The 14-Day Program: An Interview with John Bott

TAGS: 14 day program, westside, WSBB, Jim Wendler, rehab, squat, john bott, powerlifting, strength training, barbell, training

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This interview between Jim Wendler and John Bott was conducted and originally published in 2006. At the time Bott was a member of the elitefts Q&A team, competed in powerlifting, and worked in personal training. Bott was a mathematics teacher at North Bergen High School in Palisades Park, New Jersey, where he also served as wrestling and strength coach from 1988 to 1977, and as a strength-training consultant to many east coast athletes. He began competing in powerlifting in 1986 and earned elite classification in four different weight classes, including best lifts of a 900-pound squat, 555-pound bench press, 685-pound deadlift, and 2050-pound total. In Dave Tate's own words, "John is an OG of elitefts."


What did your training look like before you began this training? Give us a sample week and template that would be fairly typical of what you did.

Prior to switching to this 14-day template, my training template actually changed twice. Initially, for many years, I had trained using the typical four-day Westside rotation. I did a dynamic effort (DE) bench press workout Monday, a max effort (ME) squat and deadlift workout Tuesday, a ME bench press workout Thursday, and a DE squat and deadlift workout Saturday. This worked well for a while, but it became increasingly difficult to recover from a ME squat and deadlift workout and a DE squat and deadlift workout in the same week. It seemed that if I went all out on a ME squat on Tuesday night I would feel beat up in the knees and groin on Saturday morning. It was also getting difficult to find enough people to train with on Tuesday night to have a true ME squat and deadlift workout. This is when I modified the typical four-day Westside rotation by eliminating the ME squat and deadlift day. Here is what that template looked like:

  • Monday was still DE bench press day
  • Tuesday became a squat and deadlift assistance day (no ME movement)
  • Thursday was still ME bench press day
  • Saturday became a squat and deadlift combo day (I did DE squats followed by a ME deadlift or good morning)

How did you come up with this 14-day split?

My current training template is actually 14 days because I need to train on the same days each week because of the availability of training partners and some other personal commitments that I have made. I got the idea after reading an interview with Chad Aichs. In that interview, he outlines his 12-day rotation and states that as he gets stronger, he has to train less frequently in order to be able to recover. I knew that Chad had made tremendous progress over the last few years and his program was worth taking a look at. I believe that Chad is training less frequently because of the tremendous tonnage that he uses in any given workout. I am not in that boat, unfortunately, but thought that I could benefit from a similar program because of the recovery factor.

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Why did you change?

As I said earlier, the thing that intrigued me most about this plan was the added recovery factor. I have been competing in powerlifting for the past 20 years and the sport has taken its toll on my body. I’m not ready to pack it in yet, so I am trying to find a way to train hard enough to make some progress and at the same time stay healthy enough to actually make it to the meet in one piece. Another factor that contributed to my decision to give this plan a try was my personal and family life obligations. I was spoiled during the first 10 years of my marriage because my wife and I had no children and we both competed in powerlifting. When we were getting ready for a meet all we had to focus on was work, training, eating, and recovering. To be quite honest, even most of our social time revolved around powerlifting and our powerlifting friends. Well, on March 22, 1998 that all changed when our daughter Samantha was born. This was the greatest thing that ever happened to me, but with that angel came the responsibility of being a parent. As the years go on, and she gets older, my parenting responsibilities have increased to include being a soccer coach, chauffeur, and homework helper. Training is not the priority it once could be.

Besides your knee injury, what other injuries have you sustained?

Okay, let me think. Where should I begin?

  • 1989: Tore left pec in prep for APF Junior Nationals in Chicago, Illinois
  • 1990: Tore left adductor tendon at IPA Nationals in Oxon Hill, Maryland
  • 2000: Ruptured right patella tendon at IPA Hall of Fame Meet in York, Pennsylvania
  • 2004: Ruptured right bicep tendon at APF Rex Road Memorial Meet in Glen Falls, New York

Through the years my elbows and forearms have deteriorated to the point where they are often times more of a hassle to deal with than these major injuries. Both elbows need surgery to remove chips and spurs, but I’m afraid that if I get them done I won’t have the drive or determination to return from point zero again.

What are the positive aspects of this kind of training?

I think the major positive aspect for me is the added recovery time. My body seems to be responding well to only one heavy bench press workout and one heavy squat and deadlift workout a week. My joints, especially my elbows and forearms, are not as inflamed as they normally were when I was hitting it hard twice a week for each lift. The other positive aspect for me is that this template gives me plenty of time to do the other things that a good husband and father should do. I don’t have to miss scheduled workouts for personal reasons, because the template has built-in flexibility. I also notice that I am beginning to really look forward to my training sessions again. When I was trying to juggle work responsibilities, four weekly workouts, and family commitments, training became a job and a chore at times.

What are some of the negatives?

Right now it is difficult for me to pinpoint negative aspects of this template because I have only been following it for a few months and have not taken it to a meet yet. I will say that my training numbers are very good (for me) right now, so I’m hoping to use this plan to peak for a meet this summer. The only negative that I can think of would be the lack of volume in a given week. I think an experienced or seasoned lifter can do well on a plan like this because they have built a strong foundation over many years; they know what their indicators are and can use them to make necessary adjustments to their program. A rank beginner (Class I or below) would probably be better off following a basic four-day template to make sure they are covering all bases. One thing that I do want to point out is that a training template must fit your lifestyle. For example, if you are a rank beginner that is also in medical school, don’t set up a program that calls for four main workouts a week and four extra workouts a week. Most likely, you will run yourself into the ground, make no progress, and get very frustrated. We all need to use our heads and follow a plan that is manageable for us at a given time in our lives.


Give us a sample template of the 14-day split.

Here is my current 14-day training template:

Sunday: Squat and Deadlift

  • Alternate a ME squat movement with a DE squat movement
  • Alternate a DE deadlift movement with a ME deadlift or good morning
  • Row movement (bent row, chest supported row, one-arm row)
  • Posterior chain movement (back raise, reverse hyper, GHR)
  • Abdominal movement
  • Grip movement

Monday: Lower Body “Feeder” Workout

Tuesday: Walk/Mobility Work/Rest

Thursday: Bench Press 

  • Alternate a ME bench press with a DE bench press (I have been doing two ME workouts to one DE workout)
  • Secondary press movement (five-board or six-board press, front press, foam press, dumbbell press, etc.)
  • Row or pulldown movement
  • Delt movement
  • Grip movement

Friday: Upper Body “Feeder” Workout

Saturday: Walk/Mobility Work/Rest

Here is my tentative plan for a summer meet:

Squat Cycle

Phase One

Phase Two

  • ME Box Squat: One Blue and One Green Band
  • DE Box Squat: Five Sets of Chains
  • ME Box Squat: One Blue Band and One Green Band
  • DE Box Squat: Five Sets of Chains
  • Competition Squat: Straight Weight in Full Gear
  • LA Box Squat: Straight Weight

Phase Three

  • ME Box Squat: One Blue Band
  • DE Box Squat: Four Sets of Chains
  • Competition Squat: Straight Weight in Full Gear
  • LA Box Squat: Straight Weight
  • DE Box Squat: Straight Weight or One Green Band

Deadlift Cycle

Phase One

  • DE Deadlift: Monster Mini Band
  • ME Deadlift: Deadlift Off Four Mats
  • DE Deadlift: Monster Mini Band
  • ME Deadlift: Suspended Chain Good Morning
  • Comp. Deadlift: Straight Weight in Full Gear
  • N/A

Phase Two

  • DE Deadlift: Mini Band
  • ME Deadlift: Deadlift Off Two Mats
  • DE Deadlift: Mini Band
  • ME Deadlift: Non-Suspended Good Morning
  • Comp. Deadlift: Straight Weight in Full Gear
  • N/A

Phase Three

  • DE Deadlift: Mini Band
  • ME Deadlift: Suspended Chain Good Morning
  • Comp. Deadlift: Straight Weight in Full Gear
  • N/A
  • DE Deadlift: Mini Band or Straight Weight

Bench Press Cycle

Phase One

Week 1:

  • ME Bench Press: Three-Board Press, Monster Mini Band
  • Secondary Press Movement (SPM): Six-Board Press, 5RM

Week 2:

  • ME Bench Press: Three-Board Press, Straight Weight
  • SPM: Foam Press, 5RM

Week 3:

  • DE Bench Press: One-Board, Fat Bar, Mini Band
  • SPM: Rep Method (Dumbbells Movement)

Week 4:

  • ME Bench Press: Four-Board Press: Monster Mini Band
  • SPM: Six-Board Press, 3RM

Week 5

  • ME Bench Press: Shirt Work
  • SPM: Foam Press, 3RM

Week 6:

  • DE Bench Press: One-Board Press, Fat Bar, Straight Weight
  • SPM: Rep Method (Dumbbell Movement)

Phase Two

Week 7:

  • ME Bench Press: Two-Board Press, Monster Mini Band
  • SPM: Five-Board Press, 5RM

Week 8:

  • ME Bench Press: Two-Board Press, Straight Weight
  • SPM: Decline Press, 5RM

Week 9:

  • DE Bench Press: One-Board Press, Fat Bar, Mini Band
  • SPM: Rep Method (Dumbbell Movement)

Week 10:

  • ME Bench Press: Four-Board Press, Monster Mini Band
  • SPM: Five-Board Press, 3RM

Week 11

  • ME Bench Press, Shirt Work
  • SPM: Decline Press, 3RM

Week 12:

  • DE Bench Press: One-Board Press, Fat Bar, Straight Weight
  • SPM: Rep Method (Dumbbell Movement)

Phase Three

Week 13:

  • ME Bench Press: Three-Board Press, Monster Mini Band
  • SPM: Six-Board Press, 5RM

Week 14:

  • ME Bench Press, Three-Board Press, Straight Weight
  • SPM: Seated Front Press, 5RM

Week 15:

  • DE Bench Press: One-Board Press, Fat Bar, Mini Band
  • SPM: Rep Method (Dumbbell Movement)

Week 16:

  • ME Bench Press: Shirt Work
  • SPM: Six-Board Press, 3RM

Week 17:

  • DE Bench Press: One-Board Press, Fat Bar, Straight Weight
  • SPM: Rep Method (Dumbbell Movement)

With this kind of training, do you feel the need to do extra workouts?

I believe that I should be doing two extra “feeder” workouts per week. This would consist of one workout for the lower body and one workout for the upper body. These workouts could be for weak point remediation, mobility work, or active recovery. This is an area that I plan on talking to Chad about when we hook up at the Arnold Classic in March. I know he does lots of timed recovery work on these days. To be honest with you, I have missed several of these workouts over the past few months and have not seen any negative effects! If I’m going to do them religiously I want them to have purpose and direction, so I’ll pick his brain on this one.

I know you have struggled with mobility issues, how have you addressed this?

I have to thank Dave Tate for this. We were at a meet together about two years ago and he showed me a few dynamic warm-up exercises that he had been using successfully to increase his mobility and flexibility prior to training. I began implementing them twice a week and noticed a marked difference within a few workouts. I highly recommend the Parisi Warm-Up Method DVD to anyone who is having problems with their groin, hamstrings, or low back. Pick a few appropriate exercises and do a 10-minute dynamic warm-up before you ever get under the bar. Trust me on this one, it will be time well spent.

Because you are training less frequently, do you think you can increase the volume or do you find that this negates the effects of this kind of training?

I think this will depend on the individual. Some would possibly benefit from gradually increasing the volume over time, others like Chad or myself may not. What I would be afraid of is a lifter trying to jam the volume of a four-workouts-per-week plan into a two-workouts-per-week plan. I wouldn’t want to see lifters turning this plan into two marathon sessions. I feel that would be counterproductive. I think that the quality of the work here is more important than the quantity of the work.

Who would you recommend this kind of training for?

1. Anyone who is at a world-class level like Chad and is having trouble recovering from their weekly workload.

2. Older veterans who still want to compete and break personal records, but whose bodies, work schedules, or family commitments don’t allow them to train under the typical four-day plan.

3. Younger, less experienced lifters who have a hectic or stressful schedule and can’t manage to train under the typical four-day plan because the combination eats them alive and no gains are made.

4. Anyone who lacks enough training partners to properly train four days per week. Some of us only have training partners twice a week or must travel great distances to hook up with quality training partners.

Here are some other things that a lifter has to take into account:

  • Remember that there is more than one way to skin a cat.
  • Be open-minded and willing to change.
  • Don’t follow a certain template just because one of your heroes follows it. Follow a plan that will allow you to make gains, stay relatively healthy, and enjoy the sport of powerlifting.

I hope that this article makes you think about what you are doing and that some of you can use it to your benefit. Stay strong!

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