elitefts™ Sunday Edition

There are many training programs out there and just as many top lifters using these different programs. I still remember how I used to think that I could find that one program that would work for everyone to continually get stronger. This was very naive thinking and worse than the search for the holy grail, because there is no program that can ever do that. This is due to the simple fact that people are individuals and are all different in many ways. We respond differently to certain stimuli, we have different recovery rates, we have different amounts of fast twitch and slow twitch muscle fibers, we have different metabolisms, different sources of life stress, the list goes on.

You also have to remember that as we get stronger, everything changes and we have to keep adapting the program in order to keep getting stronger. Your work load automatically goes up as you get stronger. For instance, if you squatted 400 pounds you likely warmed up with 135, 225, 315, and then 400. Well, when you are able to squat 800 you are now warming up with 135, 225, 315, 405, 495, 585, 675, 765, and 800. That’s a huge increase in your workload, and even this example is if you are only taking 90-pound jumps. Even if you do the exact same program as before, you are now doing much more work.

You also have to keep in mind that as you get stronger and more experienced you have more muscle control and are able to recruit more muscle fibers. If you take someone new to lifting and have him flex his quads, he may use roughly 40 percent of his muscle mass. After training a few years he will be able to utilize around 70 percent of his muscle mass, which has probably also increased over those years. Yet another point is that you also develop the your central nervous system and train your body to contract much harder than it could when you first started. Another big thing is that your weak points continually change so your program has to adapt to strengthen those weak links. There are so many reasons why one program will not work for everyone and even for one person to keep on growing and getting stronger.

Training Principles

I have had to make changes to our program a lot over the years. I have also always had to consider the different types of people on the team. It was important to have a program that would be adapted for each person yet also have a schedule that worked with all of us. Because of this, I have always tried to first come back to the principles that I felt were sound, and then work off those.

These principles were the conjugate method, the principles of Force training, accommodating resistance, proper technique which includes understanding the strongest muscle groups, the principle that you’re only as strong as the weakest link, and that you only get stronger when you recover. To be honest, most of what I do is simple Westside Barbell stuff. It is an amazing program that I had to put just a few twists on.

One of the biggest things for me was to do a simple outline of a program that was easily molded around the athlete. This, of course, means the athlete or coach has to think and use their brain (it seems to me a lot of lifters don’t want to use their brain, they want a very rigid program they can follow and not think about). They have to analyze if the athlete is overtraining, make sure they are continually changing to strengthen the weak points, make sure the program is adapting to their strength gains, and keep track of the exercises they do respond to while also keeping an open mind to new things they can added to the program for continued progress.

You can look at any program as a living thing that needs attention and needs to keep growing in order to stay healthy. It has to be able to bend and change to accommodate all the reasons I mentioned in the first paragraph to explain that you can’t have one standard program. I feel my program does this while also keeping a lot of the key things to keep getting stronger and meeting your goals.



One of the biggest issues that always seemed to pop up for me and my team was, of course, overtraining. It seemed to be the one things that could stop progression in its tracks. Yes, there were a lot of other little things we had to look at, but overtraining was always the biggest issue. When I first started training serious I started with the basic Westside template. The whole time, I was able to go three weeks and then everything feel apart. We tried to keep it up for a number of months but kept getting the same results. It takes me back to my favorite Einstein quote, “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” I started talking about this to Dave Tate and some of the other guys I respected. I came up with two choices:

  1. Take every fourth week as a deload, which is a very good idea. I know that Marc Bartley came up with it and has had great results with it himself as well as with the guys he has trained. At the time I really didn’t see me taking every fourth week off, so I came up with another option.
  2. Instead of deloading every fourth week, I had the idea to spread out training days with more off days in between. This was something that made more sense to me, and I didn’t have to take so much time off at once. It also seemed like it gave me more options with supplemental work or with future changes. We ended up doing an a eight day cycle at first. We played with lots of options and my team is now on a 14 day cycle. As we all increased in strength and skill we had need for more recovery. It has worked very well for us.

It is hard to take time off or spread days out when you are an aggressive person. I remember when we were on a 12 day cycle. It was really wearing me down and I noticed that my team’s gains were also starting to stall. I made the decision to jump to the 14 day. It gave us much more recovery time and my members that had family would have their whole weekends free.

Scott did not want to do it, to the point he thought about going off to train by himself. He was convinced he would get weaker. I am normally open to most things and we will even vote on some changes, but I put my foot down because I knew what I was seeing in my team. Well, Scott decided to try it after much complaining. Just a few months after that he hammered his first 1000-pound squat. I can’t recall the exact weight increase from his previous PR, but it was huge. In fact, he totaled over 2400 lifetime drug-free at that meet. He hated admitting I was right, too!

Another thing to consider is technique. You really have to take the time to learn your technique. Like I said, finding your weak points and fixing them is a huge part of a good program. Your weak points always change and if you have terrible technique its hard to truly find the weak points. If you understand technique, the muscle groups used, and have good technique, then it is much easier to see your weak points.

This is one of those things I get pissed off about whenever I visit other gyms or go to meets. Even though they think they do, many people have no idea what good technique is. For instance, take a lifter with a great program working all the right muscle groups, but his technique sucks. His program is nailing his posterior chain and all the muscle used in a good bench press, but what if he is still trying to bench with his chest? Well, he’s not going to really see the gains he has made, because he is not using the now stronger muscle groups in the lift.

I highly recommend most lifters look into getting my training DVD Volume 1 covering every aspect of good technique for the raw, single, multiply lifters and even athletes. I have tried to keep the price down to 24.99 for 2 hours and 40 minutes of information. To get the most out of yourself and your program take the time to learn the proper technique.


The 10 Day Cycle Outline

Day 1 Speed Squat

Box Squat, 8 Sets or 3 Reps with Bands

  • The bands need to be set up so that there is just a little tension on the bottom of your squat and high tension at the top. Make sure the bands are not floppy or loose at the bottom.
  • Use a box that will let you sit just below parallel.
  • You should pause on the box, but stay tight. Then explode up as fast as possible. Act like you will try to throw the bar off your back, but it should not leave your back with the bands on the bar.
  • Make sure you set up in your proper starting position between each rep.
  • You want to keep the rest period between your 8 sets less than 1 minute each.
  • You should wear your squat briefs. If you don’t wear briefs, use your squat suit with the straps down.
  • The first session you want to use 45 percent of your one rep max. Then 47 percent the next session. Then 49 percent, then 51 percent. After that you will start over with 47 percent again and so on.

Speed Deadlifts 6 sets of 1 rep

  • You’re going to do 6 singles with 60 percent of your 1-rep max. These singles are to be done with perfect technique and as explosively as possible.
  • I like to wear my deadlift suit with straps down for 3 sets and up for 3 sets.

Reverse Hypers for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • The reverse hypers are to be done explosively. Let the weight come done controlled with some speed, then when it crosses the front support bars reverse the weight as quickly as possible in an explosive movement.
  • If your gym does not have a reverse hyper you can substitute straight-leg deadlifts or romanian deadlifts.

Glute Ham Raise for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • If your gym does not have a glute ham raise you can substitute pull-throughs.
  • For pull-throughs, use a triceps pushdown rope and a low cable pulley. Face away from the pulley and grab the ends of the rope. Take a couple of steps away from the pulley and set up in a sumo squat stance. Sit back on your heels and squat down while letting the weight pull your arms between your legs. Once your back is parallel with the ground explode your hips forward until you are back up straight. Use a moderately heavy weight. It may take a little while for you to work out your balance in this exercise.

Abdominals 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Choose one ab exercise from list.

Day 2 Recovery

Straight-leg deadlifts, box squats, good mornings for 3 minutes

  • Do these in a sumo stance most of the time, but occasionally with your legs closer.
  • Use a very light weight. I use 135 pounds. This is about recovery, not getting stronger.
  • Use a very slow pace — one rep every 8 to 10 seconds. Never let the weight rest on the floor.

Single leg press for 3 minutes each leg

  • This is to be done one leg at a time. You should put your foot as far to the side of the foot plate as possible. Then keep your knee out as you go down as low as you can.

Hamstring curl for 3 minutes

  • Same pace as above. Light weight.

This would workout should only take 15 minutes, but is very important.

Day 3 Speed Bench

Speed Bench Press for 9 sets of 3 reps

  • You should do 8 sets with your fingers inside the ring of the bar and the last set should be done with your regular bench grip.
  • The 3 reps should be performed as quickly as possible with no pause at the top or bottom.
  • The mini bands are to be used on this day. Loop the band around the bar, then grab the bottom of the loop and bring it under the bottom of the power rack or a dumbbell. Then loop it around the bar again.

Triceps Exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Pick a triceps exercise from the list and do 3 sets of 10 reps with a heavy weight.

Military Press for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Do a moderately heavy weight for 3 sets of 10 reps. You should use a weight that you could do 3 sets of 12 reps with.
  • Do these with a behind-the-neck style, but do not go any lower than the top of your head. Going lower than your head is hard on your shoulders.

Lat Pulldowns for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Use a wide pulldown bar and pull the weight to the top of your stomach while keeping your elbows in.
  • Use a moderately heavy weight that you could do 3 sets of 12 reps with.

Abdominal Exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Pick an abdominal exercise from the list.

Day 4 Recovery

Dumbbell bench press for 3 minutes

  • Use a light weight for 3 minutes. I recommend something around 40 lbs to start.
  • Do 1 rep every 8 to 10 seconds.

Triceps pushdowns for 3 minutes

  • Use any bar that you like here. I like to use a pushdown bar shaped like a W. With this bar I can quickly change grip every minute.
  • Follow same pace as above.

Dumbbell Shoulders for 3 minutes

  • Use light dumbbells to do military press for 1 minute, then go directly to lateral raises for 1 minutes, then directly into front raises for 1 minutes. And finally into bent over arm raises for the rear deltoids for the last minute.
  • Same pace as above.

Day 5 Off


Day 6 Maximum Effort Squat and Deadlift

Max Effort Squat and Deadlift Exercise for 1-Rep Max

  • Choose one of the max effort exercises. Warm up at the chosen exercise and then go for a 1 rep max. Always try to beat your last max at this exercise.
  • You should do a good morning style exercise 70 to 80 percent of the time.

Reverse Hyperextensions or Straight Leg Deadlifts for 3 set of 10 reps

  • If your gym does not have a reverse hyperextension you can substitute regular hyperextensions for 3 sets of 10 reps

Glute Ham Raise for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Follow same rules as GHR on speed squat day.

Abdominal Exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Pick an exercise from the list.

Day 7 Recovery

Same as day 2. You can substitute other exercises for straight-leg deadlifts, such as box squat, good mornings, or deadlifts.

Do these at the same pace.

Day 8 Maximum Effort Bench Press

Maximum Effort Bench Exercise for 1-Rep Max

  • Choose one of the max effort bench exercises and warm up. Then do that exercise to a one-rep max. Always try to beat your last max on this exercise.

Triceps Exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Same as triceps exercise on day 4.

Chest Supported Rows for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Do this exercise moderately heavy and try to keep your elbows in.

Abdominal Exercise for 3 sets of 10 reps

  • Pick an exercise from the list.

Day 9 Recovery

Same as Day 4 with one exception. Instead of doing shoulder work, do lat pulldowns or a row machine for 3 minutes with the same pace as earlier.

Day 10 Off

Exercise Lists

Maximum Squat and Deadlift Exercises:

  • Good Mornings – You perform this exercise by getting in your squat position and bending your knees slightly. Then with most of your weight on your heels and your back arched up as hard as you can, let your butt go backwards and your hips bend. Your back should always stay arched up. Go down until your hip and back bend as far as they do in the squat, then come back up. You don’t have to bend very far forward. It is better to feel heavy weight and bend less. These good mornings can be performed with a standard bar, a safety squat bar, or a cambered bar.
  • Box Squats – Perform these with the same technique as speed squat day. Go for a 1-rep max and do not use bands.
  • Rack Deadlifts – Perform these deadlifts in the power rack with the pins set so that the plates are 1 to 2 inches off the ground. This exercise can be performed in sumo or standard deadlift positions
  • Zercher Squats – This exercise is like a squat except for the bar placement. Bend your arms and hold your hands together in front of you. The bar will then rest across your upper stomach and be held by your elbows. You can pick the bar up and squat with it or you can set it on low pins in the power rack and pick it up from the bottom of the movement.
  • Competition Squat – Use all of your competition gear and do a max squat like you would in a meet.
  • Competition Deadlift – Use all your gear and do a max like in a meet.

Do not do competition squats and deadlifts often or you will overtrain.

Maximum Effort Bench Press Exercises:

  • Board Presses – Do these like regular bench press, except you will have a board on your chest. This will limit how low you can get to your chest, but it will also let you use more weight and build a strong lockout. You can use 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 boards on this exercise. The 1 board is a flat 2×2, 2 board is 2 flat 2x4s, and so on. I prefer 3 and 4 boards most of the time. If I use a 1 or 2 board I wear my bench shirt. Pick 1 size board for each workout.
  • Floor Press – This is a bench press on the floor. Use the power rack and lower the weight until your elbows are on the floor. Then push back up.
  • Decline Press – Do these to a 1-rep max. They help you learn to press straight up instead of over you face.
  • Reverse Band Press – This is a regular bench press except you wrap the band around the top of the power rack and put the bar through them. A bar with 135 pounds should hover on your chest. This allows you to handle heavier weights.

Triceps Exercises:

  • Dumbbell Extensions – Lay on a flat bench with dumbbells and your palms facing together. Lower the dumbbell until the head of the dumbbell rests on your front deltoid. Then roll the dumbbell and your elbows toward your head until the dumbbell is on the bench. Then explode your triceps until the dumbbell is back in the starting position. These can also be performed on the floor.
  • Elbows out dumbbell extension – Do these on an incline bench. Start with palms facing your feet and your elbows pointing out. Lower the dumbbells to your chest while making sure they are always touching. Once they rest on your chest, explode back up.
  • Kaz Press – This is done on a smith machine. Start with the bar directly above your clavicle bones. Use a grip just inside of your competition grip. Lower the bar remembering to keep your elbows in. Stop about 4 inches above your clavicle and explode back up.
  • JM Presses – Start with the bar in a bench press position with hands slightly wider than shoulder width. Lower the bar keeping it directly over the clavicles until it is about 4 inches above the clavicles. Then while keeping the elbows in, press it back up.

Abdominal Exercises:

  • Decline Sit Ups – These are regular sit ups on a decline bench. Make sure to hold a plate behind your head.
  • Pull Down Abs – Use a lat pulldown machine and a triceps rope. Face away from the machine and grab each side of the rope on each side of your neck. Pull yourself down with your abs until your upper body is parallel with the floor. Stand all the way back up and start again. Make sure these are very fast.
  • Crunch Machine – Use any type of weight crunch machine that your gym has.
  • Sit Ups – Use a hyperextension machine and do sit ups with a plate behind your head
  • Side Bends – These can be done from a low pulley or with heavy dumbbells.

Technique Notes

The Squat

  • You should always have your shoulder blades squeezed together when you pick up the bar.
  • Your starting position should be with most of the weight on your heels and your hips bent slightly back.
  • At this point every muscle in your body should be tight. You should especially tighten your low back, hip flexors, glutes, and hamstrings.
  • Your low back needs to be in a very tight arch. Now you need to suck as much air into your belly as you can and then push hard into your belt.
  • The squat movement should be started by your butt pushing backwards and then down. You should be forcing your knees out while descending.
  • At the bottom your shins should be straight up and down.
  • The movement up should be started by your head driving back, followed by your back driving up.This should force your hips flexors to fire and before you know it, you’re back up. Pretty easy, wouldn’t you say?
  • It is very important to keep a tight arch in your back, push hard against your belt, and drive your head and back first out of the hole.

Bench Press

  • You want to get your shoulders blades down and squeezed together.
  • Get an arch and place your feet down and to the side of you. You want your feet far enough out that you can drive with your hips, but not lift your butt off the bench.
  • Next, take your grip and try to bend the bar. Get your elbows in, take a deep breath into your belly, and get a lift off. Take a breath and suck into your belly.
  • Your shoulder blades should still be tight, along with every other muscle in your body. Your legs should be supporting your body, but your butt will still be touching the bench.
  • The press should be started by lowering the bar towards your feet, then your elbows should flex. Remember to keep your elbows in while doing this.
  • The bar should hit on your upper abdomen. The upward press should be started by the triceps and leg drive at the same time. The drive should be straight up, not over the face. This is very hard to do. I haven’t even perfected it yet.


  • Start the deadlift by getting as close to the bar as possible.
  • Take a deep breath into your abdomen and push your abs out against your belt.
  • Bend over and get your grip. Then pull your butt down into position. At this point you need to tighten all of your muscles and pull the slack out of the bar. Make sure you arch your back and keep it tight.
  • Start the deadlift the same as the squat with the head first, followed by the back and up you go.
  • Do not let your hips up first.

Special Notes

  • Recovery workouts can be done with sled work if you prefer. I tend to switch when I get bored, but I like the sled better.
  • Bands are a big key to this program and can be purchased (along with the sled) from www.elitefts.com.
  • Some people like to do more triceps work, so if you feel it is not enough you can do two triceps exercises for 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • It may seem like a lot of abdominal work, but it is very important in the squat and deadlift. So do it.
  • The same goes for upper back work. If you feel you would respond to more work then you can add in another exercise for that area.
  • On recovery days I also sometimes include dumbbell curls for 3 sets of 10 reps just to keep the elbows healthy.
  • On recovery days you can also add a few supplements exercises for weak areas such as shoulders, lats, upper back, or whatever is lagging. These should be done to standard 3 sets of 10 reps and do not have to be very intense to see results. Generally speaking, if you can do 3 sets of 12 reps with a weight, then it is good to use that weight for 3 sets of 10 reps.
  • I use this program year round. If I have a meet coming up, I just work backward from the meet. My last speed bench will be 7 days from the meet, last speed squat will be 9 days from the meet, last max bench will be 12 days from the meet, and last max squat will be 14 days from the meet.
  • This program is just an outline. You need to listen to your body and adjust accordingly. If you feel any signs of over training, just back off for a while. Maybe just do the main exercise and go home. Signs of overtraining can be sleeplessness, poor digestion, headaches, unusual soreness, or irritability.
  • I recommend reading articles on www.elitefts.com because of the helpful information. You can find lots of ideas for new exercises for max effort. You can also stay up to date on new training ideas.