Rugged, handsome and heavily photo-shopped.
I’m not entirely sure what did it. It could of been the 5 million squats we did on Wednesday. It might even have been the kettlebells and the deadlifts on Monday. It may have been the run yesterday. I suspect it was an amalgam of all those things coupled with the hips of a man with a little too much mileage on the clock for this sort of nonsense. Whatever it was it left me with broken buttocks. Well… specifically a broken buttock. My right one as it turns out. It took about 40 mins of exercise before I could walk properly. Although, weirdly, they felt fine after squats.
It’s as I’ve always suspected – squats are the answer no matter what the question.
Today was the last day of our current 5/3/1 cycle. Next week I’m deloading and Rhod is skiing in Italy. I’m not jealous. I like Cardiff. In January. With it’s incessant drizzle. It’s grey, low skies. The damp, miserable people. It’s lack of Alpine lodges with roaring fires and nubile ski bunnies. I pity Rhod and his week of snow filled frivolities. Git.
Really hope that this doesn’t happen to Rhod.
To help Rhod try to enjoy the dull and boring week ahead of him I thought it only proper of me to ensure that his last joyful memory was of a great workout with yours truly.
We began the workout in the usual way – doing 10 mins of cardio to get the blood pumping and to try to unclench my arse cheek. That didn’t work, so then we did a mobility circuit of Step ups, Rear leg Elevated Split Squats and Glute bridges. All done for 3 rounds of 10 reps. This also failed to turn my granite-glute into anything more pliable then concrete. So it was time to unleash the big guns – Complexes.
I stole (not unlike everything else), the idea of complexes from Dan John and they really are the complete Omni-workout package. They can do everything from burning fat to building muscle and everything in between. Do them at the start of a workout for extra mobility and lifting practice. Do them at the end of a workout as a gruesome finisher. Do them instead of a workout to become generally awesome at everything.
We did them as extra mobility/cardio and for 3 rounds of 5 reps. There was only 40kg on the bar but trust m, doing 6 exercises back to back is plenty demanding enough. Providing, of course, you choose big, important exercises. It won’t be as effective if done with tricep kickbacks and single arm lateral raises.
We did; Romanians, Cleans, Front Squats, Press, Back squats and Good Mornings. By the end of the last circuit I almost had feeling back in my butt.
It was from this point onwards we started to stray from The Path According to Wendler and got lost in the Fog of Making it up as you go Along. The normal pattern for week 3 on 5/3/1 is to do (after plenty of warm up sets) do 1 set of 5 reps at 75%, 1 set of 3 reps at 85% and 1 set of 1 rep at 95%. What Rhod and I have been doing recently is to do many, many warm up sets. Typically what we would do is 3 reps with an empty bar, add a little weight, do 3 more reps, add a little weight and keep repeating that until we had worked the weight up to our first working set.
For example – Squat: 3 x 20kg, 3 x 30kg, 3 x 40kg, 3 50kg, 3 x 60kg, 3 x 70kg, 3 x 80kg, 3 x 90kg and then on to our first working set of 100kg.
This has been working really well. We get lots of practice of the movement (and trust me on this one – a lot of what your strength is about is being good and efficient at that particular movement), and we get a great warm up that doesn’t overly fatigue us. All was good and progress was being made. But then . . .
. . . I found myself remembering how back in the day (when dinosaurs roamed the Earth and I had abs) we often used to work up, using a traditional pyramid method of training, to a heavy set and then do a “Back Off” set. So a squat workout would look something like this: 1 set of 15 reps, 1 set of 12 reps, 1 set of 10 reps, 1 set of 8 reps then your “heavy” set of 4-6 reps. Then we would strip off some weight, probably back to our 10 rep weight, and do that last “Back Off” set. I remember how at the time we used to marvel at how light that the weight felt now. Way lighter then it felt while pyramiding up and we invariably got more reps with it as well.
At the time we gave it no thought at all – it was just one of those things. Like how your arms feel all light and floaty if you’ve been holding something heavy for awhile. 25 years, and some actual research, later and I’ve learned a few things about this training malarkey. Not much, granted, but a bit.
Basically (because the minutiae is cripplingly dull), the heavier the load (the weight you’re lifting) the more the central nervous system is lit up and the more other muscles are recruited to help move and stabilize the load.
Big weight = Big everything and the kitchen sink helping you out.
Just for shits and giggles we thought we would try something a little different. We still did the warm up sets starting with an empty bar but instead of going up in 10kg jumps we only increased each set by 5kg.
So more sets.
Then instead of 3 reps we only did 1 rep. Each rep was done with as good a technique as we could possibly manage and we always treated the bar as if it were heavy.
Fewer reps means less overall volume.
The weight continued getting heavier and heavier until we got to our 95% of 1 rep max. It gets a little tricky here. It’s true that the greater the load then the greater the involvement from the CNS and other muscles. However, if you go too heavy you end up switching the CNS off (not completely, obviously, you’d be dead). A fine line must be walked between going heavy, not heavy enough and too heavy. I dare say I’m going to get this wrong from time to time but aiming for about 95% should see you right.
Now our squat session looked like this –
1 x 20, 1 x 25, 1 x 30, 1 x 35, 1 x 40, 1 x 45, 1 x 50, 1 x 55, 1 x 60, 1 x 65, 1 x 70, 1 x 75, 1 x 80, 1 x 85, 1 x 90, 1 x 95, 1 x 100, 1 x 105, 1 x 110, 1 x 115 and 1 set of 1 rep with 120kg – which was our target weight for today. Then we backed off and did 1 set of 3 reps with 107.5kg and 1 set of 5 reps with 95kg. Do you know what? Those Back Off sets felt ridiculously easy.
We then did the same with our overhead press. In truth our squat of 120kg isn’t really anywhere near our true 1 rep max. Rhod’s still building up after knee surgery and I’m building up after countless minor injuries. Our pressing weight was pretty much bang on our real 1 rep maxes. Would this method work for a) smaller muscle groups and b) muscle groups that were already pretty close to maxing out?
To cut a long story short I can tell you that yes it does. Here’s the video –
Thanks for reading,