FitTips for One and All - Vol. II, No.11

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FitTips for One and All
Volume II, Number 11

Presented by Fitness for One and All
Director: Gary F. Zeolla

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I would like to wish all readers of this newsletter a Merry Christmas!

Training Routine Format

Part Two

by Gary F. Zeolla

Part One of this article presented my general workout format and details on the scheme I use for my warm-up and work sets. This second part will discuss the importance of backing off on training intensity occasionally, how to modify the above routine for general strength training and fitness purposes, and related issues.

Intensity Back-off/ Contest Frequency

It's not possible to go at full intensity for every workout year-round. To try to do so will lead to burn-out both physically and emotionally. So my practice is to back-off on intensity after the week of full gear workouts and after each contest. Specifically, after the week of full gear workouts, I drop the weights for the powerlifts by about 10 pounds for each set, or by enough that I will be able to get the top number of reps for the rep range for each set without having to go "all-out." I then increase the weights the next couple of weeks in such a manner so that by the third workout I'm going at full intensity.

Along with this, when I start my new assistance exercise after the week of full gear workouts, I try to pick the weights so that for the first couple of workouts I'm working hard, but nowhere at full intensity. So again, it is not until about the third workout that I'm working at full intensity. So this gives me a couple of weeks every couple of months where I don't need to get fully psyched up and go all out on my work sets.

After a contest, I take at least a week off of lifting. I then find I need to drop my weights on the powerlifts by about 10% from what I was handling before the contest. I then plan on it taking about 1-2 months to get the weights back to where they were pre-contest. But what this means is, my plans are to enter only 2-3 contest a year and to never enter two contests that are less than about three months apart.

By limiting myself in this manner, I have been able to significantly increase my total at each contest I have entered since I started competing again in the spring of 2003. To try to enter more contests than this or to enter contests closer together would only ensure that my lifts and total would stagnate at best or even drop from contest to contest. In fact, this is what cost me winning a second National title back in my college lifting days.

I had won USPF National Collegiates at 114s way back in 1981. By 1982, I had moved up to 123s and entered Pennsylvania State Collegiates in February. At that contest, I totaled 1095 and easily won my weight class and won outstanding lifter in the lightweight division. However, at National Collegiates just a month later, I only totaled 1055 and took second place. The wining total was 1075!

In retrospect, since I had already qualified for Nationals in November of the previous year, I should have skipped State Collegiates and just entered Nationals. If I had, I probably would have not only won my weight class but best lifter as well. And let me tell you, I would have much preferred to have won my weight class and outstanding lifter at Nationals than at States. The moral of the story is that you need pick your contests carefully and think long-term progress rather than short term-goals.

Modifications for Non-Powerlifters

As mentioned in part one, the routine format outlined in this article can be used by non-powerlifters, especially those who engage in strength sports like football and wrestling. It would also be good for those looking for general fitness through weight training. But a few modifications will need to be made.

First, rather than some of the specific major powerlift assistance exercises you might want to substitute other exercises that work the same body parts in their place.

Second, presses should be included after the benching movements on Day One or Three, alternating between doing them with a barbell and with dumbbells. But keep to two or three major pressing moves on each chest, shoulders, triceps day.

Third, I specify above variations of rows and cable pulls for the upper back work. That is because these moves most closely approximate the lockout on deadlifts. But non-powerlifters will want to also include an upper back exercise that pulls down from overhead, specifically variations of pull-ups and lat. pulldowns.

Fourth, there obviously would not be a need for the full gear workouts. Unless you are a powerlifter, there is no reason to be using a squat or deadlifts suit or bench press shirt. For that matter, the use of a belt and wraps would be optional.

Fifth, deadlifts should be done with a conventional (close) stance. This stance works the hamstrings and lower back more than the sumo (wide) stance I utilize, and these are two often neglected areas of training.

Sixth, good mornings and stiff leg deadlifts are excellent exercises for working the low back and hamstrings. However, they are definitely "advanced" exercises. They should only be done by those who have already built up these areas with deadlifts. And much care must be taken to use correct form when doing them. So avoid them unless you are an advanced lifter and really know what you are doing or can get proper instruction. However, many gyms have machines designed to work the low back and hamstrings. And such machines can be used in their place.

Seventh, the "drops reps with back-off set" rep scheme would be good for strength athletes, except you might want to go a little higher on the reps. And with going a little higher on the reps, then you could get by with one less warm-up set for the first lift of the day. So for the first lift of the day, I would recommend the following: warm-ups, 12, 8, 5 reps; work sets, 5-6, 3-4, 8-10 reps.

Then for subsequent major moves, do one warm-up set followed by 2 work sets of 6-8, 4-5 reps. For minor exercises, do one warm-up set and 2 work sets of anywhere from 6-12 reps depending on the exercise.

For general fitness purposes, a more basically program of three straight sets would be best with the reps being a little higher, and thus one less warm-up set would be needed. So for the first lift of the day, the set/ rep scheme would be: warm-ups: 12, 8; work sets: 3 sets of 8-10 reps. Then for subsequent exercises, do one warm-up set and 2 work sets of 8-12 reps.

And finally, most people will probably want to include some cardio. The cardio should be done after the weightlifting part of the workout or on an off day. You should also include a few minutes of light cardio at the start of the workout for a general warm-up.

Below is a sample routine with these modifications.

General warm-up (5 minutes of light cardio)

Day One:
Incline Benches
Close Grip Bench
Reverse Curls
Twisting Reverse Crunches

Day Two:
Leg Presses
Lat. Pulldowns
Dumbbell Rows

Day Three:
Dumbbell Curls
Reverse Crunches
Bicycle Ab Exercise

Day Four:
Hamstring/ Low Back Machine
Leg Curls
Machine Calves


For descriptions of these exercises, see the Powerlift Assistance Exercises pages and the Proper Performance of Exercises pages.

Pressed for Time/ K.I.S.S.

If you regularly have very little time to train, the easiest way to shorten the above workouts is to shorten the rest time between sets. Taking no more than a minute or two of rest between sets would enable you to get through these workouts rather quickly. Also, if you keep the reps higher, like the above recommended format of 3 sets of 8-12 reps, this would enable less warm-ups sets to be done thus shortening the workout even further. But it should be noted that this put the emphasis on general fitness rather than strength. To focus specifically on strength requires longer rest times and lower reps.

So if your goal is mainly strength then try to do the above workouts as prescribed if you usually have time for the full workouts. But if occasionally you are pressed for time, the simplest modification to just do the first lift for that particularly workout day and go home. The powerlifts are such that just doing them works just about every muscle in the body. So you shouldn't lose anything if you only do the major lift of the day. But if you have just a little more time, I would recommend doing one of the ab exercises on Days One and Three and one of the upper back exercises on Day Two.

In fact, some powerlifters train rather successfully by doing just the powerlifts and very little else. Now I do feel that a few judiciously picked assistance exercises would enable even greater progress, hence the design of the above workouts. But the main point is, it is not necessary to do a whole bunch of different exercises. Just a few major movements and a few minor ones is all that is needed. Remember the acronym K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). For further help in this regard, see the two-part article Designing A Training Routine.

Training Logs

Even though I won't be posting full details on each of my new routines, I will continue to post my training logs showing the weights and reps I used in my workouts for the powerlifts and major assistance exercises. I'm including the latter since how much weight I handle for some of these major assistance exercises is important since these exercises approximate the effects suits and shirts provide (such as lifts done with bands and chains).

With the training logs, I will also indicate when my next contest will be and how many weeks I'll be using for each routine. And if I switch to a different rep scheme, then I'll indicate that with the training logs. See Training Log (11/30/04 - 4/16/05) for the first of these logs.


New on Fitness for One and All

Initial Christian Powerlifters Forum Posts is a new page.

Training Routines and Drop Reps (7/16/04 - 11/28/04) has been completed with all of my training weights for this time-period.

Full Gear Workouts (11/24-28/04) is a new forum post.

Training Log (11/30/04 - 4/16/05) is a new page.


Also by Gary F. Zeolla:
Darkness to Light Web site and Darkness to Light newsletter.
Christian Theology, Apologetics, Cults, Ethics, Bible Versions, and much more!


Disclaimer: The material presented in this newsletter is intended for educational purposes only. The director, Gary F. Zeolla, is not offering medical or legal advice. Accuracy of information is attempted but not guaranteed. Before undertaking any medical treatments or diet, exercise, or health improvement programs, consult your doctor. The director is in no way responsible or liable for any bodily harm, physical, mental, or emotional, that results from following any of the advice on this newsletter.

All material in this newsletter is copyrighted 2004 by Gary F. Zeolla or as indicated otherwise.