Blood on the Barbell: Robertson

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There are two types of powerlifters in the world:

1) Powerlifters who powerlift

2) Strength athletes who powerlift

A powerlifter is someone who’s focused solely on increasing the
bottom line: their total. This could be via strength gains,
technical improvements, or simply getting more out of their gear.

A strength athlete who powerlifts doesn’t care as much
about his competitive total as he does about getting stronger week
in and week out. Also, he probably doesn’t emphasize the pure
powerlifts as much as other movements.

For a long time, I associated myself with group number two.
Being an athlete my entire life, I thrived on getting stronger in a
ton of different movements. However, there was a period of time
where my only focus was on bringing up the competitive lifts. I
figured if I was going to continue doing meets, I might as well
sell out and try to get as strong as possible.

After what amounted to five years of dedicated powerlifting
training, I needed a change. My lifts were still going up, but I
needed something different: physically, mentally, and most
importantly, psychologically.

The resulting program is this random, hodge-podge mix of
influences – Alwyn Cosgrove, Bill Hartman, Eric Cressey, Mike
Boyle, and Geoff Neupert all come to mind. Each of these guys
influenced how I brought all this together.

General Thoughts on the Program

When I developed the routine below, I had several goals for
myself:

1. Start training in all planes of movement again. I’d seriously
neglected overhead pressing and pulling in my powerlifting-specific
days.

2. Maintain my strength as best as possible, maybe even improve
it.

3. Improve my GPP (general physical preparedness) and
“wind.”

4. Decrease my body fat which had gone up slightly due to
increased work demands and a decrease in training
time.

5. Most importantly, I wanted to feel like an athlete and have
some fun with training again.

The program I describe below isn’t for the weak of heart.
If you push yourself, it’s brutally hard and each workout
should test you, both mentally and physically.

A Few Disclaimers

If you don’t have an adequate strength base, you probably
won’t get as much out of this program as someone who does. You
need to be able to push some serious weights while minimizing the
rest to get maximal benefits.

As well, if you’ve been doing periods of higher rep work,
this program isn’t the one for you. This is better suited to
someone who’s transitioning from lower volume work and wants to
stay strong while improving work capacity.

The Program

Monday: Off

Tuesday

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

1) Squat

1

5

120 seconds

2A) Conventional Deadlift

2-3

5

90-120 seconds

2B) Pull-ups

2-3

AMRAP

90-120 seconds

3A) Glute-Ham Raise

3

6-8

90 seconds

3B) Weighted Push-ups

3

6-8

90 seconds

4) Reverse Crunch

3

10

60 seconds

5) Finisher

8-10 minutes total

Notes:

You can front squat, back squat, or box squat; the choice is
yours. Just make sure to work up to a 5RM and try to add pounds
each and every week. This alone should get you breathing
heavy.

The first superset (conventional deads and pull-ups) is a real
killer, especially after squatting heavy. If you’re not used
to pulling on the same day you squat, start off intentionally light
on the deads in week one.

Pull-ups should still be performed in the 6-8 rep range. If you
can do more than this with bodyweight, add external resistance or
make it more challenging (towels, mixed grip variations,
etc.).

The same thing goes for the push-ups. This isn’t high-rep
endurance training! Whether you use bands, chains, an X-Vest, or
whatever else, keep the reps in the 6-8 range. For variations,
check out this article.

The finisher is what seals the deal. You can choose whatever
medium you want (kettlebells, bodyweight, sled dragging, etc.),
just make sure you work your ass off for 8-10 minutes before you
call it a day.

Wednesday

Optional treadmill interval work, 1:3 work-to-rest ratio. No
more than 20 minutes in the gym!

Notes:

For those who want to get really lean, throw at least one (if
not two) treadmill interval sessions into your training
program.

Thursday

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

1A) RDL

2-3

8-10

90 seconds

1B) Military Press

2-3

8-10

90 seconds

2A) Walking Lunge

2-3

8-10

90 seconds

2B) Low Cable Row

2-3

8-10

90 seconds

3A) Pull-throughs

2-3

8-10

90 seconds

3B) Face Pulls

2-3

10-12

90 seconds

4A) Dead Bugs

2

10

None

4B) Low Trap Raise

2

10

None

4C) Direct Cuff Work

2

10

60 seconds

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Notes:

This day is generally harder for those with low work capacity as
it minimizes the rest periods and generally has more reps per set.
Be wary of this and start lighter than you think you
should!

The last series of the day is a prehab circuit. You get some
“dead bugs” in and then follow them immediately with low trap
raises and some direct rotator cuff work. Rest 60 seconds and then
go through this circuit one more time.

Dead Bug 1

Dead Bug 2 (arm movement with
legs)

Dead Bug 3 (knees/feet start in air
at 90 degrees)

Dead Bug 4 (same as 3, arms move with
legs)

Friday: Off

Saturday

Exercise

Sets

Reps

Rest Period

1) Max Effort Deadlift Variation

1

1

120 seconds

2A) Bench Press

2-3

6-8

90-120 seconds

2B) Step-ups

2-3

6-8

90-120 seconds

3A) Inverted Row

2-3

AMRAP

90 seconds

3B) Single-Leg RDL or Ball Leg Curl

2-3

6-8

90 seconds

4) Front and Side Pillars

1

Max time

60 seconds

5) Finisher

8-10 minutes total

Notes:

If you thought the Tuesday workout was hard, this one isn’t
much better! You’re going to be using a lot of muscle in this
workout.

For the max effort deadlift, I like to rotate my exercises from
week to week. I used reverse band deadlifts, deadlifts against
mini-bands, etc.

Max time on front and side pillars doesn’t mean to use sloppy
form! Keep things tight and in line throughout. When quality
breaks, you’re done.

The finisher is back on the list today as well. The same rules
apply, although I like to use a different medium on this workout
than I did in the previous one (e.g. if I use kettlebells Tuesday,
I’ll use a sled today).

Sunday

Optional treadmill interval work, 1:3 work to rest
ratio

Optional arm isolation work

No more than 20 minutes of total training time!

Notes:

Again, throw at least one or two treadmill interval sessions
into your training program if you’re trying to get really lean.

I typically allow some time for direct arm work on this day,
even if it’s just skull crushers supersetted with dumbbell
curls. Just be smart and don’t stay in the gym too long
today!

General Program Notes

• If you’re smart, there’s a ton of different ways to
progress on this program. Maybe you only do the minimum number of
sets on the first week, and then add a set the next week. Or you
add weight one week and then add a set the next. Or, finally, you
could do all the sets and reps but work to shorten the rest
periods. I leave a lot open to interpretation so you can customize
the program into something you’ll “enjoy.”

• To get maximum benefit, you must push the loading! If
you’re doing sets of 8 but you could be doing 12,
you’re not going to get the most out of the program.

• If you’re really pushing your training, you better be smart
about your recovery. Get plenty of rest, hop on the foam roller a
couple of times a week, and be sure your diet is dialed in. Just
remember that the harder you train, the harder you have to
recover!

• Here’s what I’d recommend with regards to
supplementation, depending on what your goals of the program
are:

For those looking to increase work capacity

• Surge/Power Drive post-workout

• Flameout

• BCAA’s

• Low-Carb Metabolic Drive

For those looking to decrease body fat

• Low-Carb Metabolic Drive or BCAA’s post
workout

• Flameout

• Low Carb Metabolic Drive/BCAA’s throughout the
day

• I do a combination of Magnificent Mobility and Inside-Out movements
prior to all training sessions. Some additional mobility work on
off-days is fine as well, as it’ll help flush metabolic waste and
get you feeling better overall.

• Watch out for all the posterior chain loading in this program
as it can catch up to you. Start intentionally light on the first
week until you see how your body responds.

• The most important thing with this program (and any other), is
to train your ass off and enjoy yourself. There’s a definite
satisfaction in pushing your limits and achieving success. Put the
work in!