I receive many emails daily, and training is the consistent subject of them. Drawing up the perfect cycle or routine has become extremely important to most, if not all, in hopes of becoming stronger. This for me has never changed. Since day one in November of 2005 when I first stepped in a powerlifting gym to “powerlift,” I completely committed myself to making sure that everything, every day was going to be as productive as possible to enhance my strength. So it began…research and more research, paper after paper, printouts and magazines, interviews and phone calls. One thing that I’ve never been able to do is look at a paper and perform a set rep scheme as prescribed. It just always seemed extremely too generic and universal to me. But, by looking at templates, I was able to finally find one system that really appealed to me—the Russian volume sequence.

I first started with changing a few things here and there. Slowly, more and more things would change as I learned more about the sport. However, more importantly, I learned more about myself. I won’t bore you with all the little details of the changes so I’ll jump straight into the system that has now become know as the “SOS way.”

SOS stands for Society of Strength, the label that my first, and current, training partners labeled my home gym. The original template that began and helped develop the “SOS way” is a template by Boris I. Sheiko. It is a CMS/MS template that requires a degree of strength and experience in order for you to really maximize its potential so be aware of those factors first.

From that template, I developed a bench system, a squat system, and a deadlift system. Much of it has been tweaked, but the crucial part of the template—the volume and intensity—has for the most part been left alone. One part of the template that differs almost completely is the first day of the template. It has been completely trashed and flipped. One thing that was common with all cycles of the training was the lack of strength gained in the bench press and the lack of top end strength in the squat. The squat was evident more so with us because of the multi ply issue. For a raw lifter, if it comes out of the hole, you’re standing up with it. This isn’t so with multi ply.

So, details, details, details. I’ll start with the bench because to this day it is still my splinter, my carrot cake, my stubborn fat below the belly button, the weed on my lawn. This lift has suffered in my gym. I finally got tired of tweaking this and that so I picked up the phone and called two good friends, Shawn Frankl and Rick Hussey. Without hesitation, my first words were, “I need a BIG f***ing bench. I can’t figure it out.”

From that discussion with Shawn and from training with Rick, I put together a three-week wave for us at the gym. Don’t think this is for once a BIG cycle. I don’t think there is such a BIG cycle. They just have a mastermind in Rick calling the shots and getting them stronger. But, back to the SOS way…

So far, I’m happy to report that for the first time, the entire gym has been progressing and hitting PRs in progressive fashion without any delays, plateaus, or bumps. The first day of our week is Sunday. As most of you know, Sheiko-based routines have a bench day multiple times a week with either a deadlift or squat per day. Sunday is our squat and shirt bench day. We lift in our shirts every Sunday. To lift big weights in a shirt, you have to train in a shirt. In week one, the purpose is for us to hold heavy weight in our hands and get us comfortable with our chest weights. So we perform triples on the 3-board. Once we pass our max chest weight, we can either continue to a max triple or hit singles to a max single. After the max single, we subtract 30 from that and perform a single off a 2-board. If we stayed with triples, then we’d perform the last weight that we tripled off a 2-board.

Here’s a visual for those who like pictures instead of words:

Week 1: Max shirted single = 501

Raw chest, 90%, 325

Shirted, 3-board, 365 X 3, 405 X 3, 495 X 3, 515 X 3

Option 1: 525 X 3, 535 X 3, 545 X 3, 555 X 3, 555 X 1 off 2-board

Option 2: 545 X 1, 565 X 1, 585 X 1, 605 X ????? (have yet to hit this)

For the rest of the week, our second day is Tuesday. On that day, we perform the original ever so popular Sheiko pyramid. This is a 50–80% sequence with 2–12 reps and as many as 8–15 sets per day. This is done raw five weeks out from a meet. We begin to perform this off a 2-board in metal militia fashion to help us improve proper shirt groove—low and then to the face. What we are noticing from this is that our raw strength does not ever decline, but best of all, it acts as active recovery. If you have sore or tender elbows, after this day, you are back to almost 100 percent health.

Our third day of benching is Thursday. On this day, we perform six sets of triples in speed bench fashion with either bands or chains. After the six sets, we begin week one with a 3-board and perform triples adding a band with every set from 4–6 sets. For week two, we use a 4-board instead of a 3-board, and in week three, we use a 5-board.

To return to shirted benching and continue the three-week wave, I’ll pick up on week two. On this week, because the bar travels lower, we emphasize working form and technique with elbows out, head down, and heels pressing hard against the floor. Now, instead of triples like the 3-board, we use doubles here. However, we use the same option protocol. At the end, we move down to a 1-board.


Week 2: Max shirted single = 501

Raw chest, 90%, 325

Shirted 2-board, 365 X 2, 405 X 2, 455 X 2, 475 X 2, 495 X 2, 515 X 2

Option 1: 525 X 2, 535 X 2, 545 X 2 and then a 1-board 515 X 1 (subtract 30 lbs from the last set on a 2-board)

Option 2: 535 X 1, 555 X 1, 565 X 1, 575 X ????? (haven’t hit this yet)

Our last week of the three-week wave is tough. The volume isn’t higher, but the distance that the bar travels is longer and really gets us in the work capacity department. Sometimes a little verbal abuse or some slapping and calling out helps the guys move forward. On this day, we use the 2-board still, but we also use the 1-board and half-board.

Week 3: Max Shirted single = 501

Raw chest, 90%, 325

Shirted 2-board, 365 X 2, 405 X 2, 455 X 2; 1-board, 475 X 1, 495 X 1, 515 X 1, 525 X 1; half-board, 505 X 1

The final note to this is DO NOT FAIL. If you stay within your limits and stay within your appropriate weights, you won’t overtrain. At least, don’t overdo it to the point were you begin to hate coming to the gym. The volume is high, and this is what creates strength. Stay within your limits, know when to stop, and know when to move forward. Failure after failure screws with you psychologically and physically with this amount of volume so understand its purpose.

The squat

As stated above, on Sundays we begin with the squat and bench. We do foam low box squats with heavy band tension—40 percent bar weight—and we add 40 lbs of chains each week beginning with 40 lbs on week one, and of course, ending with 120 lbs on week three. For all weeks, this is done for six sets of two reps.

Week 1: Max suited single, 804

Bar weight, 325 + big choke blue bands + 40 lbs chain X 6 sets X 2 reps

Week 2: Max suited single, 804

Bar weight, 325 + big choke blue bands + 80 lbs chain X 5 sets X 2 reps,

375 X 1 set X 2 reps

Week 3: Max suited single, 804

Bar weight, 325 + big choke blue bands + 120lbs chain X 5 sets X 2 reps,

375 X 1 set X 2 reps, 415 X 1 set X 2 reps

The second day of squats is all based on day two of Sheiko’s template for squats. The only difference is that the templates ask for two squat sessions in one training day and we only do one. We do a lot of raw work before we add our gear though.

Here’s a breakdown, and because it’s fully based on Sheiko’s template, here’s a four-week wave during the preparation phase (6–9 weeks out from a meet).

Max suited single, 804

Max raw, 585

Raw work, 145 X 10, 235 X 5, 325 X 5, 415 X 5 reps, 485 X 4 reps

Briefs, 565 X 2 sets X 3 reps

Suited, week 1, 6 sets X 3 reps with 80%

Suited, week 2, 3 sets X 2 reps with 80%, 3 sets X 1 reps w/90%

Suited, week 3, 3 sets X 3 reps with 80%, 3 sets X 2 reps w/85%

Suited, week 4, 3 sets X 3 reps with 80%, 3 sets X 2 reps w/85%

That is what our preparation cycle looks like year round. It changes five weeks out from a meet, which is when we use Sheiko’s competition cycle numbers instead.

Last but not least, there’s the deadlift. This is my favorite lift even though it has given me some problems lately. I pulled 644 a year ago and since then, I have pulled 650. It’s not that I’m not doing things right. Six hundred and fifty looks easier and easier every time I pull. The only problem is I get so fired up for this lift and so intense that I throw all of my form to hell and end up looking like I have never been taught how to pull.

We train the deadlift twice a week. Most visitors think we’re crazy about this and maybe so. The breakdown for us has been great though. One day is hard and long while the second day is hard and fast. We use Sheiko template numbers for this lift as well, but I have maneuvered it and butchered it a bit to make it work for us a little better. So far, we have had one guy go from 485 to 545 in less than a year. Another guy went from 545 to 615, and our newest member went from 565 to 605 in a matter or 3–4 months. We also have this little turd, Al Caslow, who went from 555 to 650 and has been there for a year because he can’t control his temper and emotions.

We begin week one with deadlifts from the floor in our competition stance with full gear. On the second day, we perform deadlifts in both stances off a 3-inch platform against light bands. If you’re fast off the floor, it shows, and if you’re slow, it shows. It’s funny at the top. On the second week, we pull from the rack off pin number three and again do pulls from the platform on the second day. On the third week, we’re back to floor pulls in competition stance with gear and, of course, platform speed pulls. On the final week, we return to the rack for knee high pin pulls from the number six hole finished with platforms pulls on day two.

Deadlifts: Max 650

Week 1

Day 1: 5 sets X 3 reps, floor suited pulls with 80%, 525 lbs

Day 2: 3-inch platform pulls with light bands, 8 sets X 1 rep @ 60%

Week 2

Day 1: 4 sets X 2 reps, rack pulls number 3 with 85%, 555 lbs

Day 2: 3-inch platform pulls with light bands, 9 sets X 1 rep @ 60%

Week 3

Day 1: 3 sets X 3 reps, 3 sets X 2 reps, floor suited pulls with 80% and 85%

Day 2: 3-inch platform pulls with light bands, 10 sets X 1 rep @ 60%

Week 4

Day 1: 4 sets X 2 reps, rack pulls number 6 with 90%

Day 2: 3-inch platform pull with light bands, 8 sets X 1 rep @ 60%

Any questions?

If you’re looking for some information about this plan and how I have progressed over time, it’s easy considering I have only been involved in this sport for two years and have a handful of meets under my belt. My first meet was on April 14, 2006. I competed at 165 lbs, and I squatted 585, benched 385, and deadlifted 555. For my second meet on June 2, 2006, at the Senior Nationals, I was able to get some better two ply gear and went 660 in the squat, 424 in the bench, and 562 in the deadlift. My next meet wasn’t until April 24, 2007 in Chicago for the junior nationals. I went 745 in the squat, 463 in the bench, and 644 in the deadlift.

After that I had an amazing time not because of performance but because of the caliber of athletes around me at the 2007 ProAm. This was my fourth meet, and I was a nervous wreck. However, I managed to hit 745 in the squat, 485 in the bench, and 625 in the deadlift. My latest meet was on November 10, 2007, and I managed an 804 squat, a 501 bench, and a 650 deadlift. My next meet will be UPA sanctioned in St. Louis on March 29, 2008. So far things are looking ok.