Going Heavy

TAGS: WSBB, wendler, bench, strength, deadlift, powerlifting, strength training, strength coach, Elitefts Info Pages, barbell, bench press, training

I’ve had numerous e-mails and phone calls about what I did for my last meet. My total went up 150lbs and I set personal records on every lift. So here is what I did leading up to the meet. This is all in the Training Logs section of the Q/A, but this will make things easier.

For those that don’t know how I train or how I think – it all comes down to one thing; Going Heavy. If you want to get stronger, then you have to lift heavy weights. This has not changed since the age of training. You can show me textbooks, studies, graphs, pie charts, etc. You can write fancy articles and attach fancy names to some workout. It won’t change the inevitable. If you want to be stronger than most, you have to lift heavy weights. I came up with this startling revelation after realizing the following:

  • I talked with the strong people to see what they were doing. You wouldn’t talk to your doctor about your car’s transmission, would you? Most of the strong people that I talk to subscribe to the Going Heavy approach.
  • My own results have verified that Going Heavy is a pretty good way to train if absolute strength is your goal. I have tried other means of training and all have fallen
  • short.Now before everyone gets excited and points to the quadratic formula to prove me wrong, let’s verify some things. First, I didn’t do a lot of dynamic work because I was already fast. So this type of training is not good for those that are slow. Second, the trick to Going Heavy is to rely a lot on instinct. What this means is that I had to read my body before each workout, during the workout and after. I had to make smart decisions in regard to my training. Remember training smart is better than training hard. I had to make sure I was recovering between sessions. No one is better at not training (besides Dave) than me. You can call me lazy; I call myself smart. Because you need to rely on instinct, many novices don’t have enough experience to do this.Also, I respond better to higher intensities and lower volumes than vice versa. Some may be the opposite. Very few can do both, in fact I only know of one: Chuck Vogelpohl. That’s why we always say, “Don’t train like Chuck.”

    So while Going Heavy sounds very simple, it can be very difficult. What is simple is my exercise selection. Below are the main exercises that I do for each of the lifts. The problem that I see most people doing is they get too crazy with exercise selection. They pick too many exercises and never stick with one long enough to let it work or to realize that it doesn’t work. The exercises that are listed below are what worked best for me.

    Squat/Deadlift Training

  • Box Squat
  • Deadlift
  • Deadlift against bands
  • 45 degree back raise
  • Roman chair sit-ups
  • Power Squat

Bench Training

  • Board Press
  • Bench Press
  • Chest Supported Rows
  • Pull-ups
  • Lat pulldowns
  • DB Bench Press
  • Military Press

So what are the pitfalls of Going Heavy? Obviously, the first one is overtraining. This is why you have to listen to your body and make an extra effort to boost your recovery. The second pitfall is injury. Going Heavy has some risk to it, but most people get injured doing the lighter weights, not max attempts. It will take a beating on your joints, though. The third has to do with mental fatigue. You really have to be “on” mentally when doing this. I recommend taking my approach when Going Heavy. I rarely get worked up during training. I may do some grunting or get a little fired up, but I certainly don’t go crazy before a lift. I save my song-n-dance for the meet.

So how does one perform a Going Heavy workout? Here is a general plan that I work off of.

  • 2 days of bench pressing
  • 2 days of squatting/deadlifting

Sunday and Wednesday are my bench press days. One of those days will be a Going Heavy day, the other won’t. This will be based on how I feel. So if I walk in on Sunday morning and feel good and feel like I can press a P.R., I’m Going Heavy. If not, then I’ll do some assistance work. As you can see, my assistance work is pretty basic and push that pretty hard. Even if I won’t max out on them, I still work my ass off. The only thing that I don’t do hard/heavy is lat pulldowns. That is because they are gay.

A typical Going Heavy bench workout will consist of some kind of board press (with or without a shirt) or a bench press (raw) to a 1 RM. The main focus for me is to handle heavy weights. The point is NOT always to strain, though. And I never (or at least try) go to failure. I only attempt lifts that I know I can get. While this may sound strange, I don’t see the point of going to failure. Three things generally happen when doing this – 1. You get mentally fried. 2. You can get hurt because your form goes in the dumper or my incompetent spotters. 3. If you fail then you are teaching yourself to fail. Again, this is my way of training and may not work for some.

The other day will be an assistance day. Basically, in the two days I bench press I focus on the following:

  • Max effort work
  • Low end work (dumbbell presses, military presses)
  • Stability work (lat work/upper back work)
  • High end (lockout work) (rack lockouts, high board presses)

I try to cover each of these once during the training week.

So to sum up Going Heavy for the bench press:

  • Focus on training parts of the bench
  • Don’t go to failure
  • Pick exercises that count; don’t do muscles, do movements!

Monday and Friday are my squat/deadlift days and these are much more structured. Monday is my assistance day and Friday is my Going Heavy day. Monday’s workouts consist of the following:

      • Power Squat – work up to a 3-10 rep max. This is usually one hard set. I do shrugs on my lighter sets. Since I usually do about 6-8 warm ups sets, I do a lot of shrugs on the Power Squat. This is, as I’ve stated many times before, because big traps = cool.
      • 45 degree back raise – I usually do 3-5 sets, most with a bar on my back. Reps are usually 10. As you can see this is very complicated.
      • Roman Chair sit-ups – These are almost always done with a plate behind my head. As long as I can do 10 reps with a 45lbs. plate behind my head, then I know my abs are strong enough. These are always done on an EFS Glute Ham Raise.
      • Some grip work (EFS Grip Machine, Ironmind Telegraph, Hex Head DB Holds) and some neck work. I do 2-3 sets of this stuff.
        • Box Squat to a 1RM
        • Some kind of deadlift to a 1RM (but NOT every week)
        • Don’t go to failure
        • It’s really pretty simple. So go heavy.By the way, I know that this type of training isn’t very scientific and it isn’t fancy, but it is what the majority of VERY strong people do. So you can throw your verbal jabs at this kind of training, but at least it’s backed up on the platform/weight room.

    Friday’s workouts consist of one or two exercises. The first is always a box squat. You can attach bands or chains or nothing at all. It doesn’t matter. Just work up to a max single. Why did I do this? Because many times I had to jump in with lifters on this day and we all didn’t have the same plan. Rather than argue about what band to use and how many chains, I adapted and just did what ever was on the bar. Personally I like to use medium band tension (which for me is strong band), straight weight and chains (3 chains/side). While I like these things, if something else is being used, I will do it. The main focus for me is to handle heavy weights. Again, I don’t go to failure and I don’t kill myself.

    After I squat, I will pull some kind of deadlift. This is usually a standard (no bands/chains) deadlift or a deadlift against bands. This usually happens every other week or whenever you feel good. Again, apply the principles of Going Heavy.

    So to sum up Friday’s squat workout

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