As I discussed in the last Baystate Blog, Baystate places a huge emphasis on strength and performing specific strength exercises to get stronger. This blog will go into much more detail in terms of what the sets and reps look like for the strength work. It seems that a lot of weightlifting coaches tend to focus on technique, while forgetting about strength. Personally, I do not believe in a “strength cycle”. I would much rather push all of my lifters to get stronger throughout the entire year. In my opinion, being strong is never a weakness.
80%-90% of the BayState Barbell strength work consists of 3 sets with 5 reps. There may even be some cases where a lifter will perform a 5x5 if we feel the extra volume is necessary (that includes the back squat, the clean grip deadlift, the snatch grip deadlift, the push press, the snatch grip push press, military press, etc.) In most training cycles, the majority of the “working” sets will be based off of a 1rm. However, there may even be some instances when the “working” sets are based off of a 3rm or 5rm. For all, “working” sets we will keep a “level load” and NOT ascending or descending sets. We will continue to add 2.5kg-5kg to every exercise (every week) until progress stops. Once progress stops, we will attempt a new 1rm, 3rm and/or 5rm. It is not uncommon for my athletes to deadlift or front squat their old 1rm for 5 reps at the end of a training cycle. Once this happens, we will “reset” and begin the process all over again.
In my opinion, there is no better way for the weightlifter and/or athlete to get stronger. The Baystate Barbell strength programming is a combination of the original 5x5 method that legendary strength coach, Bill Starr, wrote about in his book, The Strongest Shall Survive: Strength Training for Football, and The Texas Method popularized by weightlifting coach, Glenn Pendlay. Both methods have gotten hundreds if not thousands of athletes stronger for decades. The success and effectiveness of this type of programming cannot be debated. The fundamentals never go out of style.
First and foremost, sets of 5 will not only increase muscular strength but also muscular size. All of our “working” sets of 5 fall between the 65%-85% intensity range. These sets of 5 have a significant time under tension and the aforementioned intensity range allows for substantial muscle fiber recruitment. The time under tension coupled with the added metabolic work provides the ideal scenario for muscular strength along with muscular growth. Also, I’ve noticed that lifter’s technique tends to break down beyond 5 reps. Muscle fatigue can begin to set in and less attention is paid to technique, which can then lead to injury. The same can be said for anything under 5 reps. The weight would now be heavier and there would be less margin for error. Secondly, I have noticed that lifters recover much better training with 5’s rather than 8’s or 3’s. In weightlifting, recovery is vital especially when talking about strength work. I need my lifters to be able to recover so that they can snatch and clean and jerk. The highest snatch and clean and jerk win weightlifting competitions, not the highest squat or deadlift. Finally, in my experience, I’ve observed that linear progression can continue longer with 5’s than any other rep scheme. Again, it is not uncommon for my lifters to have 6-8 weeks of linear progression when training with 5’s. However, when training with 3’s or 8’s progress would begin to stall after 3-4 weeks.
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