Frantz makes every lift his punk bitch.
There are nearly endless permutations to this type of routine, as you'll see in this installment, but one factor remains unchanged throughout- brutal, heavy, compounds. This is not a routine on which you'll be doing dumbbell flyes one day and pulldowns the next. This isn't fucking Jazzercise, and there should be no rubber coated, pastel dumbbells involved. This should be nothing but the sort of "holy fuck I shit my pants" heavy-ass lifts that one would have seen in a gym prior to the advent of the Nautilus machine and color photography.
As I stated above, there's only one factor that remains constant in this type of routine, and there have been many people with different takes. I've listed some here for the purpose of illustration, and to give you an idea of the types of splits one could enjoy with this manner of madness.
Bednarski and Chaillet
Olympic weightlifting badass Bob Bednarski followed a system like this all the time, and it worked wonders for him. With it, Bednarski was able to shatter the world records in both the clean and press (456 lbs) and the clean and jerk (486 lbs) at a bodyweight of 242 at a time when the Soviets dominated Olympic weightlifting, and this was pretty much the last hurrah of the US Olympic weightlifting program. Bednarski apparently used a ton of routines throughout his career, but this is the one he used to shatter the world record.(Purposeful Primitive 28-30)
Monday Clean and Press 350-385x3 (5 sets)
Tuesday Snatch 305-315x3 (5 sets)
Wednesday Squat 450-500 x3 (2 sets)
Thursday Clean and jerk 405-435x1 (5 sets)
Saturday Total on 2-3 lifts Work up to a max single on 2 or 3 lifts
Sunday Squat 450-500x3 (2 sets)
Mark Chaillet also used this on the deadlift, where he'd spend one day a week working up to a max on the that lift. (PP 39) I don't have the details on this, but he was a major proponent of working up to a max incrementally, hitting it, and then quitting it. Although there are likely dozens of internet geniuses currently claiming that maxing every workout is nonsensical and idiotic, Chaillet managed to utilize this scheme to become one of only four men in history to deadlift 800 in four different classes and set 10 records in 4 different classes.
The best part of T-NationDan John
Dan John (of T-Nation fame) is also a proponent of this style of routine, and he outlined a far more intense program than those listed above on the aforementioned, now infamous, site. (John) His program is as follows:
Week One: 7 sets of 5
Set One: 225 for five
Set Two: 245 for five
Set Three: 265 for five
Set Four: 275 for five (getting tired, tough lift, might not be able to get another set)
Set Five: 235 for five (nice refreshing drop in intensity)
Set Six: 255 for five (nice, challenging set…but not hellish)
Set Seven: Either 275 or 285, depending on spotters and energy
Week Two: 6 sets of 3
Week Three: 5-3-2
Week Four: Off!
Frankly, I've never tried this workout, but I like where he's going with it. He, of course, recommends using compound lifts for this type of a routine, with a split something like the following:
Monday: Bench Press or Incline Bench Press
Tuesday: Row or Row Variation
Friday: Military Press
Saturday: Curl, Deadlift, Whatever
These silly bastards actually used to put useful information in their mag.
Another type of one-lift-a-day workout about which I've read (I think from an Ironman mag in the 1990s) utilized the following rep scheme on every single lift:
That might not seem like it's all that bad, but the goal is to make your ascending poundages considerably heavier than they were going in- and that's fucking hard. I used to do this all the time with squats, and loved it. As I recall, I'd do something like the following, when I was a 134 lb wrestler in college:
It didn't always work out that way, but as I recall, that's generally how it went down.
My Personal Take
Now, of course, I always take shit a bit further, and I find myself using this type of a day for any of the above three reasons- just as my motivation varies, so does my execution. On days where I'm simply loving the lift, which are usually power cleans or partial squats, I'll spend as much time as I feel like just pounding the shit out of a given weight, and then cap it off with a max effort. There's no science to this- it's just me enjoying the lift. I'll usually do this on a Saturday and do whatever rep scheme I want, taking as much or as little rest between lifts. Occasionally, I'll go so far as to bring a book and something to eat to the gym, and just pound away on it until I decide I'm done, reading and eating in between lifts (on something like partial squats). Frankly, I love those days, and if I had my druthers I'd do them more often, but my gym's hours currently don't afford me that luxury. By the end of those workouts, however, I'm happy, exhausted, and feel like I could eat rocks and shit gravel.
Blast from the past.
On days where I want to work a particular lift for practice, I pick a weight from which I won't back off, usually one with which I can do 3 reps, and pound out sets with only a trip to the water fountain as a rest. My triples will become doubles, which will become singles, which will end in a fail. At that point, I'll slow down the workout, and usually mix in a light lift that has nothing to do with the single exercise in question, just to make my pace more deliberate (if you train with a lifting partner, that will be unnecessary). For instance, I did this yesterday with bottom position reverse grip bench press. I threw 325 on the bar and kept at it until I was grinding out singles. At that point, I added weight, went slower, and did singles with 335. To reduce my pace, I started using the wrist roller and working neck in between sets. When I reached the point at which I couldn't lock out a rep at that weight, I backed off to 225, did two death sets, and called it a day.
Practice makes perfect. I'm going to go practice.
Francis Galton wouldn't have agreed with this method, as he believed that a lifter "perhaps flatters himself there is hardly an assignable limit to the education of his muscles; but the daily gain is soon discovered to diminish, and at last it vanishes altogether. His maximum performance becomes a rigidly determinate quantity." Fuck all that noise. That silly-assed notion has been proven false more recently by numerous studies that I'll cite in later blogs, but for now you can rest assured that Galton's obsession with genetic limitations has been nearly definitively proven false, and that practice does indeed make perfect. Studies have shown since Galton made that claim that "ability tests can predict early performance on a job, whereas final performance is poorly predicted. Even for a well-defined skill... with relatively unselect groups of subjects, numerous efforts to predict the attained performance from pretraining aptitude tests have failed."(Erickson et al) Provided one monitors feedback (which in this case would be increased weight on a given exercise, critiques of form, and biofeedback such as recurrant pains or injuries) "subjects' performance improves monotonically as a function of the amount of practice according to the power law."(Ibid) For those of you without access to google, monotonic increases mean that each performance is greater than or equal to the previous performance. Thus, although people "believe that because expert performance is qualitatively different from normal performance [and] the expert performer must be endowed with characteristics qualitatively different from those of normal adults", this is not necessarily true. Ericksson and his pals "deny that [qualitative differences between expert and normal performances] are immutable, that is, due to innate talent. Only a few exceptions, most notably height, are genetically prescribed. Instead, we argue that the differences between expert performers and normal adults reflect a life-long period of deliberate effort to improve performance in a specific domain." In essence, the more you do an exercise (provided you're doing it correctly, the better you'll get at that exercise. This theory has been borne out over millennia, and it's continued to be proven in the modern era. Thus, this will work if you want to improve at a given lift in particular.
He just shit himself.
For those of you tired of wandering the gym aimlessly, want to work on your form or execution on a given lift, or simply want to try something new, give this a shot. It's worked for some strong motherfuckers in the past, and it's endorsed by a member of the clergy (Dan John), so you always have the possibility of receiving spiritual enlightenment while getting your lift on. Have at it.
K. Anders Ericsson, Ralf Th. Krampe, and Clemens Tesch-Romer. The Role of Deliberate Practice in the Acquisition of Expert Performance. Psych Rev. 100; (3): 363-406, 1993.
Gallagher, Marty. Purposeful Primitive. West Chester: Dragon Door Publications, 2008.
John, Dan. The "One Lift a Day" Program.