Westside Barbell

Step Back to Move Forward: Looking at Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 Method

I was planning to write a long post, detailing the 5/3/1 method and then sharing my view on it, but I realized I kept referring to the same source. This article on T-Nation is an excellent piece on Jim Wendler and the 5/3/1 program. It’s an older article, but I have read it quite a few times and stumbled across it again the other day. I strongly urge you to read it, especially if you are looking to add raw strength to your powerlifts. 5/3/1 is a perfect example of the difference between simplicity and ease. Put another way, the 5/3/1 method is simple, but far from easy.

One of the key concepts of 5/3/1 is to calculate your weights off your 90% 1RM rather than using the actual 1RM. This demonstrates an excellent point of training – sometimes, you need to step back to move forward. Egos can get in the way of results; be honest with your abilities and allow them to progress. Strength training is not a wonder pill (those are illegal most of the time) with immediate results, especially if you’re an experienced lifter. It takes time to allow incremental gains to build into significant results. Too often, we’re focused on the quick fix for immediate gain to add 50 pounds to a lift in a month or make other drastic changes in a relatively short time. The truth is, outside of individuals new to training, rapid gains are hard to come by. Think of building a skyscraper – one I-beam may not be much, but look at what time and effort can produce using these relatively small pieces.

Injuries and over-training occur when you try to do too much in too short a time. Focus on longer term goals of at least six months, or preferably a year, and realize that it’s better to make steady progress than monumental gains followed by an injury.

T-Nation.com

If you’re an aspiring powerlifter, or just looking for pure strength in the powerlifts, than I suggest taking a look at 5/3/1 and giving it a try. Its simplicity makes it an easy program to implement and follow, while requiring very little equipment (if you’re in a facility with limited choices). Step back, analyze what you can actually do, then move forward with consistent gains.

If you are looking for more information on 5/3/1, you can purchase Wendler’s ebook here.

All the best,

Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112
Drew@HenleySP.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
YouTube.com/DrewBHenley

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Training for Power – Part II

Training for Power – Part II
In part one,  I gave a little background information on the Olympic Lifts and expressed my interest in using them. I also mentioned that there are several times where it is contraindicated, ineffective, or just plain dangerous to perform Olympic Lifts. So, what do you do when you can’t (or shouldn’t) use Olympic Lifts to train for power?
1. Plyometrics – There are few ways to train for power that are more simple, yet effective, than plyometric training. Jumps, skips, bounds, and bounds can all be used to increase an athlete’s power production. This is not limited to lower body exercises, pretty much any exercise done with an emphasis on rapid contraction qualifies as a plyometric (by loosely using the definition). I think of it as controlled chaos, with both parts mandatory (control to avoid injuries and chaos to make sure you’re training in an explosive manner).
2. Medicine Balls – These are a great way to train the core for explosive and/or rotational movements. You can train every muscle by utilizing throws, slams, and tosses with a medball. It takes a great amount of core strength to transfer the force generated from your legs to the release point at your hands. I am a big fan of medball training.
3. Kettlebells – Kettlebell swings are an excellent alternative when Olympic Lifts are contraindicated. They allow an athlete to focus on getting full hip extension and firing the posterior chain.
4. Dynamic Lifts – This is a concept made popular by Louie Simmons and the guys at Westside Barbell. The basic idea focuses on speed as the determining factor for volume rather than RMs. For example, let’s say your performing dynamic pull ups and know you can get ten before failing. Perform the lift as fast as possible until your speed drops (usually around halfway to failure, in my experience). So, in this scenario, you would perform 5 dynamic pull ups, exploding upwards each rep as fast as possible, and as soon as you feel your speed slow or you notice a sticking point on rep 6, the set is done. The idea behind this method is to train the neuromuscular connections with the fast-twitch fibers, increasing the rate of recruitment, thus allowing more powerful contractions.
These are just some ways to train for power outside of Olympic Lifting, all of which I use in my programs and find very effective. If you know of other methods, please feel free to share and email me at Drew@HenleySP.com, or on Twitter at Twitter.com/DrewBHenley.

As always, if I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please feel free to contact me at anytime.

All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW, CES
480-241-4112

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Catching Up on Missed Reading

Sorry for the brief hiatus in posts – I was on vacation deep in the boonies with some family, far from almost any kind technology (except for chainsaws, tractors, and guns – yup, I was a hillbilly for a week and loved every second of it). During my time away, my RSS feed filled to the brim with excellent posts, research, and webinars to review and enjoy. If you don’t have an RSS feed, I highly recommend setting one up (I use Google Reader) because it saves a lot of wasted time going to EVERY site you typically read and ensures you won’t miss anything. For those of you who aren’t familiar with an RSS feed, it basically acts as your own personal set of headlines, from whatever websites/blogs you subscribe to (you can include this one by clicking on the “Posts” menu below “Subscribe To”). Whenever new content is put up, it comes up on your RSS feed, all your sites in one neat area. Like I said, I use Google Reader and recommend it because it’s simple, effective, and free. You can mark articles as favorites or share them with others, plus it allows you to see all you’ve missed if you say…went on vacation in the deep and dark for a week.
I bring all this up because I have spent the past two days going through my RSS and seeing all I missed and wow, I missed a LOT this past week. Below are some of my favorites and I believe everyone should check out.
Eric Cressey Webinars – This was pretty exciting to me when I first saw it. Eric is incredibly sharp and well rounded as a coach, researcher, writer, and athlete. When he puts up material it’s usually very high in quality, these webinars are no different. As of now, he has put up three different (and free) webinars, which you can access here.
Sports Medicine Research – Injury & Research – During my time in Lexington this season working with the Houston Astros Minor League Affiliate, I had the pleasure of working with Dr. Ben Kibler and Aaron Sciascia. The timing couldn’t have been better, as they were conducting some impressive research on shoulder health, injury prevention, and rehabilitation. SMR published a two-part article on their research on scapular function and evaluation, which is loaded with great information. Be sure to read both Part 1 and Part 2 as they both contain useful information for any coaches working with overhead throwing athletes.
Additionally, SMR produced an interesting piece on Knee Injuries and Knee Osteoarthritis, highlighting the importance of injury prevention programs for the long-term health of athletes. Even though it’s impossible to “prevent” injuries from happening, it is imperative to make every effort in reducing the likelihood of an injury occurring and protect the long-term health of athletes.
T-Nation – Maximal Strength, Minimal Equipment – If pure, raw strength is your goal, it’s hard to find better results than those at Westside Barbell. John Gaglione does a good job of detailing a Westside program in this article and shows how powerlifting guru Louie Simmons continually produces world-class powerlifters. While I would advise against using as the sole basis for an athlete’s training program, it certainly is a good tool to have for reference. You can find the article here.
Michael Boyle – Dealing with Hamstring Injury – Last but not least is this good piece by Michael Boyle on how to train to reduce the occurrence of, or recover from, a hamstring injury. An overlooked aspect of hamstring training is the eccentric contractions during sprinting and other activities. If the hamstring is unable to handle this force, a strain or tear is all but inevitable. Far too often, coaches are too focused on the concentric movement of the hamstrings – such as their deadlift strength – and not on the muscles’ ability to handle force during elongation.
These weren’t the only items to pop up on my feed, but they are the ones I feel deserve the attention of coaches. I hope you can derive the same benefit from them that I have.
If you have any questions about the above items, or if you know of a good article I missed, please feel free to contact me. If I can ever be of assistance to you or your program, please don’t hesitate to drop me an email, message on Twitter, or phone call.
All the best,
Drew Henley, CSCS, USAW
480-241-4112
HenleySportsPerformance.blogspot.com
Twitter.com/DrewBHenley
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