Friday, November 30, 2007

Progress and Lessons Learned

Dan John says all training is complementary, and I've lately been noticing this in my own training. Recently I've been blowing my old marks out of the water in both overhead squat and the full squat snatch. It seems that when I started drilling the snatch more and getting better I got stronger in the OHS, and now as I OHS more and more I'm able to stay together better in my snatches. The lift just keeps getting easier.
Another "tip" that I've picked up is that my OHS sets go much better when I start each set with a full squat snatch as opposed to starting out of the rack. This is a bit counterintuitive because one might think that starting out of the rack would make me fresher for my set, but whether it's just being in the most natural position for having snatched the weight first or what, it just works for me.
A hard lesson to learn was that I need an extremely long warm-up before I snatch. It's tough, because I like to aggressivley squeeze a lot of work into my hour of gym time, but I've realized that without extensive drilling at 89# to warm up I just don't make my attempts. I suspect the reason is that I'm lifting 5 days a week right now and lifting in the morning when I haven't had a day's activity to limber me up.


I love doing overhead squats and powercleans, so Fridays are about guaranteed to be good days for lifting. Today, however, was even better than usual. I put up PR numbers in both lifts.

Snatch 89# for 5 singles
3 reps of snatch drill where one rep = 1 snatch + 1 hang snatch + 1 overhead squat
all with 89#

3-3-3-3-3 (1 snatch to start each set)


PTP deads:

Didn't really have the side presses after the OHS

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


I started an experiment today with the deads. I was re-reading PTP last night and got to thinking about Pavel's recommendation that reps be kept to a total of no more than 10 on the work sets. From here on out I will keep the first set of 5 low and will not increase that weight during cycles. The set of 4 will increase and will be the first work set.

Back squat w/ chains:

The chains might add 40# to the top of the lift. I need to weigh them, because really that's just a swag.

Press: (one powerclean precedes each set of presses)

Weighted pull-ups:

Presses and Pull-ups were supersetted.

I will keep the weight constant on squats, presses and pull-ups for at least the next two weeks. My goal is to perform all reps perfectly. Today was fine, but not every rep was as strict as I'd like. In particular, I want to work on constant tension in all three lifts. I have to work on pulling myself down in the squat, and ensuring that each pull-up is with shoulders back and down and a TSC strict throat or chest touch to the bar, and in the press I need to focus on squeezing the hell out of the bar and actively pulling it down to chest level.

I finished out the workout with farmer carries using 80# dbs. This lasted about 3 minutes and covered about 100-150 meters.

Later in the day I did my conditioning workout. I warmed up with 23 minutes of kettlebell and bodyweight drills. First I did the 20/50 pull-ups/push-ups program as described in an earlier post. Then I did wall facing squats, tactical lunges, figure eight to a hold, maxercist rows, windmills, etc.

The dice roll came up a 7, so I did one arm swings 10L/10R for a total of 120 in the first 6 minutes, taking it pretty easy. During the last minute I went all out and got a total of 40 more swings by switching arms every 2 reps.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Not my greatest day in the weightroom from a weightlifting standpoint. I'm kind of proud of myself though, because I gutted this one out. I had planned to warm up a bit, do my deadlifts, take a few practice reps and start going heavy on my snatch. However, my plan started to fall apart when I repeatedly missed my attempt at 138. After only minimal fuming and cursing, I put 89 on the bar and started drilling. I did 5 doubles in the full squat snatch, then did 3 reps of the following dill that I got from a Dan John article- 1 full squat snatch + 1 hang snatch + 1 overhead squat = 1 rep.
Eventually I got back under a little bit heavier weight and snatched 148 for a single.
It would have been easy today to just skip the snatches, hit some heavy clean and jerks and then knock out a bunch of pull-ups or something so I could walk away feeling good about the weights put up and the volume put under my belt, (figuratively only, I lift completely raw). Rather, I stuck with the lift, fixed my form issues. (I wasn't aggressively settling under the bar, as I realized when I started the OHS portion of the drill.) I didn't have time to really work any C&J, and I missed out on my conditioning work, but I'm glad I stuck with the snatch. I attacked my weakness, always a good strategy, and I'll get plenty more opportunites to clean and jerk.

PTP deads:



Monday, November 26, 2007


First day on the new programming. I did the pistols and TGUs. I think this workout will become a progression where I work up to 5 heavy singles at a weight on the TGUs, then move those up to doubles, then move the weight up for more singles. As far as the pistols, I need to start adding more volume on them to get better. I will try to add them to my warmups, and eventually I will probably use ladders in this workout.

5 minutes kb practice

Deads- 5-4-3-2-1

Side press- 5-4-3-2-1

TGUs and pistols: 6 of each on each side, TGUs with just the bar

Conditioning: swings and deadhangs- 5 pull-ups after every 40 one hand swings (total time 5 minutes)
81 swings, 10 pull-ups

Not a terrible first day. I want to go heavy tomorrow.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

The Become a Beast Program

I had thought I would stick with the strength program of the past few weeks a bit longer, but some changes in my schedule led me to dream up a new format. It will look a lot like what I've been doing, but the exercise pairings, set and rep schemes, etc. have been altered by necessity. The main force behind this change is the fact that I will now be working out at home on Mondays as well as Saturdays. I will still be training in the morning on the days I train at home, so I have to do things that are relatively quiet so as not to wake the wife and daughter. I have also given up the illusion of reserving a day for conditioning only. Only one thing really matters to me right now, and that is getting strong. For that reason the conditioning will be kept quite short, and if the lifting portion of a workout runs the whole hour, there will be no conditioning that day. Other than that, the schedule is- as Pavel puts it- "same but different." I plan to maintain this for 3 weeks at a time, then drop volume and intensity and come back for another 3 weeks for as many cycles as it yields gains. Gains will be measured by a testing day on the Saturday following the easy week. The test is still being formulated, but will probably involve max deadlift (or maybe 2RM), a pressing test, and maybe max dead hang pull-ups. I have also kicked around the idea of a standing broad jump. We'll see in 3 weeks.

Anyway, here's the new plan:
Every Day: Deadlifts using 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 set and rep scheme
Days 1 and 4: One arm press using 5,4,3,2,1 set and rep scheme

Day 1: (Monday)
This will be a relatively high volume day. I'm contemplating warming up with 10 minutes of kettlebell and bodyweight practice, then going for 30-40 minutes alternating between one TGU on each arm and two pistols on each leg, increasing the weight as I am able. The TGUs will be with the Olympic bar, so that's already relatively hard to maintain for a long time. I may back off and use the kb if this turns out to be too much. I will then take a 5 minute break before the conditioning portion.
Conditioning: swings

Day 2: (Tuesday)
The O-lifts will take on many different forms. I may go for heavy singles, ladders, complexes, etc. as I had been doing previously.
Conditioning: bodyweight ladders, EDT, etc.

Day 3: (Wednesday)
Back squats w/ chains or box squats
Weighted pull-up/ Press supersets
This should be a relatively slow and heavy day. Mainly upper body to reflect the fact that if all goes according to plan I will be about half dead from Monday and Tuesday. Hence the optional conditioning.
Conditioning: either do swings as a second workout of the day or let it go

Day 4: (Friday)
The OHS will be working toward a goal of 15 reps at bodyweight, but I have a long way to go before then. The powercleans are working up to a goal of 225 for reps.
Conditioning: Tabatas

Day 5: (Saturday)
Front squat
Sets and reps will vary. Probably a lot of medium singles in the Front squat to work on proper recruitment. HSPUs are likely to be a lot of ladders.
Conditioning: kb snatches

Saturday, November 24, 2007


Started out with 20 minutes of kettlebell and bodyweight practice, mixing it up between wall squats, unanchored sit-ups, chair push-ups, pull-ups, squat flip cleans, maxercist rows, one legged deadlifts, windmills, one footed presses, tactical lunges, etc. At the end of the 20 minutes I worked in my PTP deads.

Deads 5-5

Front squat:
used 245 for all

Press: (One powerclean to start each set)
150 for all

5 minute snatch test
106 (PR)

I will need to stick with the same weights for my front squats and presses next week. Although I got all the reps on the front squats, my form was barely passing, and I know I wouldn't be able to move up next week. The snatches felt pretty good. I am eager to get a 53# kb and see what I can do.

Friday, November 23, 2007


Today I remembered how hard it is to do overhead squats with the bar I have, so I switched the workout to pistols and hang power snatches.

3 rds-
5 one legged deadlifts with 35# kettlebell
10 perfect pull-ups (shoulders really retracted, slow throughout)\
5 wall squats

Deads 5-5

Presses 5-5

1-2-1-2-1-2 pistols

2-2-2-2-2-2 hang power snatch

Later in the day I downloaded the special supplement to Enter the Kettlebell and spent 20 minutes practising some of the drills. I did tactical lunges, squat flip cleans, bottoms up clean and presses, crush curls, figure eight to a hold, hand to hand cleans and in between drills I would throw in 15 push-ups off chairs or 5 perfect pull-ups. This didn't tire me out at all, as I stopped each set well short of being "smoked."

Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Made up a little complex for my snatch workout today. One rep is 1 squat snatch + 1 overhead squat + 1 snatch balance. This got the blood moving and was just the right level for today.

PTP Deads 5-5

Side press 3-3-3

Snatch complex from above

Clean & Jerk

Tabata pull-ups
lowest was a 6


Lifted on my lunchbreak. It was ok, but I prefer the morning.

Density push-ups: 12 on the minute for 8 minutes, got 9 deep into the 9th minute

TGU: with the barbell

Tabata front squats: 95#
lowest was 5

Monday, November 19, 2007


I almost didn't get to lift today. First I decided not to lift in the morning because I didn't go straight to the office and I didn't want to lift at home because it would have woken Annie and Anja. Then I didn't do it at lunch because I mistakenly believed I had a meeting, so I thought I wouldn't have time. Finally I did get to lift, but it was the last part of the day instead of the first and now I'm getting to bed a bit later than I would have liked.

Warm up:
3 rds of
5 pull-ups
8 kettlebell snatches
5 feet elevated diamond push-ups
1 deadlift (ramping up from 145 to 235)

PTP Deads 5-5

5-5-5-4-3-2-1 Back squat

5-5-5-5-5 Powerclean

Side Press 3-3-3

The p-cleans are finally approaching my limit for 5 reps. I may try to get up to 195 for one set next week, then hold steady and try to get at least 3 sets at 195 before upping the top weight again. No conditioning today, was going to try out my new Hungarian Core Blaster, but I had already done a lot of big pulls, so maybe a different time.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Today I did Saturday's (yesterday's) workout on Sunday. I didn't manage to fit it in yesterday because for some reason I ended up working more than I do on most week days.
Warm up:
3 rds of
5 wall squats
5 halos
5 windmills

5-5 Deads

Front squat:
all with 240#

1-2-3 (12 pull-ups) 1-2-3 (12 pull-ups) 1-2-3 (12 pull-ups)
all with 145

Today I also decided to start each set of presses with a powerclean. It's really a pretty light powerclean, and I love doing them. They have been called the "king of the weight room" because they teach the violent hip extension that is central to ppractically every sport, so why not sneak them in?

5 minute snatches with the 35# kettlebell
Not quite a PR, but a decent effort. I experimented with some different length sets. next time I should just stick with 5.

Friday, November 16, 2007

The quick and easy guide to 20 deadhang pull-ups

For my conditioning today I warmed up with a little drill I used to do every morning and evening about two summers ago. This was the trick that allowed me to knock out 20-25 deadhangs and 60-75 push-ups so long as I had a day's rest before, and often even without that. This was in addition to at least one workout and often two daily, usually the CrossFit WOD plus running or heavy lifting two or three times a week.
Basically, the idea is you do deadhang pull-ups to Pavel's "comfortable stop" and immediately drop and do push-ups. The number of push-ups to do is calculated by multiplying the number of pull-ups by 2.5. Immediately upon finishing the push-ups, you get back on the bar and do pull-ups so that the total of the 2 sets of pull-ups is 20, and then do push-ups so that the total of the two sets is 50.
Rest between sets should be kept at a minimum. At most maybe a few quick breaths and a few seconds of shaking out the limbs should suffice. The goal here is to accomplish the work fairly quickly, so that even a second set of 3 pull-ups feels hard.
When you get to the point where you can get 20 pull-ups and 50 push-ups fairly routinely, bump the pull-ups up by 5 and the multiplier up by .5. Now you will be doing 25 deadhangs and 75 push-ups in two sets per exercise.
An example session might look like this:
Set one: 15 pull-ups followed by 38 push-ups
Set two: 5 pull-ups followed by 12 push-ups
As you can see, in this example the athlete would have to decide how to split up the push-ups, since 15 times 2.5 is 37.5. Basically it's not important at all how one decides to split this up as long as the total of the two sets of push-ups is 50. This is because being able to do a lot of push-ups was not a goal of mine when I designed this program.
If you have a goal of doing a lot of pull-ups there are a lot of programs out there. I have had good luck in the past with Grease the Groove, density training, weighted pull-ups etc. The main advantage to this program was that it allowed me to train as fresh as possible as often as possible while practicing conditions that closely mimic the test I wanted to perform. When I tested for 20 pull-ups, I was already used to struggling through the last 5 or so reps, so there was no mental barrier that made me want to drop off the bar before I was truly "done."
I hope this program helps you achieve your goals as it helped me achieve mine.


Today was one of those 20% days in the weight room. (Pareto's law: 80% of the effects come from 20% of the causes. If you can't figure out how this relates to training you need to read more articles by Dan John) I cranked out some nasty overhead squats, and the weight I chose for weighted pull-ups felt ridiculously easy.

Deadlift 5-5

One arm press:

5-5-5-5-5 Overhead squats (each set starts with a full squat snatch)

1-1-1-1-1-1-1 Weighted pull-ups

5 rds:
10 sit-ups
3 ground base jammer w/ 2 plates per side

Overall a great day today. I wish they were all like this.

After dinner I warmed up with 20 deadhangs and 50 push-ups split into two sets. See the post above for a detailed explanation.

Long cycle: 5 minutes, 70 reps. Nothing really went right here. I accidentally set the timer for 5 minutes instead of 6, my pacing was off by 1rpm, and I felt like I might throw up my lasagna the entire time.

Swings: Decided to roll three dice to see how many sets of 10 swings to do. Came up with 13, so I did 130 swings in sets of 10 with almost full recovery between sets. Again, I felt like I might lose my lasagna, but the swings felt snappy and smooth.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007


Today I lucked out on my dice roll and only had to do 3 minutes of swings. I set a PR with the 35# kettlebell by doing about 76 consecutive swings without stopping. The rest of the workout went well also. If I had been working out at Wabash rather than at home I might have been a tad more aggressive with the heavy o-lifting, but I still felt pretty good about the weights I put up. Annie is sick of hearing this from me, but there are few things more satisfying than picking up a heavy object and putting it overhead.

5-5 Deads

5-5 One arm db press


Bear complex: (where 1 rep equals 1 full squat clean + 1 front squat + 1 split jerk + 1 back squat + 1 behind the neck jerk)

100 in 3 minutes, put the bell down twice

Tuesday, November 13, 2007


Well, after a brief hiatus brought about by the birth of my daughter, it is time to hit the weights again. Today I took it fairly easy on the back squats, but upped the total load on my 5x5 power cleans and added a minute to my long cycle clean and jerks.

To warm up I did-
5 rds:
10 jumping jacks
10 push-ups
10 sit-ups

And added 10 pull-ups on rounds 1,3 and 5

For the workout I started with the PTP deadlifts:

Back squat:
Took a few singles to warm up, then

Power clean

Note that on multiple rep deadlifts it is actually just a string of singles with virtually no rest between reps. I stand up and completely reset after each rep, because the deadlift actually has no eccentric, or lowering, portion.

After dinner I finished things off with long cycle clean and jerks with the 35# kettlebell.
I got 74 total reps in 5 minutes, so about 15 rpm.
I ended with 25 snatches on each side with the 35# bell. This was nowhere near a max effort, but it does give me some idea what I might be able to approach in a true max attempt, especially since this came after a good hard workout.

Final note: While waiting for Annie and Anja Louise to be ready for bed, I was reading some stuff by Eugen Sandow and got inspired to knock out some one arm dumbbell presses. I did two sets of 5 on each arm. The first set was at 68# and the second set was with 58#.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007


In the hotel "gym" I did 5 rounds of the following complex:
5 dumbbell deadlifts
5 db hang power cleans
5 db front squats
5 db push press

I used the 45# dbs, and it was a fairly good workout considering the light weights

Later in the hotel room I did long cycle clean and jerks with the 1 pood kb. I counted 63 reps in 4 minutes, switching hands every 5 reps, so this is just under 16 rpm. I had not meant to increase rpm, so I will have to watch that. I also did 3 sets of 30 swings.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007


Another day working out in the hotel room. In the morning I did a brief PT session consisting of 3 rounds:
20 jumping jacks
10 wall facing squats (stretch, very difficult to describe)
20 sit-ups
20 push-ups (diamond, feet elevated and regular)

In the evening I warmed up with 2 rounds:
5 wall facing squats picking up 1 pood kb
5 halos left, 5 halos right with 1 pood kb
5 dive bomber push-ups

then a workout of:
3 minutes of long cycle clean and jerks (1 pood kb)

got 44 reps, so about 15 rpm

3 sets of 10 snatches

I have more or less decided to make the kb my primary conditioning tool for the time being, as the main concern currently is with developing strength. As anyone can tell you, developing world class conditioning is far easier to do than building real strength. Strength takes far more time to build and building strength requires more discipline than conditioning. With this in mind, I will not pay much attention to conditioning. Rather, my strength workouts will potentiate conditioning gains by making bodyweight and weights for conditioning workouts that much easier to move.

Monday, November 5, 2007


Today was a deviation from the plan in that I was working out in a hotel "exercise room" and was limited by equipment. They had dumbbells up to 45 pounds, so that's what I used.
I did 3-3-3-3-3-3-3 step-ups with 2x45# dbs, as well as 5-5-5-5-5 one arm snatches with the 45# db and clean and jerks with the 45# dbs. For conditioning I did 8 minutes of swings with the 1 pood kb. Total was 170 swings in 8 minutes, or about 21 swings per minute.

Saturday, November 3, 2007


Following the usual Saturday program, I did 1-2-3-1-2-3-1-2-3 front squats and presses. The front squats were done with 235 and the presses were done with 140. After every 3rd set of presses I did 11 dead hang pull-ups. My PTP deadlifts were done with 225 and 205, and I completed 103 snatches in 5 minutes with the 1 pood kettle bell. The weight will move up for next week. Overall this was a good day. The snatches were a PR. I switched hands every 5 reps, which has been working well lately.