The Intelligent & Relentless Pursuit of Muscle™

Blood and Chalk Volume 10

Blood and Chalk - Jim Wendler

Jim Wendler: There's been a lot of discussion about the value of dynamic work. I'm 100% in favor of it, and all you have to do is look at some of the most explosive athletes on the planet – throwers. Most of these guys possess very high levels of strength and speed. Along with football players, they're some of the biggest and fastest athletes around.

Growing up I always looked at how these guys trained , guys like Randy Matson, Ulf Timmerman, Randy Barnes, Brent Noon, etc. All of them reportedly trained with basic exercises like the squat, bench, and clean and did a ton of jumps, sprints, and throws; the latter being what I consider to be great for any athlete, even if you're just performing on the platform.

The trick is to set up a basic training template and incorporate the appropriate jump or throw. For example:

  • Warm-up (jump rope, dynamic/static stretching, foam rolling)
  • Dynamic training (box jumps, hurdle jumps, shot put/medicine ball throws)
  • Strength work (squat, clean, deadlift, press, bench press)
  • Assistance work
  • Conditioning

For the jumps and throws, make sure your level of preparedness matches the exercises – don't start out with five-foot depth jumps. Med ball throws (over the head, chest passes, backwards) and simple landing drills from a box are all good ways to make sure you're ready for the next step.

Along with starting with the right exercises, it's important not to turn this into a conditioning session. Take your time and do the reps CORRECTLY. Unlike a gangbang, training is always about quality over quantity.

I designed the 5/3/1 program to be very versatile for every situation and every lifter– from athlete to gym rat to powerlifter. You just need to fit the right pieces into the program to customize it for you.

JW: Wow. I've never heard that question asked before – mainly because the people that suffer from a lack of training are usually too lazy to care OR they know they haven't put forth the effort needed and taken full responsibility (someone who's finishing up school and has a ton of papers, tests, and studying to take care of would be an example). But for the most part this isn't something that I've ever heard.

Anyhow, there are a couple things I've noticed about undertrainers.

First, their form is always off; they don't know where to place their feet on the squat or deadlift...or the bar never seems to sit right on their backs. Remember, this is also a problem with beginners or when a lifter tries to change part of their technique or form. This also creeps up when there's a weight gain and the leverages are different.

Second, they always get sore. Even when doing a basic workout with minimal assistance work.

Third, they get consistently fatter and softer.

Fourth, they make zero progress.

In reality, not training frequently enough is usually a sign of depression, stress, or something bigger happening in life. There are reasons why someone who loves to train is no longer motivated to get in the gym.

JW: This is very easy to do. Remember that in training and in life, there's a balance to everything – a push and a pull. You push something into your training and something has to come out. In your case, you want to push up the volume of your assistance work to elicit greater gains in hypertrophy. Because of this you have to pull something out.

I'd start by dialing back your training maxes to at least 90% of your max and don't go for max reps. Just keep things "even" with your heavy lifting. Don't push everything that hard – keep the intensity up, but the volume LOW.

Now after your big lift of the day, beat the hell out of the muscles. For example, you could squat and then follow that up with big work for your quads, hamstrings, and lower back. But with the increased volume of the assistance work, you need the extra energy that wasn't spent on the main lifts.

The problem is that everyone wants to have their cake and eat it too. It doesn't work like that – you can't be strong like a powerlifter, fast as sprinter, and as big as a linebacker. Well, you can, but these people are so rare that teams pay them millions of dollars and television stations have billion dollar contracts to broadcast them to you. They're called professional football players, and if you're one of them, you aren't reading this, as you're too busy counting your money and cracking skulls.

So if you want to increase the volume of your assistance work, dial back the strength work in the beginning of your training. This will allow you to maintain your strength and build the muscle you desire. Also, less typing – more eating.

JW: I like them. I'm not voting for them in the next "Five Awesome Exercises" election but they certainly have their place. I've championed chin-ups for years, mostly because they're great for the upper back, lats, and arms. And because you can do them anywhere – chin-up bar, top of the Smith machine, scaffolding, top of the monolift, playground equipment, etc.

Weighted chins are a good idea IF you can do them, and even then you still need to keep bodyweight chins as part of your training (unless you can bang out multiple sets of 20 with good form). And if that's the case, gain some weight!

If you want to add some weighted chins as part of your training repertoire, start light and see how you do. Make sure you use something that doesn't allow the weight or dumbbell to swing too much when you do them. I recommend a good chin/dip belt or simply get a piece of chain and hang it from your lifting belt.

Harry Selkow at has a great chinning program that'll increase your weighted chins AND your bodyweight chins. My approach is simpler. One day I'd do bodyweight chins for 50 or more total reps. The next chin-up day I'd do a couple sets of weighted chins, either multiple sets at a given weight (for example 5 sets of 6 reps with 45 lbs.) or work up to an all-out set with the heaviest weight I can handle.

As much as I love doing chins, they're still not squats, presses, cleans, and pulls. They're great to do, but I'm not going to lose sleep if my strength on these goes up and my chinning strength remain stagnant.

You can't sleep with all the women in the sorority, so just be happy you got some trim.

JW: Provided that you're not a strongman in training (i.e. you aren't training for a contest), this is easy to do.

For log pressing, do this as a second exercise on either of your bench or press days. I love the rackable log that EFS sells; it's so much easier to do presses and bench pressing with that thing.

For log cleans, I've done these for the past couple of years and used them as a main exercise. I'd do them with the same set/rep scheme as the squat, deadlift, or power clean. Do these before you squat or deadlift. Admittedly, I never really learned the proper form on these, I just picked it up and performed a Neanderthal man clean.

With pulling a weighted sled hand-over-hand, farmer's walks, sled drags, tire flips, Yoke walks, or even Prowler pushes (I know, not a strongman move but it's awesome), I'd do these at the end of the training day. Now please remember that these things are weighted and do tax the hell out of you, so if you're going to add these in you may want to limit the assistance work on those days.

For example:

  • Power Clean – 5/3/1
  • Squat – 5/3/1
  • Hanging leg raises – 3 sets
  • Farmer's walk

I don't pretend to know exactly how to do all of these things well. When we did farmer's walks, we'd just go for 40 yards, rest, add weight, and then go 40 more. This went on until we couldn't do it. We always started fairly light and worked up slowly (sound familiar)?

Whatever you plan on doing or have access to, all of these exercises offer variety to the staleness a weight room may have. Get the big movements in, then push, drag, or carry some heavy shit. Can't get more awesome than that.

JW: This kind of depends on what you want to do in your training and what your goals are. But for simplicity sake, let's just say you want to be strong and awesome. This is by far the easiest thing you can train for, and probably the cheapest. Here's what you'll need.

A home gym is a GREAT investment if you're committed to the basics of training. My last piece of advice is to rid your space of anything that isn't training related. Make that your home. You don't study where you sleep and you shouldn't train where your kids play video games.