Friday, February 14, 2014

Texas Method and Strongman?

Before my next strongman competition was announced, I wasn't doing any strongman training at all except for a little bit of light atlas stone work if I had time. Instead, I was pushing my gym lifts using a Texas Method setup. Why? Because my gym numbers are undoubtedly still intermediate and I decided there was no reason why I couldn't push new PRs on a weekly basis. The other reason was that I had just started back squatting again (after a shoulder injury left me front squatting last year and for a while before that too) and my back squat was low enough that going to a monthly progression would've been an incredibly stupid idea. Then a competition was announced...

Firstly, a very simplified explanation about the Texas Method:

  • Lift 2-3 days a week.
  • High volume early in the week.
  • Light day in the middle of the week. Somewhat optional.
  • Work up to a new 5RM at the end of the week.
The idea is that the volume day earlier in the week pushes the heavy day each week, given your recovery, and thus your adaptation, is optimal. For much more information, buy the books from 70's Big.

What's the problem with trying to push your gym lifts with the Texas Method and train strongman events at the same time? Events days often end up being fairly high volume and beat your body up more than gym lifts.

So can you do volume day and events on the same day? Only if you're insane, or very new to strongman. I can't think of anything more painful than doing 5x5 (or even 3x5) squats and then doing yoke walks or farmer's walks and finishing up with some stones. But if you keep the volume and events days separate, you risk not being properly rested to hit a new PR on your heavy day. And doing volume and events one day after the other also sounds like a horrible, masochistic idea.

If events days are high volume, can we use that volume to push the heavy day and forgo having to do 5x5 squats and bench? Theoretically it sounds like it could work, and it might work for some people, but I couldn't get volume on the yoke walk to adequately feed into my heavy squats, and my squat is low enough that I would think it should go up from even a little stimulus. This may have just been a consequence of getting back into squats are a long lay-off, but either way, this wasn't gonna work for me.

So what can you do?

Something that does work is programming an overhead lift with the Texas Method; volume upper on Monday (plus accessories), light upper later in the week, and a new PR on either the log or axle on events day (Saturday). Incline bench and strict overhead presses translate pretty well to the log.

What about the deadlift? Theoretically you could do volume squats (or RDLs) on Monday and hit a PR on your deads on Saturday before doing events, but are you going to be adequately recovered from yoke/farmers/tire/stones/whatever from Saturday to do your volume squatting on Monday? If you move the volume day to Tuesday, or maybe even Wednesday, it could work.

So clearly the issue is with recovery. Volume squatting and strongman events can be hard to recover from, but if you're confident that your recovery practices can facilitate that, then it's possible.

But should you? Let's get philosophical for a minute...

By trying to push your gym lifts and your events training at the same time, you're trying to serve two masters at once, something many strength training coaches and athletes advise against, especially as you get more intermediate/advanced in your training. So maybe it would be best to just use a low volume program, like 5/3/1, to push your gym lifts during the week, and save most of your energy for events training. You're training for a strongman competition after all, and your gym lifts are really just GPP for the events; there is no max bench event! After the competition, or in the off-season if you have one, you can push your gym lifts while backing off from events training.

The other problem is that it's just too difficult to think about and is likely to change from competition to competition depending on whether there are max weight events, max reps events, longer distances, shorter distances, medleys, 2-day comps and every other variable that can be tweaked for a strongman competition. Whether or not the weights are heavy or light for you is also going to change things.

It's just too hard.

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