2013: a new beginning

Just finished this year’s first 5/3/1 cycle. As usual, we had two weekly S&C sessions. Unlike our previous cycles, we upped the volume a bit. Instead of limiting ourselves to [Wendler’s original 4 exercises], we did the following 6 as “main lifts”:

  1. Deadlift
  2. Squat (atg)
  3. Bench Press
  4. Press
  5. Bent over barbell rows
  6. Pull-Ups

So, following a functional line of thought, we cover the following movement patterns:

  1. Hip dominant stand-up
  2. Knee-dominant stand-up
  3. Horizontal push
  4. Vertical push
  5. Horizontal pull
  6. Vertical pull

Obviously, splitting those into two sessions yields three exercises per session. We split everything into a horizontal day and a vertical day, hence we had the following:

  1. Deadlift, Bench Press, Bent over barbell rows
  2. Squat, Press, Pull-Ups

Also, we took our time to implement a “core circuit”, i.e. a circuit where we’d do modified versions of the main lifts that focussed on joint and core stability. Each exercise is done for 8-12 reps (to or near technical failure or a cap of 12) with as little rest in between exercises as possible. We repeated the whole circuit for three rounds. As stability exercises, we chose the following:

  1. Single-leg deadlift, KB floor presses, Suspended reverse rows
  2. Pistol squat, single KB clean & press, neutral grip chin ups

Not only is that circuit beneficial in terms of joint stability, it’s also quite a CV challenge. When it’s time to hit the third round, heart rate usually skyrockets. Good stuff. Also, since we’re shooting for 8-12 reps, we’re implementing the idea of using powerlifting methods  for powerlifting and bodybuilding methods for hypertrophy. Can’t remember where I originally found the article on that stuff and honestly, I’m too tired to search for it. If you happen to know where that concept was explained (hint: I’m fairly sure it was on t-nation), feel free to add that reference to the comments section below…
All of the above being said, I’m not particularly interested in putting on a lot of mass. Don’t get me wrong here – most people could absolutely use a little more muscle. I, on the other hand, am quite an easygainer. In other words, I tend to put on muscle by looking at weights hard. While that’s probably desirable genetics for a bodybuilder, it’s not as convenient for a martial artist. After all, our world is organized in weight divisions and being short and massive just isn’t  very practical. Never the less, I’m a true believer when it comes to [armor building], as Dan John puts it. That little extra muscle around the stomach and ribs can go a long way in preventing a knock-down. Also, massive quads are a decent insurance against lowkicks. Excessive bodyfat, on the other hand, serves no purpose and should rather be avoided, even more so by competitive martial artists.
So, before I go into detail on what we’re going to change for the next cycle, let me present a table of this cycle’s stats:

Session 1 Session 3 Session 5
Deadlift 120 x 9 125 x 8 135 x 3
Bent over barbell row 50 x 12 55 x 12 57,5 x 12
Bench press 80 x 7 85 x 6 90 x 4
Session 2 Session 4 Session 6
Squat 95,5 x 6 102,5 x 7 110 x 3
Pull Up 95 x 6 100 x 5 105 x 3
Press 50 x 8 55 x 6 57,5 x 4

Before beginning the program, we did proper max strength tests on all exercises. As you might have noticed, something went really wrong with the test when it comes to the bent over rows, as I was able to do 12 reps on every week (I stopped the set after those 12, might have done more). Also, I weighed in at almost 80kg on test day, so when it comes to the pull up, something like 105kg really reads like 80kg bodyweight + 25kg additional weight.
Here’s what I did on the “core” circuit:

Session 1 Session 3 Session 5
Single leg deadlift 24 x 8/8/8 24 x 8/8/8 24 x 8/8/10
Suspended reverse row +0 x 12/12/12 +0 x 12/12/10 +0 x 12/12/12
Floor press 16 x 12/12/12 20 x 12/12/12 24 x 12/12/12
Session 2 Session 4 Session 6
Pistol squat +0 x 8/8/8 +0 x 8/8/9 +0 x 9/9/9
Neutral grip chin up +0 x 8/8/4 +0 x 8/8/8 +0 x 9/9/8
KB clean & press 16 x 8/8/8 20 x 8/8/8 20 x 9/9/8

Now this might not be elite strength levels, but then I’m not a powerlifter, either. S&C, for me,  is a means of preventing injury and being in a condition where I can actually perform my sport (which is fighting) at a certain level. Also, this was only the first cycle after quite a long break – I’ll be stronger in no time.
Come Wednesday we’ll start another cycle, only this time we’ll tweak a few things:

  1. After the second 5/3/1 set on each exercise, I’ll do a set of plyo and so take advantage of the primed nervous system
  2. After the third 5/3/1 set on each exercise, I’ll immediately add a backoff set which is 10% lighter than the actual work set and go AMRAP once again
  3. The bent over barbell rows become bent over dumbbell rows
  4. Pistols become barbell overhead squats
  5. Breaks in between circuit rounds are going to be a bit longer (60s), but standardized

Well, great, so now this has somehow become longer than I planned it to be, so I’ll just stop here for now and post an update on the matter after we finish this new cycle.
On a side note, I had the chance to attend Ludwig Berhards [seminar-cabaret on nutrition], so I’ll cover that in a post in the next couple of days. Stay tuned!

So long,

take care

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