Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Training Update: Powerbuilding and Rep Range Dogma

Dan Green. Powerlifter who advocates bodybuilding.
Also, owner of the most mysterious medial delts in history.

For the past year, I've been fooling around with one variation or another of Doug Hepburn's methods. I've learned two critical points:

1. Powerbuilding is kind of awesome
The moniker 'powerbuilding' refers to a hybrid between powerlifting and bodybuilding (i.e. I want to wreck shit and look good while doing it). This typically manifests itself by working up to a top set (not necessarily a top single) then performing a few back-off sets at a higher volume/lower weight. Powerbuilding was ubiquitous in the golden age of powerlifting. Strong mother fuckers generally decided the best way to train for max strength was to get bigger at the same time.

This is hardly a novel concept, but it seems to be coming back among people who enjoy getting stronger but have no general desire to compete in powerlifting or bodybuilding.

Takeaway: Rep range dogma may not be the best way to go. Experience a variety of rep ranges.

2. Too much low rep work tears me down and keeps me down
The Hepburn Method involves high-ish frequency low rep sets of squats/deadlifts/benches/presses. What I found happening is I followed a vicious cycle of injury and recovery.

- Restart a hepburn cycle at a medium/high intensity weight
- Make progress for 1-2 months
- Stall indefinitely, getting tiny injuries almost weekly. Struggling to work around them to push through the cycle.
- Get frustrated, restart another hepburn cycle at a lower weight

This blows. Even when I was not necessarily injured, my joints felt like crap, my sex drive was kinda meh, and everything just felt tight all of the time. What is worse is that I perpetuated this cycle out of fear. Fear that if I stopped lifting the way I built my base (i.e. tons of low rep sets), everything I have built will fall to pieces.

I decided to break this cycle of crap after re-reading (sometimes things take time to sink through thick skulls) an article by Stan Efferding hosted on Paul Carter's site, LIFT-RUN-BANG.

I grabbed two(2) takeaways from this article (also echoed in Brook's Kubrick's book, Dinosaur Training):
- "Volume doesn't improve results, intensity does"
- "It’s never the training routine that’s limiting growth, it’s always the recovery phase"

Takeaway: It's very possible that my recovery is the bottleneck that keeps me from growing. I applied this to my training by decreasing the total number of sets done with low reps. Fairly consistently I felt myself performing low rep sets with poorer and poorer form during this past year. Why not shoot for rep PR's on a week by week basis instead of trying to pump out set after set of crap.

Edit 1/2/15:
Also see George Leeman's video on the best rep range for strength. 

Current State Training 12/24/14
So far, I feel pretty friggin awesome. Weights are moving quickly. I'm making new rep PR's on a weekly basis, and increasing the weight on the bar whenever possible (which is often). I'm going to ride this out as long as I possibly can before backing off.

- Increase the weight of any exercise when the rep range below has been reached
- In general, the difference in weight between rep ranges is -15% (this is just a starting point)
Ex: 1x5 100lbs, 1x8 85lbs, 1x10 70lbs
- Exercises separated by a '/' are worked together in a circuit
- Straight sets for rows, hammer curls, and tricep pushdowns level up in an incremental fashion
Ex: Session1 Power hammer curl 50x10, 50x10, 50x10 (level up)
Session2 Power hammer curl 55x10, 50x10, 50x10 (level up)
Session3 Power hammer curl 55x10, 55x10, 50x10

Front Squat 1x5, 1x8, 1x10
Weighted Chinup 1x3, 1x6, 1x8
Partial Front Squat 1x5, 1x8, 1x10/Wide Grip Pullups, Close Grip Chinups
Power Hammer Curl 3x10

Sumo Deadlift 1x5, 1x8, 1x10 
High Pull or Snatch High Pull 3-5x3/Seated Row 3x10/Leg Curl 5x8 or DB Swing
Power Hammer Curl 3x10

Floor Press or Push Press 1x5, 1x8, 1x10
Inc DB Press 1x5, 1x8, 1x10
Lying Lateral Raise 1x5 (heavy negatives only), 4x10
Tricep Overhead 3x10/Tricep Pushdown 3x10

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