Training Special Strengths
[Special strengths—explosive, speed, and strength speed—are trained at different velocities.]
Explosive strength is trained at high velocity. This training activity could be jumping exercises or it could be training with weights ranging from 30 percent to 40 percent on the average. If weights are used, you produce maximal force only in the beginning—the bar is too light to produce force throughout the entire range of motion due to bar deceleration.
You may use Compensatory Acceleration Training (C.A.T.), but still it is impossible to produce maximal force due to the human strength curve. Westside has solved this dilemma by using Accommodating Resistance (AR). AR is used to develop maximal tension throughout the complete range of motion.
Dr. Mel Siff in his book Supertraining coined a phrase “Combinations of Resistance Methods.” For Westside, it is accomplished by using strong rubber bands attached to the bar with different band tension measured at lockout, but there must be strong tension at the bottom of the lift. Not only do rubber bands attached to the bar provide AR, but an added bonus is that they cause an over speed eccentric effect that produces greater reversal muscle action. The greater the amount of band tension, the greater the reversal muscle action.
Westside chooses two special bars for explosive strength training that can substitute for front squatting: the safety squat bar and the Zercher squat harness.
Westside uses a three-week wave with three amounts of band tension. The number of lifts for explosive strength is 24 minimal to 36 optimal to 48 maximal. The well trained male and female can do the maximal on week one and two, and the optimal lifts on the third week. This is due to adding greater amounts of band tension each week. The tension on week one is 210 pounds of band tension for 48 lifts. The reps and sets can be six set of eight reps or eight sets of six reps. (Note: All reps must be fast as possible on the eccentric phase and the concentric phase. All squats are box squats.) On week two the band tension is 250 pounds for 48 lifts with maximal acceleration. On week three use 320 pounds of band tension for 36 lifts. Westside suggests six sets of six reps. Rest intervals must allow for adequate rest. Bar speed must be at least 1 to 1.2 m/s for developing explosive strength.
Speed strength is trained at 75 percent to 85 percent in a repeated three-week wave. This came from the data of A. D. Ermakov and N. S. Atanasov while testing 780 highly skilled weightlifters. Refer to Managing the Training of Weight Lifters by authors N. P. Laputin and V.G. Oleshko.
Olympic weightlifters must be strong in fast movements. Westside used the same percentages for years. But as of late, we have increased the percentages—not with the barbell, that remains 50 percent to 55 percent to 60 percent—but instead raised the band tension to 33 percent. This makes the top tension on week one 83 percent; week two is 88 percent, and week three is 93 percent. Why? Powerlifting is based more on strength speed or slow strength.
The eight percent increase of band tension has so far produced a 606-pound and 617-pound world record squat for a 132-pound woman. Plus, a bob sledder’s squat increased from 325 pounds to 600 pounds in 15 weeks officially, and a 670-pound squat in training in 20 weeks.
Westside suggests you increase your band tension to 33 percent for your speed strength workouts. Friday is speed strength squat and pull days. The added band tension decreases the bar velocity that in turn increases force development. Remember as motion velocity decreases, external resistance increases. Maximum force (Fmm) is attained when velocity is small, near zero. More can be found in Science and Practice of Strength Training by V. M. Zatsiorsky and W. J. Kraemer.
This wave system is repeated throughout the year to build good form and supply high volume training with the barbell. Maximum Effort (M-E) day 72 hours later supplies low volume with the barbell to avoid accommodation to the amount of barbell training. But, remember, the small special exercises make up 80 percent of the training on both days.
Strength speed is sometimes called slow strength because it is trained and developed at slow velocity. There are always problems with special training methods. If only barbell weight is used, it becomes too heavy in the bottom to overcome the load. If only band tension is used, the load will be too heavy at the top to allow the load to be started from the top of a squat. Strength speed development must incorporate the Combination of Resistance method. Westside prefers the combination of barbell weight plus band tension that exceeds the amount of bar weight. An example: 700 pounds of bands with a maximum barbell load of maybe 500 pounds. This would add up to 1,200 pounds at lockout.
Here is an example of A. J. Robert’s training that consisted of two strength methods for a major meet: A total of 700 pounds of band tension at lockout plus 510 pounds of barbell weight that equals 1,210 pounds at the top for strength. The velocity was slow—about 0.4 m/s. This effort made it possible for A. J. to squat 1,205 pounds at 304 pounds body weight.
(Special note: Look for more on A. J. and his circa max cycle.)
I hope it is clear that you must provide greater band tension on the barbell than barbell weight. Remember A. J. and his strength speed cycle: 700 pounds of band tension and 510 pounds of barbell weight for his max.
His training partner Jake Anderson with a 2,800-pound total also participated in the strength speed cycle experiment. He made a box squat with 700 pounds of band tension plus 460 pounds of barbell weight at the same meet Jake made a meet personal record with an easy 1,135.
For one final stat, Sineaid Corley made a box squat with 375 pounds of band tension plus 285 pounds of barbell weight that produced 670-pound gym squat. The top valve of the bands and barbell weight equals 660 pounds.
To clarify, the band tension must exceed the amount of barbell weight to cause slow velocity training that produces strength speed. The amount of lifts for strength speed is not documented, but Westside uses circa-max lifts described in Supertraining, page 394. For percents and the number of lifts, use four minimal, seven optimal, and 10 maximal. That is the data from A. S. Prilepin (1974, page 32.) For much more information, look at Supertraining, page 409 through 413.
The Circa-Maximal method (circa-max) is for prepping for a contest. It calls for lifting a weight comprised of barbell weight only or a combination of barbell weight plus band tension.
First, the circa-max phase is scheduled 28 to 14 days from the meet. Westside has normally taken the top circa-max weight 21 days from the meet, but due to raising our work capacity, Westside has shortened the phase to 14 days. At Westside the circa-max top weight is now 14 days out from meet time with 21 days out being a deload to 50 percent. That is done to prepare the lifter to lift a new max box squat, but not a top-limit squat. Remember, whether near-max or circa-max, always leave something.
Seven days out take 75 percent of the top squat on 14 days out. Both squats should be made on the seven lifts. It is best while working up to do two sets of two reps then three singles to make the planned weight, just like a meet. Supertraining states that circa-max percentages range from 90 percent to 97 percent. For more, go to page 394 in Supertraining.
The number of lifts is detailed in Managing the Training of Weight Lifters, page 32. As you have read in the article, there have been changes in the Westside system, which involves adding a small increase in band tension. Also, the speed strength pulls have been raised from eight to 10 lifts to 20 speed pulls. This was on the recommendation of Boris Sheiko as his squat and deadlift volume are equal.
Without change your training becomes stagnant and this can never happen!