A training journal is one of the most useful tools on the planet for an athlete. Writing down not just sets and reps, but notes about those reps (such as Rate of Perceived Exertion or something as simple as “my form sucked, gotta do better next time”) can be extremely useful when we go back and reflect on previous training methods. It helps us self-critique and keeps us honest about what programs, exercises and rep ranges worked or didn’t work.
Very rarely do you get to see how strength coaches train themselves. That’s why I think it’s awesome that guys like Tony Gentilcore and Miguel Aragoncillo keep online training logs, whether it’s through a blog, Fitocracy page or a similar online training journal. The EliteFTS lifters have had online training logs for as long as I can remember, and it’s really cool and inspiring to see how some of the best powerlifters in the world organize their training.
As I prepare for my third powerlifting competition in November (only 14 weeks away already – scary!), I took a look back at old training logs. I’ve written down every single training session for the past four years. This gave me an objective view of what training methods gave me the best gains.
In the past year or so, what I thought worked best for me was high-frequency, high-volume, moderate intensity stuff like Sheiko or Smolov. This type of training helped me set a 40-pound meet PR in the squat last year. But a thorough read of my logs made me realize that those programs worked best for peaking, and not necessarily for getting stronger. And bench pressing three times a week wasn’t doing my shoulders any favors.
What I found out was pretty surprising. All my best gains had come from conjugate style training – combining max effort and dynamic effort training, switching up the max effort movement every four weeks, and building the lifts with specific exercises. The catch is, this style of training only seemed to work for a short time – about eight to 12 weeks before I stalled out. So I’m into week seven and feeling great so far. Soon, I’ll be 12 weeks out and it’ll be time to switch gears to peaking mode and I’ll adjust the training accordingly.
Here’s what Monday’s training session looked like.
Monday – 8.13.12 – Max Effort Upper
1A. Plyo Pushups
2A. Close Grip Incline Bench Press
2B. Band Face Pulls
100 total reps
3A. Dead Bench Press
3B. Barbell Rows
4A. Neutral Grip Chinups
Worked up to a heavy single at 285 on the incline bench, which turns out to be about 90 percent of my most recent heavy single on the regular bench. Went up 10 pounds on the dead bench, and upped the weight on rows a bit. I realize that I actually did 205×8 in the video and not 205×10 as the video says. I edited the highlights in a post workout daze and had no idea what was going on.
Tomorrow I’ll work up to a heavy single on the safety squat bar (I’m already having nightmares) and do a heavy top set of 1-3 reps on the deadlift. I’ve been using 5/3/1 percentages for the deadlift which seems to be just about the right volume and intensity with all the squatting I’m doing.