Written by Team Juggernaut
I often get questions through email, Facebook or the Q&A on EliteFTS.com that are something to the effect of, “Can I substitute closegrip reverse band presses with chains for military press?,” or “Do you think Close stance low foam box safety squat bar squats are a good accessory movement for my deadlift?” My first response to questions like these are always the same thing, “How strong are you?” Nine times out of 10, these questions are coming from athletes with less than 2 years of training under their belt, or with miles of room for improvement in their lifts. Lifters like these, and even much more experienced/stronger lifters, would greatly benefit from reducing the pool of exercises that they are drawing from. In the first part of this series I will address the need for simplicity in selecting your exercises that will make up the foundation of your training for the squat, bench and deadlift.
There are many who argue that the internet has been a great detriment to the development of young lifters because it has exposed them to too much information, instead of forcing them to train, succeed, fail, trial, error, and think critically about why something worked or didn’t, and how they can improve their training during the next cycle. While I don’t agree that the internet is a detriment to the development of lifters, because it offers so much great information that if used correctly will be of a great benefit, I do agree that many people are using systems and exercises that are beyond what their current abilities demand to improve.
It is essential that the lifter exhausts a particular means to improve their strength, before moving onto the next, more demanding, means. This simple, yet often overlooked, concept can be summed up with the idea that if doing pushups can improve your upper body pressing power, you don’t need to bench press. In this scenario, once you begin to bench press you have effectively limited the ability of the pushup and its variations to improve your upper body strength anymore. When looking at the long term development of the lifter, which must be done if one is looking to achieve the highest results possible. Think of training as a marathon, not a sprint, and measure your goals in months/years/decades, not days and weeks. I have been training hard and consistently for 11 years, and even though my results are very elite, I haven’t even been alive for as long as some of my fellow EliteFTS.com sponsored lifters have been training. Once you adapt this mindset of training for the long haul, it will become much easier to begin thinking of the benefits you can derive from the most basic of exercises.
Let’s take a look at my last year of training since I began training for my 1st powerlifting in July 2010. This time encompasses the training cycles for 3 raw full power meets, as well as some inconsequential sessions for a few weeks at a time between meets. During these meet training cycles I have had 40 Squat, 40 Bench, 40 Deadlift and 40 Assistance Upper Body sessions. Of those 40 squat sessions, 37 of them were begun with the barbell back squat, 3 of them utilized the back squat with chains. Of those 40 bench sessions, 40 of them began with the flat barbell bench press. Similarly, 40 of 40 deadlift sessions focused on the straight bar deadlift from the floor. Finally, out of 40 assistance upper body sessions, 32 of them were focused on either the standing or seated military press, while the other 8 utilized the close grip bench press, 4 with bands and 4 without.
Take a look at this deadlift training session of mine and notice what it is focused on…
While maybe not true to the same degree that it is in my training, the exercise choices by other top raw EliteFTS.com sponsored lifters is also very simple. Six hundred pound raw bench presser Vincent Dizenzo’s utilizes the flat bench, floor press, and board press in his training. Top ranked 242 class lifter Scott Yard focuses his squat training around the back squat and reverse band squat; bench training utilizes the flat bench and bench with bands; his deadlift is built by regular deadlifts, defecit pulls and deadlifts against bands. While their exercise pool is bigger than mine, there certainly isn’t anything extravagant or fancy about their choices.
It is also advisable for athletes to limit their exercise variety, as new stimulus to the body will induce more soreness and negatively impact the athlete’s abilities during technical/tactical practice.
Now maybe you are reading this and yelling at your computer screen, “What about the principal of accommodation!!!”, which I would respond to by saying tell your principal of accommodation to go and have a chat with my 2165 raw total. Now I’m not saying that accommodation isn’t an important factor in your training, of course it is, but it can be avoided in many different ways besides rotating between dozens of different max effort exercises. There are just as many options in set/rep schemes and loading strategies as there are in exercise selection. Focus your training on the competition lifts at varying intensities, master your technique, and avoid overuse injuries/muscular imbalances through proper warmups and well planned supplementary work; follow these tips are watch your numbers skyrocket.
In the next installment of this series, I will discuss the need for simplicity in assistance exercises.