Defining Some Terms

I’m enjoying using this as a training log, and I thought it might be worth it to put up a general overview of my training plan as well as define some of the terms used. I know not every one reading this will have the same interest I do in strength training, so I’d like to make it as accessible as possible.

First off, all my training “philosophy” comes from what I’ve read online and in a few books. I’ve taken no courses, have no certifications, but I have read a lot about what successful strength athletes have used in their training and tried to assimilate as much as possible. My starting point, as it was for many novice lifters, was the book Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe. It’s a great starting place, and I’d highly recommend reading through it if you’re interested in strength training.

Currently I draw my training program from three sources: Jim Wendler, Steve Pulcinella, and Dan John. Wendler is a former elite level powerlifter, Pulcinella is a former elite level Strongman and Highland Games competitor, and Dan John is a former Olympic weightlifter, thrower, Highland Games competitor, and all around elder statesman of the iron game. From these three sources I’ve formed a training program that seems to work really well for me, while at the same time remaining true to the training principles they each espouse.

From Jim Wendler: the 5/3/1 program

5/3/1 is built around the 4 key compound lifts: the back squat, the deadlift, the (overhead) press, and the bench press. I lift 4 days a week, so I hit each of these lifts once a week. 5/3/1 is a pretty simple four week cycle, based off of percentages of your 1 rep max (1RM, the most weight you can do in a lift). The actual percentages are laid out elsewhere online (I use the calculator at blackironbeast.com to print up my training cycles), but the key points are the final top sets each week. For the final set you hit As Many Reps As Possible (AMRAP), going just to the point of failure. Week 1 reps out at 85% training max, week 2 reps out at 90% training max, and week 3 reps out at 95% training max, week 4 is a deload week for recovery. I should note that the training max here is based off of 90% of your actual max, might sound strange, but that’s the program and it works so I’ll stick with it. At the end of the cycle you add 10 lbs or so to your squat and deadlift 1RM and 5 lbs or so to your press and bench press 1RM numbers and recalculate for the next cycle. By keeping track of your AMRAP sets it’s easy to track progress. Plus, it trains not only 1RM strength but also 10RM strength, which is equally important for strongman competition.

Okay, that was a lot of text, but that was the basis of my training program. The next section will be shorter I promise.

From Pulcinella: heavy singles

Steve Pulcinella is a hilarious guy. Seriously, check out his training log at elitefts.com, good stuff. At one point I read a strongman training program that Stevey P shared online. One thing I really liked on it was an emphasis on heavy singles. A lot of heavy singles, in the 8-12 range. 5/3/1 had me set for heavy rep work, but I wanted to incorporate these heavy singles as well. To do so, in the 3rd week I just hit one rep at 95% training max, then jump to 90-95% actual max and do as many singles as possible. Usually I get about 8.

Okay, that covers the 4 key compound lifts. What do I do for accessory lifts? More heavy lifting!

From Dan John: PPS

Dan John loves to lay out training programs that are simple but effective. For example, PPS stands for Press Pull Squat; some kind of press, some kind of pull, some kind of squat each training session. Since those are the kinds of movements I love, it sounds perfect to me. Putting it all together:

Monday: 5/3/1 Press, weighted pull-ups, front squats

Wednesday: 5/3/1 Deadlift, high bar back squat, push press

Friday: 5/3/1 Benchpress, Pendlay rows, Zerchers

Weekend: 5/3/1 Low-bar Back Squat, power cleans, snatch grip presses

There’s other presses, pulls, and squats that I can rotate in as I feel like to keep things interesting.

Well, there it is, a really long ass post about how I train. Eventually I’ll need to start adding in event training to get better at actually competing in Strongman, but for now I think this program should keep my strength progressing for a long time. Fingers crossed.

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