Christian Thibaudeau: What I'm doing

WHAT’S UP?

Hey guys, Coach Thib here. Welcome to my space in the “PLUS.” This is where I’ll update you about what’s going on with me: my training, nutrition, and supplementation, but also my life in general… if that doesn’t bore you to death.

TRAINING

I’m currently continuing on with my focus on getting my strength back. I am pretty hopeful about reaching close to my all-time performance numbers on the squat and deadlift (I’d like to get back to above 500 and 600lbs, respectively).

I’m a bit more cautious about my expectations on the bench: while my shoulder and elbow are feeling better, I feel like they will never be 100% again. And since I’m getting older (47 soon) I am putting a bit more focus on health and I just don’t want to bring my body weight up too much. My bench press strength has always been correlated with my body weight, whereas my squat and deadlift not so much.

But I still want to bring my bench press up. To do that I decided to work on my bench press technique.

See, I’ve always been a strong presser, but mostly because of good leverage (short arms, barrel rib cage) and having very strong shoulders. The problem? Because I was able to bench press heavy (best of 445lbs) I assumed that I had good technique and never worked on it.

I guess it’s never too late to improve!

Here is a quick video showing how I changed my form.

Basically I…

  1. Widened my grip to the maximum width allowed in competition
  2. Focused on pulling the bar down with my back on the eccentric
  3. Keeping the back “pulled back” when pressing

This effectively reduced the range of motion by at least 6" and mostly took the deltoids out of the movement.

I’m not lifting heavy yet. The good thing is that I decided to use a program by Boris Sheiko (not one of the outdated free programs that you can find on the net, an actual program that I bought) which, at the moment, uses mostly loads of 70-80%, with occasional sets at 85%, which allow me to focus on technique not on lifting more weight.

The plan also uses a very high frequency on the bench press: up to 5 days a week, sometimes twice in a workout (doublé technique) typically for 5-8 work sets. So that’s lots of practice!

More to come…

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NUTRITION

I must confess that my nutrition has been pretty lax recently. This always happens when I’m focusing on strength as I still have the good ole mentality that weight moves weight and that I gain strength faster when I add more body weight, even if it’s water or fat.

Then I always end up hating the way I look and crash diet to get leaner ASAP, killing my strength gains (see, despite my “expert” status, I am like a lot of you guys!).

While I’m not in the ugly physique zone yet, I can see it creeping up. I also realized that the strength program I’m on doesn’t call for rapid increases in the weights lifted. As such, there is no real need to push my body weight way up to gain strength faster.

So I decided to tighten up my diet and add some cardio back in.

The first week, nutrition-wise, consisted of getting rid of the crap and low nutritional value foods that I was eating just to get my calories in.

My diet, right now, is very Paul Saladino-like: mostly animal flesh and fruits.

My goal will be to gradually move closer to the carnivore diet that I did for 7 weeks with great body comp and well-being results a while ago.

However, I plan on making two adjustments:

  1. I will eventually eat carnivore during the week, with a serving of Workout Fuel and 1-2 servings of MAG-10

  2. On the weekend I will lower the meat intake and add in plenty of a wide variety of fruits (blueberries, raspberries, grapes, pineapple, tangerines, watermelon being my normal go-to)

I was up to 221 two weeks ago and I’ve now deflated to around 215, a lot of that is dropping water weight due to less inflammation. My goal is a fasted morning weight of 200, maybe 195, which would be close to a photoshoot condition for me.

I figure that if I do this ore gradually than usual (last time I dropped 32lbs in 6 weeks fo a photoshoot) and keep training the way I am, I should be able to maintain or even improve my strength.

CARDIO

I’ve already added a few 30-45 min steady-state cardio sessions per week. I like to use these to do “LIVE” Q&A videos, which I will soon put on T-nation +, so you’ll be able to ask me questions while reducing my boredom.

The weather is a bit less bad too, or at least trending in the right direction, as the temperature tends to (finally) be above zero celcius. This means that I can start to walk daily to the grocery store (20-25 minutes on foot, so a 40-50 min round trip) and walk my dogs a lot more.

With all of that it comes up to around 70 - 120 minutes of walking/day depending on my schedule.

I do not plan to do any high-intensity conditioning but I’ll likely start adding my weighted vest to my walks.

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Love this idea. Everybody wins. :rofl:

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Absolutely! I’m shooting for a starting date this coming Friday

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IT’S HARD TO CHASE TWO RABBITS AT THE SAME TIME

I have this theory that those who are naturally built to be strong will easily maintain their strength and even get stronger even when they drop a pretty good amount of weight but those who aren’t particularly genetically endowed for strength can get a pretty dramatic drop in strength from even a small weight loss.

Sadly, I’m in the second category!

Might be hard to believe considering that I did post some decent numbers in my time (600lbs squat, 445lbs bench, 600lbs deadlift, 650lbs trap bar deadlift, 485lbs front squat, 315lbs military press, 315lbs snatch, etc.) but keep in mind that I began lifting at 11 years of age and never stopped. And that getting stronger was my obsession.

But the fact is that it always took me a lot of time, effort and imagination to gain strength. My gains were always much slower than people that I either trained with or have trained, that I consider to be built for strength.

A good example is this pro football player that I trained. BIG bench press, 520lbs (raw) at a bodyweight of 315.

After his career he stopped training completely, became a mailman and dropped 60lbs. He stopped training for a good 5 years before he told me that he wanted to start lifting again. I gave him my old home gym equipment as I was upgrading to a new house and new set-up.

Well, 3 weeks later I ask him how lifting is going. He told me, get this, that he was taking it easy and only did 405 x 8 on the bench.

After 5 years of not training and losing 60lbs!!!

I’m going somewhere with this. I decided to get leaner while still doing my strength plan. I reasoned that it wouldn’t an issue since my weights are submaximal and my focus in on technique at the moment.

Well, I only lost 4-5lbs and my big lifts got monstrously more difficult. To the point where I had problems hitting 3 reps at 80% of my max (normally we can get 6-8 reps at 80% so 3 should be easy).

So, as it always happens with me, when I try to get lean, I get weak. It’s a matter of deciding on what my priority is.

Here’s something that might be hard to believe:

At the time of this photoshoot, I would have been physically incapable of bench pressing 225lbs x 1!!! In fact, from memory, the most I used in training at that time was 165 x 8!!!

I’m not kidding.

I don’t know what is the reason, I obviously still have the muscle mass to move big weights, but my strength just evaporates when I lose any kind of weight

I’m committed to bringing my strength back up so I’ll have to wait to get schredded.

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TRAINING ADJUSTMENTS

One thing I noticed with the program I’m on (Sheiko, intermediate competitive program) is the low amount of upper back and biceps work.

Honestly, I couldn’t care less about the lack of biceps work (which is like 5 sets per week, sometimes not at all) but I feel that not including upper back work might be problematic for bench press performance, especially considering the frequency and volume of pressing work.

Back is also trained with something like 5 sets per week (compared to like 25-35 sets of pressing/week). Maybe Sheiko thinks that the deadlift gives the upper back enough stimulation (seeing that he comes from olympic lifting, this wouldn’t surprise me) or that the upper back is just not that important for the bench press. But for me, if I don’t do back work, the weights feel a lot heavier during the eccentric of a bench and my start becomes weaker.

I decided to tinker with the plan slightly (hey, I made it to week 8 without changing anything, which is my personal record!) and added rows twice per week for 5 sets of 8 (plus the other workout that also had rows).

Because when you add something in you must take something out (to avoid raising overall training stress) I removed two “DB flies” sessions (DB flies are trained like 3-4x a week in Sheiko’s program). I never really loved flies to start with and doing them at a high frequency brought back some shoulder issues.

I’m starting this this week so we’ll see how that goes.

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JAYDEN’S TRAINING

Jayden has been doing some form of training since he was 3, when he did lots of jumps and started to do loaded carries.

Now at 4 we are gradually adding new exercises. So far he has started doing:

Deadlift (progressed from KB deadlift to bar deadlift)

Back squat (we progressed from wall squats, to box goblet squat, to Goblet squat, to back squat)

Front squats

Lat pulldowns using a rope

Medicine ball throws

Farmer’s walk

And this week he started doing power cleans and Atlas stones using a medicine ball (he is using 15lbs in the video but is now up to 20lbs for reps and did the 25lbs for one)

That’s his first time doing a power clean. Still needs work, but for a first time, at 4, it is already better than lots of Crossfitters :smile: And his front rack is better than mine ever was

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Amazing! My kid is six, and he shows some interest by pretending to workout. I might have to see if he wants to do some of the fun stuff like throws and carries.

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One thing I started him on was throwing a light medicine ball (2-4lbs) against my stackable blocks turned sideways… called it “destroy the castle”

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JAYDEN’S TRAINING

My own training was uninteresting today. I find the super high frequency and volume of pressing in the Sheiko plan to do a number on my shoulders, so I might need to switch to a different approach. At least, it was useful in addressing my technique.

Jayden practices his power clean and then did sets of deadlift. I don’t really count the reps as we are focusing on improving technique and if it degrades, I stop. So it typically ends up being 3-6 reps per set.

He then did lat pulldowns for sets of 8-10

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I’m definitely stealing this… for my kid. Yeah, yeah. Just for my kid.

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THE PROGRESSION I USED FOR JAYDEN’S TRAINING

Some new things we are learning…

  1. Power clean + Front squat
  1. (slightly) assisted pull-ups

I was asked on Instagram about the progression I used with him. He started “training” at 3. This came from him, not from me, as he always sees my wife and I train.

At first, all we did were various jumps.

The first thing we did “lifting-wise” was what we could call functional stuff as well as bodyweight work:

  • Farmer’s walk
  • “Truck pull” (rope pull with a 10-15lbs weight attached)
  • Body weight squats

The first “lifting” we introduced was:

  • KB deadlift (single KB between the legs)
  • Atlas stone lifting with medicine balls (he started out with a 8 and 10lbs ball, then progressed to 10-12lbs, then 12-15lbs… he is now up to 20-25lbs)

At this time we also introduced medicine ball throws. I stacked my stackable blocks sideways and he would try to make them fall over by throwing a 2lbs medicine ball on them. Called this “destroy the castle”.

Then we started a squat progression that went like this:

  • Wall squat
  • Goblet wall squat
  • Goblet box squat
  • Goblet squat (at this point we also switched from KB deadlift to barbell deadlift)
  • Barbell back squat
  • Front squat (which he prefers)

We then added rope pulldowns for upper body.

The power clean progression (started when he was up to the back squat level) was:

  • Holding the hang position (bar the knees) for 30 sec and the front rack position for 30 sec
  • Barbell jumps from the hang position
  • Power clean from the hang
  • We are now up to power clean + a series of 5 front squats
  • The next step will be power clean + front squat on every rep
  • Then holding the half squat/front rack position for 30 sec
  • Then power cleans caught in the half squat position
  • Then power clean caught in the half squat position, then ride into a front squat

Once he has mastered that, we will move on to the overhead lifting progression.

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How to turn your kid into a walking tank 101…

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I don’t know about a tank, as both my wife and I have a slight structure, but at least be the best he can be

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THE EXPERIMENT

Well, I decided to stop my Sheiko program. I did last 8 weeks, which is very good for me. But, honestly, the amount of bench pressing and squatting brought back shoulder issues and slight hip pain.

And frankly, my physique was not going in the right direction with the program. While my legs and pecs improved, my back, arms and delts go significantly worse. And while I love strength, looking jacked is also among my priorities.

That put me back in a bad place: not having a specific goal to train for.

See, because I’ve been training hard for close to 35 years pretty much non-stop, it’s kinda hard to stay excited and driven. Don’t get me wrong: I’ll never stop training, first because it’s part of me, but mostly because at this point, the habit is pretty much engrained in me and if I don’t train, I just feel like crap.

But training out of habit isn’t likely to give you gains, especially at my level of experience and age.

To train at a level that is sufficient to promote gains, I need to be excited. Either by achieving a specific goal or by experimenting something I’ve never tried.

This leaves me with my current crazy plan.

What I will do basically goes against all that I believe and is about a zillion miles away from what I’ve done before.

What am I gonna do

For at least 6 weeks (and really, for as long as it is tolerable mentally and physically) I’ll be training arms HARD almost every day (at least 5 days a week).

Right off the bat, that is quite different than what I’ve done and believe in since, with my own training, I’ve always been an arms minimalist. Heck, I’ve spent years without any direct arm work.

I’m also going to use a pretty crazy volume and “advanced” methods. Which also goes against my current views of minimizing excessive volume.

I will basically do CT Fletcher’s arm workout with some occasional different sessions of my own creating to stay sane.

But… why?

Well, first because I’ve never really had big arms. Let me correct that, I did have big triceps when I was bench pressing 445, but small biceps (relatively speaking). Being short with short arms helped me give the illusion of big arms, but even at the peak of my jackedness, they never got above 18.25".

Plus, I did tear my left biceps, which looks even smaller.

What will my plan look like?

Most of my work will be biceps & triceps.

To avoid losing overall muscle mass and strength I will train the bench, squat, deadlift and overhead press once a week. I will use the 5-3-1 set-up because it is very low volume, allowing me to invest more volume on arms.

I will also do one upper back exercise 3x per week and one deltoid exercise 3x per week.

So it might look like this:

Monday: Squat (5-3-1), arm routine, upper back
Tuesday: Bench (5-3-1), arm routine, delts
Wednesday: Arms routine, upper back, delts
Thursday: Deadlift (5-3-1), arms routine, delts
Friday: Overhead press (5-3-1), arms routine, upper back

Weekends will be off, BUT I might do biceps work only for my left arm Saturday.

Supplements tweak

CT Fletcher workouts could not be further away from what I typically do. He often does sets totally 20-50 reps, whereas I’m a lower reps guy.

To allow me to do “less bad” with the high volume, I’ll use a double-dose of Workout Fuel mixed with MAG-10 pre and intra-workout.

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