Pushing Training Frequency and Recovery Part II

Part I of this series mainly covered my reasons for an increase in squatting. This part will cover the rest of my training. Enjoy.

I’m deadlifting 2 times per week. Going pretty light on one day doing sumo deadlifts as fast as I can for multiple singles one day and the other day working my way up to a nice and heavy single. I’m lucky in the way that deadlifting doesn’t give me crazy muscle soreness. For instance Jamie Lewis who is an absolute beast doesn’t squat often because it leaves him a sore wreck for days after. If I still deadlifted with a conventional stance, I’d be sore as hell for days after as well. Sumo doesn’t make me sore, therefore I deadlift often.

Heck, last week I did speed pulls with almost 400 pounds, a bunch of singles up to 585, and a bunch of doubles of reverse band rack pulls from below the knees with 675. This was all in one week! So to say that the body is capable of adapting to a heavy workload in a hurry is an understatement.

I’m bench pressing 2-3x per week, which flys completely in the face of what I’ve been lead to believe. The overtraining police would have us believe that if I trained bench heavily more than once per week my bench would turn to mush, my joints would cease to function and I would lose all motivation to train. Well this hasn’t happened at all. I used a method called ladders that I discovered while reading Easy Strength by Pavel Tsatsouline and Dan John. This method has many permutations, but the one I used was for building strength. I started with a weight I could lift for 5 reps. I then did the following with my starting weight: 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3. I’d increase the weight by 5 pounds for my next training session and hit the same reps. I went up for 5 straight sessions before I wasn’t able to complete all three ladders (one ladder consists of 1, 2, and 3 reps). Then came back the following session and crushed all three ladders.

When I began using this method, my bench press was at an incredibly weak and depressing 285. I just completed three full ladders with this weight! So this method works for sure. My shoulders feel great, my motivation to go to the gym is still high (especially because I’m essentially doing what I want at the gym whenever I go) and I still feel fresh.

I’m also overhead pressing 2-3x per week. Utilizing Jim Wendler’s favourite lift: the standing overhead press. Yes I’m aware that many fitness experts say to limit your overhead pressing because you’ll break your shoulders etc. Well I’ve been doing it for a while and I haven’t noticed anything different in my shoulders. I even started doing more overhead pressing with my clients, and they haven’t experienced any ill effects. I’ve been using a lot of Pavel’s shoulder packing cues with my clients and myself and I feel that this is leading to the ability of my clients to overhead press more frequently without suffering any of the supposed shoulder injuries that accompany overhead pressing.

My reps for military pressing are low just like pretty much everything else. I’m doing heavy singles, followed by a few more singles or doubles. It’s working very well, I don’t get muscle soreness, I feel fresh even when I leave the gym, and I’m looking forward to getting back into the gym to increase my max. My goal in the military press (synonymous with standing overhead press) is 225 pounds. I’ve hit a 210 single and a 205 double so I think I’m getting pretty close to my goal. I’d eventually like to lift 300 pounds in this lift, like some of the crazy strong dudes of old. We’ll see if I can ever hit that goal (although you bet I will try).

Along with the overhead press I’m crushing it on push presses, pendlay rows and chin-up ladders. My hips felt pretty crappy for the first week after squatting 5 straight days, after that my hips adapted to the frequency and haven’t been bothering me since. I’ve had small aches and pains along with way, which according to Matt Perryman and John Broz are regular while training with what most would deem ridiculous volume.

My exercise selection as noted above consists of nearly all multi-joint exercises with heavy weight on everything. I’ve had a short training sessions where I’d do some “arm crap” as I like to call it. This is done basically because it’s nice to get a pump every once in a while, and doing arms can be a good time. Is it helping me increase my squat, bench or deadlift? Doubt it, but if it keeps my motivation up and let’s me do things in the gym that are “easier” than what I’m doing regularly, it’s definitely a positive.

My “assistance” exercises have been pretty much non existent. I’m not doing goodmonrings, hip thrusts, lunges, or split squats. The only lower body exercises I’ve been doing are back squats, front squats, squatting off pins, and deadlifts. They’ve been working very well for me. I have no problem with performing the exercises listed above, however after doing 10+ sets of squats, I don’t really feel a need to do anything else. The only real assistance work I feel I’m doing is lat/upper back work. This is all done with pendlay rows, chins, inverted rows, and a some power cleans thrown in every now and then.

Pushing Training Frequency and Recovery Part I

I’m going to get part II of my piece on Carbohydrates up next week. For this week I just want to cover a few things I’ve been tinkering with on the training front that have been a complete opposite to the methods I’ve used for pretty much the entirety of my weight training career. I’ve had a few clients and other people ask me what my training looks like, so here it is. I will go over training frequency and recovery.

**After writing this, I realized it was way too long. So I’ll be releasing it in two parts.**

I’ve been training 6-9x per week over the past month. It’s been an excellent experience and it’s highly unlikely that I’ll go back to what I was doing before (unless time becomes severely limited). My old method of training was with a frequency of 3-4x per week, hitting each bodypart 2x/week (although I abhor stating that I trained bodyparts, I will use it because most people will understand this). Over the past few years, I’d train my lower body twice per week and my upper body 2x per week. My back would sometimes be hit 4 times per week as I always felt it recovered well and I love training my back.

I’m now squatting 6 times per week with pretty heavy weight (in relation to my 1 rep max). I’m talking about working my way up to 80-90% of my 1RM in each session. I’m back squatting, front squatting, and squatting off pins from parallel. After working my way up to a training max (which is a weight I know I can hit on any given day of the week, not a true competition max. Read this for more information on training maxes) I’ll hit a few more singles or doubles with a lighter weight.

Why am I squatting with such a high frequency? There are a few reasons:

1. I want to bring my squat up closer to my deadlift. My dead is a good 150 pounds better than my back squat and I’m not digging that. If someone tells you to get better at something do you A. Do it more frequently. or B. Do it just as much as you have been doing and/or less.

The answer is obvious. I want to squat more to get better at it. I want to groove the movement pattern as Stuart McGill, Grey Cook and many other great coaches suggest. By squatting more often I am literally practicing getting better at moving properly through the squat with a heavy weight.

2. The Bulgarians who massacred everyone at Olympic Lifting for decades, squatted heavy 6 days per week. If these beasts could squat with a crazy frequency under garbage living conditions I can’t think of a reason why I can’t under very high quality living conditions. The argument that many people use is that these guys were all on crazy drugs, and this allowed them to lift with such a high frequency. I don’t deny that they probably were using enough drugs to make Barry Bonds proud, but I still don’t think that a natural (natty) has to be pidgeon-holed into training the squat 1x/week because they aren’t using.

3. It’s awesome. I go in the gym, squat double what the average bro 1/4 squats then do a bunch of other awesome heavy lifting. I actually enjoy squatting this way, I know I’m getting stronger. I just singled 455 pounds at a bodyweight of 210 pounds with only a belt. My previous PR was 455 for a single with a belt, knee wraps and a bodyweight of 240. So this frequency business is working.

Jamie Lewis dug up some excellent points about training with a high frequency and low reps. His main points, that he got from Ivan Abadjiev, the Bulgarian Olympic teams’ coach are the following (pulled directly from the link above):

– Lifting a ton of singles at near-max weights will make you bigger and stronger.

– Not only will lifting ultra-heavy singles make you bigger and stronger, but you’ll lift with better form than you would with multiple reps.

These are good enough reasons enough for me. Check in later in the week for part II of this instalment.

Are Diets High In Carbohydrates Making You Fat? Part I

Are these to blame for your current waistline?
I wanted to cover a few examples of diets differing in carbohydrate composition on our body composition and bio markers of health. Part I will go over a few diets that are high in carbohydrates, and we’ll examine what these diets had on body composition and blood work. Part II will cover a few misconceptions that may be leading individuals to believe that carbohydrate are the evil carbohydrate that is causing the obesity epidemic. Is it even possible to be lean, or to even lose weight on a high carbohydrate diet? These questions will be answered.

Let’s first look at the Okinawan diet. This diet was composed of 85% carbohydrate, 9% protein and 6% fat. “Wow these people must be huuuuge,” you are thinking to yourself right? Well… Not so much. Residents of Okinawa: are known for their long average life expectancy, high numbers of centenarians, and accompanying low risk of age-associated diseases. (Bang) How can it be that a diet composed of an absolute crap load of carbohydrates produce some of the healthiest people on the planet!?!?

There is a multitude of possibilities that could contribute to their health. If you examine pretty much any diet, regardless of macronutrient composition, you will often observe an improvement in biomarkers of health (total cholesterol, triglyderides, blood insulin levels, blood glucose levels etc.). For instance, in an interesting study on how differing macronutrient ratios effects fat loss, the researchers got some interesting results. The diets differed in macronutrient composition, some were higher in carbohydrates, others lower in carbohydrates and higher in fat and/or protein etc.

Total cholesterol was reduced in all of the diets regardless of composition. This would lead you to assume that a reduction in total body weight may result in a reduction in cholesterol. Even the diets composed of 40% fats in this study resulted in a reduction in total cholesterol.

Let’s look at the results in fat loss for the different diets. There were no major differences in abdonminal fat, subcutaneous fat or visceral fat between all the diets. The diet with the largest composition of carbohydrates was 65% carbohydrate. The lowest was 35%. There was still no difference in fat loss between the diets with different carbohydrate ratios. Hmm.

Let’s look at the Hawaiian Diet. This diet is characterized by a high ratio of carbohydrate ~77%. The studies participants ate ad libitum for 21 days consuming the traditional cultural foods of Hawaii. The participants were encouraged to eat to satiety. After 21 days, participants lost an average of 10.8 pounds on this diet. What effects did this diet have on biomarkers of health you ask?

Blood pressure decreased from an average of 136.0/82.7 mm Hg to 125.5/78.9 mm Hg. Average lipids decreased simultaneously with total cholesterol (205.3 to 156.9 mg/dl). LDL decreased from 125.9 to 94.9 mg/dl, HDL also decreased HDL from 38.3 to 31.3 mg/dl. No we don’t really want ta decrease in HDL, but high carbohydrate diets aren’t conducive to raising HDL. Triglycerides decreased from 238.7 to 152.2 mg/dl. The Cholesterol:HDL ratio decreased from 5.8 to 5.2 (the cholesterol:HDL ratio is one of the most accurate measuring tools for predicting a coronary event). Oh yea, did I mention that blood glucose levels dropped from 112.2 to 91.5 mg/dL?

There are numerous other examples of high carb diets, not only working successfully in clinical trials to help lose weight, but they also have shown to improve certain biomarkers of health. I’ll give you one more, just realize there are many, many more to draw from. Alford BB et al examined diets differing in carbohydrates and protein on obese women. The high carb diet contained 75% carbohydrate, the low carbohydrate diet contained around 25% carbohydrate. There was also a medium carbohydrate diet that was composed of 45% carbohydrate. All three diets were kept at a total of 1200 calories over a 10 week time period. After the 10 weeks there were no significant differences in weight and body fat.

If improving biomarkers of health are important the research shows that diets high in carbohydrates won’t necessarily hinder improvements. However, I’ve used pretty extreme examples in this blog post to illustrate my purpose. A diet lower in carbohydrates (40-45%) will tend to increase HDL, decrease tryglycerides, improve fasting insulin and blood sugar levels, and decrease fatty acid levels. Just realize that a diet higher in carbohydrates may have the same effects, just to a lesser degree. The total reduction in calories will results in an improved blood profile for many individuals!