Archive for category Beginners and Intermediates

Keeping it simple- Simple Strength

Some classic Wendler.  Keeping it simple



“Lifting has come full circle. Gone are the mantras of “knees out, chest up, heels down, chin down, eyes straight, elbows in, elbows out, shoulders back, ass down.” I now have a simple three-word mantra before every lift – Strong And Fast.

Get your technique down so that you no longer have to be a slave to thought. Be a master of success, not a struggling student.”
– Jim Wendler

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Olympic lift instructional videos

I found this excellent instructional video. I would prefer to see lifters obtaining instruction from someone who knows what they are doing. But this is a lot better than taking advice from someone who can’t demonstrate the lifts.

Coach Hatch Instructional Videos –

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Assistance work

Hi Craig

I have my first powerlifting comp in 6 weeks. Can you tell me what assistance work I can do to get me ready.

I train 4 days a week:

Monday- squat
Wednesday- bench
Friday- deadlift
Saturday- extras



Hi Jennifer

My approach to assistance work is to keep thing pretty simple. We want to do what ever we can to improve but we should recognise that big strength gains are not going to occur in 6 weeks.

I would suggest the following:

Monday: Use this day to work your quads and calves. Powerlifters often overlook these. I like to give the quads some low rep and high rep work. Calves are important for stability when you squat. I save posterior chain until Friday. I suggest the following.

Hack squat- 10,8,6,8,10 reps
Leg press- 4 x 25 reps
Calve raises- 4 x 10 reps

Wednesday: In this work out I think you should target the chest, shoulders and arms. Building a strong upper body is essential for a strong bench. With a novice like yourself who is still getting used to the 20 kg bar, I suggest we use it a lot and keep it really simple.

Incline barbell press- 10,8,6,8,10 reps
Seated barbell press- 10,8,6,8,10 reps
Close grip bench press- 10,8,6,8,10 reps
Barbell curls- 10,8,6,8,10 reps

Friday: Posterior chain. After deadlifts I want you to work the hamstrings and lower back in particular but also the traps. Shrugs are an excellent movement and high reps are a great grip enhancer. Romanian deadlifts are great for teaching lifters to keep the bar close to the body. Upper back is also included:

Power shrugs- 4 x 15
Romanian deadlifts- 4 x 8 reps
Cable rows- 10,8,6,8,10 reps
Front lat pulldowns- 10,8,6,8,10 reps

Saturday- The extra day is a good day to fill in the holes. I like to include a shoulder movement, a tricep movement and a bicep movement. As you are a novice there is no need to complicate things.

Seated barbell press- 4 x 8-10 reps
Close grip bench press- 4 x 8-10 reps
Tricep pushdowns- 4 x 25 reps
Barbell curls- 4 x 8-10 reps

Keep things simple and follow this for the next 5 weeks. Try to add more weight but not at the expense of good technique.

Keep in touch.


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Watering down strength

I have been thinking…

Today I watched a Division 1 Rugby squad having a training session. They were doing there max reps with their bodyweight on the bench press. What I saw was concerning but not surprising. Out of about 20 guys, only 2 managed to get 10 reps or more. Most got 1 or 2 and some got none. 10 reps on bodyweight is a pretty average measure of strength for a regular gym goer. These guys are athletes. They play Division 1 Rugby and 10 reps on their bodyweight should be a given. But it wasn’t.

What does it mean? It doesn’t mean that they are weak because they are not. It does mean that they lack any base of strength. It’s clear to me that they have not been training for strength.

This scenario got me thinking about the wider issue of strength. This particular group does spend a fair amount of time in the gym. Enough to do a lot better on the strength front. But the problem is that they do not use this time to train for strength. The emphasis is on circuit training using a mixture of weight training and other aerobic activity. This hybrid approach looks good and makes everyone feel good because it produces sweat but it doesn’t get you strong.

I don’t want to be negative. Circuit training is a lot better than nothing but it’s not going to get you strong. And the scenario did highlight for me that there is too much fancy stuff going on with strength. There seems to be this view that you can get strong from doing circuit training. This is what I term the watering down of strength. It seems extraordinary to me that anyone would actually believe that circuit training is going to build strength.

I believe that there is a need to get back to basics. Training with bands, one legged movements, swiss balls, box jumps, kettlebells should all be put away until you have built a base of strength. This should to apply to all sportspeople. And to anyone who goes to the gym and wants to get strong. There is a fixation with innovation and it just annoys me. Get back to basic core movements and build a base using barbells, dumbbells and plates.

I do believe that a lot of the watering down of strength is driven by PT’s who want to show a point of difference. Here’s a thought . Why not get back to basics and build some strong clients? That would be a big point of difference.

A basic foundation of strength needs to be the number one priority. I compare it to the foundations of a building. Guys talk to me about power, speed, explosiveness. These guys have no idea of what they actually do want. They might have seen a College Football player doing box jumps. What they didn’t see was the 16 weeks of squats, bench presses and deadlifts that the athlete had also performed. Start at the beginning. Do some hard work, get stronger and then think about some of the fancy stuff.

There’s my little rant. I’m not hating on guys and girls for being in the gym. Something is always going to be better than nothing. And I know that some guys and girls will still want to do CrossFit and other aerobic based classes. That’s great but don’t pretend that you are going to get strong doing these. Because you won’t. It’s really not that hard. You need to do a simple strength program with basic compound movements and consistent application. This will result in progress.

bigger stronger smarter


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Eastside Comp

Friday push pull. Great to test 1 rep maxes. Fun comp with lots of good people having a go. Wanker free zone remains.


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Competition week

There are a number of theories about the last week leading up to a competition. I think the most important consideration is the seriousness of the competition. The pending club lift at Eastside this week is relatively low key and really more of a chance to “have a go”. Therefore I suggest a less scientific approach to peaking.

The competition is on the Friday. Therefore I suggest that you consider the following:

Monday- squat and legs. I would keep any squatting (and deadlifing) on this day very light. Let’s say 40% of 1RM for a set of 5. I would still train my legs hard as you normally would. The competition is low key and you have a few days to recover.

Tuesday- bench and upper body. I would keep the benching light- again say 40% of 1RM. Again I would still train hard for the rest of the workout.

Wednesday and Thursday- I would recommend rest and recovery. If you must train I would keep things light and stay away from big compound movements.

Friday is competition day. I would rest on Saturday and Sunday and sets some goals for an inspired return Monday.

I always tell my daughter that there are two rules:

1. Do your very best;
2. Have fun.

bigger stronger smarter


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Deadlift form II

Here is one of my favourite raw lifers. Konstantinov pulling 380 kg for 4 reps.

You would never teach someone to deadlift like this. But when you look at his form he does all of the things I talk about.

– relaxed set up but tight at the bottom
– uses his legs
– bar close to body
– drives with his hips
etc etc etc.

The round back is something your average PT will look at and say no way. Your average PT is a pussy who either doesn’t deadlift or who maxes out on 120 kg. That’s what Konstantinov weighs. He has a back of steel and I don’t expect he will be having too many back issues.

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