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Expanded Training Guide/Split Description

June 22, 2010

I know of no better example of functional strength than a 600-pound deadlift. Except a 700-pound deadlift. That’s what strength is: the ability to generate force, and the “functional” part is really just a qualifier.  Because when you’re that strong, it’s functional. That’s the part that has the modern “academic” wing of the fitness industry in such a fog just now. – Mark Rippetoe

This Guide is meant as a supplement to the PBB Training Split.  It will give a more thorough explanation of the “why’s” of the program, as well as include the split in a more verbose way.  The Guide is broken into 4 parts for easier reading and reference: Background, General Guidelines, The Split and Session Templates.  Hit CTRL-F to search this page for the section you need.

General Guidelines/Answers Before You Ask

DISCLAIMER: before starting any fitness program, please consult a physician to make sure you’re healthy enough to participate.  I am not a doctor.  I take no responsibility for any injuries suffered from this program (because you weren’t ready to do this or you had a pre-existing injury that flared up as a result, or whatever).

General guidelines (Parental Advisory Warning):

  1. Don’t be a pussy.  Lift with proper form and push yourself.  There is no ego under the bar, just moving weight through the appropriate range-of-motion.   If you can only squat 135 pounds with proper form, start there and don’t worry about it.  Your real strength will skyrocket when you work with your body’s natural expression rather than against it.  If your tired, go home.  If you KNOW you have a little left in the tank, but had a hard day at the office, and think it would be best to call it a day, you are wrong.  Get to it.  Know your limits, don’t make excuses.
  2. Yes.  You can use this for fatloss.  Yes. You can use this for bulking.  Yes.  You can use this for maintaining, building strength, getting ready for prom, the beach or a Bar Mitzvah.  The beauty of this program is that depending on how you eat, it will be a perfect base for achieving your goals.  Strength Training, Sprints and Metabolic Conditioning tell your body to be muscular and lean, how you eat will get you there.  Don’t forget this.
  3. Before you start playing with things, try this template for at least the full 6 weeks, then tinker.  Really, you should go 2 full cycles, so 12 weeks.  Stick with it and you will see results in fitness and strength levels.  Remember that if you change anything, anything at all, and you can’t say this program “didn’t work for me,” because you didn’t really do it.
  4. Buy (and read) Jim Wendler’s 5/3/1 and Starting Strength by Mark Rippetoe.  You can find explanations throughout the internet on both used, but it’s in the details that you’ll get the most out of both.  Starting Strength especially is an amazing resource for proper form and understanding why we do the things we do in the gym.  $50 total investment and you will actually get your money’s worth, as opposed to that bottle of NitroTech Hardcore or Nitrix.  Trust me.
  5. Stop your set if maximum speed against the bar slows or when form breaks.  We want to put maximum force against the bar on every rep with outstanding form.  Going to failure is an awesome way to show toughness and learn your boundaries, but get your JV football coach out of your head while doing this program – you will burn out quickly and overtrain if you continually train in a to-failure manner.
  6. If you’re sore, you’re probably: not eating enough, not sleeping enough, pushing to failure too often or all three.  In the meantime, try an Epsom salt bath and get some extra sleep.
  7. Stick to a paleo-esque diet while working through this plan (this should go without saying if you’re on this site).  Meat and vegetables, nuts and seeds, little starch (no grains/legumes), no sugar.  If you want to gain mass more rapidly, try GOMAD.
  8. Check the TFOD’s section for session-to-session specifics.

Background

In this post, I attempted to provide a framework for my thought process in developing a worthwhile training split and workout recommendation that would fit the Tao of PBB.

It’s important to note as you read through this, that periodization is key to making long-term, sustainable gains in fitness.  Your training year should be broken up into cycles of focus – strength for a certain number of weeks, MetCon for another number of weeks, etc.  I also think that working multiple strength systems is important throughout each given period; in this split, we will be focusing on strength without neglecting conditioning.

This program will increase both absolute and relative strength, as well as developing significant strength-endurance.  This basis of strength and increased athleticism will ease the transfer of skills necessary for a conditioning-focused period of training, as well as giving this period significantly greater value.  You will be strong AND conditioned.  That is a wonderful combination for health, longevity, body composition, sports, you name it.

The plan outlined here will do wonders for anyone who is looking to add strength while maintaining or even slightly improving overall conditioning.  Could it be used in a mass gain phase?  Certainly, and I think this would be a great program for that goal, with appropriate caloric load.  I wouldn’t use it if improving Metabolic Conditioning was your primary goal however, since there just isn’t enough of an emphasis on work-capacity, Fran-style training.  That being said, I think strength training should be the basis of any fitness program – it just creates the right chemical soup inside you for gains in conditioning and aesthetic improvements.

In terms of periodization of PBB training, I could see using this template for 4 6-week cycles (24 weeks), then move to more Crossfit Football style work for another 6-24 weeks, rinse, wash, repeat.  I will continue to update and evolve this page to reflect tall continuing phases and experimentation used.

The driving force behind this split is that we want to be able to train the multiple factors of true fitness throughout the week, focusing on barbell movements and progressive improvement in the gym.  This is why in this split, we repeat each individual workout every 10 days rather than every 7 days in a typical program.

If you’ve tried many workouts, you should notice the similarities to the Periodization Bible (New Testament).

PBB will have you max-effort-low-rep squatting AND doing short-rest sets of 10 AND doing farmer’s walks in each session.  Trust me (until you try for yourself), Stength + Strength-Endurance + Strongman = awesome.  While a Periodization Bible-style training program requires max effort lifts be cycled frequently (every 1-3 sessions, as they are typically setting 1 rep max PR’s every week), the undulating rep/load pattern of Wendler’s 5/3/1 allows us to key-in on the heavy-hitter lifts (Squat, Deadlift, Press and Bench) week in and week out.

OPTIONAL conditioning workouts (sprints/strongman/interval/body-weight all work) on Saturdays should make you better, but should not produce soreness.  I suggest getting out and having a good time outdoors – maybe some walking or playing games like football, ultimate frisbee, golf or whatever you like.  For example, I play in an adult baseball league where the games are typically on Sundays.  If you don’t have a weekly game of flag football, running sprints would be a great addition to the program on Saturdays.

I leave it open to you to decide, but if you do end up conditioning and you’re not recovering by Monday, be honest with yourself (and see #5 above).  Take those days and rest until your work capacity increases.  Another option is to get some conditioning in after one or two of the sessions during the week.  If you do, you likely won’t need (or want) to condition on the two off days.  You can play or rest or whatever.  If you feel the need to break a sweat everyday, I don’t blame you!  Just remember recovery and relaxation are essential to making gains in the gym and on the athletic field.

If those particular days don’t work out (no pun intended) for you, you can mix up the days however you want.  The key watch-out is that you truly need 72 hours between squats and deadlifts,  non-negotiable.  The hormonal adaptations to squatting and deadlifting are too strong to ignore and you need to be recovered fully to ensure proper recovery.  So – as long as you leave those 72 hours between squat and deadlift, I don’t care how you break things up.

The Split – Your Next 6 Weeks

Workout Templates

If you need ideas on individual sessions beyond the below guide (tweaks and workout substitutions), check out the TFOD category or scroll through the main page.  I mix things up quite a bit, so you’ll be able to get a lot of ideas.

Workouts

WORKOUT A: DYNAMIC EFFORT LOWER BODY

  1. Box Squats – 8 x 2 reps – Read this for more
  2. DB Bulgarian Split Squat Jumps – 3-6 sets x 3-5 reps (each leg, full rest – 3-5 minutes)
  3. Glute-Ham Raises – 3-5 x 5-15 reps (60-90 seconds rest)

Alternately you could do the first lift, then do the conditioning.  Double alternately, you could exchange the second and third lifts of this day with some complexes; I suggest the Randy Couture or the “BeZercher.”  You can sub Front-leg raised lunges

Some alternate lifts for the DB Split Squat Jumps: (Box Jumps with higher boxes – 3-6 sets of 5 or so,, kneeling squat jumps)

WORKOUT B: MetCon UPPER

  1. Superset of (Bodyweight) – 4-8 sets, 30-60 sec rest between sets:
    • Dips (10 reps)
    • Chins (5 reps)
  2. Superset – 4-8 sets, 30-60 sec rest between sets:

Reps for each exercise are going to be different for each person, the above is an example of a “okay” level of challenge.  Try for more, or do less – your fitness level will determine how many you can do.

This workout should be up-tempo, in and out of the gym.  If you’re not dead after even 8 supersets of the above, you need to add reps to each exercise.

WORKOUT C: SQUATS

  1. Squats – Wendler 5/3/1 (Rest as long as necessary to lift maximum weight/reps)
  2. Squats – 5 sets x 10 @ around 40% of 1RM (60 second rest)
  3. Farmers Walks – grab heavy DB’s and walk 30 yards or so till you’re tired or 2-4 sets

Please watch the linked video (specifically at the 1:00 mark) unless you’ve already read Rippetoe’s Starting Strength.  Also, please buy that book.

GHR (Glute-Ham Raises) work really well here as well, but I like this workout this way.  Boosts grip and overall strength.  Throw some Jump Rope in here too if you’d like.

WORKOUT D: PRESS

  1. Press – Wendler 5/3/1 (Rest as long as necessary to lift maximum weight/reps)
  2. Press – 5 reps x 10 @ ~40% of 1RM (60 second rest)
  3. Chinups – work up to 2-3 weighted sets of low reps followed by 1-3 sets to speed/form failure

Press  = no knee bend, no hip thrust.

Ab work optional (if you’re not gassed by this point), but only if the workout is under 45 min.  Renegade Rows and hanging ab raises would be good choices.

proper chin/pullup involves BOTH a dead hang and elbows crossing the plane of your back.  This should put your chin well above the bar in either variation.  If these two criteria are not met, the effort does not count as a rep.

WORKOUT E: DEADLIFT

  1. Deadlift – Wendler 5/3/1 (Rest as long as necessary to lift maximum weight/reps)
  2. Deadlift – 5 x 10 @ ~40% 1RM (60 second rest)
  3. Glute-Ham Raises – 3 x 8-15 reps

Instead of GHR, you could do an “ab” workout or both; planks/hanging ab raises/jump rope are all acceptable, OR you could just go home, you did just deadlift.

Also check the video for a tune-up on your deadlift form.

WORKOUT F: BENCH PRESS

  1. Bench Press – Wendler 5/3/1 (Rest as long as necessary to lift maximum weight/reps)
  2. Military or Dumbell Military Press – 5 reps x 10 @ ~40% of 1RM (60 second rest)
  3. Kroc Rows (lawnmowers) – 2 sets of 10, 1 set AMRAP.  Read Wendler’s 5/3/1 for more on this, or check out the video link here.

Ab work optional (if you’re not gassed by this point), but only if the workout is under 45 min.  Renegade Rows and hanging ab raises would be good choices.

I do Military Press here after Bench because I think developing the chest is less important than the Press – most people would benefit more from stronger shoulders, as it will make you stronger and will help your gymnastics (bodyweight mastery).  Kroc Rows are an amazing finisher, and if you really go all out, they will end your workout.  Don’t worry about cheating a bit here, just push it.  Then Leave.

So, there you have it.  It’s the kind of thing that must be felt to be truly appreciated.  Try it for the 6-12 weeks and see what a difference it makes in your strength and fitness, then get back with me.

Click on “PBB Training Split” in the header above, or follow this link.

If you have questions – email me: primalbodybuilding@gmail.com.

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