For more information on this protocol or any other questions, please CONTACT me.
This protocol is designed to increase the amount of volume handled throughout the upper range of the bench press. Athletes should use this protocol for two reasons: (1) to use supra-maximal load to enhance work capacity, and (2) to build tricep strength for the lock-out. The idea here is that an athlete is using a load that normally wouldn't be possible given the rep range prescription. In this video, I proceed with 4 reps to a 2 board, 4 reps to a 3 board, and 4 reps to a 4 board - all in a row. A general rule of thumb to start this workout is using a load of 80% of 1RM (raw). This workout can be completed once/week for multiple week in a row. Progressive overload can be achieved through increasing the load, increasing or decreasing the reps, and varying the board height. For instance, as long as the boards are ascending in this protocol, athletes may benefit from using various combinations of these training parameters. The precise combination of sets, reps, board height, and load for this workout ought to be tailored to an individual's needs and training background, and take into consideration the context of the entire program. As always, this workout in isolation is not enough to increase strength. A comprehensive training program that incorporates various strength qualities is required to enhance overall performance.
For more information on this protocol or any other questions, please CONTACT me.
The following video is a special bench press method called "contrast benching". In general, two back-to-back sets are completed, one heavy set and one light set. This method is used to create increased bar speed on the light weight set after performing a heavy movement. After priming the body with a heavy load, there is the potential to increase the strength of impulses along neural pathways, which can result in more explosive muscular activation. The idea is that by priming the nervous system with a heavier load, the lightweight set can be performed at a quicker rate than if the weight was completed in isolation.
There are multiple training parameters to consider when designing the periodization for this type of workout. Factors to take into consideration are: the volume an athlete requires, the overall intensity of the training program, and the specific goals or outcomes desired. That said, there are some general rules of thumb to follow for first-timers to this protocol:
1. Start with a heavy working set of 80% for 4 reps
2. After the heavy set is complete, take 30 seconds rest and drop to approximately 70% of your heavy working load (not 70% of your 1RM), and perform 2-4 fast reps
3. Follow a linear periodization with a decrease in reps and increase in intensity over multiple weeks
4. Only attempt this program twice/year
As an athlete becomes more advanced, there are multiple adaptations to this workout to continue progressively overloading. Each time this program is attempted, the reps, sets, and load should be modified to current strength levels and goals.
It is important to know that this specific workout is not sufficient on a standalone basis. There should be additional bench days within a weekly template to supplement other strength qualities or weaknesses.
For more information on this protocol or any other questions, please CONTACT me.
Written by AVI SILVERBERG
The 2013 International Powerlifting Federation (IPF) Classic World Championships just wrapped up in Suzdal, Russia. These Championships marked the inaugural debut for classic lifting on the International stage. Classic lifting is defined as the absence of supportive equipment, such as squat and deadlift suits, bench press shirts, or wraps. In other words, Classic lifting is simply what an athlete can lift using his or her own body. The Championships brought over 300 athletes, representing 33 countries; the youngest athlete being 15, and the oldest 59. There are no signs that Classic lifting is slowing down, and it is definitely here to stay. There were some remarkable performances, and although I can't cover every lift, I will attempt to summarize the Championships (with a slight bent toward Canadian lifters).
There were some outstanding bench presses among the lightweight men. Sergey Skochek from Russia, benched 2.65 his body-weight, pressing 172.5 for a World Record at 66k. As well, Canadian Junior, Connor Lutz, broke a World Record, lifting 183k at 83k bodyweight. It was an epic battle with Polish lifter Piotr Jablonsky breaking the World Record just prior at 182.5k. On Lutz's World Record attempt, the judge let the bar rest on his chest for at least five seconds before giving the "press" command, so the lift died halfway up. Canadian coach Joel Boulianne protested the long pause to the Jury and won. This gave Lutz a fourth attempt, which he then made look easy! Lutz also placed third in the overall powerlifting total. Lutz is currently the only Canadian to hold a Classic World Record for Canada.
Veteran powerlifter Anthony Burden lifted a Canadian National Squat of 252.5k at 93k bodyweight. However, Burden strained his hamstring on the deadlift and so he had to pull out of the competition, which nulled his National record. I've traveled alongside Burden to two International contests, and I know that he will keep focused during his rehab to be bigger and stronger next year. The 120k class was stacked with some big names, including Michael Tuchscherer from Team USA. Tuchscherer has medalled at the World stage before, but has never won the gold. He was primed for the win this year but couldn't hold onto his last deadlift of 365k, which placed him second to Bulgaria's Ivaylo Hristov. Hristov totaled 905k, and with a Wilks score of 521 points he was crowned the strongest pound-for-pound male lifter in the World. As well, the legendary 5-time World Champion, Brad Gillingham, added another Title to his collection as he deadlifted a World Record of 375k and won the superheavy weight class.
Two Canadian women competed in the 63k open class, Jessica Benedetto and Alison Scott. Benedetto placed 6th overall, but secured a bronze medal in the bench press lifting 90k. Scott, a relative newcomer to the sport, placed 4th overall. Both of these women will be forces to reckon with in the future, and in one more year they should be in the mix for overall medal placings. The Queen of the 63k class was Kimberly Walford from Team USA. With an overall total of 476k, and a 515 Wilks score, Walford earned the strongest pound-for-pound female award. Walford is also one of the greatest deadlifters the World has ever seen, and she convinced us even more by deadlifting a world record of 221k. The 2nd place deadlift was over 40k behind Walford - absolute domination! The World also saw the first female squat over 500lbs, Fang-Yun Su, from Taipei, lifted 230k in the 84k+ open class. Canadian Junior lifter, Dani Savoie, competed in the 84k class and secured a silver medal in the overall total. Savoie is relatively new to the sport, but has a packed 2013 schedule, competing in the World Junior Championships in August and Commonwealth Championships in December.
For a full list of the results, click HERE.
Next year the Championships go to Kazakhstan. Pursuit of Strength team member James Bartlett, winner of the 2013 Arnold Sports Festival, has his eyes on qualifying and racking up some more hardware for Team Canada.
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Written by AVI SILVERBERG
I come across many strength enthusiasts who have contemplated taking their gym strength to the competition platform. Some of these individuals are extremely apprehensive. Understandably, it’s a big leap. It’s an even bigger leap for people who have never previously competed in sports. To do anything with no previous framework or understanding of the context is difficult to do. Humans like familiarity, routine, and an awareness of future expectations. When trying new things, like competing, people are faced with an unfamiliar context, a routine that is out of their ordinary endeavors, and a limited understanding of the expectations or results of their actions.
By the time you’re an adult there is general understanding of how the world works. You know that certain actions will likely result in equatable outcomes. In other words, you can anticipate based on prior knowledge that actions “A”, “B”, and “C”, will result in outcome “D”. Although you can’t predict the future, you can have a certain level of foresight in understanding the likeliness of something happening or the sureness of an outcome. There is another way to conceptualize this foresightedness. In the face of a familiar situation, you have the ability to elevate yourself from the context to understand who and what is and isn’t important, how meaning is created and awarded, how individual actions fit within a broader framework, how events are grounded in history, and how future outcomes are merely an extension of particular sequences. I like to call this a top-level understanding of events and outcomes. This top-level perspective is the difference between being in the trenches trying to make sense of things versus flying overhead.
Humans understand familiar contexts from a top-level because of the schema developed over time. A schema? You might ask. In psychology, a schema is described as a system of organizing thoughts or behavior. A schema is a mental structure built up from preconceived ideas of how the world works, which is based on past experiences, worldviews, cultural norms and expectations, and values. A schema is essentially the filter in which humans perceive the world, which ultimately influences how new information is processed. As a child, developing a schema is a continual process. Children constantly try and push the boundaries of their actions to understand what’s deemed appropriate and inappropriate. Through this navigation of actions, children create a framework for representing various aspects of life and understanding the world. As an adult, the schema has already been formed from childhood experiences and is somewhat unbreakable to change. In other words, schemas are resistant to information that is contradictory to one’s already established perspective.
For example, picture yourself living in Calgary and you decide to take a trip to Toronto. Clearly Toronto is different than Calgary, but you will land in Toronto, and continue to understand the world around you. You will meet new people and know exactly how to conduct yourself. You will shake other’s hands, smile and be friendly, and know what is considered an appropriate versus inappropriate dialogue. Now, picture yourself taking a trip to a foreign country. You find that people conduct themselves markedly different than back home. You try and shake other’s hands and they find it unsanitary. You try and look in their eyes and smile and they take it as an offensive sign. The rules of engagement are unknown. To understand these new experiences is difficult because the current situation is trying to be filtered through a barely-applicable schema. This is what’s referred to as “culture shock,” and as a result, you may feel a cognitive dissonance.
Cognitive dissonance is the discomfort one experiences when confronted with conflicting ideas, beliefs, or values, or otherwise a scenario that is unfamiliar. In the example above, when you don’t know how to process new events it causes disequilibrium resulting in a number of emotional reactions, including frustration, anger, embarrassment and anxiety. People have a motivational drive to reduce this dissonance. Therefore, there are two assumptions that can be broadly applied to human behavior in the context of trying new things. First, people will likely only try new things that already fit within their existing schema, and second, people will make efforts to avoid situations that give rise to feelings of uneasiness. This can be summed up by saying: people stick with what they know and stay within their comfort zone.
So, what does this have to do with competing for the first time? The answer is obvious. New athletes are trepid in their efforts to move from a recreational to competitive pursuit. This trepidation lies deep within the psyche. People experiencing activities for the first time don’t have a context to base their understanding, especially when these experiences exist far outside their frame of comfort. Thus, when people can’t anticipate or predict future outcomes they are more likely to avoid the situation through a series of rationalizing thoughts. For example, “the competition is too far away,” “I’m not strong enough to compete,” “I might hurt myself in the process,” “I’m not a competitive person by nature,” “there’s not enough time to train,” "I'm not ready," and so on and so forth. I like to call this ‘rationalizing thought syndrome,’ and I’ve seen it play out many times with very talented strength athletes who are deciding to compete for the first time.
So how is it that anyone ever tries something new? Well, a supportive network of friends and coaches definitely helps mitigate ‘rationalizing thought syndrome’. These key individuals can act as a pillar of strength and confidence in a territory that is, at first, unfamiliar. As well, it ought to be recognized that schemas can be broadened only by facing new experiences and challenging cognitive dissonance. If you continue to rely on what you know without pushing individual horizons, you will forever live with ignorance as the cornerstone of your existence. The result of taking steps into the unknown can be an edifying process. In fact, if you want to become a better version of yourself physically, emotionally, or intellectually, then becoming immersed in new contexts will re-construct your schematic filters and change the way you perceive the world.
For those individuals wanting to become better at their chosen strength sport, the only way to advance this progress is through competing. Once the initial fear of competing resides, and you get accustomed to the competitive context, the results will be unmatched by training alone. Through the act of competing, you gain new skills and knowledge that create opportunities for personal expression, achievement, competence, gratification, and future motivation. As well, moving from a recreation to competitive activity will produce athletic performances that weren’t thought possible, and will ultimately re-define your commitment to sport and physical activity in general.
Take home points:
-Humans perceive the world through mental categories called "schemas," which are based on our past experiences, worldviews, cultural expectations, and values.
-When humans confront new experiences that don't fit within their schema they experience a cognitive dissonance that gives rise to feelings of anxiety and frustration.
-Therefore, people stick with what they know and stay within their comfort zone.
-Challenging feelings of dissonance can be an enriching/enlightening process
-Deciding to compete in a competition is hard at first but the rewards are longlasting.
For more information on competing in strength sports please CONTACT me or feel free to leave a message on the Pursuit of Strength FACEBOOK page.
This is the first feature of a blog series called "WHO IS". The "WHO IS" series will periodically profile Canadian drug-free athletes who don't necessarily get the credit they deserve in popular media outlets. I have written a more broad rationale for starting this series in a previous blog post called Powerlifting: A Sport of Meatheads.
Today features Keith Banner.
If you try and find Banner on the internet, it's almost impossible. Unlike many lifters, Banner doesn't post videos or numbers to personal websites or blogs, nor does he engage with any social media networks. This is not to say Banner is a complete lone wolf in his powerlifting endeavors, as he has a local training group that supports him. Rather, Banner simply lets his performance speak for itself, and doesn't have the need to tell others. For him, powerlifting is a personal pursuit.
Banner has been competing in the Canadian Powerlifting Union (CPU) since 1999. Now in his 50s, Banner continues to dominate the powerlifting platform and boasts the strongest raw squat in the history of Canada at 340k/748lb. As well, Banner holds the third highest raw Wilks score in Canada across all weight classes at 461.41 points, and won a bronze medal at the 2003 World Master Powerlifting Championships.
Banner conducts himself with complete humility. In fact, when I was trying to learn more about Banner, I asked him what some of his past lifts were, and he couldn't tell me without looking them up. In other words, he didn't know his personal records. It's not about numbers for Banner, it's just about doing the best you can do every time you step on the platform.
Outside of his incredible lifting career, not much is known about Banner. However, friends tell me that he lives in Devin, Alberta, and works for the City of Edmonton. He is also cat lover.
I was able to get a hold of Banner through email to ask him a few questions.
What motivates you to compete?
Adrenaline and endorphin addictions...just kidding but they are a factor. I’m not that competitive by nature, but I do challenge myself to do the best I can no matter what the task (perfectionist), therefore it is more of a personal challenge that motivates me.
What advice would you give to athletes just starting?
From a training standpoint: Learn proper lifting form and technique before adding weight. This is the biggest mistake I see in this sport and is crucial to big lifts and longevity in the sport. Also, If you are interested in the sport seek out other lifters and don’t be afraid to step onto the platform, it doesn’t matter what level of lifting you are currently at. From a philosophical standpoint: It is like anything else in life, you get out of it what you put into it.
What are you goals in powerlifting?
My goals change as I get older. Currently, I just try to bring my best performance to the platform every meet.
What has been your most memorable moment in powerlifting?
Probably my first meet, I was so overwhelmed I left the meet when it was over not realizing I had won my weight class, didn’t find out until someone told me the next day. Second most memorable would have to be representing Canada at Master World’s in Regina 2003.
Below is a video showcasing some of Banner's lifts. Most of Banner's heaviest lifts were never caught on video, and so the footage below is only what was retrievable through some of his training partners. Thank you Keith for being a great model of drug-free Canadian powerlifting.
This year the Alberta Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships are coming to Calgary on July 5 & 6. In fact, James Bartlett and I are hosting these Championships, and it's already shaping up to be a big event. We are expecting over 100 athletes, both novice and experienced, battling it out for the top prizes and the title of Provincial Champion. Be sure to stop by Eau Claire Market to check out all the strength festivities.
Friday July 5, 2013: Bench Press Championships, lifting begins at 6:00-7:00p (all weight and age classes).
Saturday July 6, 2013: Powerlifting Championships, 9:30am-3:30pm (all weight and age classes).
Note: A detailed schedule of all sessions and flight numbers will be posted on the Alberta Powerlifting Union Website following the entry deadlift (June 16, 2013).
Below is a letter I received from Alison Redford, the Premier of Alberta, recognizing all the hard work from the athletes and volunteers to make this Championship possible.
Lots of sexiness to cover from this past weekend of competing. Two events took place simultaneously in Vancouver, BC. Pursuit of Strength had two athletes in the BC Provincial Powerlifting Championships and one athlete in the Canada West Crossfit Regional.
Sebastian Lade competed in the raw 3-lift category and claimed the top spot earning the title of Provincial Champion. Lade is one of the most composed and adaptable lifters I've ever seen on the platform. The last flight of lifters were two hours behind schedule and the final deadlift didn't take place until 10:00pm. Needless to say it was a long day with many organizational delays. Given all those factors, Lade didn't complain once, and it was business as usual as he executed a perfect nine-for-nine day, achieving personal bests across the board.
For myself, Avi Silverberg, I competed in the raw 3-lift category as well. It was my first full powerlifting competition since 2009. It made for a fun day because there was no pressure or expectations. I totaled 715k, and achieved a lifetime personal best on the bench press, lifting 215k with no supportive equipment. My future plans are to compete in the raw powerlifting at the 2014 Canadian National Championships. Check out the video of my lifts below.
I'd like to mention a couple special performances from friends of Pursuit of Strength. Sunette Mynhardt competing in her first powerlifting competition, beating out experienced athletes to win her weight class. As well, Jordan Tarasoff, competed for the first time as a super-heavy weight junior, winning his weight class, and pulling an amazing 275k deadlift.
Christina Verhagen, had an absolutely grueling weekend competing at the Crossfit Regionals. The competition spanned over three days, hosting seven events that tested all aspects of human performance. For a full list of the events, click HERE. Through blood, sweat, and determination, Verhagen placed 16th in the Canada West region. Over the past year, I've seen a maturation in Verhagen's composure during competition. She is more relaxed and poised, and when the time comes to perform, she turns into an absolute beast. Big things are happening in this girl's future.
Christina Verhagen, Avi Silverberg
We also cheered on Pursuit of Strength friends, Lucas Parker and Lindsay McCardle, who placed 1st and 8th respectively. With Parker's win, he earns his third ticket to the Crossfit Games, a world-wide competition to crown the fittest person on the planet.
Lindsey McCardle, Lucas Parker, Avi Silverberg, Sebastian Lade, Elaine Huba
Congratulations to all athletes who competed this weekend, either at the powerlifting or Crossfit event. Keep doing what you love and keep inspiring us all.
This weekend will definitely involve many feats of strength. The BC Provincial Powerlifting and Bench Press Championships, and Canada West Crossfit Regionals, are being held in Vancouver, BC. Two Pursuit of Strength athletes will be competing in each of these respective events; Sebastian Lade in the powerlifting and Christina Verhagen in the Crossfit. It's a good thing these competitions are being held within a couple blocks of each other, as I will be running back and forth between the venues trying to catch all the action.
Probably the most unusual event of the weekend, however, will involve myself, competing in the powerlifting competition. This will be my first 3-lift event since 2009. Since I wasn't attending the Bench World Championships this year, I decided to switch up my training and focus on heavy squatting and deadlifting. Of course, there was a little bit of persuasion involved given that my training partner, James Bartlett, is one of the strongest raw 3-lift athletes in the country. Going into this competition I have no expectations (for the first time) and I can't wait to see how my body copes with 9 maximal lifts in one day. I've been really spoiled over the years with bench-only...
A full list of everyone's results will be posted after the competition. Good luck to our athletes and everyone else competing this weekend!!
Lucas Parker, from Victoria, BC, is one of the World's most elite Crossfitters. In 2012, Parker earned a 15th place finish at the Crossfit Games, which is an international competition that tests all aspects of human fitness. Only four men and women from Canada each year are invited to compete at the Crossfit Games. This year, 4255 athletes in Canada started the Crossfit season. Through the first round of qualifying, Parker placed in the top 40 in Western Canada to qualify for the Regional Championships. Only the top two finishers at the Regional Championships, Eastern and Western Canada, are sent to the Crossfit Games. The Western Regional Championships are being held in Vancouver, BC this weekend, Jun 7 - 9, 2013. Parker is now focused on winning this competition and stamping his third ticket to the Games.
Click HERE to see a current CTV news segment featuring Parker.
Parker uses strength and power training to increase his capacity as a Crossfitter. While Parker has demonstrated many astonishing feats in the gym and competition, I recently caught him on video front squatting 405lbs at 180lb bodyweight.
GOOD LUCK at the Regional Championships this weekend, Lucas!
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