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Dave Van Skike 08-15-2008 09:54 AM

More from Pendlay
For hand wringers scared off by lots of words, nighmarish formatting and the fair use doctrine...... you'll find no relief here,

excerpts from a discussion on 5x5 from Glenn Pendlay...very helpful I found in ways to think about working with basic templates like those laid out Rippatoe's in Starting Strength and Practical Programming..

there seem to be a lot of people who do the style of training we usually call "5 by 5" for a while, then wonder "whats next".

one general comment i would make, is that if this style of training has been successfull for you, why change it? and by style of training, im not talking about one specific program, but the general style of doing whole body exercises, training the whole body or at least most of the body in each workout, and doing multiple sets not taken to failure.

i do, however, understand the mental side... you do the same thing over and over and you want something different. there are lots of ways you can change things without totally changing to a "new" program. switching back and forth between widely differing types of training isnt that good of an idea... small and systematic changes over time in what you are doing however IS a good idea.

for instance... say youve been squatting 3 times a week. how about changing one of the workouts to front squat, hell you could change 2 of the workouts to front squat. i hate leg presses, but if you really wanted to, you could squat on monday, front squat on wednesday, and leg press on friday!!! if youve been doing only rows for back, change one or two of the workouts to chinups... substitute stiff legged deadlifts for deadlifts, change mondays workout to 3 sets of 8 for a month, change fridays squat or bench workout to 5 singles, etc, etc, etc.

ive even seen people who after a while on a 3 day a week program, switched to a 4 day split, doing squats and pressing exercises on monday and thursday, back and pulling exercises on wed and saturday. i dont see this as retreating from the principles of the 5 by 5 at all. you are STILL working your whole body, or very nearly so, every training day. squats work the back, they work everything... and deadlifts or stiff legged deadlifts work the legs, not as much as squats, but they still work them. this is in fact the favored program of mike stone, probably the best ex phys guy on the planet and former head of sports science at the olympic training center.

the main thing is to go about it in a systematic way.

one of my lifters, josh wells, who made the junior world team in 2004 in weightlifting, and can jerk close to 400lbs weighing around 180lbs as a teenager, did this program about a year ago in his "off season" to try to gain some general strength.

monday, squats (5 sets of 3), push presses (3 sets of 5) then glute ham raises or reverse hypers

wednesday, snatch pulls (5 sets of 2), powercleans (5 sets of 2), chinups (5 sets of 10 with extra weight, hanging from a 2" bar)

thursday, front squats (6 sets of 2), push jerks (5 sets of 2), military press (3 sets of 5), then glute ham raises or reverse hypers.

saturday, powersnatches (5 sets of 2), clean pulls (5 sets of 5), barbell rows, (5 sets of 5)

obviously this is geared toward olympic weightlifting, and not really what most of you would be doing. im not sure many here have that much interest in doing so many snatch and clean pulls. and hes using lower reps, because of course for him strength is a bigger deal than size, but even his reps changed over time, sometimes were higher, sometimes lower. this is just as representative of the 5 by 5 training style as the simpler 3 day programs... because we did it systematically, sets across instead of failure, gradually moving the weights up, gradually adding then subtracting volume of training to force the body to adapt

the important thing is to think thru the changes, dont make too many at one time, but make them slowly and steadily.

the real value of the "5 by 5" style of training isnt that it can or will add a certain amount of muscle or strength in an 8 week cycle. the real value is that it is a framework that when used right can work for years, slowly changing and morphing along the way to fit itself to your particular goals, and making for steady progress for 3, 4, or more years. it is more than anything, a mindset. a mindset of writing your workouts down, being systematic, knowing what you are going to do before you go to the gym, having a plan, and knowing that 5lbs a month is 60lbs a year and 180lbs in 3 years.

and more than that it is a mindset of THINKING, thinking about training, and rejecting the latest and greatest thing that forces many, even most, to run from one program to the next, changing things totally every time they get bored or have a bad workout. by recording everything, thinking a lot, planning, making small changes instead of wholesale ones, going back and looking at your workout log and looking at the last month, 6 months, year, etc, and planning the next month... within a year or two you know more about your body and what to do than me or anyone else could ever tell you.

now... last comment. i have, in a big drawer, a record of every single workout i have ever done, from the time i was 15 back in 1975 to my last month of competitive training in 2003. every single one. i also have descriptions and comments, tables in the back of the logs that showed weight gain and strength gain on a yearly basis, monthly, etc. comments on what happened to weight/strength when i changed exercises, changed reps, etc. there is very little i dont know about how my body responded, what worked and what didnt, etc. you all should do the same thing. approach training like a scientist working an experiment.

Dave Van Skike 08-15-2008 09:55 AM


becky came here with a best set of 5 on the back squat of 178lbs. she is a big and strong looking girl, so i was kind of amazed that she couldnt squat more... but i witnessed her doing about that for sets a few times, and sure enough it was damn hard.

roughly 3 months ago she decided her squat wasnt going up with what she had been doing, and decided to try to do what i had been trying to get her to do... to go along with her trying a new workout i bet her $20 that she would squat 220lbs for 5 sets of 5 reps before the arnold, which as i remember it was at that time about 10 weeks away. she took the bet as her squat had been stuck for over a year and she really didnt think she could make that sort of progress in that amount of time. this is how we approached improving her squat, which is representative of how we usually do things

first workout on monday we loaded 178lbs and i told her we were going to do not one set, but 5 sets of 5 with it. she was skeptical, but willing to try. luckily we had a full training room, plenty of people to yell and scream at her. she was really grinding them out, but the second and third sets were just like the first, absolutely limit but she made them. she failed on the last rep of the 4th or 5th set, but good effort.

2 days later, we did 165lbs for 5 sets of 5. 2 days later we loaded 183lbs and she did it for two set of 5, that was on a friday.

next week on monday she did 178lbs for 5 set of 5. wednesday she did 165lbs for 5 sets of 5. friday she did 183lbs for 5 sets of 5, making all the sets.

next monday she did 183lbs for 5 sets of 5. wednesday she did 165 for 5 sets of 5, and friday she did 183lbs for 5 set of 5.

next week monday she did 183 for 5 sets of 5, and on wednesday she did 172lbs for 5 sets of 5, then on friday did 183 for 5 sets of 5.

(that was a heavy period, she was tired all the time, not seeming to get much stronger)

next monday she did 154lbs for 3 sets of 5, and on wednesday did 198lbs for one set of 5, then on friday did 187 for 5 sets of 5.

next monday she did 154lbs for 3 sets of 5, then on wednesday did 203 for one set of 5, then on friday did some front squats to max.

next monday she did 193 for 1 sets of 5, wednesday front squats to max, then friday did 198 for 5 sets of 5.

(those 3 weeks were less load, she was recovering and feeling stronger, only 2 really hard workouts in those 3 weeks, last workout a big one that showed she was recovering well nad getting much stronger)

next monday we didnt plan to go all that heavy, but she was looking strong, so we did 209 for one set of 5, rest of the week was taken off of squatting becasue of collegiate nationals.

monday we did 178 for 3 sets of 5, wednesday we did 198 for 1 sets of 5, and friday we did 215 1 sets of 5.

next monday we did 178 for three sets of 5, wednesday light front sqauts, and friday 215 for one set of 5, which surprisingly enough was a really easy set.

(these 3 weeks also easy, the sets with 209 and 215 were getting easier as she was recovering more)

based on last ffriday being easy, we tried the 220lbs for 5 sets of 5, and she made it on monday, i won the $20, which is still unpaid, and she took the rest of the week off from squatting for the arnold.

not a perfect sqaut cycle, remember that becky was training often 2 times per day doing snatches and clean and jerks, and sometimes 3 times per day. sometimes what we WANTED to do with squats was not an option based on her going to heavy weights so often on snatch and clean and jerk, and having to back off sometimes on squat to allow her to consistently lift at least %90 to %95 on the competitive lifts. becky was able to succeed with 70kilo snatches and 85kilo clean and jerks consistently throughout this training period, these weights were her maxes before we started this. she occasionally did 72 snatch and 87 clean and jerk, but she was doing 70/85 3 days a week, and doing the 70 snatch often 2 or 3 workouts a day. on her light days she did about 65 snatch and 75 or 80 clean and jerk.

her workouts looked basically like monday, wed, friday, take a morning light workout of 65snatch and 80kilo clean and jerk, then in afternoon take 70/85 and sometimes then start over and work to 70/85 again, then squat, then often in evening come back for something like 70/80. light days were done with 65/75 in the afternoon, then 65/80 in the evening. if tired, she only worked out one on light days instead of twice, or only worked out two times instead of 3 times on heavy days.

id say becky averaged about 12 workouts a week not counting the week directly before collegiate nationals... highest number of workouts was 15 in a week, lowest i think was 10.

at the arnold she did 75 snatch with a stupid miss at 77.5 that showed she was physically ready but not mentally ready, and then a solid clean and jerk with 92.5k. her squat best set of 5 went up 42lbs, with the higher weight actually being done for multiple sets.

i think her success in raising her squat was due to a few factors...

1. she was obviously ready to squat more, but for some reason wasnt. not everyone could make that much progress in a short time, she obviously had a little more in her than she was showing

2. she had never loaded really heavy, she was used to doing a certain thing and really was physciclly ready to respond to something different.

3. she was in good shape with no real injuries (her only injury is a knee problem which is left over from her former career as a track and field athletete, but with enough yelling and screaming and disgusted looks its effects on her training are minimized), so was able to do a fairly heavy loading period with about 12-15 sets of 5 a week for several weeks without breaking down too much. she also had a LOT of support in the gym to keep her motivated when she was tired and still had to do hard sets.

4. she trains with a girl who is smaller than her but outsquats her by a LOT and i suppose this pissed her off and motivated her.

5. by the end of the 4th or 5th week she was beginning to believe in what she was doing, and this gave her the confidenct to put weight on the bar and know she should be able to do it when the time came to rest a little bit and start going after the heavier weights. if you dont believe you are ready, you can fail even if you can physically do it.

we have upped the bet to double or nothing that she squats 242lbs for 1 set of 5 before senior nationals, which is about 7 weeks away.

this will be more difficult, because whe will be loading much harder with the competitive lifts as well as some things like drop snatches and other exercises picked to try to abolish her mental and physical problems catching a snatch. she will drop snatch 90kilos about 2-3 weeks out from the nationals, which will be up 10kilos from her current max. that will take some work, and that plus more snatching and clean and jerking will take a little away from her ability to squat hard. we also will not be able to load the squats with quite so many high rep sets this close to a big meet like nationals. so she will have to rely more on front squats lower volume, higher intensity training.

for our hard training for nationals, becky will approximately double the number of attamps over %90 that she takes in the snatch and clean and jerk for several weeks, along with adding in a couple of assistance exercises that she hasnt done in the past, and adding more front squats. this will make doing 5 sets of 5 in the squat with high weights impossible. so her squatting will include some workouts of 5 sets of 5 with fairly small weights, and more workouts of 1 set of 3-5 reps done at maximal weights.

James Evans 08-15-2008 10:01 AM

I like words Dave. More please.

Allen Yeh 08-15-2008 08:33 PM

What James said.

michael cooley 08-16-2008 07:47 AM

This is such terrific insight into the practical applications of 5x5 and Rippetoe's concepts -- particularly in the context of olympic lifting.

Thanks for posting this (formatting and fair use doctrine be damned!).


Steve Rogers 08-17-2008 06:11 AM

Definitely good words. I like the KISS approach.

Any thoughts on adding metcon to this? I used to do Bill Starr's "The Strongest Shall Survive" routine three days a week and ran 4 to 10 miles three days a week which seemed to work well.

Steven Low 08-17-2008 09:09 AM


Originally Posted by Steve Rogers (Post 37048)
Definitely good words. I like the KISS approach.

Any thoughts on adding metcon to this? I used to do Bill Starr's "The Strongest Shall Survive" routine three days a week and ran 4 to 10 miles three days a week which seemed to work well.

Why? Do you need fitness?

Anytime you "add" something your performance and gains (in strength in this case) are always going to suffer.

Dave Paton 08-17-2008 09:57 AM

I agree with Steven. focus on one or the other. doing both will lead to sub-optimal performance in both.

Steve Rogers 08-17-2008 02:29 PM

One always needs fitness. GPP is like insurance, it's wise to have some, but how much is enough? I've just begun competing in HIghlands Games events which biases my training toward strength, but I'm not one dimensional. I still want to maintain a good level of overall fitness.

Dave Van Skike 08-17-2008 03:41 PM


Originally Posted by Steve Rogers (Post 37070)
One always needs fitness. GPP is like insurance, it's wise to have some, but how much is enough? I've just begun competing in HIghlands Games events which biases my training toward strength, but I'm not one dimensional. I still want to maintain a good level of overall fitness.

For certain. I'm interested in how you balance that out. HG training seems to need so much skill work it's probably tough to fit in much besides the power work and skills.

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