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The COLOSSAL Guide to Strength and Power, Vol. II


Master Don Juan
Jan 22, 2005
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Ok, so last time I gave you a primer on strength and power, and covered the basics of proper form in the big lifts. Now we’ll get to the meat of it---getting strong.

The basic tenets of strength training have always been---and will always be---the same: progressive resistance with heavy weight, proper form, rest, and sufficient nutrient intake to maximize the adaptive response. After that come principles of exercise selection, frequency, and intensity. Remember you body will always revert back to its most efficient state possible if untrained. Having 50 extra lbs of muscle mass that has no functional utility is a burden to the body so it will reduce that excess accordingly if you aren’t hitting it with stimuli.

There are different ways to go about getting strong, but there are a few approaches I will talk about here briefly for teaching simplicity and to help you understand what is best for you. All of these approaches work, but not all of them work all the time and for all persons.

The Dinosaur Method

This is the simplest and oldest of strength training methods. “Dinosaur Training” is a term coined by Brooks Kubik, a cult legend in the world of strength and power. It is centered on basic, compound movements, heavy weight, thick bars, and the use of implements such as sandbags, kegs, anvils, etc. Kubik was one of the first to rail against the “chrome and fern” land of modern fitness centers, and advocate getting strong instead of fluffing up your arms on some machines. Dinosaur training is down-and-dirty, hard-ass work. All you need is a power rack, some heavy duty dumbbell handles, a thick bar, and some implements you can buy at a hardware store.
Dinosaur training is based on the slow and steady approach to developing strength. The goal is to add as much weight as possible to the bar each workout, even if it’s just 1 lb. The logic behind this is that if you can add even 2 lbs a week to your lifts over the course of a year, it is a foregone conclusion you will put on considerable muscle mass on your frame using 100 lbs more weight than you were a year ago. The intensity and brutal nature of working with this kind of weight without any appreciable deload phase necessitates using an abbreviated training format. Dino training is usually done 2-3 times per week.

This type of training is best suited for beginners and those who don’t have the time or inclination to mess with the conjugate method. Dino training is great for those who like to lift alone, or have some basic equipment in their garage and don’t care for fitness centers. Dino training will get you stronger, but you will get the most in the long term if you have a plan, not just go ape **** every workout. For this reason I recommend the 5/3/1.

Kubik’s book, “Dinosaur Training”, is available on his website (www.brookskubik.com) and covers everything you need to know about it. It’s a classic text and I recommend it for any lifting fanatic.

The Westside Method

The Westside method is a form of the conjugate method, and was created by Louie Simmons, the founder and owner of Westside Barbell. Most of you have probably heard of Westside. Louie did not ‘invent’ conjugate methodology; rather he took the core tenets of the scientifically-based methods used by the Soviets and Bulgarians, and made a system out of it tailored for powerlifting.

The conjugate method is based on three forms of training: Max Effort (ME), Dynamic Effort (DE), and Repeated Effort (RE). All three are done concurrently in the same week, hence the title of conjugate method.

ME work is just what it sounds like---maximal or near maximal effort on a lift for 1 or 2 reps. This is also called limit strength. Powerlifting is straight limit strength. You are aiming to lift the maximum amount of weight possible one time. It may not be your all-time best, but it is the most you can do at that given time.

DE work is, for simplicity’s sake, speed work. DE training involves lifting a sub-maximal weight (usually 50-60% of your max) with maximum speed. This primarily develops the central nervous system. Remember, Force = (Mass)(Acceleration). The faster you can move that bar, the more force you generate. This is where the bands and chains that have become synonymous with Westside come in. They change the resistance through the course of the lift. As the chains unravel from the floor, gravity’s pull is greater and the weight increases. As the bands become more taught, there is more resistance against the bar as you are pushing or pulling upward. Over time, as you train progressively against these forms of resistance, you will get faster, and thus, stronger. The key is to do it with sub-maximal weight you can actually move quickly. This will have carry-over when you hit max weights and you have more explosive power to draw on. This is not theory, it works and it has been proven. The kicker here is that bands and chains were developed for use with geared lifters---i.e. lifters who use bench shirts and squat suits. I do not think using these implements is necessary for raw lifters, but to each his own.

RE training is using sub-maximal weights for maximum reps, usually to failure. This is where hypertrophy comes in, and to an extent “prehab” work that helps prevent injuries. RE training generates more blood volume in the target area, exhausts a greater range of fiber types, and improves work capacity.

Westside principles can be applied to powerlifting, sports, equipped lifting and drug free lifting. Westside, however, is not for beginners. You need a foundation of strength and experience before you jump into more advanced training.

The 5/3/1 Method

This is probably the simplest and most effective method to getting strong. I’m not going to go into detail because Jim Wendler has an eBook about it and it’s pretty straightforward. Basically, it looks like this:

Week 1: 5/5/5 @65%, 75%, 85%
Week 2: 3/3/3 @70%, 80%, 90%
Week 3: 5/3/1 @75%, 85%, 95%
Week 4: 5/5/5 @ 60% (deload week)

If you want to know more, seriously just buy the book (elitefts.com). I am currently on the 5/3/1, and love it so far. It is simple and makes training fun again. You aren’t killing yourself with mega-volume and maximum weight every workout, yet you are making constant progress. The key is it takes patience and you have to check your ego at the door.


A few comments-

You have to ask yourself what your goals are. I’m willing to bet that for most people on Sosuave, their goal is purely aesthetics---to look good and attract women. That is fine; we all want to look good, but if you are only concerned with sexy abs and toned arms, stop reading this post. If you JUST want to look good, be a fvcking bodybuilder. If you want to use the balls God gave you and get strong, train to GET STRONG. Not to get a pump, not to 'work up a sweat', not to 'stay fit'.

You CAN get strong and still have symmetry and aesthetics. That is where the assistance exercises come in. Assistance exercises are anything other than your bench, squat, deadlift, overhead press, and clean. The purpose of them should be to bring up weak areas and help your big lifts, build muscle mass and symmetry, and develop work capacity. The key is to work them hard, but not spend an inordinate amount of effort on assistance exercises. In other words---don’t be constantly going to failure and do crazy bodybuilding set/rep schemes. You want to stimulate growth but not blow all your steam on them.

I advise only going all out on your last set of the big lift. This is where growth is stimulated. You might want to go all-out on your preceding sets, but it will serve you better if you keep them to 3-5 reps with strict form, to prime you for a battle with the heavy weight. Lift it like you have a set of balls. You will grow.

Don’t get too caught up in 1 RM. The 1 RM is no greater than the 5 RM. If you did 225 for 4 reps last week, and this week you hit 225 for 6 reps, you have gotten stronger.

You need to have patience and stick to the plan. The reason why most lifters eventually plateau after a few years is that they can’t stick with a fvcking plan for more than a week. Half the time they don’t even know what they are doing until the step into the weight room. I was stuck at the same weights for YEARS because of lack of goals and a game plan.

Remember, keep it simple. Have a game plan and focus on getting better every single time. Don’t make weight training too complicated. It isn’t.

In the next and last volume I will have a strength training FAQ, and some words on nutrition and supplementation.



Master Don Juan
Nov 17, 2003
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great post


Senior Don Juan
Jun 7, 2009
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yep, this one and the volume one are both awesome! cant wait for vol 3!