When planning training, one must not plan for the next meet, but rather the next year or even longer. The following are some issues to consider:
- Weight gain or loss
- Improving form on competitive lifts or special exercises
- Raising work capacity and improving general fitness
- Gaining general training knowledge
- Testing character and courage
- Learning how to use legal equipment
The effectiveness of your training is based on all of these considerations.
Weight Gain or Loss. First, you must be in the correct weight class. If you are 6 feet tall and weigh 180 lbs, you need to gain weight. A lifter like this should increase his protein and calorie intake, or he cannot compete with the top 181s of the world.
To solve the problem, on max effort day do max 3’s up to max 6’s. This will build extra muscle mass while also building absolute strength. At Westside we recommend doing only a total of four exercises per workout. To gain weight, add two exercises to add muscle mass. When you gain up to the proper weight class, drop back to the original four exercises, not counting abs. As far as food intake, skip the chocolate milk and cookies and learn about proper nutrition. Buy a book or two and read and learn.
You have gained too much if your deadlift goes backward. Your waistline will get too big and your hands will get too fat. I know. It happened to me. You must be disciplined. It might take 5 years of hard training to build yourself to the right weight class.
Improving Form. Improving form is a necessity, but it is sometimes difficult. At Westside we have people who are very good in all lifts. To teach a new lifter, we place them in one of our groups. By interacting with that group, they are taught good form through watching and listening. We never criticize, but rather analyze. We always tell the truth to each other and especially to visitors, because many of them don’t have the luxury of great training partners to watch over them.
Special exercises will play a large role in perfecting top form in all three lifts by doing exercises for whatever muscle group is lagging. This in itself will help perfect your form. It only stands to reason if you have a weakness in a muscle group, it can destroy your form. A word of caution: If you are starting out, start out right.
Matt Dimel always had a triceps problem, but year after year he would gain little by little and his poorest lift, the bench press, would increase. After rupturing both patella tendons, he eventually won the APF Seniors again. His improved bench press helped. A champion will become a champion by becoming better at his worst lift.
Raising Work Capacity and General Fitness. Why is this so important? First, we all need to work on our weaknesses. Sometimes it is the ability to train at a fast pace. During a workout, your energy level can drop quickly. Some experts say at 45 minutes. Therefore, one must train at a fast pace to ensure the most important work is completed in 45 minutes. This involves lactic acid tolerance training. That is, while training, a pump in the hips and lower back will occur while squatting and doing back work. To think that one must fully rest between sets is old thinking, to say the least. If you do a work task and fully recover and then repeat the same work, you will use the very some muscle fiber. You gain nothing by training this way. But, by enlisting shorter and shorter rest intervals between work sets, i.e., the interval method, the work will be far more intense, involving more muscle fiber. You will find that the last half of your speed sets will be more explosive of all. When lactic acid is produced, so is growth hormone.
If you have a high work capacity, a high-volume, high-intensity workout is not as tiring for you as it would be for someone out of shape. This enables you to train a little heavier and longer and a little faster than your enemies. This requires one to do small, roughly 20-minute, workouts during the week. The workouts are directed toward any particular weakness you have. It could be a muscle group, flexibility, conditioning, and even concentration, through meditation, or restoration, through massage, saunas, ice baths, back adjustments, or even watching films.
To raise general fitness to a high degree may take years. A lifter’s goal should be to raise his classification ranking from class 4 to USPF standard Elite. At Westside we have developed 56 Elite lifters, starting out with nothing. Some who have achieved all-time record performances are Chuck Vogelpohl, Kenny Patterson, and Rob Fusner, to mention a few. They continually raised their work capacity. As they became stronger, their ability to recuperate, perfect form, concentrate, and raise volume increased.
Chuck and I do about 14 workouts a week. We will do a couple sets of dumbbell presses to failure or timed sets with some lat and ab work before squatting. We may do sled work and glute/ham raises before a bench workout. You can even do sled work or the Reverse Hyper machine before a squat or deadlift workout with no adverse effects when you are in top condition.
By doing a lot of sled work of all types, your work capacity will greatly improve. On max effort day the heaviest sled work is performed. It may involve pulling up to six 45-pound plates on a flat steel sled. The sled is pulled in two ways: with the strap hooked to the back of your belt or holding the strap in your hands between your legs with an upright posture and with your arms straight. The amount of weight is reduced throughout the week until possibly a weight of roughly 60 pounds is used. The weight is lowered, but the length of pulling is greater: 600 feet for the heaviest work and up to 2000 feet for light work. For upper body work, I have dragged for 2 miles nonstop.
I sometimes do a lot of box jumps as a replacement for some of the sled pulling. Light fireman’s carry can also be done. We also throw a medicine ball for a set time, usually 3-15 minutes with a ball weighing 10-40 pounds. Light powercleans are also very beneficial for conditioning. Do them in one of two ways: First, drop to a hang clean and do powercleans with the interval method. A set can be done every 60, 45, or 30 seconds, depending on your level of fitness. A second variety is to add a push jerk or push press with each set. The sets should last 5-20 minutes. This is a tough one. Dumbbells can be done in a very slow fashion, for up to 8 minutes. Use the shortest time, 2 minutes, with the heaviest bells. For example, use 50-pound dumbbells continuously for 5 minutes, keeping track of the reps.
Walking lunges can also be done. But whatever exercise you do, it should slowly increase in intensity and volume as years pass.
Ease into the work, but always aim to increase the amount of work. The better condition you’re in, the faster your new records will come.
There is much to learn if you are to succeed, and it takes time. You must gain mentally, technically, and physically. So be patient; it will come.
Part 2 will cover gaining training knowledge, testing character and courage and learning how to use equipment.