Yeah, "How to Put 100kg on Your Total in 15 Weeks" is a little bit misleading. The first step to saying I put 100kg to my total between meets was to IMMENSELY underperform. At the Ghost Clash in Miami on February 13th, 2022, I totaled 1807 on a 4/9 day with 705-451-650. Fifteen weeks later, on May 29th, I went 8/9, totaling 2028 with 854-462-711.
For those who don't know me or haven't been following along, I recently dropped from the 320s to the 250s and from competing as a 308 to a 242. Following the Ghost Clash, I heard a lot of stuff along the lines of "You can't expect to be as strong as you were as a 308." Even if the people saying that meant well, it still pissed me off because I knew strength was not the problem. In training, I was as strong as I was as a 308. Albeit, I was as strong on box squats, board presses, good mornings, block pulls, and inclines—the movements that used to be my bread and butter. But what's the worth of a box squat PR when it takes you three shots to get an opener in on meet day?
What was the Problem?
Doing what worked before was not working. My numbers on the platform were not a reflection of my strength in the gym. The lifts that were my builders were still strong but take away the box, boards, or blocks, and I had no idea where I was in space or time. I had a total lack of proprioception with my new levers. I looked like a baby deer. Week to week, rep to rep, and set to set, I had no groove; everything was super inconsistent. I didn't know what sensations to play off as I hit the hole on squats. I didn't know how to put on the breaks for bench. I didn't know how to wedge into a deadlift without pushing my belly into my quads.
The movements I was hitting on my max effort days let me believe I was fine. Boxes, boards, and blocks were masking my leverage-related issues. My speed work was light enough that I didn't see the issue. I thought I was being productive as my numbers in training were trending upwards; in reality, I was only avoiding the problem.
How was I Going to Solve It?
I knew I needed more practice in the competition lifts to re-develop my groove. I knew that I needed more exposure to where the lifts felt vulnerable. I knew from conversations with lifters and coaches biased towards higher frequency approaches that one of the biggest arguments for increasing per-lift frequency is the skill component—a higher per-lift frequency means more opportunities to practice the skill of that movement.
A second argument towards higher frequency approaches is that if the workload is split up into smaller pieces throughout the week, each piece will be smaller and therefore less of an insult towards recovery. Therefore, with a higher frequency approach, a lifter can potentially handle more volume OR handle similar volumes without overstepping their ability to recover.
So, I thought, "Why the hell not bump up the frequency and see where it gets me?"
After looking at higher frequency layouts from RTS, Shieko, Juggernaut, and Calgary Barbell, I thought, "If I try this, I might die." Compared to how I have been training, the workloads all seemed absurd. I didn't doubt that I could eventually build up to handling that level of work, but I knew that if I were to jump straight into it, I'd be walking a tight rope.
With some advice from Bryce Krawczyk of Calgary Barbell, we figured that my best bet would be to break up my current workload, volume, and intensity ranges. I'd spread everything over a week rather than hopping right into something I may not have the capacity for.
I used one of Bryce's free program templates as the skeleton and spread out my old conjugate split. Here is where I arrived:
- ME Squat
- ME Bench
- Supplemental Deadlift
- DE Deadlift
- DE Bench
- Secondary Squat
- DE Squat
- Secondary Bench
- Secondary Deadlift
- ME Deadlift
- Supplemental Bench
- Supplemental Squat
Atypical of what most people think when they hear conjugate, I chose not to rotate my max effort lifts. Instead, I worked up to a heavy single on the competition movement every week. Since I was not rotating my max effort movement, I knew that I would not be able to work up to a true max effort every week and expect to make progress. As my main goal of this experiment was to maximize proficiency in the competition lifts, I was okay with this sacrifice.
For my max effort work, I borrowed from RTS and capped my singles at an 8RPE target and let the weights fall where they fell. It was heavy enough to still be realistic towards the loads I would be handling on meet day, but not so heavy that major regression was experienced. I found that I could increase performance on my singles for three weeks. On the fourth week, the bar started to slow down, the pop wasn't quite there, and if I was honest about my 8RPE cap, I regressed from the previous week. In the fifth week, things felt better, and I could handle more at the 8RPE cap. In the sixth week, things felt great again and I was able to beat my previous third week's high point. This pattern continued for the rest of the training cycle, and whaddya know, I was back riding a familiar three-week wave.
Adapting to the New Split
After the first week, I was sore as shit. Away from the gym, the DOMs were unlike anything I had experienced for YEARS. But, when I got to the gym and started moving, things felt surprisingly great. I didn't need to run as long of a general warm-up. I felt ready to get under the bar almost immediately. While warming up with the barbell, I felt more at home than I had in months.
As the weeks went on, the soreness dispersed and my body continued to feel better and better in and out of the gym. I had virtually zero stiffness, didn't have to do much movement prep outside the gym, started to trust my body more and more, and I was starting to lift like my old self again. The sessions are long, difficult, and draining, but I haven't enjoyed training as much in a very long time. Mission accomplished.
The higher frequency approach worked much better than expected. I will continue running and experimenting. I'm excited to see where it gets me.
Seth Albersworth is a powerlifter with experience in and out of gear. His best totals are 2105 pounds raw and 2408 pounds multi-ply. Seth has completed his bachelor's degree in kinesiology from the University of Calgary and recently graduated from Palmer College of Chiropractic's Florida Campus. He's in the process of acquiring licensure as a Doctor of Chiropractic.