If your family was captured and you were told you needed to put 100 pounds onto your max squat within two months or your family would be executed, would you squat once per week? Something tells me that you'd start squatting every day. Other countries have this mindset. America does not.
– John Broz
John Broz oozes Olympic weightlifting. For three years, Broz lived with Antonio Krastev, a Bulgarian superheavyweight who snatched 216 kg in 1987, a world record that's no longer recognized because the IWF reshuffled weight classes.
Krastev revealed the legendary Bulgarian system to Broz, who ultimately ended up opening up a small Olympic training facility in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Broz has produced some absolute freaks in a very short amount of time, such as 20-year-old Pat Mendez, Broz's greatest pupil.
The Broz Method
After reading up on Broz's methods for several hours and taking extensive notes, I arranged to visit his Las Vegas facility. In this article, I'll attempt to sum up his beliefs succinctly.
Broz Olympic Lifting Methodology
John believes that everyone can and should train every day. He starts lifters off right away with daily heavy squatting and broomstick or empty barbell Olympic technique work.
Over the course of a year, lifters gradually work their way up to 13 training sessions per week – twice a day Monday through Saturday, and once on Sunday. Morning sessions last between 45 and 120 minutes; evening sessions between three and four hours for a total of approximately five hours of lifting per day.
The Broz Olympic Method involves only six exercises: the snatch, clean & jerk, power snatch, power clean, back squat, and front squat. Each of the 13 sessions includes heavy squatting, either back squats or front squats. Usually three lifts are performed each session, and between 30-50 total reps (including warm ups) are performed for each lift.
Every session involves a specific warm-up for several minutes either squatting with an unloaded barbell or a barbell loaded up to 50 kg depending on the lifter, followed by working up to a 1-rep maximum on every lift for the session.
As far as effort is concerned, this 1RM is no different from a competition 1RM, but it may fall short, depending on the day. Each lift involves a true pyramid scheme. Lifters start off with doubles, ramp up to singles as the weight gets heavier, and then ramp back down to doubles and sometimes triples (only for squats, not the classic lifts) with lighter weight following the max attempts.
Around six max attempts are made for snatches, while two-three max attempts are made for cleans. Each session is auto-regulated based on what John sees from his lifters. They've been known to stray from the routine and perform up to 50 max attempts on a particular lift such as the snatch before calling it a day.
In Broz's gym, you won't find any foam rolling or other SMR techniques being employed. You won't find lifters engaging in specific stretches or mobility drills, nor will you see any core stability work, activation exercises, or other corrective work, unless an injury requires.
No accessory movements are performed either, meaning no chins, dips, push ups, rows, military press, good mornings, lunges, hip thrusts, back extensions, reverse hypers, or glute ham raises.
Finally, no other Olympic type movements such as hang snatches, hang cleans, pulls from pins, high pulls, or jump shrugs are performed, nor any types of jump squats, plyometrics, or sled work.
Every so often supplemental exercises are performed, for example biceps curls to help heal an elbow. But accessory Oly lifts such as hang snatches are never performed.
How You Feel is a Lie
That phrase is the Broz mantra. You simply can't listen to your body because it's lying to you. Broz can cite countless examples of athletes setting PR's on days they didn't even want to train, as well as days where the athlete felt like a million bucks but didn't fare so well in the gym.
Fact is, when I visited Broz he explained that the previous week his wrist was so sore that he could barely warm up with the bar during split jerks, but he pushed through it, eventually felt warmed up, and ended up jerking 405 lbs. The following day his wrist pain had vanished.
He describes this phenomenon as "floating pain" – your body has to hurt somewhere. It will simply migrate from one place to the next while you sleep, and when you awaken you'll discover where it landed.
There's no Such Thing as Overtraining
Broz believes that there's no such thing as being overtrained, just undertrained.
If you got a job as a garbage man and had to pick up heavy cans all day long, the first day would probably be very difficult, possibly almost impossible for some to complete. So what do you do, take three days off and possibly lose your job?
No, you'd take your sore, beaten self to work the next day. You'd mope around and be fatigued, much less energetic than the previous day, but you'd make yourself get through it. Then you'd get home, soak in the tub, take aspirin, etc. The next day would be even worse.
But eventually you'd be running down the street tossing cans around and joking with your coworkers. How did this happen? You forced your body to adapt to the job at hand! If you can't' squat and lift heavy every day you're not overtrained, you're undertrained! Could a random person off the street come to the gym with you and do your exact workout? Probably not, because they're undertrained. Same goes with most lifters when compared to elite athletes.
– John Broz 2002
For peaking before competition, Broz keeps frequency the same (daily), but volume and intensity are reduced. Volume reductions begin eight days out, and intensity reductions begin 2-5 days out from competition.
Broz Powerlifting Methodology
John has expanded his methods to accommodate lifters who wished to train for powerlifting competitions. The same method of 13 sessions is employed, and each session involves squatting and speed pulls with loads less than or equal to 80% of the lifter's 1RM deadlift.
His lifters bench press three times per week and max out on the deadlift around once every 6-8 weeks. Some rowing and rear delt work is indicated to balance out the structural demands incurred on the upper body from heavy bench pressing.
Other Broz Gems
The following is a myriad of Broz's beliefs:
- Beginners should start out with a broomstick for 3-4 weeks and do thousands of reps so that their Olympic technique becomes a motor engram.
- Back squats carry over more to the snatch, whereas front squats carry over more to the clean. Front squats are usually limited by upper back strength, so they don't stimulate the legs sufficiently. Squatting is not very difficult in terms of CNS stress and the body gets used to it very quickly, just like walking.
- The jerk is the most violent portion of any part of the O-lifts.
- Max out on squats every day. Max out on deadlifts 2-3 times per year.
- Don't do overhead squats as a separate exercise; you do them when you snatch.
- You will go through "dark times" where you're stagnant. Eventually you'll start setting PR's while in a fatigued state. That's when you know you're doing something right.
- Percentages for daily programming on a long-term chart don't work. You never know what you're capable of on any given day. How you feel is a lie.
- Slow movements don't help any athlete in any sport. Going slow with light weights is a big no-no.
- The fastest athlete is the best athlete. Move at a top speed in every movement, every day, every time you touch a bar.
- Using straps in the snatch is a necessity due to the volume of training. For lower volumes they're not necessary, but for higher volumes your hands simply can't take the abuse. Never, ever use straps with cleans.
- Deadlifts tax the back too much and take too long to recover from. If you're going to deadlift, do sets of 2-3 fast pulls in the 70-85% range.
- Lunges suck and are very dangerous.
- Jumping and plyos should be left to track athletes, not Oly lifters. Save the joint stress and energy for lifting.
- Eventually, maxing out becomes like clockwork. The more you do it, the more natural it feels, and your body accepts it. There should be a minimum number you hit every day you train.
- Failing to train daily leads to more injuries, due to the inconsistent recovery rates amongst different tissues. Daily training is training under fatigued muscles. If you take days off, the muscles recover faster than other soft-tissues, which increases the likelihood of injury.
- The only percentage that is important is what percentage of days you train each year. If you train three times per week, that's 43% of total days. If you train seven days per week you're at 100%. If you train twice a day, seven days per week, even better.
- Forget jump shrugs, high pulls, etc. Forget all assistance lifts, unless you want to become a master of assistance lifts. The classic full lifts take an immense amount of dedication to learn, so why waste energy on something that probably won't carry over?
- Don't take days off if you have access to train. Even if you're incredibly sore, go in and do something. Squat something, at least the bar, for 30 reps or so. This will help the adaptation process progress faster. Anything you do is better than riding the couch.
- The lifter that can endure the most pain will be the most successful. This is the most important piece of advice contained within this article.
- When you train twice a day, you don't get very tight and don't need much stretching. Stretching is done while warming up by doing the Oly lifts with a bar for 2 - 5 minutes at the beginning of a session.
- Decent technique takes between two and ten months to develop with beginners, with an average of around six months.
- When the snatch or clean begins to lag behind the other, train the weaker one first. Switch the order and focus your power on the lagging lift.
- Hold the bar overhead for 3-5 seconds at the top of every overhead lift. This builds core strength and confidence.
- If you wait for a day to train when you feel good, you'll lift about twice a year. Those days are rare. Your mind plays tricks on you. Learn to ignore it and keep training.
- You surely won't PR every workout, sometimes not for months. Keep pushing both intensity and volume to continue progress. If you can't take the tree down with one swing, keep taking smaller swings and it will eventually fall.
- Hang cleans and snatches should be reserved for training for "hang" competitions. I have never seen a hang competition but if you find one, then those lifts will be good for that.
My Favorite Aspects of the Broz System
Each Lift has its Own Rules
Different exercises place different stresses on the body, so why would volume be equal for every exercise? For the most part, snatching is easier on the body than cleaning & jerking, which is why Broz programs more volume with the snatch. Max daily squatting is no problem, but max daily deadlifting is too strenuous. For this reason the Oly lifts and speed pulls are used daily.
Work Capacity or "Daily Minimums" Rise Every Few Months
Although there may be extended times where strength stagnates or even decreases, the general goal is to slowly increase your daily maxes every few months. For example, if your daily max squat number is 350 lbs. and you raise it to 400 lbs. over the course of a year, you're obviously much stronger. There's not much guesswork involved – you're either stronger or you're not!
Always Training in a Fatigued State
You're always giving it your all, but when you're tired the weight on the bar will be smaller. The effort and desire mimic the competition, but since you're fresh at a meet the weight on the bar will be larger. The fight with maximum weight is the same regardless of the load. This is the key to the system: learning to fight a max. When you rest before a meet you're not getting stronger, it's just that now you're finally able to pull together all of your power to use on the same day.
In training, PR's come on anytime. The resting/peaking allows you to assume that you can hit the PR's on any given day and lets you stack the cards in your favor for the greatest chance of success.
One could argue Broz's training methods aren't the safest ways to train, but you can't deny the strength and power producing effects that they elicit. Broz has some impressive lifters training under his tutelage and their results speak for themselves.
If your goal is to be the strongest you can possibly be at Olympic weightlifting, you should definitely consider the Broz Method. If powerlifting is more your thing, Broz's powerlifting system warrants serious consideration as well. There are plenty of lifters who simply respond better to high frequency training.
The human body is an adaptive organism. Push the envelope. You're stronger than you think you are.