" The individual who goes the furthest is generally the one who is willing to do, dare and attempt new things. The sure thing boat never gets far from shore." Dale Carnegie


Read Before Assembly

Have you ever tried to put together a baby crib or any other furniture item that comes in a box? I had to do this recently. First, I dumped the pieces out of the box so I could see all the parts on the floor. This took up roughly half the floor space in my house. I knew I was in trouble. There must have been 10,000 parts, most of which were the size of microorganisms. What the hell was I thinking?

Swallowing my manly pride, I decided to consult the instructions. That's when it really hit me: there's no way I'll ever do this! Who the heck wrote these directions? Was English their first language or their third? Did they really think the average person could decipher this secret code? The problem was obvious: the directions were written by a person who knew what he was doing. I, on the other hand, had no idea what I was doing.

The author of the assembly instructions had probably tried to make it as simple as possible, but he failed to realize that what was simple to him wasn't so simple to those of us without advanced technical knowledge and, say, a double major in engineering and quantum physics. (In the end, we decided the new baby could sleep in the box the crib came in.)

When I wrote the "Periodization Bible" articles for T-mag, I was much like the author above. I wrote what I thought at the time was the easiest way to explain the concepts and principles used for maximum strength development. It's taken over 10,000 e-mails, hundreds of seminars, and hundreds of hours on the phone to see that I missed the boat. Most people could care less as to the reasons why; they want the how. Not only do they want to know how, but they want it as simple as possible.

This new series of articles should be exactly what they, and perhaps you, need. I've come up with eight key factors that are required to get as strong as possible. These include:

Each of these variables is just as important as the next and not one should be left unexamined. If one is off, the entire program will suffer because of it.

Let's examine each key factor. In Part One of this article, we'll look at coaching, teamwork, and conditioning.


Coaching

A coach is a mentor, training partner, motivator, and leader. There are many other functions the coach will fill but the most important is this:

The coach should strive to make you better than he is.

A great strength coach will be one who's lived in the trenches and has paid his dues with blood, sweat, and iron. If you want to squat 800 pounds, why would you ever listen to someone who's never squatted 455?

Ask yourself this question and you'll see my point. How much do you bench press? The answer doesn't matter that much, but let's say it's 400 pounds. Now ask yourself, how much more did you have to learn about training to bench 400 as compared to when you pressed 200? Would you also agree that there's much more to learn to take your bench from 400 to 500? I think so.

Now, how much more training did you have to do to go from 200 to 400? Did it come overnight? Or did you have to work hard and work smart to get there? Nobody will ever be able to convince me that no knowledge was gained in the 200 pound process!

The next question would be, could this same under-the-bar-knowledge be learned from a book? In other words, is there another way to gain this same knowledge? I don't think so. I feel the best coaches are the ones who've attained both under-the-bar knowledge and book knowledge. If you had to only choose one, it would have to be the under-the-bar coach. He knows how to get you where you're going because he's been there.

After all, how do you know what really works if you never put it to the test? I see tons of new programs on how to get strong and the first thing I ask the author is, "Have you done it? What did it do for you?"

I could go on and on about coaches as it's one of those topics that drives me nuts, but it would become a huge rant article. I'll leave you instead with this short story. Years ago I came to train with Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell. He was semi-retired at the time. We had a big group of lifters but only two or three were elite and most were below average. I believe there was only one 900 pound squat. When Louie decided to make a comeback and begin training hard again, the entire gym changed and a few years later, we were all elites and had over six 900 pound squats. The rest was history.

Tell me a coach who trains isn't a better coach! If you're a coach, get your ass in the gym and get strong again. You owe it to yourself and your team.


Teamwork

If you train alone you're putting limits on yourself. Training partners are critical for many reasons, including group energy, subgroup coaching, and competing. Have you ever noticed when you go into a gym all the strong guys train in their own little clique? Do you think they were always strong, or could a couple of strong guys have taken another guy under their wings to bring him up? That's usually what happens with a team. In fact, they're all stronger because of the team.

The energy a team can provide is enormous. We all need relationships in our lives to take things to the next level. Think back to your football or other team sport days. Remember the locker room talk before the big game? You find yourself sitting on one knee listening to the coach. As the coach speaks and the game gets closer, your energy meter is getting jacked up. Your blood is moving fast in your body and you can feel the adrenaline flowing. You're jacked up and ready to go. You're at maximum level!

Now what if I was to tell you there's a way to take it one level higher, but this can’t happen when you're alone? You'll need others to make this work. Go back to the game. What happens after the coach finishes his speech and you stand up? You find everyone in the room is jacked up. There's fire in everyone’s eyes and you're taking in more energy from them. It's almost unreal! There are high-fives, head butts, screams, rage, and extreme motivation. This happens because everyone in the room has his own level ten, but when it's combined for one purpose and one goal the energy goes off the chart! You find yourself at a level you never thought possible. This can’t be achieved alone.

I use this as an example of group energy. I'm not telling you to go nuts with your training partners each session. I'm saying there's energy there that can’t be found any other way! If you want to take it to the next level, find some training partners who share the same goals. You'll be amazed.

Training partners are also a great subgroup of coaches when you're training. When you're bench pressing, are you pressing the bar on the right path? Are your elbows tucked? Are you sure? A training partner can do two things: point out the mistakes and provide the proper verbal queuing during the movement to make sure you don’t screw up the next one.

You'll also notice one key thing in all lifter interviews. They always thank their training partners. Why do you think they do this? They know that without them they wouldn't be where they are today. If you train alone, stop messing around and get a partner!


Conditioning

If you think you can excel in any sport without a base level of conditioning you're out of your mind. The days of over-fat, bloated, can’t breathe, can’t sleep powerlifters are over!

Let me describe what I define as a powerlifter so everyone is on the same page. A powerlifter is one who competes in the squat, bench, and deadlift to arrive at the highest total. A full meet can last up to nine hours and nine max lifts will be attempted. To be able to do this, a lifter must be in great condition or he'll pay the price come the deadlift.

Here's where one of the biggest mistakes I've seen over the past few years will come into focus. You can get conditioned by adding extra workouts and GPP (General Physical Preparation) training, but I've seen lifters go from three workouts per week to fourteen and wonder why they can’t recover. There are many ways to get conditioned (increase work capacity and GPP), but what I suggest doing is taking a slow build-up process to condition the body to the extra work. To do this, add in warm-up work for a few weeks. For example, a startup warm-up session would look like this:

Warm-Ups

Glute Ham Raises: 1 set of 6 reps

Lat Pulldowns or Chins: 1 set of 10 reps

Over the next few weeks, the sets, reps and movements will increase to something like this:

Glute Ham Raises: 4 sets of 12 reps

Lat Pulldown or Chins: 3 sets of 15 reps

Neck Raises: 3 sets of 10 reps

As you can see, the total volume and work has increased and the main part of your training session has remained unchanged. When your warm-up gets over seven to eight items, then you can cut it in half and move four items to an afternoon session (in an extra workout). Now you can add four more movements (over time) to the morning warm-up session and four more (again, over time) to the afternoon session.

You may find that keeping it all in the morning session is the best way for you and you won't need the afternoon sessions. You may also find you need different movements to get your body ready for the real work of the day. Whatever you choose to do, remember that extra work should be added in a slow process over time. And as long as you're making gains, don’t be so quick to add extra work.

Listed below are a few items I feel are great for extra workouts and warm-up sessions:

Light Plyometrics: Rope Skipping and Low Box Jumps (under 10")

Glute Hams Raises: Not the "natural" glute ham raises everyone seems to think are GHR's. You need a special bench to do these. The natural GHR is too intense for warm-up and extra work and is better left in the main session.

Any Abdominal Training

Any Light Band Movements

Light Deadlifting (under 40% of max)

Dumbbell Shoulder Raises

The sport you lift in will determine the level of conditioning you'll need and how many extra sessions you'll need to work into. For more information, see the sport specific area of our Q and A section at elitefts.com.


In the next installment, Dave will discuss the strength portion of his system, which as you can guess, is a whole article unto itself. He'll also open beer bottles with his teeth and swallow the glass. Don't bring the kiddies.