Why train Olympic Lifts?

I have been asked the question: “Why train Olympic Lifts if you’re not an Olympic Lifter?”

Simple.

Because they’re awesome.
Seriously though, it’s a good question and there’s a good answer (I think). Here goes.

Why train olympic lifts? - Weighlifting Woman

There are a few point to share that go into my thinking about training.

  1. People should be striving to improve themselves; Be “Better Than Yesterday”.
  2. Improvement can (and should) be objectively measured; see “What is Fitness“.
  3. Most people aren’t as strong as the could be; see “How Strong are You?“.
  4. Therefore progressive strength training is important; enabling greater work capacity, generally.
  5. Fundamental bodyweight exercises and powerlifting movements are relatively simple to learn* and develop strength well.
  6. Almost all physical activities require the application of strength at speed –> Power.
  7. One of the best ways to develop power is Olympic Lifting.

*Before all you powerlifters get upset, I’m not saying powerlifting is simple, just that it is less complex than Oly lifting. 🙂

So if you want to improve your performance at pretty much any physical endeavour, train the Olympic Lifts.

Have a look at this video for a bunch of different athletes from Catalyst Athletics performing Power Cleans.
Note the sort of weight they are moving. Think about their potential power output. Why train Olympic lifts? Now you tell me! :O

Strength Standards – How strong are you?

Strength Standards

Strength Standards - Weak Link

How can you gauge your progress?

Strength Standards are a notoriously difficult beast to wrangle.
There are a wide range of opinions, and more than one of them is correct.
Obvious strength benchmarks for a powerlifter (Squat, Bench, Deadlift) aren’t necessarily relevant to an Olympic Weightlifter (Snatch, Clean&Jerk).My goal is to provide as comprehensive a guide as possible for non-specialists to gauge their strength progress.
To put it another way, this isn’t definitive for powerlifters, strongmen or olympic lifters.
This is for regular folks who want to know how they’re doing, strength-wise, and what they may need to work on.
So whether your strength training includes barbells or kettlebells – there’s something here for you.

This isn’t meant as an “I must get to 10/10 in everything” challenge. (If you’re getting all 10s here then everyday strength probably isn’t your issue.) Use this tool to see if there’s a chink in your strength armour. Do you get a 5/10 in squat and hip hinge, a 4/10 in push and a 2/10 in pull?
Maybe you need to work on your pull!

Recognition of those who have gone before (influences on this project and any modifications I’ve made, and why):

  • Using the framework of a very elegant Dan John principle of Squat / Hip Hinge / Push / Pull to classify movements. I’ve added a fifth movement class (strength-endurance / stability) which covers Turkish Getup and Farmer’s Walk. I feel these movements are part of strength and too useful to ignore but don’t really fit anywhere else;
  • strstd.com (currently broken) 🙁 for a very neat strength graph for back squat, bench, deadlift and press. It clearly shows both further absolute benchmark levels and the lifts relative to each other. It has helped inform my understanding of relative strength. It also provides a great Wendler 5/3/1 calculator;

  • ExRx.net for general strength benchmarks and great calculators and tools;
  • Bob Takano for a great explanation of the relationship between Back Squat and Clean & Jerk and Clean and Jerk to Snatch Ratios which makes the Olympic lifts easier to compare with powerlifting movements;
  • Starting Strength – because no strength standards synthesis would be complete without Starting Strength’s Standards. 🙂

For strength standards for Olympic lifting specifically, please check out the Catalyst Athletics Guide.

*Please note: ‘Hip hinge’ and ‘pull’ both have intentional gaps. I wanted to include only commonly held standards, rather than filler*

That being said, here is my synthesis of strength standards. This is a work in progress. Feedback is welcome and encouraged. 🙂

Strength Standards for Men

Squat Movement

1. Squat with proper form
2. Goblet squat: 0.25 BW x 10
3. Goblet squat: 0.33 BW x 10
4. 2xKB Front Squat: 0.25 BW ea x 10
5. Back Squat: 1.25 BW x 1 / Front Squat: 1.00 BW x 1
6. Back Squat: 1.00 BW x 15
7. Back Squat: 1.75 BW x 1 / Front Squat: 1.40 BW x 1
8. Overhead Squat: 1.00 BW x 1
9. Back Squat: 2.25 BW x 1 / 1.25 BW x 15 / Front Squat: 1.80 BW x 1
10. Overhead Squat: 1.00 BW x 15

Hip Hinge Movement

1. Hip Hinge with proper form
2. Kettlebell Swing: 0.25 BW x 20
3. Kettlebell Swing: 0.33 BW x 20
4. 2xKettlebell Clean: 0.33 BW ea x 10
5. Deadlift: 1.50 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 0.95 BW x 1 / Snatch: 0.75 BW x 1
6.
7. Deadlift: 2.00 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 1.33 BW x 1 / Snatch: 1.05 BW x 1
8.
9. Deadlift: 2.50 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 1.70 BW x 1 / Snatch: 1.35 BW x 1
10.

Push Movement

1. Pushups with proper form x 10
2. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.25 BW x 5
3. Press: 0.60 BW x 1
4. 2xKettlebell Press: 0.33 BW ea x 5
5. Bench Press: 1.00 BW x 1 / Press: 0.60 BW x 1
6. Weighted Dip: 0.50 BW x 1
7. Bench Press: 1.25 BW / Press: 0.85 BW x 1
8. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.50 BW x 1
9. Bench Press: 1.50 BW x 1 / 1.00 BW x 15 / Press: 1.10 BW x 1
10. 2xKettlebell Press: 0.50 BW ea x 1

Pull Movement

1. Batwings: 2xKettlebell 0.16 BW ea x 10 sec
2. Supine Row: (TRX or Rings) BW x 20
3.
4. Supine Row: (TRX or Rings) BW x 10 – Feet Elevated
5. Chinups x 5
6.
7. Pullups x 8-10
8.
9. Pullups x 15
10. Weighted Pullup: 0.50 BW x 1

Strength-Endurance / Stability Movement

1. Turkish Getup: 0.12 BW
2. Turkish Getup: 0.18 BW
3. Farmer’s Walk: 0.25 BW each hand
4. 5 minute KB Snatch for reps (0.25 BW) – benchmark 100
5. Farmer’s Walk: 0.33 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.25 BW
6. 5 minute KB Snatch for reps (0.30 BW) – benchmark 100
7. Farmer’s Walk: 0.50 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.36 BW
8. 5 minute KB Snatch for reps (0.36 BW) – benchmark 100
9. Farmer’s Walk: 0.75 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.50 BW
10. The Bear Complex: 60kg

Strength Standards for Women

Squat Movement

1. Squat with proper form
2. Goblet Squat: 0.18 BW x 10
3. Goblet Squat: 0.25 BW x 10
4. 2xKettlebell Front Squat: 0.18 BW ea x 10
5. Back Squat: 1.20 BW x 1 / Front Squat: 0.95 BW x 1
6. Back Squat: 0.75 BW x 15
7. Back Squat: 1.65 BW x 1 / Front Squat: 1.30 BW x 1
8. Overhead Squat: 0.75 BW x 1
9. Back Squat: 2.00 BW x 1 / 1.20 BW x 5 / Front Squat: 1.60 BW x 1
10. Overhead Squat: 0.75 BW x 15

Hip Hinge Movement

1. Hip Hinge with proper form
2. Kettlebell Swing: 0.18 BW x 20
3. Kettlebell Swing: 0.25 BW x 20
4. 2xKettlebell Clean: 0.18 BW ea x 10
5. Deadlift: 1.20 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 0.90 BW x 1 / Snatch: 0.72 BW x 1
6.
7. Deadlift: 1.60 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 1.25 BW x 1 / Snatch: 1.00 BW x 1
8.
9. Deadlift 2.00 BW x 1 / Clean&Jerk: 1.52 BW x 1 / Snatch: 1.20 BW x 1
10.

Push Movement

1. Pushup x 1 (Excellent Form)
2. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.18 BW x 5
3. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.25 BW x 5
4. 2xKettlebell Press: 0.18 BW ea x 5
5. Bench Press: 0.75 BW x 1 / Press: 0.50 BW x 1
6. Weighted Dip: 0.33 BW x 1
7. Bench Press: 1.00 BW / Press: 0.75 BW x 1
8. 1xKettlebell Press: 0.33 BW x 1
9. Bench Press: 1.25 BW x 1 / 0.75 BW x 15 / Press: 1.00 BW x 1
10. 2xKettlebell Press: 0.33 BW ea x 1

Pull Movement

1. Batwings: 2xKettlebell 0.16 BW ea x 10 sec
2. Supine Row: (TRX or Rings) BW x 20
3.
4. Supine Row: (TRX or Rings) BW x 10 – Feet Elevated
5. Chinup x 1
6.
7. Chinups x 3
8.
9. Pullups x 3
10. Weighted Pullup: 0.33 BW x 1

Strength-Endurance / Stability Movement

1. Turkish Getup: 0.12 BW
2. Turkish Getup: 0.18
3. Farmer’s Walk: 0.25 BW each hand
4. 5 minute Kettlebell Snatch for reps (0.25 BW) – benchmark 100
5. Farmer’s Walk: 0.33 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 16kg
6. 5 minute Kettlebell Snatch for reps (0.30 BW) – benchmark 100
7. Farmer’s Walk: 0.50 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.36 BW
8. 5 minute Kettlebell Snatch for reps (0.36 BW) – benchmark 100
9. Farmer’s Walk: 0.75 BW each hand / Turkish Getup: 0.50 BW
10. The Bear Complex: 40kg

Would you like to track your strength standard progress?

Get a FREE spreadsheet I created for you to do just that.

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What is Fitness? Learn how to measure your progress

What is fitness? – A measurable definition!

Fitness is being physically able to do what you want to do, when and how you want to do it. If you are wholly-fit, you can do your job, play games and sports, and do the normal activities of daily living on any level you wish without limitations produced by illness, injury, low self-esteem or stress.

Physical fitness is how you look, feel and perform. It comprises two related concepts: Health-related fitness (a state of health and well-being) and Functional fitness (a task-oriented definition based on the ability to perform specific aspects of sports or occupations). Physical fitness is generally achieved through exercise, correct nutrition and enough rest. It is a vitally important part of life.

Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.


Health-related fitness

Crossfit Sickness Wellness Fitness Curve Diagram

This is a depiction of the the sickness-wellness-fitness curve in the 2002 Crossfit Journal Article defining fitness. (I’d look at body composition rather than just body fat; our understanding of cholesterol has developed since 2002; Systemic inflammation (through C-Reactive Protein and other markers) is also something I’d want to measure as a ‘wellness’ marker. This diagram IS a good starting point for understanding Health-related Fitness.)

Health

One way of looking at health is as our ability to survive and thrive RIGHT NOW. What’s your blood pressure? Blood sugar? Mental outlook? Stress level? Immune response? Ability to survive falling off a 12’ ladder? This is perhaps a simplistic view of health but I think it works quite well.

The indicators of sickness and wellness are measurable. The relative health of a person can be estimated using a range of biomarkers. Please keep in mind that across a population there are large variations in “normal”.

Using the scale, “Sickness” implies something may be amiss e.g Blood Pressure is above 140/90. This doesn’t necessarily mean there’s a problem or illness, but can spark further investigation and preventative measures if required. “Wellness” indicates normal or average health e.g BP of 120/80. A lower (but not too low) reading would suggest greater cardiovascular efficiency and greater “fitness”. Health and fitness do overlap, but the ‘ultra-fit’ do tend to be more prone to illness than ‘fit’. (Probably due to compromised immunity through chronic stress or inflammation)

Longevity

What if we considered health (the moment to moment ability to survive) over time? We would have longevity. Longevity is health over the long haul.

Longevity CAN simply mean surviving for a very long time. Quality of life does matter. One’s health may be such that any stressor, a cold, a fall, will be more than the individual can deal with. Conversely, perfect health, as measured on the day-to-day level, may curtail longevity. People who have a cold here and there tend to have lower rates of cancer. An occasional drop off in health may translate into improved longevity.

Functional fitness

Capability: Put simply, are you physically able to do the task?

Capacity: What volume of work/task are you able to accomplish?

The Crossfit model of fitness would include the concept that “He or she who does best at the widest variety of tasks is on average the “fittest”.” I would say that would make you the best generalist, or best at Crossfit. Ultimately, your ‘fitness’ is highly dependent on the tasks you wish to do.

Measures of Physical Fitness Summary Table

Recovery

The ability to recover after a physical challenge or illness is in itself an indicator of fitness. Consider two people. Both perform a gruelling task e.g shovelling a large load. At the end of the day, both are shattered. The following day, one is able to continue the task, the other can barely move. They have different levels of fitness / capacity (at least for that task).

Performance Health Longevity Optimal Venn Diagram

Having a performance bias may be at odds with health and longevity. Loads of endurance training may lead to oxidative stress, immune compromise and suboptimal dietary requirements necessary to fuel such efforts. If endurance sports are your thing, that’s fine. It’s perhaps good to know some of the down sides so one might make smart alterations to nutrition and training plans. Similarly if you aspire to be a Super Heavy Olympic Lifter you may need to consume an amount of food and carry a body mass that is absolutely at odds with health and longevity.

Another model is the notion that to be fit one should have a good balance in the development of all the engines that drive human activity: the ATP/CP pathway, glycolytic, and aerobic paths. The specifics of these energy pathways, ways to train them and implications for everyday life will feature in future articles.

What all this boils down to is for general fitness you need capability in various modalities, physical adaptations and metabolic engines, and capacity across a wide variety of tasks and time-frames. This offers a quantifiable way of measuring fitness. Do more work in less time and you are fitter!

Once again – Fitness is relative. Just as your fitness will affect your goals, your goals will affect your fitness.

My love hate relationship with Crossfit

crossfit

My love hate relationship with Crossfit

The motto of our gym is “Better than Yesterday”. Tied into this idea is that there’s no perfect system or perfect person – there’s always something to work on, always something that can be improved.

I first heard about Crossfit from a friend when in Japan in 2006. I remember I tried a ‘mainsite’ workout (scaled) with dumbbells and got through it – barely. At that stage I’d been doing Martial Arts regularly for about 5 years and considered myself reasonably fit for a 25 year old. I was so shot through the core that when I was getting into the shower afterwards I was unable to maintain my spine position and had to lie down. I felt like if I’d stayed standing I would have done myself some potentially serious damage.

finished-a-crossfit-wo-baby

That experience taught me a valuable lesson. Scaling is good but is second choice after progression. (Also, learn what you’re getting yourself into and don’t push too hard at first!)

I did my Certificates III and IV in Fitness in 2008 and got my Crossfit Coach’s Certificate in 2009. Looking back I recognise how important the ‘mainstream’ skill set has been in terms of my understanding of simple anatomy and physiology. The Crossfit Certification has been instrumental in my growth as a Strength & Conditioning coach and the application of functional movements to the prescription of exercises to my clients.

Had I never encountered Crossfit I am fairly sure I wouldn’t be nearly as effective as a trainer as I feel I have become. That said, had I not had the grounding of the Cert III & IV, and just had the weekend Crossfit Coach Cert – I would be downright dangerous.

Let me be clear – I am not saying that all Crossfit coaches are dangerous. Most aren’t, some are. Some ‘mainstream’ coaches are dangerous. I’m just saying I feel I would have been a dangerous trainer without the conventional skills and experience to be my (and my client’s) seat-belt.

What does all this have to do with a love-hate relationship with Crossfit?

What-is-Crossfit-Infographic

The concept of Crossfit is great. I think the idea of constantly varied, high intensity, functional movements is fantastic. The implementation of that idea has evolved, for me, over time (Better than Yesterday). No longer do I program 20+ minute AMRAPs where at the end of the session you feel like you need to be scooped up with a trowel. The sledgehammer has been replaced with a scalpel. Clients who have been with me for the last 5 year would readily agree that the programming has changed – and for the better. A progressive overload strength program is now the bedrock. A strength-endurance or Olympic lifting progression is alternated cyclically. Constantly varied (within a thought-out pool of purpose-driven) Metcons of no more than 10 minutes duration rounds out the ‘cardio’.

Great results for clients (with very low injury rates) have been the result.

Many a coach seems to confuse ‘constantly varied’ with ‘random’. Random workouts is an easy out for the coach as they can just check the Crossfit main site or other Crossfit gyms WOD feed for ideas to pinch or modify. This method does the coach and the clients a disservice. Copying another coach’s programming without understanding the intended progression (if there is one) or appropriate scaling (if you must use scaling) means the workout will not be optimally challenging for the client(s) or fit their needs or goals.

‘High intensity’ is not the same as ‘wiped out’. If your client doesn’t walk out feeling better than when they walked in – this is a symptom of overloading them and can be steps down the path to adrenal fatigue – or unhappy clients who get sick of ‘punishment’ (especially if it is associated with eating habits). At the end of a workout the headspace should be ‘proud of my achievement of completing a tough workout’ not ‘I’m glad I survived and kind-of dread next time already.’

‘Functional Movements’ are hard to get wrong. You do need to remember to ask yourself “functional for what?” The movement you ask the client to perform should have some link to the things they want to be able to do in their everyday life, or specific sporting event or challenge they’d like to participate in. Doing a hard workout full of functional movements is good – and better than hard non-functional movements – but there needs to be a point. There needs to be a WHY this movement is good for you and how it applied to YOU.

There is huge variety in the quality of training in the fitness industry. There is huge variety in the quality of coaching in Crossfit. My major criticism of Crossfit is that (perhaps due to the prevalence of the competition aspect, bromances or macho vibe) people do things they shouldn’t. (Clapping Fran??? – see below) Often those things are cool TO BE ABLE to do – but can and should aren’t the same thing. I don’t think this was addressed in 2006, and I still think it hasn’t been adequately addressed in 2014.

Very, very keen to hear your thoughts.

New Year Resolutions: How to make them work

This is a special guest post from Lachlan Heasman.

New Year’s resolutions have the same reputation as pre-election promises. As early as the second of January you find yourself keeping the resolution that you actually made, rather than the one you might have liked to have made. Having these good intentions can sometimes be effective, but most of the time are not as our past behaviour is the strongest indicator of our future behaviour.

One simple way of to overcome this problem is to be specific and challenging in what you intend to achieve. For example having a resolution that you will “get fit this year”, is not as effective as “being able to do 50 push ups – in one go – by Easter”. Here you’ve moved from the vague to the specific and (maybe) challenging.

Specific Goals

Another simple way to stick with your resolutions is to make a simple plan. If the goal is 50 push ups, then the plan could be “whenever I go to turn the TV on I will do as many push ups as I can”. This plan has three important elements, 1 – you need to goal (specific and challenging), 2 – you need an action that will help you attain a goal, 3 – you need a situation that will trigger you to do the action. You then put your plan together like this: “When situation X arises, I will perform action!”.

Intentions

Intentions

For a reminder on SMART goal-setting, click here.

Of course this is not the panacea for keeping your resolutions. You need to actually care about goal you have set in your resolution, you also need to be committed to taking action, and the situation needs to be something appropriate and workable.

So here’s a test for you when kicking back in front of the cricket on the 2/1/2014. Ask yourself the following;

What do I want to achieve this year? Or this quarter?

How much do I care about this?

What am I going to do to make this happen?

What are the situations where I will be making this happen?

Goal Setting: Planning to Succeed – this is really Important!

Do you know how to set a goal that will help you achieve what you want?

“You can’t cross the sea merely by standing and staring at the water.”
– Rabindranath Tagore

Goal setting may be one of the most important skills you can learn.

In fitness, knowing what you want means you and your trainer can put together a plan to work towards your goals. Whether you want to lose ‘weight’, improve your strength, get leaner, improve your core strength, get more flexible/improve mobility, increase your cardiovascular or muscular endurance or have sport-specific goals has a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads.

In martial arts, knowing whether your true interest lies in MMA, fitness, kata (patterns), tournaments or street-realistic self defence can have a huge impact on the style you choose or the emphasis you want to put on different aspects of your training.

Start the process by choosing 1-3 targets. Limiting the number means you won’t get discouraged if you have lots of things you’d like to improve. Map them out – making sure they are SMART:

Specific
Measurable
Achievable
Relevant
Time-based

Specific
This means the goal is clear and unambiguous; without vagaries and platitudes. To make goals specific they must say exactly what is expected and why is it important.

A specific goal will usually answer five “W” questions:
What: What do I want to accomplish?
Why: Specific reasons, purpose or benefits of accomplishing the goal.
Who: Who is involved?
Where: Identify a location.
Which: Identify requirements and constraints.

Measurable
This stresses the need for concrete criteria for measuring progress toward the attainment of the goal. The thought behind this is that if it is not measurable, it is not possible to know whether progress is being made toward successful completion. Measuring progress is supposed to you stay on track, reach target dates, and experience the exhilaration of achievement that spurs on to continued effort required to reach the ultimate goal.

A measurable goal will usually answer questions such as:
How much?
How many?
How will I know when it is accomplished?

Achievable
This stresses the importance of realism and attainability. While an attainable goal may be a stretch to achieve, the goal is not extreme. That is, it is neither out of reach nor below standard performance, as these may be considered meaningless. When you identify goals that are most important to you, you begin to figure out ways you can make them come true. You develop the attitudes, abilities, skills, and capacity to reach them.
An attainable goal will usually answer the question:
How: How can the goal be accomplished?

S.M.A.R.T goalsGoals-mistakes

Relevant
This stresses the importance of choosing goals that matter. A bank manager’s goal to “Make 50 peanut butter sandwiches by 2:00pm” may be specific, measurable, attainable, and time-based, but lacks relevance. Many times you will need support to accomplish it. A goal that supports or is in alignment with other goals would be considered relevant.

A relevant goal can answer yes to these questions:
Does this seem worthwhile?
Is this the right time?
Does this match my other efforts/needs?

Time-based
This emphasizes the importance of grounding goals within a time frame, giving them a target date. A commitment to a deadline helps efforts to be focussed on completion on or before the due date. This part of the SMART goal criteria is intended to prevent goals from being overtaken by the day-to-day crises that invariably arise in life. A time-bound goal is intended to establish a sense of urgency.

A time-bound goal will usually answer the question:
When?
What can I do six months from now?
What can I do six weeks from now?
What can I do today?

Using these criteria – think hard about what you really want. Write it down. Start planning. Start achieving your goals!

The Mindset of Happiness and Success

The only thing you truly have control over is how you react to situations.

Your outlook on life, how you interact with others and, ultimately, your happiness and perception of success all come back to how you think and how you feel.

Obviously there are events and situations that lend themselves to a particular emotion – just keep in mind: You are in charge of your emotions, they are not in charge of you. I came across this this morning and drew inspiration.

“Promise yourself to be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind.
To talk health, happiness and prosperity to every person you meet.

To make all your friends feel that there is something [special] in them.
To look at the sunny side of everything and make your optimism come true.

To think only the best, to work only for the best, and to expect only the best.
To be just as enthusiastic about the success of others as you are about your own.

To forget the mistakes of the past and press on to the greater achievements of the future.
To wear a cheerful countenance at all times and give every living creature you meet a smile.

To give so much time to the improvement of yourself that you have no time to criticize others.
To be too large for worry, too noble for anger, too strong for fear, and too happy to permit the presence of trouble.

To think well of yourself and to proclaim this fact to the world, not in loud words but great deeds.
To live in faith that the world is on your side so long as you are true to the best that is in you.”

By Christian D. Larson; Your Forces and How to Use Them.

Everyone have a great weekend.

The Best Strength Training Program

What is the most successful strength gain program?

Starting Strength? Wendler 5-3-1? Stronglifts? Madcow? Texas Method? Smolov? OPT? Catalyst? A hybrid system? [Insert other serious sounding name here]?

The most successful strength building program is:

is…

The one that you stick with!

I know, I know – you really want to know which program will give you the best “bang for your buck” to get you lean/jacked/cut/shredded/toned/pumped/(flayed?) the fastest, ideally with the least effort.

Sorry to burst the bubble. Real, lasting progress takes time and effort. If it was easy – everyone would be doing it. It takes determination to show up week-in week-out, when you don’t feel like it, when it’s cold, when it’s hot, when you’re tired, when you’re [insert excuse here]…

Just show up.

The world’s best strength coaches do have differences in their philosophy, approach and programing. They may differ on small stuff like “a huge impact on the programming – exercise selection, timing, rest, sets, reps and loads”, but I challenge you to find a decent (reputable and respectable) strength coach, be it Mark Rippetoe, Jim Wendler, Jason Ferruggia, Greg Everett*, Charles Poliquin or anyone else who would say that for consistent gains you can or should do anything other than “show up consistently”. Anyone who would say that you should do anything other than low reps and high load on Back Squat, Bench Press, Deadlift, Press and Power Cleans. The auxiliary exercises may differ, but the main lifts are the main lifts for a reason.

*Greg Everett has an Olympic Lifting focus, so would put more emphasis on development of the Clean and Jerk and the Snatch – two AWESOME strength and power development movements, but I’m sure if you asked him about the utility of ‘the Big 3’ and presses and power cleans for strength development he would agree they do get the job done well.

Yes, your exact sets and reps are open to debate. Do I do 3 sets of 5, or 5 sets of 5 for maximal strength gains with some size development? Answer: it depends. Are you a beginner who needs volume? Are you an intermediate lifter who is closer to your genetic potential where doing 5 heavy sets would be too much volume and stress on your central nervous system? How old are you? How did you sleep? Are you eating properly? How much recovery do you get?

What ever program you do – to get progress you need to train consistently and train hard. Almost all strength programs call for at least 80% of your 1 rep max for the work set(s). The idea of progressive overload is shared universally. The way to get stronger is to lift more than you did last time. Expand your comfort zone by working outside your comfort zone. You only know what you can do when you try to do more than you can.

That’s not to say you should always train all out. If you’ve had 3 hours sleep, are stressed to the eyeballs or are sick. If you’re contagious stay home – but otherwise, show up “oil the groove”, de-load if you need to but show up and lift.

You might even do what Mike did last night. Really not feel like it, show up anyway, eventually get into it and hit a clean and jerk PR!

So show up – even when you don’t feel like it.