I am often asked, how do we recover from two max effort workouts a week on top of two high-volume speed days? The two max effort workouts are done at least 80% of the year. The remainder of the year, they are replaced by high-volume hypertrophy days aimed at increasing strength in lagging muscle groups.
A speed bench workout can account for 12,000 pounds, not counting special exercises. A squat speed day can be 10,000-12,000 pounds plus special exercises. One reason we use a three-week pendulum wave is for speed benching. We use a rotational system of change.
Exercises that accommodate resistance are changed every two or three weeks, i.e., bands, chains, weight releasers, or the lightened method. Close, wide, and medium grips are constantly interchanged, as well as the special exercise with barbells or dumbbells. The volume must fluctuate as well. We change the strength curve by using different board loading, and of course on max effort day, we constantly change the barbell lifts.
This enables us to break a record almost 100% of the time. Our lifters have the opportunity to set new standards each week whether using no gear, light gear, or our best and strongest gear.
The squat is structured in the same manner. Different exercises, different bars, and changing stances and gear are ways to avoid accommodation. For the deadlift, changing your stance from conventional to sumo, ultra-wide, or very close will help with restoration. Do rack pulls on different pins or standing on a 2- or 4-inch box, and always change special exercises.
People are afraid of change, but what got you where you are may not get you where you want to be. But what about conditioning, or GPP (general physical preparedness)? Westside uses numerous special means for recovery, for example, water therapy (both cold and hot), saunas, infrared, steam, chiropractic, ART, eating correctly, and using supplements. I highly recommend my favorite supplements: Musclepharm and Atlarge Nutrition.
Now let’s get to small workouts for the upper body. I prefer traction while stretching. Indian clubs are ancient but still work great. They were used by wrestlers in India. They were later called fitness clubs because they were popular in early fitness establishments. There are many ways to swing them, i.e., clockwise or counterclockwise, over the head, swinging them in front of the body in a centrifugal force fashion, or one over the head while one is held across in front of the body. The methods are countless. They are great for your grip and rotators. Every movement tractions the wrists, elbows, and shoulders. We also use a mace. It is a very large, very heavy, and long Indian club. There are many varieties of motion, much like swinging a baseball bat.
A second traction and grip developer as well a prehab and rehab device is battling ropes and chains. John Brookfield popularized them a few years ago, and they caught on with MMA, then football, and now Westside. I had a shoulder socket replacement, and when I started using the ropes, I found it made my shoulders feel great. I started with a 50 foot 1 ½ inch rope and then starting using a 2-inch rope to make it a harder workout. I use a moderate tempo for rehab and prehab. I have used a 2-inch rope for an hour straight. I then bought a half-inch chain to battle with and do a lot of 10-15-minute intervals. It does wonders for my shoulders as well as my conditioning. At 63 years old, I must do several small workouts per week to keep up with my Westside teammates. I think everyone should do them on a regular basis. Like Indian clubs, they traction the wrists, elbows, and shoulders, and traction is the key to longevity. Speaking of traction, Jump-Stretch Flexbands are seen all the time on ESPN football and baseball fields and on the basketball courts. Dick Hartzell is the founder of Jump-Stretch Flexbands. This band system is used everywhere he goes, and he goes everywhere. I thank Dick every day when we put bands on the bar with weights. They have turned Westside into a very dominant power gym.
Then there’s the bandbell bar. Tony Ramos, Westside’s 181 and 198 pounds lifter, came up with the concept of hanging kettlebells on a bar with mini-bands. After the initial concept, Jim Seitzer, a long-time Westsider, developed a bar that vibrates. I used this bar to bench 300 pounds in a T-shirt three months after shoulder socket replacement. Did you hear that doctors?
Another excellent upper body GPP workout is upper body sled work. Whatever you can do with a dumbbell, you can do with a sled and upper body strap, such as curls, extensions, upright rows, pecs, and external rotation work. Get fit and strong at the same time with sled work.
What about lower body workouts? Well, let’s start with sled work for the lower body. There are two methods. The first is for the development of the posterior chain. Here, one walks with a long stride on the heels. After touching the heel, pull through immediately on each touch. This builds the glutes, hips, hamstrings, and calves. This will increase your squat or deadlift immediately. There is no pressure on the spine. A side note: the abs are used on each step. For running or sprinting, it will eliminate deceleration to a large degree. The second method is to stay on the balls of the feet. This is similar to the pose method by Dr. Nicholas Romanov, which teaches you to reduce recovery time. The trip length can vary from 60 yards for power sports to long distance, up to 3 miles for a marathon runner. Try walking backward for knee rehab and thigh development. A powerlifter should do no less than six trips of 60 yards to a maximum of 12 trips for rehab and restoration. Other varieties are walking sideways, or forward with straps held below knee level for hamstrings. Light belt squats can take the stress off the spine while still increasing leg strength. Use both wide and close stances for sled work.
Don’t forget that glute/ham raises are amazing for restoration. In the former Soviet Union, 600 glute/ham raises were done a month as maintenance. That amounts to 20 per day. That’s doable, right? The glute/ham raises can be rotated with Jump-Stretch Flexband leg curls. For a fast small workout for the entire body try box squatting for 5 minutes without replacing the bar in the rack. It does not matter how many reps you do in the 5 minutes as long as you finish with a squat. Also try doing light deadlifts for 5 minutes without resting the bar on the ground. The Olympic lifts can also be done in the same fashion. This method of training is common for grapplers as well as the great Olympic and world weightlifting champion V. Alexeyev, the first man to clean 500 pounds, which he did in 1970 in Columbus, Ohio.
There are too many workouts to mention in one sitting, but make up your own small workouts lasting as little as 20 minutes up to 45 minutes on average. By doing the right amount of small workouts for strength, endurance, and prehab, you can eliminate rehab as well as soreness and a lagging muscle group. For a powerlifter, it depends on your level of strength how many extra workouts a week you do. For a beginner, I found two extra small workouts works best, one for the bench and one for the squat and deadlift. At an advanced level, four works well, two for the upper body, benching muscle groups and two for the low back, hamstrings, and hips. I don’t consider abs work a workout because it is a necessity and can be done several times per week. The same goes for stretching. You must maintain your flexibility. It can be difficult when you gain mass with years of heavy resistance training. One must be in excellent shape to make excellent totals. America is getting fatter by the day. You are an athlete, so look like it and you will perform better. Everyone must get plenty of rest to do their best. Eight hours of sleep is a must. And last but not least, learn to relax and yet be motivated.
I like to read a good book on occasion, like Call of the Wild, or watch a motivational movie. My favorite movie is Shogun Assassin. In the movie, the Shogun sends his henchman to kill his assassin, who he now fears will kill him, but the henchman kills the assassin’s wife instead but spars their child, Daigoro. As the shogun assassin finds the wife and child, bloody, the wife says “my bad dream has come true” and wipes blood on Daigoro’s face as she dies. Later, the assassin sits Daigoro in front of him with a pretty ball on one side and a sword on the other. He tells the young Daigoro that if he chooses the ball, he will join his mother in death, but if he chooses the sword, he will join him on a road of vengeance. After a moment Daigoro chooses the sword, and indeed he travels a bloody road of vengeance.
This is the Westside way. If you choose the ball, you’re done, but if you choose the sword, you will be on the road called kickin’ ass.