Pull, Press, Squat

TAGS: Steve Pulcinella, press, pull, program, strongman, strength, squat

Disclaimer: Please consult a doctor before starting any training program. Or in this case, you may need a doctor AFTER starting it. Either way, a doctor will be involved at some point I’m pretty sure.

The basic outline of the Pull-Press-Squat or PPS method came from the early stages my strongman training. My training partners and I knew that all strongman contest events involved some kind of pressing, some kind of pulling, and lots of leg strength. We also liked to train at a higher volume and wanted to squat, pull, and press more than just once a week. So we started doing workouts that involved some form of a press, pull, and squat in EACH training session three times a week. The other days would usually be filled in with either event training, plyo, or skill work. We are not just talking about bench presses, deadlifts, and back squats exclusively, but many various exercises cycled in and out as you will see. Again, it’s never the science behind a training method, it always comes down to the effort that YOU put into it.

Exercise selection

Press:

Flat bench press

Standing military press

Incline press

Push-press

Jerk

Press behind neck

Jerk behind neck

Log press

Dumbbell press

Dumbbell bench press

Dumbbell incline

Axle press

Floor press

Swiss bar bench press

Pull:

Deadlift

Romanian deadlift

Bent over row

Clean/Power-clean

Hang clean

Snatch/Power snatch

High pull (clean grip and snatch grip)

Power shrug

Kroc rows

SP combos

Farmer handle deads

Stone loading

Squat:

Low bar/ wide stance squat

High bar olympic squat

Front squat

Low box squat

High box squat

WOB good mornings

Safety bar squats

Overhead squats

Zercher squat

The list above is not the absolute final word on exercise selection. If you have other movements that you like that fall into these categories, then by all means add them to your list. There are also many variations of each of these exercises you can customize by utilizing band resistance, band assistance, chains, deficit training, and other variations. These variations will increase your pool of exercises.

Steve at age 17. Beard, USA shirt, and a 585 pull. No joke.

Weekly/Monthly sample routine: This example training table below would be a one month mini cycle. The exercise selection would be up to you each month. You would use the same three exercises for your PPS throughout the four week cycle. After the fourth week you would plug new exercises into this same template. This way your training is fresh, you always train with an effective amount of volume and your workload stays high. At Iron Sport our strongmen train in this fashion all year long with a heavy load of strongman events done on Saturdays. We will sometimes put in a week of deload but only if we feel it is necessary. That will totally be up to the individual athlete.

You will first need to plug in your one rep max (1RM) for the exercises that you choose from your list of pushes, pulls, or squats. Then use the percentages below to calculate your working sets. In the table below when you see 5x1 that will mean that after your warm-up sets you will perform 5 sets of 1 as your work sets with the same weight for all 5 sets. Now keep in mind this method is for general strength training so don’t get so hung up on the actual percentage and what your 1RM is going in. Unless you need to lift a specific amount of weight on a specific date (as if you were going to lift in a meet), all that matters is that you are progressing and getting stronger.

Your test week is just that, a test of your 1RM. We like to really go hard for some heavy singles on that day. Although some of the exercises like bent over rows and dumbbell presses might lend itself to testing a triple rather than a single.

How we work the program: One each training day during the week you will pick a different version of a press, a pull, and a squat. Tere are some example percentages in the table below. The fourth week will be test week, this is where you will hopefully go for a personal best or at least try for a max single in each.

Sample Month:

Week 1

Monday

90% – 5x1, safety bar squat

80% – 5x2, push press

70% – 5x3, hang snatch

Week 1

Wednesday

90% – 5x1, barbell incline

80% – 5x2, high pull

70% – 5x3, front squat

Week 1

Friday

90% – 5x1, bent row

80% – 5x2, low box squat

70% – 5x3 behind neck jerk

Week 2

Monday

70% – 5x3, safety bar squat

90 – 5x1, push-press

80 – 5x2, hang snatch

Week 2

Wednesday

80% – 5x2, barbell incline

70% – 5x3, high pull

90% – 5x1, front squat

Week 2

Friday

90% – 5x1, bent row

80% – 5x2, low box squat

70% – 5x3 behind neck jerk

Week 3

Monday

80% – 5x2, safety bar squat

70% – 5x3, push-press

90% – 5x1, hang snatch

Week 3

Wednesday

90% – 5x1, barbell incline

80% – 5x2, high pull

70% – 5x3, front squat

Week 3

Friday

70% – 5x3, bent row

90% – 5x1, low box squat

80% – 5x2 behind neck jerk

Week 4

Monday

Test: safety bar squat

Pull accessory

Press accessory

Week 4

Wednesday

Test: barbell incline

Pull accessory

Squat accessory

Week 4

Friday

Test: bent row

Press accessory

Squat accessory

After the PPS exercises are completed in each workout you also have the option to hit up a couple assistance exercises. I always like to throw in one or two things at the end of each day. I would use 4 sets of anywhere from 6-12 reps, I like to mix up my rep ranges on the assistance work.

There are a lot of variations to this method as well, for an ‘in-season’ athlete you could do PPS two days a week and it will leave more days for your other training. You could do a two day training template and put your strongman event, conditioning, skill, or plyo work in on the in-between days. That table would look like this:

Week 1

Monday

90% -  5x1, squat

90% – 5x2, press

70% – 5x3, pull

Week 1

Thursday

90% – 5x1, pull

75% – 5x2, squat

80% – 5x3 press

Always remember this . . . There is only ONE recipe for strength. A secret recipe that was handed down from Sandow to John Grimek to Paul Anderson to Vasily Alexeev to Bill Kazmaier to me. Now I’m giving YOU that magical recipe...

Hard work + proper nutrition + TIME = STRONG

Ok, so it wasn’t really a secret, but it seems to be a lost formula. The one ingredient of the recipe that most people miss out on there is TIME, strength is built over a long period of time. If you are like me you will enjoy the journey immensely. Like the Japanese sword makers of old, layering steel and hammering it over and over produces the indestructible blade of the Katana that lasts a thousand years. You need to layer hard training with good nutrition and hammer away in the weightroom for years.

Strength is NOT something that just comes to you, a person can’t concoct it through a mathematical equation. You can't trick your body into becoming strong. Strength is something you need to constantly ATTACK and go after, its takes a tremendous amount of aggression. You need to keep thinking, keep pushing, and stay focused.

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