My training techniques are a little unique. They are also heavily influenced by many of the old, hard-to-find Russian translated training texts. Over the last five years, my training system (that I use both on myself and on some of my athletes) has evolved substantially. What you will see in this article is its most up-to-date form. Leading into my most recent meet, I purchased some new tools to allow me to aggressively pursue methodologies that I have planned to employ for quite some time.

In this article, I am going to be very specific about how I approach my training. When it comes to my training cycle, you will find a little variation due to analyzing the data I collected and refining my methods accordingly. I am going to focus on the squat, as it is where this method was implemented. I’m going to tell you everything about this training cycle, which produced both a PR and a world record squat.

Basic Weekly Template

The weekly layout includes one training day each for the three competition lifts, and one extra day that accomplishes recovery, work capacity, and additional volume.

As part of refining my methods, I’m not currently doing any additional work capacity (often referred to as GPP) training. I have found that my current layout keeps me at an adequate level. If my work capacity is subpar, I will typically add in extra HIIT-based sessions on off days early in a training cycle. I may train work capacity if I have a specific conditioning-based event coming up, such as the Guinness World Record for deadlift in one minute that I performed three weeks prior to the meet I discuss in this article. As my primary goal was the meet, I did not do any specific training for that event.

There are no traditional speed days in my schedule. With an overloaded work and life schedule, my goal with training is to be efficient and do only the essentials. This is how both work capacity and speed days were dropped from my schedule. Both the decision to drop these days several years back and also my approach to developing work around not having them in my schedule are what ended up being the impetus for developing my current methods. Here is the basically weekly template, with the core movement and accessory muscles trained:

  • Monday — Pressing Day: Triceps and Delts
  • Wednesday — Squatting Day: Adductors, Glutes, and Pressurization of Core
  • Thursday — Circuit Training: Upper Back, Triceps, Shoulders, Pecs, Quads, Hamstrings
  • Saturday — Deadlift Day: Lats

Max Effort / Heavy-Speed

Max effort squat work is done at near-maximal loads that are submaximal enough to just achieve a target bar speed. Volume and weight are regulated by bar speed. It may sound like a complex process to take this from theory and put it into practice for training, but it is not.

The primary goal is to move the majority of the weight at a desired speed. To understand what I’m talking about, just imagine (or review) an optimal opening attempt at a meet. It should be a heavy enough weight that you are required to be fully engaged mentally and physically to execute the lift. It’s also explosive and generally something you can triple, though. This is how your desired bar speed should look.

It should be a weight that if you did a triple with it, the final rep would be challenging and slow. From a training perspective, we want to practice this desired speed with heavy weights. For this reason, you will need to drop that last rep so that all reps will be at the desired speed. This is the essence of heavy-speed work.

(Submaximal weight at desired bar speed) x 2

If you only work up to that submaximal weight for a double, you will not achieve a very good training response from that workout. To overcome this, you will hit the same weight for doubles for as many sets as you can until the bar speed drops by approximately 10-15 percent over the first couple sets. You may be able to hit three to five sets before you see this drop-off. When you do this, instead of working up to a heavy triple with only 66 percent of your reps being at the desired speed, you have now hit 90 of your reps in the desired speed range. With the increased number of sets, you also have significantly more opportunities to practice your setup and mental preparation for heavy sets.

(Submaximal weight at desired bar speed) x 2 x 5 sets

At this point, you have hit enough reps at a heavy weight to stimulate a significant training response with regard to hypertrophy and strength. You have also done your “speed” work. Given the increased requirements of technique, setup, mental preparation, and muscle recruitment of each of these sets, this heavy-speed work should transfer more greatly than traditional speed work in regards to improving your max effort work.

There has been research that supports the above set and rep scheme: a study found that 7x3 and 3x7 approaches yielded similar hypertrophy results, yet the 7x3 program yielded greater strength gains.(1)

chris duffin elite performance center 052214

While I use the GymAware system at my gym, Elite Performance Center (EPC), it is not a requirement to manage this type of training. It was essential in developing and testing the parameters, but training with these methods can be done using other tools:

  • Video record and analyze each set
  • Use a secondary observer (must consistently use the same person)
  • Employ measurement devices (phone/tablet app, Tendo Unit, GymAware, etc.)

If you use an observer, it will require that you and your training partners are very diligent in being honest with feedback. Otherwise, weight will creep up and speed will creep down. It can be effective to use bar speed as a competition with your training partners. At the end of every round of sets, the observer will call out the winner and also whichever lifter dropped in speed. This also increases training intensity.

At EPC, we use the GymAware unit, which has tremendous data collection abilities. It also compiles all information into an online database. You can see some of the basic graphs in many of my videos. The GymAware is similar to the Tendo Unit but, in my opinion, is significantly more advanced in regards to its capability and what it provides.

With the established set and rep scheme, you will likely see many parallels with a conjugate approach when you look at the larger training cycle. Each week you will take the same exercise and do one of the following:

  • Attempt to add more sets before speed drops off
  • Advance weight and maintain sets, reps, and bar speed
  • Improve bar speed within the same set and rep scheme

This will be done for three-week cycles (sometimes longer) and then the squat movement will be changed to another variation. These variations can be made by altering chains, boxes, bars, or bands. In this training cycle, I relied heavily on the Safety Squat Bar. I did this primarily because I didn’t want people to be aware of where my strength was. Outside pressures of “when are you going to compete?” and “what are your goals?” are very distracting to my training. Regardless of the reason, I think the SSB work played a huge role in the success of my training program.

When a stalling point is reached, or just every couple cycles, drop down to a five-rep workout using the same methods. This is to break up the monotony and send a different signal for change to the body. It is not a bad idea to even hit a very high (around 20) rep week for the same reason. I do these weeks even more rarely on the squat than other lifts, because they are so challenging. The very high rep seems to prep the body for added stressors in the following weeks. They are also high speed/moderate weight by default.

Meet Prep

A couple months out from my meet, I began mixing in an occasional test week with a regular bar and competition wraps. These days were used to do a single heavy set and determine where I was for the upcoming meet.

One disadvantage of using the SSB is that the bar weight on your shoulders is less because it is a more difficult movement. Leading into the meet, I began to add heavy chains at ten weeks out in order to prepare my body for holding heavier loads. I like to use very heavy chains at 300-pounds with a full deload at the bottom. With this approach, you are required to be very explosive out of the hole and must do so before the massive chain weight kicks in and crushes you. Notice when you review my training cycle that even though I was still using the SSB, I targeted an 850-pound total load at lockout.

After the chain cycle, I switched over to a competition squat bar with slight band tension. The slight band tension mimicked the carryover I would get from using my competition wraps instead of my training wraps.

The final few weeks were spent dialing in my attempts and deloading.


It’s also important to note that I have been influenced heavily by the success of my own injury rehabilitation, as well as the athletes I coach, to regularly include dynamic neuromuscular stabilization (DNS) based movement patterns as cues. I do work based on these methods prior to every workout. This has significantly improved my motor function, as well as greatly improved my assessments of my readiness for training. I may often tailor my workout at the last minute based on what I learn in this warm-up and assessment period.

If stretching or foam rolling are needed, I do them on off days.

Assistance Work and Deadlift Day

For each workout, I typically target three additional movements after the max effort movement. These exercises are anywhere from three to four sets and 10-20 reps, depending on the movement. On squat days, I fell short of this target and only hit 1-2 movements due to the amount of time spent doing multiple sets.

The day after squat day I do full-body circuit training on my lunch break. This allows me to hit a workout that flushes me body, assists in recovery, and allows me to mix in areas that I feel are lagging in training volume for the week. It also challenges my conditioning due to the short rest periods. This helps with keeping my work capacity at an appropriate level. I was consistent at hitting these sessions during the entire training cycle.

Deadlift day falls three days after squat day for me. I do not do specific posterior chain work besides sumo deadlifting. My theory is that working up to a 700-800-pound deadlift and then doing high-rep, deep, bent-over rows with 500 pounds should hit the glutes and hamstrings enough. Even if it is indirect work, I believe it to be adequate, and I focus instead on lat development.

Actual Training Cycle

Below is the list of max effort sets taken directly from my training log. There may be some slight deviation from what is laid out in the article. This is due to the efforts I made to review data and refine my approach over the period of time. All of those experiences allowed me to arrive at the methods I have written here.

  • Week 49, 2013 – SSB to 14” 605 x 2, 2
  • Week 46, 2013 – SSB to 14” 655 x 2, 2, 2, 2
  • Week 46, 2013 – 505 x 20
  • Week 47, 2013 – SSB to 14” 671 x 2, 2
  • Week 48, 2013 – SSB to 14” Box 600 x 5, 5, 5, 5, 5
  • Week 49, 2013 - SSB 638 x 2, 2, 2
  • Week 50, 2013 – SSB 650 x 2, 2, 2
  • Week 51, 2013 – SSB 655 x 2, 2, 2, 2, 2
  • Week 52, 2013 – Did not record due to being out of town.
  • Week 1, 2014 – 800 x 1 (Testing week 1)
  • Week 2, 2014 – SSB 655 x 2, 2, 2, 2
  • Week 3, 2014 – 805 x 3 (Testing week 2)
  • Week 4, 2014 – SSB 605+300 chain x 1
  • Week 5, 2014 – Missed squat session due to schedule.
  • Week 6, 2014 – SSB 550+300 chain x 3, 3, 3
  • Week 7, 2014 – SSB 515+300 chain x 5, 5 (I only had 45 minutes in the gym, so I just got a couple sets in for a training effect)
  • Week 8, 2014 – 781+20/bands x 2, 2, 2
  • Week 9, 2014 – 803+20/bands x 2, 2
  • Week 10, 2014 – 826 x 2, 2; 838 x 2
  • Week 11, 2014 – Guinness World Record 405x40 in 60 seconds
  • Week 12, 2014 – 875 x 0, 858 x 1 (done day following Guinness Event)
  • Week 13, 2014 – 815 x 1 (full mock meet in 2hrs)
  • Week 14, 2014 – Deload
  • Week 15, 2014 – 860 competition squat @ 220