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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Belt for Maximum VIKING POWER!!!!

Posted by: Stephen Cyr

While I was at Global Strongman in NYC, Hans recommended that I use a softer belt under my normal belt for better support. After using it at the competition I noticed such a huge difference in comfort, warmth, and stability. I mean would I have lifted the same amount, most likely, but belt this certainly helped improve my comfort level for the whole competition.

When you are uncertain about some lift, or weights, having a great belt gives you that extra confidence you need to just go for it, and know that it will help prevent injuries.

Now for the best part....THIS BELT COST $22 DOLLARS!!!!!!!!!!! This is literally the cheapest piece of gear I have ever bought. It was money very well spent.

I bought the belt here, on Amazon; it's just a simple lumbar support by Mueller.

Basically, you use this belt under you leather belt, this way the belt doesn't cut into you or hurt, it gives you more flexibility because of this comfort, and it provides even more support because you are combining it with the regular belt.


Dynamic Pressing

Posted by Seth Carbonneau

This is called a "band basket" and can be set up on most squat racks. Basket two bands on either side of a bar, and add weight as desired. (But always try it out empty first because it feels completely different than when you're just using weight alone.)

It is important to start with smaller bands. In the video below I am using a mini-band and an extra-mini band. This is a great exercise to build maximal lock-out speed. The trick is to get under the bad as it's moving up as quickly as possible. As soon as the bar is at lockout, bring it down to your chest and press it as as quickly as possible.

Below is a video of the set up:

And this is how you press it, as demonstrated by my training partner, Gina Melnik:

(Yes, she is pregnant. Yes it is okay to lift weights while pregnant if you are experienced and let your doctor know.)

There are many rep-set schemes to try. I like keeping the weight the same and adding reps every week. I started with a weight I could do 8-10 very fast, no rest, reps with (85lbs) and did three sets with about a 2-3min rest between, after a few weeks I am up to 12-14 reps per set. In the past I have also gone a little heavier or used thicker bands and done 10 sets of 3 reps timed--each set should take less than 5 seconds, with a 30 second rest between each rep.

The Early Bird Gets Jacked

I get a lot of flack for training before or as the sun is rising. I don't see a need to defend myself, but I will explain why I subject myself to what seems like a terrible experiment to most. First let me say I haven't always been this way, I used to train after work, but then I met my training partner and decided to switch to mornings for camaraderie (I am glad I did because my training partner rocks). It took me several weeks to adapt to the early morning routine--but I did--and I realized that it has a lot of merit. Here's why:

  1. Avoid schedule and time constraints. It's hard to predict what the afternoon will bring. Sometimes work will keep you longer than expected, things come up, and schedules change throughout the day. Consistency is an important aspect to training, especially if your diet and caloric intake corresponds with certain workouts. If afternoon constraints can be an issue then the morning is a great alternative because chances are you have nothing to do but sleep in the morning (which you could be doing at night).

  2. Beat the crowds. Ever have to wait for a squat rack because someone is doing curls? The morning is the best time to avoid crowds, idiots, and mirror-muscle lifters.

  3. Low stress and higher energy. After a day of work stress can compile and whether you realize it or not it can effect your workout. Also, after you have been awake for at least 8 or more hours your energy level starts to decrease significantly, and energy is key in the gym. In the morning, after eating breakfast and warming up, energy levels are at their highest and stress is at it's lowest.

  4. Optimal hormone levels. Cortisol levels peak mid-day and are on a slope in the afternoon and the morning, so as far as cortisol goes, training time doesn't matter unless you train in the middle of the day. Testosterone levels are a different story. Testosterone peaks early in the morning and slowly drops off during the day, making the morning the best time to train. Glucagon levels are highest and insulin the lowest first thing in the morning after the body has been fasted overnight. Since the body has been deprived of insulin throughout the night, it has the highest response to insulin first thing in the morning. You're medium to high carb pre-workout meal (breakfast) will boost your insulin levels more than any other meal of the day and this will prime you for a great workout.

Like everything, there are drawbacks to training early in the morning. Nutrient timing can become tricky. You have to decide whether to up your carbs the night or day prior to training (which most people are uncomfortable with for fear of fat gain) or the entire day after training. I have personally found that upping carbs the day before is the trick to increasing my strength and endurance in a morning training session. While upping carbs the meal after working out, but not the entire day after working out helps with recovery. Do I gain more fat than the afternoon lifter because I up my carbs at night two or three times a week? Perhaps, but I am not sure. Another major drawback to training in the morning is that for most, it takes a while to wake up, eat, and warm-up at the gym, which subtracts more from your sleep. While going to the gym in the morning helps avoid scheduling constraints that might come up at the end of the day, it's also impossible to predict how well you are going to sleep. When I have a bad night sleep or something keeps me up later than I expected then I have to reschedule my gym day or go into work late (which I do not want to do very often). When it comes to hormone levels and beating crowds, it's hard to argue that there is a better time to go to the gym. Working out early may not be your cup of tea, but remember that the early bird gets jacked.

Posted by Seth Carbonneau

Alcohol before exercise

Someone sent me this article today (go read it then come back) hoping it would answer prayers to make the gym a more bearable place.

So, according to this alcohol reduces your risk of blood clotting while you work out, which is no surprise because it's a blood thinner just like aspirin and garlic.

What they fail to mention is that alcohol will certainly reduce your ability to work out efficiently. You need to have intensity and endurance when you workout and alcohol inhibits both of those processes.

I wish pop-science nutrition articles would discuss entire stories and not just catchy rhetoric. Perhaps you should eat a clove of garlic before the gym rather than going to the pub if your concerned about having a heart attack in the middle of you elliptical workout!

Posted by Seth Carbonneau

(In case the above link doesn't work: http://www.independent.co.uk/news/alcohol-before-exercise-cuts-heart-strain-1337879.html)

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?

Ego Maniac!

posted by Phil Biondo

This is my first blog post ever, so while it will most likely not go down in history, but I am meanwhile not afraid to go down.  Which brings me to this weeks topic: Girls in the gym.

More specifically: when I enter the gym, should I check my ego at the door and only lift appropriate max weights?  Or should I let my ego run wild, as usual, and use the possibility of hooking up with the bikini model in the elliptical to push myself past my normal max weights?

Most days I would tell you to check your ego at the door. In fact I often make fun of guys trying to impress some mildly fit female, as if that extra 10 lbs. is the deciding factor in wether or not she lets you in her pants. Most days i'm so focused in the gym I wouldn't even notice Kim Kardashian doing squats right next to me. Having said this I myself earlier this week was a victim of my own ego.

During my weekly sets of dead lifts to start off back day, otherwise known as OMG my lats are huge day! I started off light with a couple warmup sets(135x10, 225x10). Then two sets to failure(315x10, 405x8). Then finally finished with a one rep max where I tied my PR of 500 lbs. That's right 500 lbs., I was impressed too.

Unfortunately this testosterone high only lasted a couple seconds until a very attractive female walked up to me flirtatiously, wearing a midriff tank designed to prominently display her lower back tat (tramp-stamp/), along with the tightest booty shorts in the world.

But then things shifted.  This smoke show proceeded to call me a, "P#$$y" for ONLY lifting 500 lbs. when she had clearly seen me already lift that same weight the previous week. 

It was at this point I probably should have listened to my extremely sore back, and told her to go back to her Zumba class. Instead I decided to impress her by throwing on another 10 lbs. on the bar.

Half way through that lift, I could feel something start to tear...

To make a long story short I now have a new dead lift PR of 510 lbs. but have not been able to lift or stand up strait for the last five days.

I'll leave it up to you to decide: is an ego a positive tool for bodybuilders?  Or just a reason to have a chiropractor on speed dial?

Phil's February Split

posted by Phil "Bakuri" Cohen

Here is a sneak peak into how I currently record my training. My 'actual max' was the most I could lift before starting this program. And my 'training max' is 90% of my 'actual max' + 5-10 lbs per 'cycle'. Eventually my 'training max' will exceed my 'actual max' and the difference will be my improvements.

My 'rep records' is where I record the number of reps I reached for the third lift of the first three weeks of each 'cycle' (I perform as many reps as I can for all sets notated with +. For example: '85x5+' = 85% of my 'training max' for 5 reps + as many as I can do). I then compare cycle to cycle. For example, today (cycle 3, week 1, deadlift day) I performed 15 reps. That's 4 more than the 11 I lifted in cycle 2 (see below).*

*Workout taken from Jim Wendler's 531 Manual

Cycle 2

 

Military Press

Actual Max
185

Training Max
170

Deadlift

Actual Max
275

Training Max
255

Bench

Actual Max
245

Training Max
225

Squat

Actual Max
275

Training Max
255


Week 1 – Jan 8th

Sets

65% max x5

75% max x5

85% max x5

Weight

110

130

145

Weight

165

190

215

Weight

145

170

190

Weight

165

190

215


Week 2 – Jan 17th

Sets

70% max x3

80% max x3

90% max x3

Weight

120

135

145

Weight

180

205

230

Weight

160

180

205

Weight

180

205

230


Week 3 - Jan 24th

Sets

75% max x5

85% max x3

95% max x1

Weight

130

154

160

Weight

190

215

240

Weight

170

190

215

Weight

190

215

240


Week 4 – Jan 31st – DELOAD

Sets

40% max x5

50% max x5

60% max x5

Weight

70

85

100

Weight

105

130

155

Weight

90

115

135

Weight

105

130

155


Rep Records

Military Press

11

8

10

Deadlift

11

14

13

Bench Press

16

13

11

Squat

12

10

10