Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Countdown to Power - John Kuc

Yuri Vlasov

Peary & Mabel Rader

Ben Weider
with his Father & Mother

Countdown to Power
by John Kuc (1986)

There are few trainees who are not interested in building power and size. Isn’t this, along with health, the reason we train? Finding the way to do this is the problem. There are many ingredients that go into increased size and strength. Hard work, dedication, proper diet, sufficient rest and a training routine designed for this purpose are all necessary. In this article we will discuss a routine that is designed to increase your overall body strength as well as size. If used correctly, the results will show. In future articles I would like to cover other factors involved.

The routine we will use will be built around the squat, bench press and deadlift. These movements work the major muscle groups of the body. These will be the core exercises in our power building routine. One simple change can be made if you are one of those people who prefer overhead pressing strength to prone pressing strength. Simply substitute the Monday/Thursday bench presses with overhead presses, and put the benches in where the seated dumbell presses are on that same Monday routine. Another approach is to bench on Monday and perform overheads on Thursday. Remember, a program is a guideline. Your goals should be the determining factor in which movements you use.

We will set the routine up for either a three or four day per week training schedule. I would recommend four days per week, but if three days are all you can afford, or you have found thrice-weekly training to bring better results, the routine can be adjusted.

This routine we will use is called the “Countdown to Power.” It is designed to work the major muscle groups in a manner that will cause an overall increase in body size and strength. The key to this routine is progressively heavier weights while decreasing the repetitions, or what’s often referred to as pyramiding. The main factor is doing this in a logical and organized manner. All of the power movements (squat, bench press or overhead press, and deadlift) will use the same scheme of repetitions; only the poundages will be adjusted. Place equal emphasis on all three movements, and don’t be afraid to substitute, using front squats for the squat movement, a clean or other big pull for the deadlift etc. Again, your goals, temperament and individual physical and mental makeup should be the determining factor in selecting movements for the routine. Just make sure that the three power movements you use are just that, COMPOUND POWER MOVEMENTS.

The repetition scheme will be as follows:
Warm up set of 12 reps.
A second warm up set, if needed.
Then, 10-8-6-4-2-2-8.

We will develop some routines using different poundages so that you will see how to apply it to your requirements. What this routine will do is tax your body and cause it to grow in size and strength. What we want to do with the routine is induce overload in the major muscle groups. The overload principle, put in the most basic of terms, states that a muscle grows larger and stronger only when required to perform tasks that place loads on it over and above previous requirements. Our routine will do just that, and the result over time will be increased size and strength.

We will set this up as a four day per week schedule. On Monday and Thursday the key exercise will be a pressing movement. On Tuesday, a squatting movement, and on Friday a squat and a pulling movement. If you are going to train three days per week, the following will apply. Monday and Friday will be centered around a press and a squat, and Wednesday will be a pull day.

Using the four day per week setup, arms, chest and shoulders will be included with the main press movement. Leg and back exercises will be done on the squat and pull days. Abdominal work and stretching will be done on all four days.

Let’s now examine how the routine will be set up. We want to choose weights that will allow us to complete the routine, yet tax our strength. This is where intelligence, dedication and hard work come in. We will use an individual with a 300-lb. bench press as our example. The first set will be strictly a warmup, such as 135x12. The next sets will be 190x10, then 210x8, 230x6, 250x4, 270x2, 270x2, then 215x8. These are only sample poundages. You may be able to do more, or not as much. Make the adjustments as necessary. All repetitions should be done in strict form. Cheating or partial movements will not be used in this routine.

For the squat and deadlift we will use 400-lb. lifts. As in the bench, the first set will be a warmup, 135x12. Then 205x10, 245x8, 285x6, 325x4, 365x2, 365x2, then 250x8. Remember these are workouts designed to build power and size. THEY ARE NOT POWERLIFT ROUTINES. A complete routine would be set up in the following manner:

Before each workout : Stretch, then Abs for 100 total reps.

Bench Press – 12-10-8-6-4-2-2-8.
Dumbell Flyes – 2 sets of 10 reps.
Barbell Curls – 3x8.
Dumbell Curls – 3 x 8.
Lying Triceps Extensions – 3x8.
Triceps Pushdowns – 3x12.
Seated Dumbell Presses – 3x8.

Squat – 12-10-8-6-4-2-2-8.
Leg Extension – 3x10.
Leg Curl – 3x10.
Calf Raises – 3x15.
Lat Pulldowns – 4x8.
Dumbell Rows – 4x8.

Same as Monday.

Squat – 12-10-8-6-4-2-2-8.
Leg Extension – 1x10.
Leg Curl – 1x10.
Calf Raises – 2x15.
Deadlift – 12-10-8-6-4-2-2-8.
Dumbell Rows – 3x8.

If done properly this should be all the work you can handle. Quality, not quantity is what we are striving for.

For the first couple of workouts you will have to experiment with the poundages you will use. We are all different, so the ratio of repetitions to a single attempt will vary from one person to another. Some individuals may only be able to jump 10-15 pounds per set, while others may be able to handle 40-50 pounds per jump. Naturally the increases per set will be greater in the squat and deadlift than in the pressing movement. Don’t agonize over any of this. Just find out what weight jumps work best for you by trial and error.

Once you have established your starting weights we must determine a formula for adding weight. I would suggest the following method. Once you can complete the workout (all sets and reps) for two consecutive sessions you should add weight. I would not suggest adding more than five pounds, but this five pounds will be added to all sets except your warmup set. By doing this you will be working harder on all the sets, and applying the overload principle to its maximum.

Naturally one cannot push week after week and continue to make progress indefinitely. Forcing beyond a certain point will result in fatigue, overtraining and injury. To prevent this from happening we will put a rest week into our routine.

Every 5th or 6th week will be a rest week. On this week we will use only 80-85% of the weights used the previous week, and this goes for all the exercises, not just the main movements. Keep the same set and rep scheme so that order and consistency stays in your workouts. On the week following your rest week use the same weights you used the week before your rest week. Keep in mind that building size and strength is a long term procedure. Be patient, and you will succeed. Don’t skip the rest week even if you feel you don’t need it. This rest period is important to long term progress.

There is another variation of this routine. This is the 5-4-3-2-1-5 system. It is similar to the 10-8-6-4-2-2, but the reps are lower and the weights are heavier. Taking the same 300-lb. bench press, the 5-4-3-2-1 routine would be as follows. 135x12, 205x6-8 (warmups), then 250x5, 260x4, 270x3, 280x2, 290x1, 255x5. The procedures for adding weight and rest weeks would be the same. This routine would be more geared towards pure strength.

A training routine is only part of the battle. Some lifters have great training routines and work very hard in the gym, but blow it all with their lifestyle choices. Making progress is a commitment. You must make sure you get the proper amount of rest, get a decent diet, stay away from junk food and don’t overdo the booze. In order to be good at anything decisions must be made each day.

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