Thursday, 9 June 2011

Wild Physique Unleashed : My Journey Into Strength PT 2

By Coach Cj Swaby

“Without Strength – and by strength I mean health, vitality, and a general sense of physical wellbeing – life is but a gloomy business”
– Eugen Sandow 1911

So last entry I spoke about what for me, was an essential first step along my journey into strength and that was

STEP 1: Do your research

If you missed that entry you can check it out HERE. This week, I want to go over how I established my own individual pathway for my journey into strength, plus how you can do the same. Then I will start delving into the practical aspects of training, that enabled me to successfully get quality gains DRUG FREE.

STEP 2: Goal Setting

So having done my research, and been inspired by the legendary strongmen of old, and current sensations, I decided to set myself a goal. But which goal to choose? And how to go about it? I decided to set myself an ultimate goal, then establish some “milestones” and “process goals.” I set myself a baseline challenge of being able to deadlift 2.5 times my own bodyweight. Then an ultimate goal of 3 times my bodyweight in the RAW (no suit and DRUG FREE). Now the thought of being able to so this awesome feet really inspired me, as it was a challenge that would push me out of my comfort, zone and few have achieved.

There is something you would have noticed about my goals. While they are BOTH SPECIFIC, neither one of them was specific in the absolute amount of weight to be lifted. This was deliberate. I knew that my weight would change due to my new type of training, and nutritional adjustments. Having actively competed for over 8 years in a sport that demanded me to be a certain weight, I was over weight watching. I knew the added dimension of continually watching my weight would suck my focus from where it needed to be, and kill my enjoyment out of attaining my goal. As long as I achieved the power-to-weight ratios I wanted ,with a bodyweight of less 95kg ( I fluctuated between 86kg – 89Kg on starting my journey) and still maintained what I considered respectable standards of cardiovascular power output, then I was happy.

My goals were specific to what I wanted to achieve. The take home message? make your goals specific to what YOU want (not just something you think you SHOULD be able to achieve or do. YOU’VE got to WANT it).

Having established my goal, I did what is probably unthinkable and flies in the face of conventional goal setting. I didn’t set a time frame to achieve my goal. I WORKED MY WAY BACKWARDS. Say what? Yep, that’s right. This is what I did. I visualised my self achieving my goal, allowed my emotional response to heighten so I could “Feel” myself achieving the 3 times my bodyweight. I asked myself these questions as I played the scene out in my mind

What did it feel like to achieve that lift?

How did the weight feel in my hands?

Where did I make the lift?

What did making this lift mean to me?

What was the crowd’s reaction to my success?

By the end of several days of 5 – 10 minutes of visualisation (often more than once a day) I knew with every part of my body that I have achieved that lift. No question about it. It’s done. So I didn’t set a time line as to WHEN I would achieve that. There was no need for me to worry about achieving it, as regardless of how long it took, or what I would have to do, it would be achieved. So I did something different instead. A future version of Cj Swaby had made that mammoth lift, what things would need to have been done and put in place? So I made a chart of “milestone” lifts and mapped them out, working my way backwards as follows

X 3 Times Bodyweight -----> x 2.7 Times Bodyweight --------->x 2.5 Times Bodyweight

To the milestones I added time frames or rather “guidelines” , so for example I knew that by May 30th 2011 I should be able to lift X amount, by July 30th 2011 X amount, September 30th 2011 X amount , and March 2011 X amount, provided that I stayed injury free. These I would use as my measuring sticks to make sure I was still on the right path in my journey into strength.

STEP 2.2 : Training

So now that I had established the WHAT, it was time to establish the HOW, which is an important part of “Process goals”. This is the practical application. In this instance it was my training. My first weight training kit was a York Barbell set from Argos in Balham, South London, that I bought with my pocket money when I was thirteen or fourteen years of age. For those of you that remember, It was the set with a dirty “gold” plastic coating and a concrete inner. The bars were metal, and the collars were thick plastic wedges that had a red suspect spin lock. It came with a small A-5 booklet, with some cool, hand drawn figure characters detailing the barbell course (I always felt cheated that the man in the picture was using circus barbells and dumbells and they didn’t look like my set). I didn’t have enough pocket money for a bench, so my dad’s heavy duty sound system speaker in the front room, flipped on its side, doubled up as my bench when he wasn’t around ( Please note: I do not recommend this practice, it resulted in many a ”close shave” training moments and considerable chastising).

This course formed the basis of my weight training as a teenager. Clean and Presses, Military Press, Bench Press, Squats, Deadlifts, Barbell Curls, Upright Rows, Bent Over Rows , sit ups and not much else. Now more then 18 years later reading Dinosaur Training by Brooks D Kubrik, it was great to have reinforced it was all about training the basics and lifting heavy. Compound movements, push, pull, squat, lung, throw in some rotation. Simple really. It seemed to fit in with my prior training knowledge from my youth to the present, and made sense to me. I decided to give it a shot. There would be some new addition to my training such as working with the power rack from the bottom position, assist work for grip, odd lifts I already used in my training, and loved. I would still maintain some “power Cardiovascular training” because it was important to me. So I had the ingredients for my training, the question was

HOW Do I structure my sessions?

With a solid training background already I decided to start with 5 x 5 system, as championed in Dinosaur training, before getting into singles. There are different ways to do the 5 x 5 system and most of them work. I decided to play with it and see what worked for me. On any given exercise I started off with 3 warm up sets (70%-80% 1RM) then 2 workings sets (90% + 1RM). When I could manage the working sets “comfortably” I would then increase to 3 working sets , and two warm up sets. I continued this process until I could manage 5 working sets of that same weight that was originally 90%+ 1RM. In the final set or two I used “cluster reps” which is where you take a short break between reps to recover, then knock out the rest of the reps in the set, I usually rested for no longer than 30 seconds if I did cluster reps. When I could manage 5x5 with that weight (90%+1RM) I would then test my 1RM (1 Rep Max) in that and various lifts in the following week and continue the 5 x 5 process. My rest periods between sets were 3 minutes dead (timed with a gym boss). I had 1 – 2 days rest between sessions. I cycled this process for 8 to 9 weeks, then took a recovery week. Each session was no more than 3 – 4 lifts, around 15 sets in total, followed by CV power. So for example a session might look like this;

Warm Up: Joint Mobility
Barbell Bench Press 5 reps x 5 sets
Trap Bar deadlift 5 reps x 5 sets
Weighted Pull up 2 reps x 5 sets (increasing weight each set)
CV Power
Rower : Level 7 250metres < 50 seconds x 10 sets. 1 minute recovery

Cool Down & Stretch

As you can see my sessions were simple, and intense. Remember it’s really not that complicated. There is a section in Dinosaur Training where Kubik addresses this;

“If strength training so simple, why do so many people fail to get results? .. Productive training seems too simple to work. So people ignore the productive systems and look for complex systems that don’t deliver.”

-Brooks Kubik (Dinosaur Training: 1996: 141)

After my initial introductory period I changed my training, to still keeping with 5 sets of 1 rep, but increasing the weight with each set. This was my introduction into singles. In this initial period of 2 – 3 months, with my nutrition changes and adequate recovery my weight went up 4 kg and my poundages shot up drastically. In my next blog entry I will post actual workouts so you can see for yourself, and discuss a bit more about the physiology and logic behind my programming and changes.

The Secret Ingredient

The secret ingredient is you. When I went to the gym, I took my headphones and Gym Boss. The Gym Boss was so that I didn’t cheat on my rest periods. The headphones were to block everyone else out. When I go to the gym, I’m there for one reason – to train. People would approach me at the gym, I would acknowledge them, and If they attempted to strike up a conversation I would politely inform them, “ I’m in the middle of a workout, come back and talk to me when I’m finished.” Some people were offended, others understood. Either way I was single minded in purpose as to why I was there, and what I wanted to achieve. This was all a part of creating the right environment for my goal to flourish.

“Muscles are not developed by muscular action alone. Physical exertion, however arduous and long continued ,will not make a man strong.......mechanical and desultory exertion will never materially increase a man’s strength. He must first learn the great secret which ought to be no secret at all. He must use his mind.”

- Eugen Sandow (Strength And How To Obtain it: 1911: 09)

How Can This Help You?

Goal setting is important. There are many methodologies for goal setting, the key thing is that it has to be pertinent to you, inspire you, it has to light you up like a rocket on Guy Fawkes night. Why? Because this is what is going to spur you on in tough times, the days when there are all the reasons in the world for you to quit, to give up when problems arise. It’s this original motivation that will keep you going.

Once you’ve established a goal, establishing a road map for getting you there is essential. These are “process goals”. For me, my process goals was simply the training. If I did the training (with adequate rest and recovery) I would achieve my goal. No one set scheme or rest period fits all. See where you are with your training. If you have been training a while with a 5 x 5 system, why not try 3 x 3 or work with doubles or singles. If you are new to strength training you will need to spend some time to build a solid foundation in weight training (12 – 16 weeks should do it) , learning the lifts, allowing your body to adjust, and seeing which training system yields results for you. Again this is part of your research. Read. Learn from others, seek out those further along the journey than you, ask how THEY
did it.

Also, LOG YOUR WORKOUTS. This way you can see quantifiably what works and what isn’t and make the necessary changes. I use the T.E.F.C.A.S formula, which I “borrowed” from Tony Buzan (of mind mapping fame).

T rial (preparation/ goal setting etc)
E vent (training)
F eedback (training log/ weight lifted/ body fat %/ injury/ weight etc)
A djust (self explanatory this one
S uccess! (simply repeat the process until you achieve your desired outcome).

If you want more detailed information on goal setting, or got a few more questions on using the 5x5 system, feel free to hit me up on facebook with your questions. In my next blog entry I will be looking a bit more at training systems I used and mapping it against my training. Exploring the exercise physiology behind it, and how up to a point strength is a physical trait, then after that it’s all about technique.

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