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Let's Discuss Raw Training

In continuation of the following thread:

I’m hoping for a good discussion on training that’ll help anyone who competes raw.

I’ll kick off the discussion…

I’ve competed twice (USAPL and USPA) and wanted to get some ideas about training for a raw meet.

My best raw total in a meet is 1245lbs @ 181bw which is a 50lb improvement over a meet done 2.5 months previously. I compete in the raw junior men’s division.

My results from the last USPA meet in April:

Squat: 435
Bench: 248
Deadlift: 562.5
total: 1245lbs

I’m coming off from a shoulder impingement that put me off from any type of chest press for 18 months. I’m looking for advice and training tips that’ll help me improve my total.

Video from last month’s meet:

My comments about the big 3:

Bench Press
The bench press is the most misunderstood lift for me especially since I’ve trained it the least of the 3. I’m unsure about the leg drive (I’ve recently tried to push my legs toward the edge of the bench seat to improve leg drive) and proper set up. I am currently working on it. I’ve considered doing singles (Doug Hepburn’s style of training) to improve my bench press. Has anyone else had success with Hepburn’s style of training?

Squat:
I’m currently squatting 2-3x a week and incorporate high bar paused squats to improve my drive out of the hole. There are times when I incorporate split/Bulgarian squats when my lower back is feeling fried. I utilize 5x5 and 3x3 to modulate the intensity and volume. I’ve manage to progress in the 5x5 using a weight of 365lbs just a few days ago. My best ramped set while training in a similar fashion to Bill Starr is 400lbs for 4. For the majority of the time I squat low bar close-medium stance. I’ve found that the closer stance helps me out of the hole much better. I use olympic weightlifting shoes (romaleos) and have found they were an improvement in stability over the typical shoe (nike frees, good lord what was I thinking). I would like to improve this lift in comparison to my deadlifts.

I’ve seen a lot of success with people who max on squats 5-12x a week. I would like to give this a try eventually.

Deadlift:
I currently pull once a week and do a heavy 5x5 or 3x3 set to get accustomed to the volume and intensity. My best is 475 5x5 and 520 3x3. I found that removing exercises like hyper extensions or good mornings have actually helped me improve my deadlift. I feel that I get more initial leg drive with oly shoes vs. socks/deadlift slippers. However, the lockout is better with socks/slippers.

I’ve considered pulling 2-3x a week to improve it.

Assistance exercises:
I’m not really big into assistance exercises and have found that assistance exercises involving the lower back actually cause small setbacks in regards to the big 3. I found that exercises related to the big 3 have helped the most (high bar pause squats etc) have helped the most. I stopped training abdominals a while back and have found that my total is continually improving when I stripped the abdominal exercises.

I have never used bands or chains. I’m wondering if any of the raw lifters here do?

I’m not into splits. I prefer training the entire body 3x a week. It’s akin to Bill Starr except with less emphasis on exercises not related to the powerlifts.

I hope to get a good discussion on raw training going thanks.

Good topic.

I’m interested in any raw lifters training like most IPF Eastern European guys with Smolov and Sheiko. I know it’s single-ply but most nearly always train raw anyway.

I’m just a beginner but I’ve been using Westside and been enjoying that. It is very different to the above training methods though.

I think WS can definitely work for raw though; it’s all about selection of exercises so you don’t necessarily need to do 5-board with 7 chains per side and 18 monster bands.

Although WS is usually used more by multi-ply lifters so it’s harder to see the carry-over to raw you do get some raw lifters using it.

Great topic idea.

Just started hepburn’s method today. Felt pretty great and really loved the philosophy behind the program. I’m going to do two chest workout per week following his principles. It would be cool if you begin that program, too. We could share our thoughts and opinions about it.

Michael: Mark Bell has mentioned that the conjugate method works well for raw lifters as well. You are right in regards to how the Europeans train for the IPF meets: Lots of volume.

Bobinini: That’s awesome. I am starting Hepburn’s method for my bench specifically starting tomorrow. I also like the philosophy behind it and will share my thoughts on it. Like you, I will be doing two sessions a week.

Another thing I wanted to point out about deadlifting in regards to training it raw:
Everyone at the raw meets with the exception of a few men and most of the women all pull conventional.

My friend who pulls sumo (same amount of weight as me) in the same weight class is 6’1 @ 181. He is definitely the exception for raw meets.

For exercises not related to the big 3, I prefer exercises that I can get heavy with. Push presses, pullups, & Pendlay rows. I feel that these are more beneficial in helping the big 3 versus ab work or GHRs. I am sure others feel differently about this.

Have thoughts or opinions on training for raw meets? Post them away!

[quote]RockmanX88 wrote:
Michael: Mark Bell has mentioned that the conjugate method works well for raw lifters as well. You are right in regards to how the Europeans train for the IPF meets: Lots of volume.

Bobinini: That’s awesome. I am starting Hepburn’s method for my bench specifically starting tomorrow. I also like the philosophy behind it and will share my thoughts on it. Like you, I will be doing two sessions a week.

Another thing I wanted to point out about deadlifting in regards to training it raw:
Everyone at the raw meets with the exception of a few men and most of the women all pull conventional.

My friend who pulls sumo (same amount of weight as me) in the same weight class is 6’1 @ 181. He is definitely the exception for raw meets.

For exercises not related to the big 3, I prefer exercises that I can get heavy with. Push presses, pullups, & Pendlay rows. I feel that these are more beneficial in helping the big 3 versus ab work or GHRs. I am sure others feel differently about this.

Have thoughts or opinions on training for raw meets? Post them away![/quote]

Here is a great instructional vid for Bench Press. Will help you with set up and leg drive.

Thanks power. That’s actually where I got the idea of pushing my feet towards the edge of the bench when I watched it a few weeks back.

I still feel my ass going off the seat. I’m still adjusting to the form for proper leg drive.

I’m not 100% adjusted yet to the much wider grip as Thompson recommends. Her grip recommendation for me is quite wide according to the measurement theory. I’ve used a wider grip and found that I prefer a narrower grip (I have long arms that belong to someone who’s 6ft) in addition to coming off from a shoulder impingement.

I think bands and chains have their place in raw training. They help to teach you to explode from the bottom of the lift, and to push through sticking points. Since introducing them into my training, I have only seen positive results.

who says you need a wider grip?

Width is what you prefer really.

I think for raw lifters they don’t have the support of the gear and thus a narrower grip might make more sense. A lot of very strong raw lifters seem to be using a narrower grip - KK, Hoornstra (above) etc.

I think a lot of it also depends on the size of the lifter. The 242’s+ weight classes a closer grip is still much less range of motion than a 181. 181 a closer grip may add 5-8 inches to their ROM whereas in the 242’s and above it may only add 2-4 inches.

Also a good point.

I’ve brought my grip width in a bit recently though. It has meant I lift a bit less but I am hoping that in the long-run my shoulders will thank me for it. I want to be in it for the long haul and my shoulders always had some nagging problems.

Also, personally, slightly narrower grip feels more “right”.

Great video, I had never seen it.

I actually have the same exact problem as Rockman and made a topic about it a while back; I can’t get decent leg drive because my ass either comes up, or I lose position.

I get great drive in all sorts of incline and seated presses, but not on the bench.

I’ll try Jennifer’s tip, and I’ll share anything I might find that helps me with this problem

One thing, how tight is your upper back, Rockman?

I suspect that my terrible leg drive is partly due to a loose upper back and consequent unability to get up on my traps. My current gym has very tall hooks so I have to press the bar out of the rack, and my shoulders come foward a bit

My biggest problem is keeping my upper back tight. As soon as I press my shoulders come forward a little and as I do more reps it keeps happening till I’m very loose.

Not sure what the issue is. I’m working on mobility which may be an issue. Do you think it may also have to do with a weak upper back? If so, what kind of work?

I read an article on raw benching recently saying lat work isn’t as useful for raw lifters (for bench, of course still want generally) but upper back work is MORE important. I’ve never felt my upper back was weak though but I don’t know. Always had quite big traps and everything relatively so felt they were strong.

What do you suggest for that though? Face pulls? Or something more like barbell row/db row but pulling high up?

How far are you setting up in front of the bench? I find that if the shoulder is having to move more than 15 degrees or so to get into place, then tightness is lost. You want to have minimal movement from lift off to being set so lining up as close to the pins without hitting them during the press is going to help.

Also try pulling the bar apart. Grab a short mini and loop it around your wrists to practice pulling the bar apart as you drive with it which will in turn help the scapulae stay tighter together as well as the lats.

[quote]LiquidMercury wrote:
How far are you setting up in front of the bench? I find that if the shoulder is having to move more than 15 degrees or so to get into place, then tightness is lost. You want to have minimal movement from lift off to being set so lining up as close to the pins without hitting them during the press is going to help.

Also try pulling the bar apart. Grab a short mini and loop it around your wrists to practice pulling the bar apart as you drive with it which will in turn help the scapulae stay tighter together as well as the lats.[/quote]

I actually prefer squeezing the bar and trying to bend it as opposed to pulling it apart.

Good discussion.

EveryLastingScar, thanks for that. Do you set up the bands and chains at a commercial gym?

I’d have to agree with you Michael that bringing in my grip feels more natural.

Lean, I’ve been focusing on pulling the bar apart while keeping keeping my upper back especially very tight to create a base. It can feel uncomfortable.

I’m going to look through some of the top lifters in the 181 raw division who have a similar build and see how they bench. I’ve seen videos of Jamie McDougal (540/465/655) on numerous occasions. Judging from the videos he has a similar build to me. He benches rather narrow.

Here’s a video of him doing 405 @ 165

Question for you all: During the initial start of the bench, I’ve always had my eyes line up to where the bar for positioning myself on the bench pad. Does anybody here actually set up more in front of the bar (to prevent minimal distance as Liquid mentioned)?

[quote]LiquidMercury wrote:
How far are you setting up in front of the bench? I find that if the shoulder is having to move more than 15 degrees or so to get into place, then tightness is lost. You want to have minimal movement from lift off to being set so lining up as close to the pins without hitting them during the press is going to help.

Also try pulling the bar apart. Grab a short mini and loop it around your wrists to practice pulling the bar apart as you drive with it which will in turn help the scapulae stay tighter together as well as the lats.[/quote]

Usually quite close so that there isn’t much movement in my shoulders.

The thing is that if I do these things in the air right now it all makes/sense and works. But I get on the bench and things just change. I try force my shoulders back and it all stays very well and tight right until I start pressing. I’m trying to think about pushing the bar away from me more and everything but still finding it hard.

Edit: ^ Video above. Wow, for a smaller guy he has relatively no arch at all. Rather odd to see that. Damn strong!

[quote]RockmanX88 wrote:
Good discussion.

EveryLastingScar, thanks for that. Do you set up the bands and chains at a commercial gym?

[/quote]
I do unfortunately lift at a commercial gym. I just take the bands and attach them to some heavy dumbells since the racks don’t have band pegs. The dumbells are also useful for determining just how much band tension you are actually getting by seeing which dumbells will lift off the ground.

I’m more of a volume guy myself ala Sheiko and similar programming.

I must be one of the few raw pressers that take their to maximum legal width, I figure the shorter ROM makes all the difference in the world.