Thursday, August 11, 2016

Judging Strength Training Methods (With Sample Bench Routine) - George Elder


There is at present a plethora of systems which purport to be the 'best' for gaining strength. These systems vary from the old 10-8-6-4-2-1 routines, to the present one set of 10-12 repetitions per body part routines. Many people support isometric, isokinetic, and eccentric methods of weight training. In order to justify the various systems presently in use, many 'studies' have been done to judge the various advantages one system has over the other. Unfortunately, many of these studies are sponsored by either companies of individuals whose motives are less than altruistic.

It is my opinion that as long as there is 'big money' to be made in the field of weight training there will be new gimmicks. Americans, as a whole, are always looking for an easy and sure way to success. We usually have faith in anything that purports to be scientific, and we are also quite willing to pay for the possibility of 'scientific' success. Unscrupulous individuals who realize this prey on the 'faith' in science and sponsor many a study to either back up their present systems, or detract from opponents' systems. Unfortunately, for these individuals, the making of money by any means seems to be more important than the advancing of our field.     

Hovering over the chapters gives a more detailed description:

 Continuing with the article:

This is not to say that all weight training studies done in this country are biased and unscientific. Many are, however, and the most important thing one can do when considering possible programs is to realize this. When I design programs, the research and data I accumulate comes from studies done in Eastern and Western Europe as well as North America. I also use much of the theories and systems that weightlifters use. After all, weightlifters are some of the strongest athletes in the world. Their systems have been developed over a very long period of time, and have proven successful by the very nature of the ever-increasing world world record poundages now being lifted. Let us not dismiss systems that have proven to be successful, for the sake of pseudo scientific money mongers.

What one must realize is that while almost any system will work and improve any given athletes' strength potentials, the most important criteria to use while judging systems is the DEGREE OF IMPROVEMENT possible. Simply stated, some systems will work better than others, but all systems will work to a degree. To realize this, while reading studies and testimonials, is not only wise, but critical. There's that word again.

As an example of a system that has proven to be effective and I have extensive experience with, let me present the following bench press workout.

60% x 6-8 reps
75% x 5 reps
85% x 3-5 reps
90% x 2-4 reps
90% x 2-4 reps
70% x 2 sets of max reps with a close grip.

Please note that the above system is expressed in percentages of one repetition maximum. In the above example, if our subject could bench press 300 pounds, the above would translate into . . .

180 x 6-8
225 x 5
255 x 3-5
270 x 2-4
270 x 2-4
210 x 2 sets of close grip benches, as many reps as possible.

When we examine this system in detail, it is quite evident that the warm up sets are certainly not done to the point of fatigue. Not only are the warm up sets not done for high reps, but it is also advised to take a three to four minute rest between these sets. The whole purpose of this procedure is to avoid early fatigue, so as not to adversely affect our performance in our heavy sets. Remember, to gain strength, the quality of the work involved is more important than the quantity of work involved.            

Please note that there is a range (e.g. 3-5; 2-4) of repetitions to be performed at most given weights. This range takes into account such things as bad days and slight illnesses. However, this flexibility alone is not sufficient. No program is universal in application, and this should be remembered above all things.  

Some people are great at repetitions, but poor at maxing out. Others are great at maxing out, but poor at repetitions. To take this into account in the above workout merely add or subtract up to 5% max, and add or subtract a rep or two for each set. As an example, if I had a person who was good at repetitions but couldn't perform well, or realize great gains with 90% of max training loads, I would modify the above workout as below, to meet his needs . . . 

55% x 8-10
70% x 5-7
80% x 5-6 
85% 4-6
70 x 2 sets of close grip benches, as many reps as possible.  

Use common sense and what works best for the individual when modifying workouts. Don't modify them to the extent that they no longer meet their goals (i.e., building strength), but only modify them to the extent that they help the athlete achieve the goals of his program expeditiously. 

Also, note the two close grip 'burn out' sets we do at the end of our bench press workout. We do this to isolate the triceps which, in many cases is the weight limiting muscle group in the bench press movement. We have found that by doing these two sets directly after heavy benching, we can effectively work the triceps group and thus increase its potential. 

The above bench workout is but an example of one stage of an overall strength program. I use many such devices to insure maximal strength gains. Being a firm believer in free weight training, I also believe in keeping 'machine' movements to a minimum. To my way of thinking, intensity, flexibility, and proven reliability should be the precepts behind any valid weight training program.   

This is the first of a series that is to delve into such devices as cycling, load intensities, and exercise sequence. Hopefully, this series will present an interesting point of view. I personally welcome all criticism of this article, as that is how we advance the field. There is nothing so great as an open forum to insure progress in the field of weight training.

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