Thursday, December 3, 2015

A Year of Weightlifting in Review: 2015

In conclusion to my third year of dedicated weightlifting, I thought I'd perform a bit of self-reflection and examine what occurred this year and what I accomplished. The goal is to always be getting stronger; as long as progress is made, no matter how incremental (and progress is always incremental after you've passed the novice stage), you know that you are on the right track. I got stronger this year, although I haven't accomplished a couple benchmarks I thought I would. Let's see what I did.

In the beginning of the year, I experimented with squatting every day, which you can read about here, here, and here. It was difficult and boring, but ultimately necessary; I had some big issues with my squat, namely hip shifting, that daily squatting solved and allowed me to make bigger gains. The volume and practice equalled a whole extra year of training. I put forty pounds on my high bar squat, thirty on my front squat, and thirty on my low bar squat. At three years in, that's nothing to sneeze at.

What's really changed my training lately is an approach called PR everyday, which I stole from John Phung. I use this method for my pressing and squatting, but not my deadlift, which is a different beast. You make a table of different lift variations (front squat, high bar squat, belted high bar squat, low bar squat, etc,) and different rep ranges (1 rep max, 2 rep max, 5 rep max...) and then you try to set a PR nearly every workout. It's not as difficult as you might imagine. I've gotten to the point where I PR very frequently. You need to be conservative in your approach, that's all. This approach drives long-term progress and staves off boredom. I highly recommend it. Check out John's blog for more information.

The biggest thing I learned this year is that different lifts require different training techniques in order to progress. Let's look at the powerlifts:

The Squat: The squat can handle high volume, high frequency training, but it helps to find your sweet spot. For me, squatting twice a week with moderate volume and high intensity seems to be the best approach. Switching squat styles also helps; I spent most of the year squatting high bar, and have now switched to low bar for a period.

The Deadlift: Despite being built for this lift, I only gained about 15 lbs on it this year, mostly due to programming difficulties. Frequent pulling might increase your daily max, but you get burned out pretty quickly. I've since switched to simple linear periodization, which cycles intensities, and it seems to be going well. Plenty of old guys pulled high volume every week, so it's best to find what works for you. My deadlift programming is still a work in progress.

The Bench Press: I have disproportionately long arms, which makes bench press progress hard to achieve. Upper body lifts seem to like high volume, high intensity training, but you have to be careful on the bench; I was on my way to pressing over 300 lbs, but suffered pec tendon inflammation that forced me to stop benching for a month. It's better now, yet I still haven't hit the magic 300 number. I press three times a week, cycling between the overhead and the bench.

In conclusion, this year I've taken my squat from 380 lbs to 410 lbs (I plan on squatting 420 by the end of the month), my bench press from 280 lbs to five singles with 290, and my deadlift from 455 lbs to 470 lbs. I'm not exactly proud of that progress, but it's not terrible. Here's to achieving some big benchmarks for 2016: a 450 squat, a 505 deadlift, and a 315 bench press. Time to gain my winter weight.

The offseason was the fat season for Lee Priest.

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