we shall cover that more soon.

When it comes to achieving the desired result that will incur a positive adaptive response it can be achieved through manipulating any of the following variables – Volume, Intensity, Density, Frequency, Exercise Selection and Muscle Fiber Recruitment (How close to failure you push). Each of these offer there own pros and cons, we shall cover each today.

Overall the main thing to remember is that to progress you must do more than you did before, be that session by session or over the span of a traceable training block- 4 weeks for example.

Can you do too much volume?


How can you know where your maximum recoverable volume limit currently is?

Keep increasing and *tracking your overall volume until you start going backwards, once you go backwards you will know you’ve exceeded the volume you can currently recover from. I would suggest looking at your training notes and find where you still had good speed on the reps and decent from while still finding the workout challenging. There will be more talk on recovery another day.

*When tracking your lifts write down not only the number of reps achieved but also how it felt on the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) scale of 1-10.

As you can no doubt tell, the way to progress is to increase the overall volume but make sure you can still recover, this is a simple concept and now we are going to go in to the ways you can increase your overload so that you incur the necessary stimulus to adapt and continue to make gains.

Here is each method:

*Volume, Intensity and Density Quick Guide below.

Volume – Total volume is established by using this equation: Sets x Reps x Weight = Total Training Volume (for that exercise, on that day). If your weights stay the same over the course of the training cycle then either adding more reps or more sets is required. You can keep those the same and increase the weight (intensity) but this can leave you feeling beaten up and unable to recover sufficiently enough or even result in less total volume because of the limited number of sets/reps you’d be able to successfully complete.

The most optimal way to stimulate overload with this variable is to increase either the sets or reps, thus increasing your overall work capacity.

Intensity – Closely linked with total volume in the equation to establish what yours currently is, however it means the difference between making progression and burning out. Think in terms of 3×10 at 70% 1RM vs 10×3 at 90% 1RM, while the overall reps are the same the intensity is very different. One will be repeatable within a few days, the other not so much. Increased weight on the bar is good for building and revealing new strength gains but in the long run it can be very demanding both physically (your nervous system) and mentally, sometimes less is more. Increasing intensity in terms of weight on the bar does have it’s place when peaking but for the most part sticking with 60-85% of 1RM for the majority of your loading is best advised.

Density – How much work you can get out in a certain space of time. You will find this falls int he realms of things like Rest-Pause training and extended sets. These techniques allow you to get in large amounts of reps with higher levels of intensity, thus leading to increased work capacity and doing more than you did before.

*The three methods above are all interlinked as you can see, the main take home is to track what you’re doing and make sure your total reps/set with the same weight are higher than it was before (volume) OR you did the same amount of reps with more weight (intensity) OR you did the same amount of work in less time (Density).

Frequency – How many times per week you’re training each muscle group. 1x p/w VS 2x p/w for example. The more frequently you expose a muscle to the stimulus it requires to adapt the more adaption that will occur – Provided you’ve not exceeded you’re natural recoverable limits. The majority of people will do well to train each muscle group every 3-5 days (72hours apart being optimal).

Exercise Selection – Assistance movements are great for providing extra overload to specific muscle groups and can provide that much needed extra stimulus for progression. However, you will need to make sure you choices are appropriate to your current stage of training and do not interfere with a previous days recovery: EG, leg day followed by heavy pulling day with lots of rows = fried lower back.

Muscle Fiber Recruitment – Slightly more appropriate for intermediate and advanced lifters as this will mean the sue of training methods such as drop sets, forced reps, negatives and other such training protocols of a similar ilk. The easiest way to think of muscle fiber recruitment is to see it as accumulated fatigue. The more fatigue you amass the more muscle fibers you recruit to continue to generate the required force to keep lifting the weight and overcome inertia.

If you take 5×5 at 70% as the example the first set of 5 will end feeling like 75% of 1RM, then the second st might feel like 80% of 1RM, are you getting the idea? By your last set of 5 you will feel like this is 95%+ of your 1RM because of the fatigue you’ve accumulated, but it’s also worth noting that you will have recruited pretty much all of the muscles fibers you have available to you currently (type 1//2-a/b etc). You don’t always need max weight to get the benefit of lifting max weights.

Now that you know several variables that can help you increase your overload that’s specific to your training goal and create a program that allows you to keep progressing. Always aim to do more than you did before, that’s how you progress. After all, the key to progress is progress.



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Training Pyramid Part 1 – Specificity

Morning Guys,
Programming your training isn’t the easiest thing in the world but it’s not rocket science either. All it needs is a little care and attention so that it can be crafted in to something of beauty.
If I was to ask you what the most important part of a program was, what would you say it is?
Total Volume, Intensity, Time spent in the gym perhaps?
While you would not be wrong in thinking that those are not the most important things, to begin with that is.
The first thing you need to know is what you want to achieve specifically.
Now, specificity is all well and good but if you don’t have a defined timescale/goal then you can be as specific as you like but it won’t mean much, however these two are intrinsically linked as you can’t really have one without the other. If you used a body building competition as an example you would know when your comp date is, thus allowing you to appropriately plan your Macro/Meso & Microcycles (training blocks from building to adaptation to realisation/peaking).
One of the first things you need to establish and get right in your quest for a solid program is what your desired SPECIFICITY is at that point in time. It’s no good using 1-3reps with 90%+ of your 1RM for the majority of your training if your goal is hypertrophy (for most people), you will be far better off sticking with 6-12 reps in the 70-80% range. As time progresses and you draw closer and closer to your end date you will indeed adapt your training to suit your needs, perhaps it’s adding more sets/reps to increase the total volume and really push yourself to the edge but what ever it is, it will be relevant to your training at that point in time.
During your planning stage you will be looking to have a steady increase in overall volume that is stimulating enough to make you adapt but manageable enough so that you can recover, after all, there is no point in going too hard too son and ending up injured or burnt out.
Remember, the goal of each training block is to improve your overall performance and help you progress towards your goal, when you start planning what you’re going to do you must think about what you NEED to do and not what you LIKE to do. One will get your the results you want, the other will only massage your ego.
Think of this as the base of the pyramid, once you have this you can then go hunting for your sets/reps & intensity or as it is otherwise known Overload (this will be covered another day).
It’s time now for you to go and establish what your goal really is, what stage you’re currently at and how much time you have to achieve it your desired goal. Get these fundamentals sorted and you will be on the right path.

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Pause Reps for Progress.

Morning Guys,

Kick start your new year gains with:

Pause Reps for Progress.

Using pause reps at the bottom of exercises such as Squats, Presses, Deadlifts (Extensor Chain Movements as they are technically known) severely limits and sometimes even forgoes the use of the Stretch-Reflex (after around 4 seconds) which build a greater amount of intra-muscular tension and leads to greater gains in both strength and hypertrophy because you have to generate extra force to overcome the initial inertia.

When it comes to using this style of technique you will be best to have a focus/control on not only the pause but the decent in to the movement too, this is to allow correct form and reduce any chance of injury.

The length of pause can vary from 2-8 seconds, you can do longer if you wish for heavy singles but that’s you’re own choice. Depending on the length of pause you will use different set/reps, these can change overtime but the suggestions below are a good pace to start.

Tempo = 3-6 second eccentric, select pause, (X) explosive concentric, 1 – repeat.

Your tempo when written down might look like this: 4-3-X-1

2-3sec pause – 5 reps – 5 sets
4-5sec pause – 3 reps – 8 sets
6-7sec pause – 2 reps – 10/12 sets
8+sec pause – 1 rep – 5/15 sets

You will see there is quite a range for you to choose from. I would advise that you play with your weights to establish what you can/can’t handle as I have noticed this varies dramatically depending on each individual and how they have trained for the majority of their training age.

If you want some loading suggestions then I would suggest you start off light, say 60% 1RM for the 2-3 second pause and see how it feels, you can adjust accordingly form there but unlike normal loading the longer the pause you have the lighter the weight might need to be. For example you might get away with say 75% for a 2 second pause but only be able to handle 50% for an 8+ second pause when you first apply this method.

The use of pause reps help build tremendous strength over time, don’t be a fool and rush in too heavy too soon as it’s a recipe for disaster.

If you follow a 3xPW training schedule then try this:

Day 1 – Pull
A1 – DL – 5×5 – 2sec pause at bottom of lift
B1 – Supinated Row 6×8
B2 – Pull Up x fail
C1 – Bicep Curl 12,10,8,20
D1 – Ab Roll Out 2×5

Day 2 – Push
A1 – Overhad Press 5×5
B1 – Incline Press 8×3 – 4sec pause at bottom of lift
C1 – Dip 6×8 – Add weight if needed
D1 – Ab Roll out 2×5

Day 3 – Legs
A1 – Front Squat – 10×2 – 6second pause at bottom of lift
B1 – Back Squat – 2×12
B2 – Walking Lunge – Weighted – As far as possible.
C1 – Calf Raise 2×100 reps
C2 – Ab Roll Out 2×5


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New Year, New You… Again

Morning Guys,
With today being Boxing Day I felt it was the perfect time to start talking about your New Years goals, or rather, how you are going to approach them.
We have all heard of goal setting, but very few people ever actually do this. Instead they go to the gym with a vague idea of what they want and flit between several pieces of equipment ultimately achieving nothing.
One form of goal setting that is a personal favourite is to write down what your goal is in less than 300 words. You will want to contain all of this info in those limited characters:
– Your Goal (what it is and when you will achieve it – specific date)
– How you will achieve it
– How achieving the goal will make you feel
– How current behaviours are going to change to achieve the goal
– How accountability will be kept (PT, Training log etc)
300 words is not a lot of words, this means you will have to cut out any fluff and purely focus on what is important (your training should be this way too). It also has the added benefit of being readable in less than one minute so you can take a look daily and keep yourself focused.

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Don’t Think, FEEL.

Morning Guys,

In the world of fitness you will hear some of the more experienced lifters talk a lot about lifting according to how they feel.

It seems that now lots of people are using that word, but it does not mean what you think it means…

When you gain enough experience to base your lifts off how you feel it does not mean any of the following:

– Going too light too often.
– Stopping short because you don’t ‘feel’ it.
– Staying in your comfort zones.

The three points above are very common and people use feel as an excuse not to work harder, where as the experienced lifters use feel to test their limits and perhaps work up to a new 8,5 or 3RM for the day and maybe even add a little more weight to their assistance/back off sets.

It is true that if they really don’t feel strong enough to push a new RM they won’t but they will still hit their minimum lifting numbers according to their program.

Experienced lifters do work off of feel but they also follow a a progressive and periodised program as well. For these people ‘feel’ means a new RM/PB not “I’m going to take it easy because I’m a tad sore” which is what it means to many.

Some call this Auto-Regulation. This is linked in with utilising the RPE (Rate of perceived exertion) scale to gauge your lifts. You might record a deadlift that feels like an 8RPE to you but when you watch it back it looks like a 7, meaning you will help understand what each RPE point means to you and how/when to push harder or hold back.

Any good program will be progressive and have scheduled de-loads and a logical structure one the Macro/Meso & Micro-cycles, however until you are at a Training Age* that allows you to understand what ‘feel’ actually is you’d be better off following a strict structured program and striving for constant progression.

*Training Age si the amount of years you’ve been lifting. As an example you can have an 18year old Olympic Lifter who has been lifting for 14years easily out-lift a 30Year old man who has been lifting 6month.

If you have been lifting for a considerable amount of time then you will already know what feel really is, if you;re still new to lifting I would advise you write everything down when you train. I literally mean everything… How the reps felt, how they looked on camera, how their speed was, who your form was, EVERYTHING. Doing this will help you grasp the concept of what feel actually is very quickly.

In the words of a wise man:

“Don’t think, feel.” – Bruce Lee


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Afternoon Guys,

Have you ever heard of the training concept PPL (Pull-Push-Legs)?

It would not surprise me it you had in fact done a variation of this accidentally. This training method is quite effective and a great option for those with limited time.

How does it work on a weekly basis?

You start of the week by loading up on all of your Pulling movements, then it’s a rest day followed by your Pressing day, one more day off and then it’s time for you Leg day which you will then need the weekend to recover from. Simple yet satisfying.

Pull Day – Deadlift, Rows (any variations), Pull/Chin Ups, Bicep Work.
Push Day – OHP (any variations), Bench (any variations), Dips, Tricep Work.
Leg Day – Squat (any variations), Lunges, Stiff Leg Deadlifts, Leg Isolation Work.

I’ve not given any specifics in terms of exercise choice or set/rep range for the reason that the PPL principle can be used for multiple goals, however you will find that the most benefit comes from utilising a Heavy-Medium-Light through process, similar to the way the *Cube Method rotates its intensity.

*If you’ve not read the cube method, grab a copy of the e-book online and get reading.

If you were to use a 3 day per week training split and adjust the weights loading/volume according to a H-M-L thought process you will avoid stagnation, boredom and make some real progress.

Monday -Pull- Heavy – Light – Medium

Wednesday -Push- Light – Medium – Heavy

Friday -Legs- Medium – Heavy – Light

Now depending on your goals and needs H-L-M will mean different things but the basic concept is there, this is what makes PPL work very well for multiple goals. All you need to do is take some time to establish what you need/want.


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Maximise Your Workouts

Morning Guys,
If there is one thing that people seem to forget, it’s that they should be maximising every working set when they train.
What do I mean by that?
I will tell you what it doesn’t mean and that’s being a broken sweaty mess, however… if you end up a broken and sweaty mess as a result of truly maximising your working sets int he gym then so be it.
Confused? It’s ok, I will explain.
When I talk about getting the most out of your gym time I often speak about how much good quality work you will be doing in each session (for most people this is around 1hour of solid work). A good way to establish this is to set yourself a rep target, 50 reps for example. You will pick a weight that allows you to do anywhere from 6-12 reps, then you will try and hit your rep target in as few sets as possible. It’s usually best to stop 1/2 reps short of failure or when your form starts to break of slow down noticeably.
Using the example above lets say you do the following in week 1:
100kg x 14
100kg x 12
100kg x 8
100kg x 8
100kg x 6
100kg x 6
That gives you 54 reps in 6 sets no you can either stick with 6 sets as your standard and increase the weight while keeping the rep target the same or you can aim to hit 50 reps in say 5 sets or perhaps even 4, by doing this you will force yourself to increase your work capacity and lift more over a shorter period of time. Once you can do it in say 4 or 5 sets then feel free to add weight and try again.
Personally I like to limit my total sets to 4/5 when using the 6-12 rep range as this gives a nice large scope or rep targets (25-100 potentially if you;re so inclined). When it comes to workouts I will usually use these guidelines:
*Main Lift – 25 Rep Target – 5 sets tops
Assistance Lifts (1-3 lifts) 50 reps – 5 sets tops
Isolation Lift (1 lift or 2 in a super set) 75 reps 5 sets tops
Core – 2×5
*Deadlifts, Clean & Press, Cleans, Snatch I usually limits to 10 heavy reps or 15 moderate ones.
This style of method helps keep things simple and progressive, remember that the key to progression is in fact progression. If you’re not sure how to put together a workout then there are some example exercise below that you can pick from. All you need to do is match up the main lift to the rep/set target, when it comes to picking loads you can either go on feel or start with 70% of your 1RM if you know it. Alternatively you can use this 1RM calculation to establish a guideline number:
Weight x Reps x 0.0333 + Weight = Estimated 1RM
Estimated 1RM x 0.7 = Estimated 70%
Main Lift Choices:
Squat, Front Squat, Deadlift, Snatch Grip Deadlift, Press, Bench Press
Assistance Lift Choices:
More Squats, just lighter. Leg Press, Lunge, Straight Leg Deadlift, Dumbbell Press, Inline Press, Dips, Pull Ups, Bent Over Row, Renegade Row.
Isolation Lift Choices:
Leg Extension, Hamstring Curls, Calf Raises, Flies, Reverse Flies, Face Pulls, Bicep Curls, Skull Crushers.
Core Lift Choices:
Ab Roll Out, Hanging Leg Raise – Toes to bar wth strict form.
Above are very limited examples, you can find hundreds of variations of exercise on the internet so there is no need for me to list them down, besides, it will do you some good to go digging for extra exercise.
The above is nothing revolutionary but it works, now go and maximise not only your working sets but also your time in the gym.

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A Simple Program for Strength

Morning Guys,

Occasionally people can struggle to bring up a lift, below is an 8 week program based on performing said lift twice per week. Ideally you will know your 1RM, if not then use this calculation to establish it:

Reps x Weight x 0.0333 + Original Weight = Estimated 1RM

The program focuses on increasing the overall load/accumulated volume while keeping the work capacity (sets/reps) the same. It’s a good place for intermediates to start breaking their plateaus.

Week 1:
Session 1 – 3×8 @70%
Session 2 – 3×8 @72%

Week 2:
Session 3 -3×8 @75%
Session 4 -12×2 @90%

Week 3:
Session 5 – 3×8 @72%
Session 6 – 3×8 @75%

Week 4:
Session 7 -3×8 @77%
Session 8 -12×2 @90%

Week 5:
Session 9 – 3×8 @75%
Session 10 – 3×8 @77%

Week 6:
Session 11 -3×8 @80%
Session 12 -12×2 @90%

Week 7:
Session 13 – Rest or Active Mobility
Session 14 – Test 1 or 2RM for new baseline %

Week 8: Deload
Session 15 – 2×8 Old 70%
Session 16 – 2×8 Old 70%

Once you have finished the program you can either repeat it on the same lift of you can pick a different one.

If you were training 4days per week this could be what the program might look like one the weekly basis:

Day 1 – Squat (using session 1 above)
Day 2 – Pressing Day – 5RM Ramp – OH, INC, DIP or CG
Day 3 – Off
Day 4 – Squat (using session 2 above)
Day 5 – Pulling Day – 5RM Ramp – Deadlift* Pull Ups, Rows, Face Pulls
Day 6 – Off
Day 7 – Off

*Deadlift only on weeks where the squat is 3×8 for both session only.

This is not fancy but it works because if follows the basic principles of overload.


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