August 10, 2006

14 responses to One-man RAW meet

  1. chris d. Says:

    Kris - Awesome write up. I’ve thought about doing the same exact thing only mine would be in a gym and some hours that I’d consider sane. But you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do and if I had the option I may actually train at night underneath the moon (and mars at the end of the month).

  2. Kris Says:

    Chris, thanks! Regarding you doing the same thing, I’ll try post a proposition you might be interested in later today or tomorrow…

  3. Doug Schmid Says:

    I was wondering how well you would fair with the Russian Rountine and it looks like you did earn some solid gains, notably in the squat. Can’t argue with success, great job! As natural and raw lifters though, I still think we need to monitor our volume and intensity. High volume training can provide a “kickstart” in small doses but a steady diet will drives us into the ground. Keep plugging and I look forward to talking in the future. P.S. That outdoor island gym you built is the best!

  4. Kris Says:

    Doug, thanks, I am happy with the results, but I do hear you when it comes to the importance of not overdoing it as a RAW and natural lifter. That said, I’m not really sure this was over the top, guess the next volume cycle will give an indication. I feel the lack of heavy accessory work keeps the total volume at a reasonable level, the volume is also ridiculously low at the end of the cycle.

  5. Scott Says:

    Great session Kris - unscheduled halogen bulb replacements notwithstanding. The idea of doing this (as per your next post) sounds fantastic; the tentative 2007 schedule gives me just enough time to perform a few technique tweaks and let them bed in. Very much looking forward to it.
    Not sure about the nocturnal lifting though - at least not for the first lift :)

  6. Gords Says:

    Congratulations on the new PR Kris. I was feeling the struggle on that 3rd attempt on the bench. Almost there! Good effort, you’ll get it next time. What is that thumping sound at the end of the video?

  7. Kris Says:

    Gords, thanks. The thumping sound, surprisingly apt for the atmosphere, is the water boiling in the boiler on the other side of the wall. It’s heated by a pipe from the stove.

  8. Natural training advice Says:

    Great Fjords! Your routine looks like overtraining for a natural lifter; Try a single heavy set of squats, overhead press, bench press and deadlifts (plus warmpups) - do that once every 4 days and eat like you’re doing now and you’ll get stronger/bigger much faster - after several months add a rest day. I reccomend you read Heavy Duty II.

  9. Kris Says:

    Thanks for the suggestion. I’ve read some of Mentzer’s stuff (as well as Blood and Guts by Dorian Yates) and am familiar with this “why tap it with a stick all day long when you can hit it with dynamite and call it a day” approach to training. I would like to offer a few points in response if I may.

    Firstly, I strongly believe the volume of work does not have much bearing on whether you get overtrained or not. Simply, if I were to do 30 sets of 6-8 on the bench press every day for weeks on end, I would be nowhere near overtraining. If I did 2 sets of bench presses for 2 reps with 90% of my maximum every second day I would surely be in for it. What matters is the relationship between intensity AND volume. What Mentzer was doing was to work the intensity up to the max (he was also very candid about using steroids to do so) while keeping volume low. He wasn’t talking about just going heavy, he was talking about ways to keep torturing the muscle until it screams by using special methods such as forced reps, negatives, drop sets and so on.

    Secondly, and correct me if I’m wrong, but your suggestion is from a bodybuilding perspective. I agree that doing what you say would be a great way to add muscle mass doing, say, a single set of 6-8 reps a set each. Powerlifting is a whole different ball game though. Maximum strength is much more closely related to neural mechanisms than muscle mass and in order to become better at singles you need to go really heavy. The dilemma is that you can’t go above 90% of 1RM very often without frying the central nervous system and bodybuilding sets of 6-8 just would not be very beneficial to the goals of a powerlifter (going “beyond failure” Mentzer style on top of this would also not serve any powerlifting purpose I can think of, on the contrary powerlifters stay clear of these methods because they are counterproductive to maximum explosiveness). Without somekind of intensity regulating mechanism (max out on some days, go light on others) that just wouldn’t cut it for powerlifting.

    Thirdly, technique and neural learning is everything in powerlifting and one way of getting time to work on this aspect of the game is precisely through high volume. Even the school that most closely resembles the “hit it with dynamite every week” line of thought in powerlifting (a la Westsideīs max out every week) advocates a lot of volume, they just shift it elsewhere (to accessories and speed work) BUT they specifically avoid going to muscular failure doing so. Frankly, I never hear bodybuilder’s wanting to dedicate “more time to working on my dumbell press form”. Also, like I suggested above, going up to max weights frequently is much more taxing that doing bodybuilding rep ranges and ramping up the volume while lowering the intensity is one way of healing up for more. For a bodybuilder, going much lighter than what is needed to build muscle just doesn’t make any sense but for a powerlifter it can make a world of difference if applied correctly. I submit that a natural bodybuilder doing this much volume within the optimal muscle building resistance zone would likely risk overtraining.

    I see your point very clearly and a decade ago I would have agreed 100% with you. If you are a bodybuilder I see where you are coming from, but if you are a strength athlete I would be very interested in how you implement this in practice. Doug Schmid recently also suggested I cut back on volume, but he uses a periodisation system that works via sets of 5 up to a few weeks of 90%+ work that does make sense from a powerlifting standpoint (scroll down from the link above to read about it). If you are powerlifting, are you doing something similar or how do you get in your 90+% range work without overtraining? Something like that I may well try, however, at this time anyone is going to have a hard time convincing me that a natural powerlifter can’t do high volume as long as it balances out with the intensity level. If I was overtrained on the Russian Routine, I was surely making some good gains nevertheless. As far as I know, my training is fairly typical of what other natural powerlifters are doing, but I am here to be corrected. :-)

  10. Natural training advice Says:

    I’m very impressed by the depth of your response to my low volume training suggestion - you have alot of questions and alot of interest and dedication (very cool outside gym you’ve built!)
    My perspective is inline with powerlifting to a large degree - putting on alot of muscle and getting really strong. I think I’m more of a weightlifter than a bodybuilder or a powerlifter, but I really like the effects for sports and health and I’ve gotten the best results from lifting heavy on a few single lifts briefly (one set) and infrequently (once or twice a week).
    Are you really serious about being able “to do 30 sets of 6-8 on the bench press every day for weeks on end, I would be nowhere near overtraining”? If you used a weight where you could barely get the last rep (not even to complete failure, just can’t complete another rep) I think you would be sore from just doing one set of six reps the next day - how could you train again before you’ve recovered and had a chance to overcompensate (hypertrophy)?
    Also, on squats - I watched one of your videos and have to make a suggestion on your form: I think you should just squat to parallel because when you go down as deep as you are going there is a tendency to round your back and come up doing a partial good morning exercise - this will cause problems when you start to go really heavy. Also, you’ll squat more weight more quickly just squatting to parallel (more hypertrophy) and it’s all you’ll have to hit in a meet. Try putting a 1 inch board under your heels or using squatting boots (not sure if you were) and it will help you to go up and down in a straight line.
    Periodization - I think periodization routines weren’t designed for natural athletes, will talk more about this next after I read your reply.
    - Tom :)

  11. Kris Says:

    Tom, I like the sound of your response. I’ll give you a decent follow-up later today, now off to the zoo with my son. :-)

  12. Kris Says:

    First, I am dead serious about the “30 sets of 6-8″. Note that I didn’t say anything about the weight on the bar. I would do it with an empty bar to keep intensity low to counter the volume. My point is that volume is irrelevant unless we are always asking what the intensity is. I think many people just see all the sets and conclude that it must just be too much. I’m not saying this is the case with you Tom, but generally speaking I think bodybuilders often tend to look only at volume, because they tend to keep intensity fairly constant from one session to another; at least that’s how I concieved my training when I did bodybuilding (”how many exercises per bodypart, how many sets per exercise?”). Simply, if you always do 6-10 reps (intensity) to or near muscular failure, the number of sets (volume) is what will separate the steroid user from the natural lifter. This equation is just not very applicable to powerlifting periodization in my opinion. I just don’t see the case for why periodization would not work for a natural lifter no matter who it was designed for in the same way as why Heavy Duty principles wouldn’t work for a natural bodybuilder even if it was designed by a steroid user. I stubbornly maintain that the main difference between a natural and a lifter on anabolics is that the natural one can’t keep as high an intensity and might need to lower the frequency between sessions as well. The protocol itself is either sound or it isn’t, no matter whether steroids are in the picture or not (steroids enhance, they don’t change fundamental biology). If you haven’t read it, Supertraining by Mel C. Siff is a really good read for an insight into Eastern Bloc training theory as are the many translated Russian weightlifting texts on the matter. I am still wading through those btw as part of my reading project, haven’t had much time to sit down with them lately.

    What I’m really interested in is whether you can give me a concrete suggestion on how to implement lifting heavy every fourth day on the main exercises with powerlifting in mind. I can see this going for reps, but not as applied to 90%+ intensity zones unless you somehow vary the intensity-volume relationship between sessions or in longer periods a la classic periodization. I’m not saying your suggestion might not be good, but I just don’t see how I could implement it in practice. Also, those high volume-low/medium intensity days are also really important to build up explosiveness. Velocity is largely lost under 90+% weights and only going heavy is a sure way to teach the muscle that it is ok to be slow. Call it dynamic effort or light days, but I maintain that they are very important for powerlifting but close to useless for bodybuilding (olympic weightlifting would generally be much the same as powerlifting in terms of the importance of volume/intensity).

    Thanks for the suggestion on my squat form. I do try to not go down much further than parallel on my competition squat and I think by and large that I am starting to learn to hit proper depth now (the virtual meet will tell…). In the past, my problem was largely that of going needlessly deep. From time to time I do go deep and narrow stance on purpose to change the stimulation and see where my full squat numbers are (right now narrow ass-to-the grass takes about 20 kg/44 lbs off my competition squat). Is the video you are referring to by any chance the one in this most recent entry where I did high bar squats with the Manta ray all the way? If you take a look at the videos from the Russian cycle and the one-man meet, I think you’ll find that my squats are not needlessly deep. In fact, some of them might well be a tad high. You are right about the shoes, up until the workout I just blogged yesterday I was wearing shoes with zero heel. Just saw the light on that one and have a bit of adaption ahead. It’s true that the board does much the same thing as a heel, but generally I think a board is a bad idea on the account of sport specificity (no boards allowed on a meet platform).

    All in all, I just can’t help think that we are not looking at quite the same goals and as such subscribe to a bit different notions of what we should be doing. Your repeated reference to hypertrophy seems to me to be a case in point. Generally, I like muscle as much as the next guy, but the last thing I think about when I squat is what will produce the best hypertrophy. Some mass is good to stabilize things on the squat and bench (such as big traps/lats to produce a better surface area), but for powerlifters hypertrophy is not a word that pops up very frequently (as a side note, I’ve mentioned this word a whopping four times during the 3+ years I have been writing this blog and two of those where in reference to bodybuilding…). Needless mass is a handicap in this sport where lifts are judged in relation to bodyweight and most of us don’t go around trying to get bigger per se although we paradoxically all do enjoy being large (a bit of fat is good too, keeps us apart from the builders hehe). What you are suggesting seems to me very sound in a different context than powerlifting, but I just can’t see how it would work very well in this game. I sincerely hope that my comments don’t come across as bashful or cocky, remember that I am the guy who two weeks ago didn’t know a heel is good for raw squatting, just to mention one detail. My own thinking has evolved a lot during the writing of this blog and it would be foolish to think that I have now arrived at enlightment. I haven’t, and if you can convince me, I’ll be happy to change my notions.

  13. Tom Says:

    I did think you meant a weight that you could handle for 6-8 reps, not just pressing the bar; I understand what you’re saying in regard to lifting at a lower intensity than you could handle the weight for (doing less reps than you could do) enabling you to train more frequently.
    I think our goals are more similiar than you might think; I’m continually striving to learn more about the science behind exercise and how to trigger strength/hypertrophy - I really think they are intertwined, and that neuro-muscular efficiency is a smaller (not unimportant) component of strength training. I mean, you can improve neuro-muscular efficiency somewhat sure, but that kind of adaptation happens first and very little subsequent improvements in neuro-muscular efficiency are made after that (then it’s just hypertrophy).
    I’m particularly inspired by the careers and training methods of natural strength athletes from the pre-dianabol era (before 1953). I think sports and consequently training “science” are based on studies of chemical athletes with the real science hidden in the shadows - and more importantly, that this percipitates skewed research which results in the cyclical introduction of meaningless and/or counterproductive training methods (gigo); theres alot of confusing information constantly being introduced that is sometimes worse than useless for natural athletes.
    I think Periodization was designed for chemical athletes because as the various ergogens are tapered, variance in intensity/workload need to be accounted for when the athletes body is suddenly no longer capable from recovering from the same intensity/workload; as the chemicals are tapered, the athlete can handle say 7x the workload of a natural athlete, then 5x, etc, and this is because those kind of supplements actually do alter fundamental biology considerably - protein assimiliation and synthesis is what are enhanced, enabling very fast recovery and progress from routines that would leave a natural athlete overtrained. For chemical athletes, periodization makes sense as the extra recovery ability is slowly reduced (taper), but I don’t see how periodization can be applicable to a natural athlete who has a steady recovery ability.
    HIT theory was developed for natural training by Arthur Jones (the Nautilus guy). Mentzer just made it very popular - he was chemically assisted as you had pointed out, but his Heavy Duty variation of HIT is designed for natural lifters. I like the science behind it (HIT in general) because it makes alot of sense to me and it’s the only one of many training protocols I’ve tried that has been continuously productive.
    On training - saw some of the presses you were doing from the pins; I really like these kind of movements (partials) and think they are fantastic for improving the press, but I think they necessitate even more recovery time (deeper inroads).
    Natural training is alot of fun and I’m interested in following along in your blog as you progress (and commenting with HIT centric feedback now and then :) . I enjoy these kind of discussions and I can tell you do as well because you aren’t just talking about strength training, you are recording/analyzing/researching and applying (I looked through your blog - it DOES go on for years!).
    I also think that powerlifting, bodybuilding and weightlifting are very closely related for natural athletes.
    Looking forward to chatting with you more.
    - Tom :)

  14. Kris Says:

    Tom, it’s been good to chat. It has definitively helped me to clear up my own thoughts on some points. Also, there’s not too much I disagree with in your latest reply. The backbone of your philosophy is 110% sound, it’s merely a few details about volume and frequency that I can’t quite reconciliate with what I’ve learned about powerlifting specific training.

    The one thing I do think you got wrong is your view on hypertrophy vs. neuromuscular processes. I could give you more references, but suffice it to say that Supertraining, widely considered the bible on strength training, states the following:

    Strength is not primarily a function of muscle size, but one of the appropriate muscles powerfully contracted by effective nervous stimulation. This is the foundation of all strength training. [..] The fundamental principle of strength training, then, is that all strength increase is initiated by neuromuscular stimulation. Although hypertrophy is the long-term result of a certain regime of neuromuscular stimulation, it is not the inevitable consquence of all types of work against resistance.
    Siff, Mel C., 2003: Supertraining, pp. 6-7. Supertraining institute, Denver, USA.

    To put it very plainly: it is quite possible to become freaky strong without growing much muscle in the process by manipulating the relative load (there’s plenty of examples of this in the lighter classes in powerlifting - it’s sometimes freaky to go to a meet and see a guy who looks like he hasn’t touched a weight in his life far outlift anything I could dream of). Siff goes on to say that hypertrophy training is sometimes important to build a base for further neurological adaptations (always combined with limit work though), but he specifically warns that “it is important to monitor regularly any change in relative strength to ascertain if increased hypertrophy is simply adding unproductive tissue bulk which is not producing a commensurate increase in functional strength”. This supports what I’ve read elsewhere (don’t have the reference handy) that at a certain stage of hypertrophy the muscle will become functionally very weak in relation to its mass, an ailment that “plagues” many huge bodybuilders. There are exceptions, but anecdotally, I’ve seen many huge Finnish bodybuilders who are embarrasingly weak for their size or who simply have to go light to save themselves from muscle tears.

    Generally I agree on your views on the role of enhanced lifters setting a standard that can’t always easily be mimiced by natural lifters, but I still think that this skew is much more pronounced in bodybuilding. The Westside guys for example, who are VERY candid about what kind of anabolics they live constantly on (no dosage cycling whatsoever I understand), have stated on numerous occasions that Westside can be used as such for natural lifting as have plenty of natural lifters. If you look back at my logs, you can also see me get some good results from this type of training as have many of my fellow bloggers (see sidebar). Generally, I think that much of the difference between a steroid using powerlifter and a natural lifter is not differences in volume as much as the fact that the enhanced lifter lifts at a much higher intensity level at the same volume due to the much increased load on the bar. I guess we will see how I fare on these kind of programs over the months to come, planning to mainly subside on a steady diet of classic periodization for now. This combined with generally not sleeping as much as I should and a bad back. :-) I might also add that when I began powerlifting THE biggest fear I had was that I was about to emulate enhanced lifters going natural with injuries and overtraining as the inevitable result. If anything, the nine-week Russian routine I did has convinced me that it is possible to make good gains with a training frequency that I would previously have considered way out of line for a natural lifter (before powerlifting I used to hit every muscle group once every 7-10 days). I also now think it is ok to train a muscle group that is still sore under these protocols without necessarily becoming overtrained in the process (shouldn’t happen all the time though), this is still something I’m intuitively fighting on the grounds of what I internalized as a bodybuilder.

    We can just agree to disagree on these points. I’d love to see you speak your mind in the future as well regarding my training, it’s definitively refreshing to have some readers who are not always agreeing with most of what I say. As long as I don’t have to write article length replies every week that is. ;-)

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