• Training
  • February15th

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    I know there are a lot of variables to this question but do you find that older lifters (over 55) respond better to full body training 2 days a week or focusing on one main lift a day 4 days a week?


    It doesn’t matter at all – for any lifter. People get so caught up in this stuff, and I totally understand why, but it doesn’t matter at all. Just like where you put the bar when you squat, what kind of grip you take on chins/pull-ups, casein vs. whey…I should write an article on this. Just a lot of bickering and ridiculousness.

    Anyway, with an older lifter there are a couple things that need to be addressed/looked at. First is recovery – that is BY FAR the most important issue. I’ve written numerous things about recovery, its importance and what to do – in fact we have a whole guidelines for what to do for the 5/3/1 program. But regardless of what program you use, you must follow the basic guidelines of recovery. (and no, none of them cost any money or require you to tell a therapist your bad dreams while submerged in cold water). Stress is stress and you have to be able to recover from it regardless of if you do full body, etc. Within the scope of recovery is sleep, diet, mobility/flexibility and aerobic work.

    The second thing is injuries – usually prior injuries that restrict the lifter. You have to be able to program around and through them.

    Third is hypertrophy or HYPERtrophy (depending on the accent emphasis) – we lose muscle mass at an alarming rate when we get older. This doesn’t mean that you have to be a bodybuilder or anything remotely close. This gets covered even when doing a “low rep” program or whatever it’s called but this ties into the final point….

    Fourth is understanding the role of assistance work. For an older lifter, assistance is very important as it can allow him/her to work more without a ton of stress to the body. This can be accomplished a variety of ways but needs to be addressed. Assistance work for an older lifter doesn’t have to be “normal” exercises, rather movements: agility ladder, jumping rope, cone drills – stuff that gets your body to do shit you normally wouldn’t do. The more you train like an “athlete” (balance, not just lifting) the better, stronger and healthier you will be.  Your body is like your brain; you need to challenge it in different ways or you will become physically stupid.  Training should be functional (squat, deadlift, press) and also include unfunctional movements – these are things you normally don’t do in training or even life that can help you stay healthier (agility, mobility).  The latter is done to make the former easier.  You don’t need to spend more than 10 minutes/day on the unfunctional stuff to reap the benefits.

    So do whatever program you want – I HIGHLY encourage people to change things up while keeping the same principles. Have some fun. If the effort and principles remain the same, you will thrive.

  • February11th

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    I’m a football coach at a small high school. I’ve coached since 2003 in some capacity and was able to commit to being on the staff again this past season after a few seasons of just helping during games. We struggled through an 0-8 season in which we played mostly underclassmen, many of them sophomores. We weren’t physically strong enough to finish close games and that led to mental mistakes.

    After the season I was offered a paid position as the DC and accepted, with the understanding we would implement 5/3/1. I had gone through the previous off-seasons training template and it was not something I wanted to repeat. We ran 5/3/1 for part of the season, but that was switched mid-way through to another program. I was not in agreement, but I’m not the HC. I have run 5/3/1 for years and have had players follow it in the past with great success. The HC agreed.

    I have a group of four Varsity football players that transitioned to basketball training with me. I’m not able to be at the school when the other players lift and this group needed someone to work with them later at night. We started our first cycle the first week of basketball practice. They are training twice a week, after practice, following the 5’s Pro. In the past, in-season training for sports other than football was non-existent. If a kid trained, they did it on their own with little guidance.

    Key points

    • 90% is not 90%. The HC and another coach tested players after football. I used those numbers to get a TM and set up the first cycle. I quickly realized the TM’s were too heavy and had to adjust. After talking to the players, I now know the assistant coach that tested kids counted reps that were not complete. The maxes looked nice on paper, but were not legit.
    • Bar speed is king. This has been repeated in articles and threads, but can’t be stressed enough. I could have kept the original TM’s and kids would have been able to grind through reps for a couple of cycles, but progress would have stalled. Instead of calculating a TM, I followed Jim’s lead and watched them lift the first cycle. I used that cycle to come up with a TM that allowed the athletes to lift fast and under control. We started light and it’s paid off.
    • Pay attention to your kids. Of the four kids in my group, three play Varsity basketball. Each plays roughly 28 minutes a game as they only go six deep most games. The fourth player starts on JV basketball and logs solid minutes. Because of this, I cut back on the assistance work. The players have been ready to lift each session and focused during their training.

    After the third cycle we took a deload week. The kids had midterms that week and were mentally stressed. They didn’t have any scheduled games, so practice was short and intense. It was the perfect week to hit some lighter sets and get out. The kids came back the following week refreshed and eager to lift some heavier weights.

    The Workout

    Squat 5/3/1, 5’s Pro – SS with Box Jumps
    Bench 5/3/1, 5’s Pro – SS with face pulls and DB rows

    DL 5/3/1, 5’s Pro – SS with Broad Jumps
    Incline, 5/3/1 5’s Pro – SS with face pulls and chins

    That’s it.


    Player A (sophomore)
    Starting max bench –  135
    Last cycle – 135 x 5
    Starting max squat –  195
    Last cycle – 190 x 5
    Starting max – DL 300
    Last cycle  – 275 x 5

    Player B (sophomore)
    Starting max bench – 135
    Last cycle – 130 x 5
    Starting max squat – 200
    Last cycle – 190 x 5
    Starting max DL –  310
    Last cycle – 275 x 5

    Player C (junior)
    Starting max bench – 140
    Last cycle – 130 x 5
    Starting max squat – 290
    Last cycle 235 x 5 – we dropped his TM drastically after seeing the first cycle
    Starting max DL 300
    Last cycle 285 x 5

    Player D (junior)
    Starting max bench – 225
    Last cycle – 195 x 5

    Note: Squat and DL TM’s were adjusted after player suffered a minor meniscus tear. Once he was given the green light to train lower body we started with extremely light weights and have been increasing slowly.


    We will complete one more cycle before their season ends. They aren’t earth shattering gains, but they are gains during an intense basketball season where each player is seeing a lot of minutes. The kids have worked extremely hard and are very proud of their progress, as am I.

    More importantly, are the results on the court and hopefully in the fall on the field. The kids are playing with an aggression I have not seen in a basketball team at this school in many years. They are winning the tough games, the games that require mental toughness, something that was lacking during football. They have won eight straight games and are one game out of first in the league. They credit their success to the training they are doing in the weight room and have tried to get the other basketball players to lift with them.

    I had the players test their max verticals the first day of practice. Two players could barely touch the foam pad on the bottom of the backboard; they are both slapping the glass. Another player could touch the glass; he is now touching the rim.

    There are other out-of-season players following the program and they have seen tremendous increases. They follow the same basic template, but with assistance work. The HC had out-of-season athletes test before break and every single player increased their maxes with improved form.

    Thank you, Jim, for putting this program out there.