TEAM BLOG: ADVANCEMENT '13

A blog by the Next Level  2013 Advancement Team.  

This blog provides the insight, in-jokes and inspiration of a team in action.  Each post is by a team member as their journey continues.  

In The Next Level, an "Advancement Team" is a team built of experienced athletes designed to "advance" the program.  The spring 2013 Advancement Team is comprised of eight men: Tom Keon, Phil Cohen, Stephen Cyr, Seth Carbonneau, Stephen Forgione. Phil Biondo, Yarza Winn and Chris Noonan.  

Each post represents only the views of it's poster, and is not intended as a reflection of the opinions, views or beliefs of any other teammate, the team as a whole or The Next Level.  

Follow these men as they make their marks on a small corner of history.

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2013: A year of variety?

posted by Seth Carbonneau

For the last three years my main objective in the gym was to increase my overall strength to be a more competitive strongman. I didn't have the luxury of training at a strongman gym on a daily basis, so I had to adapt my template to a "normal" gym. I figured that increasing my strength using a barbell would directly translate to strongman, so I used Jim Wendler's 5-3-1. I started with a strict 4-day-a-week template that looked like this:

Day 1: Bench Press 5-3-1 Incline DB bench 4x10 One-armed DB rows 4x10 Weighted dips 4x10 Conditioning

Day 2: Deadlift 5-3-1 Good mornings 4x10 Unilateral romanian DB deads 4x10 hanging leg raises 3x AMAP Conditioning

Day 3: Military Press 5-3-1 Pull-ups as many sets as needed to get to 50 reps DB clean and press 4x10 Face-pulls 4x10 Conditioning

Day 4: Back squat 5-3-1 Front squat 4x10 reverse lunges 4x10 Leg press 4x10 Conditioning

It took a couple cycles for me to adapt to this routine, then I started adding one strongman training day in at the end of the week for a Day 5. At first I would just train whatever strongman events I felt like training that week and I would always go for maxes and new PRs. It only took one cycle of this to realize that I was not increasing strength in any of my lifts and I felt warn-out all the time; I was overtraining.

With the help of my training partner we decided to modify the routine to make it a 3-day-a-week 5-3-1 template with a fourth day being a strong-man event day. We kept the same four days, but just shifted one of the days to the following week so that one week was Day1, Day2, Day3, strongman then the next week was Day4, Day1, Day2, strongman. This made one week have two upper-body days and one lower, and the other week have two lower-body days and one upper. On the two upper/one lower week I would focus on lower body strongman events, and on the two lower/one upper week I would focus on upper body strongman. The one caveat to this routine is that strongman events are intrinsically full-body so it's hard to separate upper and lower body movements. I attempted to separate them into the two categories as best I could:

Upper body:

Log Press Axil Press Circus or giant DB Press Viking Press DB holds Farmers Walks Tire flips

Lower Body:

Yoke Stones Axil deadlift Tire Deadlift Car Deadlift Sled drags/pulls Conan's Wheel

I chose the events I wanted to focus on based on which events were in up-coming contests, otherwise I just had fun and did the events I felt like doing. The first few weeks of this routine were a little rough and I almost felt like I was overtraining, but I had a deal with myself that I would give it at least two cycles before I changed it. After a few weeks I think my central nervous system started to adapt to some extent, then after I came back from my first de-load week and started cycle two, I felt much better and I could tell the routine was doing just what I had intended it would do--increase strength. Overall, I gained a serious amount of strength doing this routine and most weeks I never felt like a overtrained (the exceptions seemed to be weeks when I deadlifted twice, or did a heavy yoke). Here's a few examples of my PR changes:

Squat: 275 to 365 Deadlift: 340 to 460 Log press: 190 to 230 Farmers walks: 200 for 100ft to 250 for 100ft

I did this routine for about 5 months before I started seeing diminishing returns. Rather than just decrease my 1RM and start the program over again, I decided that it was a rough routine to continue for a long period of time and strongman season was over so I would try something new for a little while. This routine was obviously great for helping me reach my goal of increasing strength, but it lacked variety because it was strict and didn't allow development of other important aspects of strongman. I am currently trying to incorporate plyometrics, isometrics, speed-lifting, and conditioning into my training while still keeping a strict routine. I am finding this task difficult and wonder if having a strict routine is necessary. Since I have always had a strict routine and don't know any better, perhaps I would benefit from a more fluid routine, or no routine at all. They say variety is the spice of life right?