I’ve gotten a number of emails from lifters who live in areas without a coach or club who wonder if it would be good for them to follow the Workouts of the Day (WOD’s) that I post up on PDX Weightlifting. The answer I have is Yes and No. I put them up (sporadically, at best) to provide people with some idea of what we’re doing, not as a proscription for what you should be doing on your own.
That said, they could provide for you a base program that you can adapt to your own needs. However, for this to be reasonable, there are some things you need to understand first. This post is as much a disclaimer as anything else for those of you interested in following along with our workouts at home.
The WOD’s are for Intermediates NOT Beginners
The programs I put beginners on are nothing like the WOD’s you see on the website. I expect that a lifter has been doing the Oly lifts for at least 6 months or even a year before they are ready to do the WOD’s as written. Yes, some lifters are fast learners and can be up and running in 3 months.
But, that is rare. For that beginner period, your entire life should be about drilling form with a serious squat program thrown on top.
No One Does the Workout Exactly as Written
Many new lifters make the mistake of believing that the routines they read on paper (or online) are exactly what is done in the gym. This is never the case. The best reason to have a coach is so that he/she can make course corrections as needed. If I’m in the gym, and I see one of my lifters doing far worse than I’d hoped, I will ditch the written workout and focus on the problem at hand.
Similarly, every once in a while, when a lifter looks good for a new PR, but the workout didn’t call for it, I’ll have them max out anyway. Many PR’s in my club happen on days we didn’t plan it. You want to make sure that there IS a plan in place, and that you largely follow it. But, don’t be dogmatic about it. There is a balance to be found.
Which leads me to …
WOD’s Change Based on the Needs of PDX Members NOT Some Prearranged Plan
The way my system works is that I am constantly trying to adapt our programs to fit the needs of MY lifters. The WOD’s you see reflect what I believe is going to do my core group of lifters the most good in this particular moment, and are structured around OUR contest schedule.
That’s great for them, but it may not be exactly what YOU need. Now … I generally believe that most adult intermediate lifters (what most of us will be forever) need many of the same things, and will often do well on similar programs. But, please feel free to add or subtract as you see fit.
I’m giving you permission to be your own coach. I encourage all lifters to be involved in their own development as much as they can be. Don’t slack here. Be critical.
On “The Bulgarian Spectrum” = Beware of Common Myths and Misconceptions
PDX Weightlifting is a club that can be placed on what could be called “The Bulgarian Spectrum”. The problem with that classification, however, is that it causes people to believe all kinds of things about our workouts and programs that have nothing to do with the truth.
(Don’t worry, I’m writing a big article on what I consider the most important points about The Bulgarian Method from a Theoretical/Philosophical perspective that will shed more light on the stuff I’m only touching on below, and the reasons behind them.)
Here are 3 major things to keep in mind:
1. Daily Maxing is NOT an Excuse to be a Dumbass!
In almost every workout we will max out on something, usually a lot of somethings. I will write, “1RM” for 1 rep max, or “DM” for daily max. This isn’t your best ever max. It isn’t even the heaviest lift that is competition legal.
Your 1RM should be the heaviest lift you can make look GOOD.
Good technique at the highest weight possible is the goal. If you are chasing a lift all over the platform … you missed. I’ll allow it if you are going for a real PR, but generally your heaviest lift for the day is the one that looked good right before things got ugly.
There are a number of reasons for this. The most important is injury prevention. I have no interest in lifters getting hurt!
The other reason is that doing something with bad technique will drill in bad technique. We want to avoid the number of reps you do with shitty technique as much as we can.
And, as I said above, not every lifter does the workouts exactly as written. Some don’t max at all, but maybe go for heavy doubles or triples. It all depends upon what I think is best for THAT lifter given THEIR needs. Again, be your own coach, here.
2. Misses Should be Kept to a Minimum
The reality is that sometimes you have to miss a lift before you make it. When going for your max for the day it is OK to miss a few times first. But, don’t get carried away. As a rule, 3 to 6 misses on the snatch, 1 to 3 on the clean and jerk, 0 to 1 on the front squat, and 0 to 1 on the back squat are standard.
YES, I know, I know, I’ve got video on my Youtube page of a few of my lifters going for a stupid number of misses in order to chase down a PR. But, remember that I am right there watching them, and that their form improves on nearly every attempt, and it is something that almost never happens at PDX.
Do as we say, here, not as we do! I put those videos up as a way of encouraging tenacity. But, it is easy to be mislead into thinking that we do this kind of stuff all the time. We don’t.
EXAMPLE: Peter here is being a bit psycho … and yes, that is me laughing at him in the background!
3. Back Off Sets Are Technique Builders = Don’t Practice Bad Habits!!
Some people believe that Bulgarian programs don’t place enough emphasis on technique, that it’s a “brute force” method of building up a lifter. I totally, and whole-heartedly disagree with this. In fact, I’d say it is the exact opposite. The Bulgarian Method is a technical-coaches method.
The reason you miss a lift is almost ALWAYS because of a technical flaw you made. This flaw often will only present itself at the heavier weights. So, you need to practice good technique at the heaviest weights you can honestly do with good form in order to fix this problem.
But, it is rarely good enough to simply max out. Our WOD’s often include back-off sets (or “volume”).
When I write something like 5×3 @ 80%+, that means generally that you’ll drop BELOW 80% of what you hit for your daily max, and start doing triples until you get to 80%. This lead-in is there to get you “in the groove”.
THEN you start to count them, trying to get in a total of 5 sets of 3 at or (preferably) above 80%. Some days you will be too tired to make this happen, others you will be strong enough to hit 90%. But, try as hard as you can to stay heavy and keep your form as beautiful as humanly possible.
Go as heavy as you can with good form. That is the rule to live by.
And There You Have It
Happy lifting. And if you have any questions, make sure you leave them in the comments section, since you probably aren’t the only one!