No gym session today. I did my testing, so it’s time for a little break before I start into the next thing.
I figure it’s worthwhile to look back and think about how the cycle went.
At the end of 2013 I achieved my big goal of a 1000# total. It was a gym total (not a competition total), but whatever… I still finally got there. And so I started down a path of fat loss (again), and failed (again), then had my ankle injury which set me back. And I realized that I didn’t care as much about pure powerlifting as I did just getting bigger and stronger. So I opted to not follow the Cube Method (tho someday I probably will), and instead spent 2014 to date running Paul Carter‘s programs. I did his Big-15, which I enjoyed. And this past program was running his Strong-15 long cycle. I wanted to see how Strong-15 worked, see how it would work for me, and try to get my strength numbers back up.
For sure, it worked. At the start of the cycle, I hit a 305 squat, 430 deadlift, and 235 bench. This was below my end-of-2013 PR’s, so I had lost something due to the downtimes. Thus I opted to set modest goals of 325 squat, 445 deadlift, and 245 bench, figuring those amounts were reasonable for a 9-week cycle on a program I was unfamiliar with, and they would be true PR’s as well.
I hit my PR’s (in fact, I exceeded the bench goal due to miscalculation… PR’d at 250#)… and the thing is? I think I could have done just a bit more. Not 20# more, but maybe another 5#? 10#? Maybe. But Paul makes it clear to set reasonable goals, hit them, don’t ego it, but just keep moving making steady progress. Which certainly is the smart way to go. What it tells me tho is that the program worked well for me. I picked up 20# squat, 15# deadlift, and 15# bench in about 9 weeks. Sweet! Plus, they are all-time PR’s for me.
One thing that’s quite clear is submaximal training leads to better, long-term gains. Strong-15 really works towards this end, with those first 3 weeks being really light, lots of volume. The program works like many peaking programs do, where the intensity goes up over the weeks and the volume goes down. There’s a very logical progression of sets/reps/weight schemes along with the work done, exercises chosen, etc.. I never felt killed, I never missed a weight, I never pushed myself to the point of death, because that’s not the point. Go in, do the work, get out, then be patient.
I do miss the more rapid feedback cycles of 5/3/1. That is, in 5/3/1 you can get feedback every gym session because you can set a rep PR. Or you get feedback then at least every 4 weeks (every cycle) because on the 5/3/1 week you are to go for it and try to set a new PR. So the program structure allows you to set PR’s fairly often. As opposed to Strong-15, where you’re not really going to set a new PR until the true end of the cycle and then only if you compete or test. But in the end, the results worked out pretty well. If I try to compare 3 cycles of 5/3/1 to 1 cycle of Strong-15 (which is a rough equivalent), I think one generally gets about the same out of them. I do think one has potential to get a little more out of 5/3/1 (if we’re talking pure numbers), but chances are if you were doing that it was just normal “off season” work, whereas Strong-15 is more geared towards a meet peak. But as well, I think I was conservative in my Strong-15 goals; I’m sure I could have put more into Strong-15, and now that I know more about it, I reckon next time I use it I will set my goals a little more aggressively.
I feel a lot less beat up from Strong-15 than 5/3/1. Was it perhaps due to the slightly lower weights? Perhaps. But I still think Strong-15 puts overall less stress on the body because you aren’t killing yourself every gym session, like 5/3/1 does by virtue of having you set rep PR’s on each main movement each time you’re in the gym. So to me, if I can get the same results and it costs me less to get there, why not do it? But that said, Strong-15 is meant to be a peaking cycle, not a year-round thing, like 5/3/1 is intended to be. Paul’s got other approaches to the whole year.
I am liking Paul’s programming. For sure you have to trust it, and be patient. Again, the feedback loop is longer, so that’s where the trust and patience comes in. But it does seem that, in the end, it works out well.
I don’t think I’ll follow Strong-15 as a normal template. But if I knew I was going to be 3-months out from a meet (yes, I think after the fat loss I’m going to get myself in shape towards doing a meet), I would like to give it a shot as the program for meet-prep. Tho depending what I was doing prior to (e.g. basebuilding), I might try the Strong-15 short cycle.
Because yes… what’s next? Basebuilding. Again, I’m enjoying exploring Paul’s approaches to things. It’s different, but not too different, and so far it seems to be reaping positive results for me. You just have to be patient.