February 23, 2014

How The Strongest Man Of All Time Can Help You Add 15% To Your Squat, Deadlift, or Bench - Progressive Movement Training

If the strongest man the world has ever seen can do it, I can do it!

Paul Anderson is said to be one of the strongest human beings who ever lived and it’s likely that not many would argue that statement given that he reportedly squatted 1,000 lbs, and possibly even 1,200 lbs! Certainly there is much to be learned about the training of this man, but this article will simply shine light on a form of training he popularized, which undoubtedly assisted in him attaining the superhuman strength levels he was known for.

It’s not rocket science

It doesn’t take a genius to realize that it’s a lot easier to lift a given amount of weight through a limited range of motion, compared to the full range of the exact same movement. Anyone who’s ever performed a squat, deadlift, bench press, or pretty much any extension oriented movement, found out real quick that the lower the bar was in relation to the floor, the harder it became to reverse the movement and lift the bar away from the floor. However, if the bar was only lowered and lifted through a fraction of the full range, the movement was much easier, and thus more weight could be lifted for more reps. It’s not uncommon to see young men/teenagers in virtually any commercial gym, lifting through the range in which they can handle 20-30% more weight than if they performed the movement ‘properly’, as their ego must be protected, and they demonstrate this by working out in this manner.

It did however take a genius to recognize that all it takes is a little creativity, and movements could be performed through a limited range with a greater amount of weight than would be possible through a full range, and by incrementally increase the range of motion over time, the body would adapt, and that greater amount of weight would become ‘normal’, thus you’d have a new full range max! That genius was Paul Anderson.

Why didn’t I think of that?

Depending on the movement, most people can handle anywhere between 10-30% more weight in the most advantageous position compared to the most disadvantageous position. The greater the range of motion, the greater discrepancy between the amount of weight that can be lifted through a full range, compared to that of a partial range.

Paul Anderson is said to have taken advantage of this phenomenon, if it can even be called that given it’s ridiculous simplicity, by lifting a supramaximal load through a partial range of motion, for as many reps as possible (20-25 to start per training session). Every few weeks, he’d supposedly increase the range of motion by 2-3 inches, and continue performing as many reps as possible. Obviously as they range of motion increased, the reps decreased.

That’s genius, sheer genius!

Strength is gained in the range it is trained, which is why it is crucial to always perform a full range of motion. However, strength gains are not limited to the exact degree to which the joints are trained in. Generally the strength gained through a partial range of motion has a carryover of about 15 degrees.

This means that the strength gained from performing a movement through the range of motion in which you can handle the most weight will carry over into a range that you may not even be training in. By gradually increasing the range in which you can handle a greater weight, you turn your partial range max (maybe not partial range ‘max’, but definitely more than your current full range max), into your full range max. This is the underlying theme of what progressive movement training (PMT) is based upon.

Alright, sign me up

So here’s how you can apply PMT:

Use a supramaximal load that you cannot lift through a full range of motion, but obviously light enough that you can lift through a partial range of motion (about 15% above 1 RM is ideal).

Perform as many partial range reps as possible during a training session without sacrificing the training effect by resting too long in favor of performing more reps (otherwise you could literally hang around the gym all day performing rep after rep). Sets and reps don’t necessarily apply as it’s about total volume, but that doesn’t mean the rest times should get out of hand. To maximize the training effect, fatigue should limit you to around 20-25 total reps performed over the course of a training session if your rest is adequate.

If you deal better with having a set and rep goal, or parameter, to adhere to, start with this:

Range 1 – 2 X 6
Range 2 – 2 X 5
Range 3 – 3 X 4
Range 4 – 2 X 3
Range 5 – 3 X 2
Test new 1 RM

Reps and range are inversely proportionate, ex. the shorter the range, the more reps needed, as the range increases, the reps decrease.

Notice it says ‘range 1’, not ‘week 1’, or ‘workout 1’. The reason for this is because the range needs to be increased incrementally, and the total range of the movement will determine how soon the range can be increased. The greater the distance the bar travels, the more frequent you can increase the range of motion of the movement. Because of the greater distance in which the bar travels during a squat, in relation to the deadlift, or bench press, its range can be increased weekly, whereas the shorter range deadlift should be increased no sooner than every other week, and the bench press every third week.

To prevent losing strength through a full range of motion, it’s important to continue to perform full range of motion exercises for the muscles involved in the movement pattern you are using for PMT. Avoid using the same exact movement though to prevent neural fatigue as best you can.

For the record

PMT is best suited for extension oriented movements (squat, deadlift, bench press), as flexion oriented movements, or bodyweight movements, are generally of an anti-gravity nature. The reason progressive movement training works is because gravity enables weights to be lowered, regardless of the fact that you are weaker at certain joint positions, as opposed to raised. With a pull-up, or dip, for example, the movement becomes far more challenging, every inch further away from the floor that your body is raised.

The most comparable way to train flexion oriented movements, or bodyweight movements, would be to only perform eccentric reps, in which you either increase the eccentric duration each ‘stage’, or the amount of reps as you progress through each stage. Generally starting with a 5-8 second eccentric, continue to add weight until 3-5 reps with a 5 second eccentric is not possible.

If you have any questions about progressive movement training (PMT), feel free to contact me at ben@paramounttraining.ca. I'm available for online consulting and personalized program design, as well as one on one training if you are located in the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).

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