Archive for the ‘The Ramping Method’ Category

Title is an attention-grabber, I’ll detail the origin later in the post.

I’ll keep these brief, there’s a fair bit to get through – I’ll focus on the main realisations.  Particular attention was given to accessory work as it was missing in previous weeks.

Day 9 – D/L + MP (2 reps)

Deadlift ended at 170 (which is usually a total doddle) because the bar kept slipping out of my hands in a very warm gym setting. Cue to action – I’m buying chalk soon.

OHP I’m unsure – I think it ended at 1 rep of 60Kg

I’m afraid I cannot remember Ross’ numbers.

————

Day 10 – Squat + Weighted Pull-ups (2 reps)

Squat – still hammering away and gradually increasing the weight of the front squat (around 100kg atm – more on this later)
Weighted pull-ups – Finished at 35kgs (this is a pretty solid gain from 25)

————

Day 11 – Bench + Bent-over row

Bench ended with 1 rep at 90 and 1 (not 2) at 87.5kg. Not happy with these at all.
Bent-over rows (maxed at 100kg for 2 reps)

————

Day 12 – Deadlift + MP

Deadlift was a  big win – 180kg for 2 reps (previous 1RM)
MP ended at 60kgs for 2 reps (a nice gain here)

————-

Now what?

That’s 4 weeks of work and the gains are as follows:

– Bench – No gain
– OHP – 2 reps @ 60kg (previously 1)
– Bent-over row – unable to tell (suspect no gain)
– Weighted pull-up – 2 reps @ 35kg (previously 3 @ 25kg)
–  Squat – decrease*
– Deadlift – 2 reps @ 180kg (previously 1)

————

So what the hell happened? We made our gains via the 5×5 programme and then the only visible gain was in the Deadlift. I’m afraid I do not have Ross’ numbers as we spent a lot of the last month training at different times due to university commitments.

Here’s my crack at it:

We’ve discovered a dynamite maintenance routine while looking for gains.

Bench – no gain but no loss either. It was practiced often, maxing out and reaching 90kg for a single rep every time.
OHP – First session was rushed as the gym was closing, the following served as a real example of our 5×5 gains, no gains thereafter.
Bent-over row – As for Bench.
Weighted pull-up – new movement, gains are more geared towards movement adaption than neural strength.
Squat – The only move we DIDN’T practice, as we changed to the front squat.
Deadlift – Improved technique and genuinely improved strength – the only real gain in the 4 weeks of the ramping method.

So what can we take from all of this?

1. Lifting maximally once a week in a range of reps from 4-2 will MAINTAIN strength gains
2. Not practicing a movement regularly will cause a decrease in performance of that movement
3. Deadlift is (as it always was) the most neurally taxing training exercise and requires training only once a week to improve performance.

At this moment in time, I need to create a programme with increased volume. That’ll require me to put a few things on hold (maintenance) while I focus on the rest. I’ve already got something in mind, just need to make sure all the pieces are put together.

 

————

My own recent realisations:

Squatting – do what you want to do!

If you ask me, the most relevant squatting movement for most is the front squat. Why? Because the carry-over to explosive activities and other explosive endeavours is better than with other squatting modalities. Unfortunately, the rule for me goes like this:

Relevance: Front Squat > Oly’ Squat > PL Squat
Enjoyment: PL Squat > Oly’ Squat > Front Squat

In the end, what matters is that you ARE squatting and that you’re enjoying it. If I were to continue on front squats, I’d lose interest and my lower body pushing movements would weaken as a result.

Well, to hell with that! I’m going back to what I love doing the most. Wide-stance, breaking parallel (not ass to grass) and enjoying my squat!

————

I’ve been off for the last week and now face a challenge – lots of work needing to be done and not a lot of time to do it. New regime will be posted up in the coming few days…alas, the blog is again up and lifting.

Slight hiatus – been incredibly busy recently travelling to Manchester for University, plus a shed load of associated work. However, this doesn’t mean I’ve stopped exercising – just had to rearrange the sessions somewhat.
————

First session of the week for myself was the Bench/Bent-Over rows as Ross had completed the Squat/Pull-ups session on his own earlier in the week.

This week is the first 2-rep week.

Bench – we both maxed out shy of our old 1RM’s, which wasn’t the best result at all as we had previously pushed our old 1RMs for 2 full reps.
Bent-over rows – this was the same, coming just shy of performing as we usually can. (100kg for myself and around 85-90kg for Ross)

Having spent the majority of my time that week sitting on trains/busses and in conferences, I feel I wasn’t up to scratch. It had also been 5 days since I had done anything like exercise – call it rack rust (again).

I’ll find out from the numbers in coming weeks if our approach does not have maximal volume – until then we’re progressing as planned. I feel the progress WOULD be compounded if we were able to do the additional accessory work…of course, slowing gains could quite possible be due to improving technique and strength. Again, the absolute focus in coming weeks will be the completion of accessory work.

Failing that, I get to revise an entire programme all over again! That may sound like a complaint, but I do it in my spare time out of boredom anyway.

————

In Squats/Pull-ups, we’re still practicing the front squat…this will continue for the next few weeks. Of course, we do still complete some sub-maximal high bar back squats – this week stopping at 130kgs for Ross and 140kgs for myself (Ross’ abdomen issues are causing problems).

Weighted pull-ups – we both cleared the 25kgs easily (a gain from the week before) and managed 1 solid rep at 30kgs, failing on the 2nd.

————

I’ll be able to focus on this blog again as I have a much more predictable timetable now – expect more facebook clogging. This is not an insightful post by any means, I just wanted to get the info down…above all else, this blog is here for me to track my own progress. I’m not running a business, I’m not making any cash, I’m just training hard with a fellow exercise addict and hoping that, somewhere along the way, strangers and friends are learning how to make progress (and not be a total dick in the process).

If you ever take anything from this blog and never plan to look here ever again, at least remember the following:

– New to lifting? Aiming to build muscle? Practice compound movements ONLY until you’re no longer seeing gains – then start the isolation work.
– New to lifting? Aiming to build strength? Practice compound movements ONLY until you identify specific weaknesses in your lifts – perform accessory work accordingly.
– Compound movements = Military Press, Pull-up, Bench-press, Bent-over row, Squat, Deadlift. (movements that use many muscles as one unit)
– Isolation movements = bicep curls, tricep extensions, etc… (movements that use a single muscle to produce movement)
– Don’t bicep curl in the squat rack
– Squat below parallel (it is NOT bad for your knees)
– The internet is your friend…there are technique videos EVERYWHERE.
– If you’re not afraid of the weight on the bar, it’s not heavy enough.
– Listen to music
– Drink caffeine only on gym days
– Be a technique nazi (if you hit the same movement every time, your gains are more likely to be strength related)
– Hydrate (3-4L a day)

If you think this blog is judgemental of gym users – suck it up. Chances are, if it’s offending you, you’re in need of some criticism to maximise your potential. Half-way efforts make half-way gains – why expect anything more than what you put into your training?

Mad that I take the occasional swing at the bicep curling, tight shirt wearing, spray-tanning, narcissistic masses? Shut the fuck up and train – it’s all I ask.

I haven’t had time to write-up our most recent session – it has been crazy hectic this last week and as a result, THIS week’s sessions will have to be crushed into a very small amount of time.

Anyway….

Week 2 – 3 reps – Military Press + Deadlift

Deadlift – some interesting findings for us both. Ross’ “1RM” he lifted as his maximum 3 rep set (160kg)…so yeah, there’s another gain for you. I shifted the 170kg for  3 reps as my final set (I’d have loved have kept raising the numbers, but time was running out again.) The most interesting finding was the 170kg lift for Ross. He made the attempt as he was sure last week he could have managed it for at least one rep. However, what happened was a little strange…he started in the starting position…and ended in the finish position…yet the lift left much to be desired. The bar stopped just above the knees, where there was much squatting/hiking/off-balance behaviour. The lift was not completed in a smooth motion and the muscles used changed when the bar passed the knees…picture resting the bar on your knees and doing mini squats to try to “jump” it up your thigh. Next week – he’ll nail it!

Military press was, to be quite frank, a complete disaster. We had 15 minutes, had a very poor warm-up and shifted a measly 50kgs for the 3 maximum. Sure, it was my old  1RM lifted 3 times, but I could’ve done much more with a more able warm-up, as could Ross.

————

I ended up in the gym much more than I’m used to this week. I video’d a lot of technique drills and found myself quite content…however, I am looking forward to becoming more efficient with power cleans/front squats. All in due time.

I finished all of the accessory work I had to miss out due to time-constraints throughout the week.

————

WARM-UP!

A quick note here.

I’ve taken on board some words from Dave Tate (living lifting legend) in part 2 of the infamous video series “So you think you can bench?“. Basically, without a lengthy warm-up, there’s not an optimum amount of blood in your muscles (pretty obvious there) but a more complex idea mentioned is that of learned movements – your body is more efficient in movements it carries out more often (practised motor pathways). Therefore without an apt warm-up, you get less practice with appropriate technique, thus slowing your body’s learning of that movement (and slowing your strength gains).

The first day we incorporated the lengthy warm-ups was the day I cleared the 180kg Deadlift…worth thinking about?

————

Dime a dozen:

– Our time management is atrocious, it’s time we got this sorted!
–  Warm-ups…they’re not just for performance on the day, but improved performance months down the line!

Day 5 – Bench/Row

Posted: May 6, 2011 in The Ramping Method

Today was the 3 rep Bench/Bent-over rows session.

Full workout was aimed as follows:

Bench press – 3 rep maximum
Bent-over row – 3 rep maximum
Single leg squats – 8 reps, 3 sets
Single leg Romanian Deadlifts – 8 reps, 1 set (would have been 3, gym closure)

————

The session was a big step-up from last week – a lot less frustration.

Bench – some lovely gains here. I managed to shift 85kgs 3 times (that’s my old one rep max, 3 times) compared to last week’s 2 reps. Ross managed 2/3 reps @ 90kgs (his old 1RM) which isn’t a gain from last week, however this was yet another session where he turned up under-fed and dehydrated. If this happens again, I’m going to kick him square in the balls. I adjusted my grip for a couple of sets following the max effort to match the power-lifting style made popular by the likes of Dave Tate. I found the wide grip placed a lot of pressure on my shoulder (an old injury) and as such don’t believe it to be the safest method for myself. I may never lift a complete true maximum in the bench press due to this, but I’d rather that than tear a rotator cuff. That said, I’m currently working on my shoulder mobility (evidently poor) which I feel may actually alleviate this issue.

Bent-over row – no sauna gym = less sweat = better grip. I also focus a lot more on gripping the bar as tightly as I could and feel I lifted much more powerfully…yet another rep showing the value of grip strength. I shifted 95kgs 3 times and managed the 100kg twice, narrowly missing the third rep. Ross started showing technical failures around the 85kg mark (his last fully managed set). However, those numbers in themselves are obvious gains – 5kgs above the old 1RMs moved 3 times (though 87.5 and 97.5 would likely be possible) – time constraints prevented us from investigating further.

With 15 minutes left, we hammered on with the single leg squats. We’re not maxing out on these, shifting only 12,20,30kgs in each set – these are as usual escalating with time as we learn the movements. These exercises will be taken a lot more seriously in the coming weeks.

Unfortunately, we only managed one set before gym closure. Our own time keeping letting us down…

————

The Knowledge:

– It’s only been a week, we can’t be sure if our regime is effective just yet, but we’ll find out over the coming weeks/months.
– If you put crap in you get crap out. If you put nothing in, you get nothing out. (Take that as “you are what you eat” but it can’t be applied to both diet and effort…and much more)
–  Grip strength is essential to maintaining a strong connection between your muscles and the object you’re attempting to move. Additional grip work can make all the difference if it’s a weakness. You may not even be aware that it’s preventing you from progressing – think while you train. When you’re Deadlifting, are you struggling to move the weight or hold it?
– Additional grip work can be performed with weighted pull-ups or specific equipment. (Search grip strength equipment for a whole host of examples, but Captains of Crush have been recommended to me in the past – cheers Abdulla)
– Make sure you’ve got plenty of time to complete your training session…

It’s the beginning of week 2 – the 3 rep week.

Today’s session – Squats + Weighted pull ups (+plyometric pushing/rotational pushing exercises)

With regards to squatting, things are changing at the moment. I’m of the mindset that lifting for strength that’s useful on a day-to-day basis should include all varieties of human movement…but particular exercises may be of more benefit than others. With squats, we’ve always used a back squat. However my mind is beginning to change…I’m beginning to think that for your average guy, using the front squat may be the better idea (as long as you’re also Deadlifting). The logic behind it is the general consensus from professional coaches in athletics – the front squat has a higher carry-over into athletics than the back squat, i.e. training your front squat provides more benefits to athletic movement when compared to a traditional back squat. When stripped down and made simple, athletic movements are just exaggerated human movements. Lifting, throwing, running, walking, sprinting, jumping – these are all movements that could potentially be required on any given day and by any moving person. As such, we’re beginning to phase out the back squat for replacement with the front squat…the only issue is that we’ve fallen in love with squatting over the last few months. One extra session a week can’t hurt, right?

DISCLAIMER: My mind may change again, I’m still reading quite a lot of material…I opted for Olympic style lifts over power lifting methods for the same reason – it appears that for athletic movement, Front squat > Olympic style squatting > Power lifting, yet as for weight actually shifted, Power lifting > Olympic style squatting > Front squat. More weight shifted does not mean more carry-over into athletic performance…it means you can lift more weight on a barbell with a particular style within a particular range of motion.

With a new movement comes a new requirement for motor adaptions – for the next few weeks our squatting sessions will focus on learning the new motor pattern of the front squat (whilst also challenging ourselves with back squats to a lesser extent).

Back squat – 3 reps @ 60kg, 80kg, 100kg and 120kg.
Front squat – 5-8 reps  @ barbell only (20kg), 40kg and 60kg.

The back squats are done as forcefully as possible. It’s nice to see hands-on progress. The 120kg lift came off the ground from the deepest possible position in an olympic style lift – much different from the first failed attempt (when this all began) with a more supportive broad-based power lifting style.

Weighted pull ups – We’re much more efficient in the change over from set to set now and the belt is holding up well. Technically, we’re more aware of our own movements now. Ross and I have opted for different grips – mine has the thumb underneath the bar whereas Ross has this thumb on top of the bar (think “hook” more than grab). The difference is little, but with the thumb’s under-bar position I feel I support more of the tension with my forearms which places less tension on my lats. I would lift in the fashion Ross is opting for, but I’m currently using it as an assistance grip strength exercise – I may change over in coming weeks depending on developments with grip strength. I may be a rogue specimen here though…I spent years rowing with a grip similar to Ross’ in pull-ups and as such find that grip a bit easier. Try both and see what you prefer, I personally find holding the bar with my thumb underneath more challenging.

Lifts maxed out with an additional 25kgs in the last 3 rep set with Ross and I managing 1 full rep and 2 full reps respectively.

————

Plyometric push ups/Rotational pushes were performed as circuits

– 2 x (3 plyometric bench push ups followed by L/R sided dumbbell presses (8 reps))
– 1 x (3 reps non impact plyometric pushes followed by L/R sided dumbbell presses (8 reps))

————

Notables from today:

– New movements require practice. Currently, the front squat is not a test of strength, but a test of adaptation.
– Simple style changes can make up for training plan inadequacies (changing up technique in some lifts may aid your gains in others)

Day 3 – Massive Gains

Posted: April 30, 2011 in The Ramping Method

After the week’s events, a sterling performance was required today to bolster some confidence. Though we had made maximum efforts through the week, we had hoped for bigger gains…today was a different story and it put some of our own thoughts regarding lifting into a good light.

The session: Deadlift + Military press (4 rep max)/Anti-Rotational pulling work/Cleans/Anti-extension work

We decided to start with the Deadlift today – an old friend we hadn’t seen in almost a month.

————

Deadlift – We decided to focus on getting a thorough warm-up today. That meant small increases of 10kilos from 60kgs lifting for 4-5 reps. After 100kg, we began the 4-rep max pursuit. Though some of you may be aware of our obsession with Deadlifts, others may not. They are the greatest exercise of all time, end of story. Huge amounts of mass used in a movement that happens in everyday life – absolutely essential training. So how did we perform? Well, today, I maxed out the 4 reps at 160kg, Ross maxed at 150kg…how big is this gain? Well, let’s consider this…

From February 21st:

“Sean Cassidy @ 82.5kg:

Deadlift – 150kg

Ross Lang @ 80kg:

Deadlift – 140kg”

That’s right…Ross and I maxed out lifting 10kgs above our 1RM a total of 4 times. Intrigued, we decided to hammer on and get some 1RM testing done…results:

Sean Cassidy @ 86kg:

Deadlift – 180kg

Ross Lang @ 82.5kg

Deadlift – 160kg

I actually forgot to mention this before – but we both put on about 3-4kgs over the last 6 weeks.
Anyway – blatantly terrifying gains. So why did we not make these gains in the Squat and the Bench? Perhaps we were training these movements too frequently…once a week, as per the programme I designed may be more of an optimum training frequency – we’ll only find out in the coming weeks. Regardless, we’re over the moon with the results. Ross reckons the 170kg marker is possible for himself – his grip gave in before anything else. Perhaps next week that will be a possibility.

Military press – We were pushed for time by this point and as such didn’t get to warm up as much as we had wanted to, but alas – gains were again present.

I shifted the 50kg 4 times (my old 1RM) and reckon I could have done more. Ross narrowly missed 70kgs – though the time press/lesser warm-up was likely hampering. Not to mention the fact that old shoulder injuries for both of us started to creep up again…

TRAINING = REHAB = TRAINING = REHAB

Understand?

————

We were unable to complete any other movements other than these two (gym closes early on Saturdays) but we’ll return on Monday and attempt to hit everything we’ve missed.

It was a kick ass day – obvious gains. The most blatant so far…it’ll be interesting to see what happens in the coming weeks regarding the other lifts.

————

Day’s knowledge:

– Training for strength = once a week optimum?
– Mobility can cure more injuries than you’d imagine. Aches and pains? Paracetamol/Anti-Inflammatories may stop the pain, but they may be covering up an underlying imbalance – go see a physiotherapist.
– Warm-ups…you wouldn’t build a house without foundations* – make sure you’re fully prepared for your work-out!
– Training = Rehab. My old shoulder injury/back pains were not present until taking time off from the gym, they’re now returning (slightly). That doesn’t mean training with an injury is smart, it means physical training can prevent and repair certain injuries, in particular imbalances.

Was it just a fluke? Did our lifts drastically improve because we were training these movements only once weekly? Perhaps we were just rusty at the start of the week? We’ll find out next week!

Stay tuned.

Day 1 + 2 – Rack Rust

Posted: April 29, 2011 in The Ramping Method

We decided to make our glorious return on Tuesdayand begin training using the ramping method.

First off, it had been almost 3 weeks since we had trained with intensity – plenty of time to recover, but plenty of time to regress as we found on our return to the gym.

Time off training seriously was necessary for university work – highly unfortunate. As I’ve said before, we’d have loved to have kept active in these weeks, but the work load demanded a lot of sitting and staring at power point – bad news for your mobility.

————

Day 1 (Squat, Weighted Pull Ups and anti-rotational/plyometric pushing work) – 4 Rep Max

Squat – interesting findings here. First off, though it was not an excellent performance by myself, I shifted my 1RM again in the final set of squats, where I was aiming for 4. However, this wasn’t actually too disheartening as I’ve changed up the squatting style – I reckon it’s a case of adjustment. I had expected to be lifting lighter and was actually content to stick up the 140 from depth. Ross’ abdominal pains from Day 3 of the 5×5 regimen have returned – like last time, the work load is reduced and additional core work is carried out (this time in the form of anti-rotational/extension work).

Weighted Pull Ups – this was new to us. We chose to simply work from a technical standpoint today. That meant going light and focusing on technical cues. It’ll be an interesting movement to report in the coming weeks.

Plyometric Pushing/Anti-Rotational Circuit(3 sets, 4 reps)

Circuit 1 = Explosive overhead press w/ bar + Bench press ups
Circuit 2 = 3-point (one-handed) plank + Explosive press ups

This was completed in such a fashion in order to scale down some time. Finish your reps, move onto the next exercise = easy.

Anti-Rotational Push (Unilateral dumbbell Bench Press) – 3 sets, 8 reps.

The set/rep ratio was chosen as it is still challenging, but would allow for more repetitions and therefore more technical practice in a new movement. The weights were not maximum, but still challenging as it is still a movement that requires practice. You’ll feel your abdomen engaging in a way unlike you ever have with normal bench pressing – give it a try!

———–

Day 2 (Bench, Bent over row, single leg work, front squat and lower body plyos)

Bench – Some definite rage here. In the last week of the 5×5, I shifted 80kgs for 5 reps and it was very manageable. Today, I shifted it 3 times and failed on the 4th = infuriating. Ross had similar issues…so we dealt with it by playing with our old 1RMs, shifting them twice. It was nice to see a blatant strength gain, just as it was all through the 5×5 regime, but still the detriment in the 5 rep shift annoyed me. Seeing as we’ve definitely gained strength (to an extent) it can’t be said that the 5×5 program is poor…it has been tried and tested universally. The issue is the weeks of immobility/lack of intensity in the gym. I’ll discuss this further when I note some key points.

Bent over row – Today’s main issue wasn’t that the weight was too heavy, but rather that we were far too slippery…we were sweating, it happens, and it made gripping quite an issue. The main finding here was that it may be time to invest in some chalk! Also – both of us shifted our old 1RM 3/4 times in the last set…it was a pretty decent gain, but the grip let us both down. However, chalk will only be used in slippery bar situations…we both know full well we can lift heavier than this as we did so last week, today was just a slippery one…could be related to the gym now being a sauna in the afternoon.

Front squat – This was a learning point today. As with all new movements, the same rules applied…focus on technical cues and start light. The issue with front squats for most beginners is wrist/triceps flexibility – expect them to alleviate themselves after 3-4 weeks.

FRONT SQUAT just a quick note to say that the plan is for front squats to take over as the main squatting movement in the future (couple of weeks for adjustment). The reasoning behind this is that a lot of world-class coaches believe that front squats have a greater carry over into athletic performance than back squats…and for your average guy getting stronger/living a day-to-day life, that’s something we should be looking into. Why? Athletic movements are just standard human movements pushed to their limit – running, jumping, lifting, pushing. If you want to become better at them, why not train in a format shown to be more effective in developing them?

Single leg work – single leg squats (one leg on the floor, the other behind you, resting on a bench) and single leg Romanian Deadlifts. (3 sets, 8 reps)

These movements were almost entirely new to myself. I thoroughly enjoyed them, yet I was hugely challenged by them. Ross’ old motor memory kicked up a shit storm here – striking sports (involving the legs) are essentially repetitive powerful single leg movements, where balance is essential for accuracy/power transfer. I found a personal weakness here…I’m looking forward to making it a strength. Mike Boyle recommends single leg movements over two-legged movements for developing strength in the legs – I can understand his affinity. It is a lot more challenging from both a flexibility and a balance/coordination perspective…plus, it’s rare in human movement for you to be continually shoving off of both legs…definitely something I’ll be looking into in the future. The issue I have with removing standard squatting is the time taken to exercise both legs separately!

Plyometrics – we had already hammered our legs somewhat more than expected and therefore decided to keep it simple. 3 sets, 4 reps, vertical leap plyos. Simple, but effective.

The plan was to do anti-extension work here, but for want of a better excuse, I frankly forgot. Notepad present from now on! It’ll be tagged into a circuit on Friday.

————

It’ll be interesting to see if we’re training each movement frequently enough to make gains here – we’re already finding these workouts quite time consuming…we’re gym happy, but if you have other things to do in a day, do you really want to be at the gym for an hour and a half? I’ll publish my thoughts on what the average guy really should be doing for general strength/fitness in coming weeks…it’s a lot less time consuming! I’m hoping that for each movement, the stability/anti-rotational counter-part will ensure there is enough of an overload to make gains…only time will tell!

————

General points:

– New lift? Start light, focus on technical points and gradually increase the weight over time.
– Time taken completely off of training is a poor idea. Time taken training lightly won’t be so detrimental.
– Front squat – a more relevant lift for your average guy?
– Time constraints? Throw in a circuit!
– Single leg work hurts your backside like nothing else…(foam roller time)…even MORE relevant for Joe Bloggs?
– Bring a check-list to the gym if you are, like me, a forgetful SOB sometimes.

See you Friday.