T Nation

My Unusual Program


#1

Assume I am constantly focused on good technique & am not overly aggressive with chasing weight...

Can I as a skinny/muscular guy (6' 160lbs) get away with a routine focused on singles.
With a goal of regularly doing ~315lb singles on squats & deads over (3-6 months).
I have no desire to gain bodyweight & would settle for less bar weight if that was necessary.

I have been experimenting with this for 3 weeks & have progressed from 185 to 225 on squats.
I still need to get better at my deadlift technique & thus have chosen not to move past 185 with those (this is an easy weight otherwise).

please assume & have a very balanced set of exercises in the 7 basic movements & plenty of technique work. I'm particularly concerned about evenly engaging my left/right sides. Side note: my personal favorite exercise is the overheard squat but I don't focus on heavy weights with it yet.

I train everyday rotating between front/back/dead & play the intensity by ear. So far I have been able to avoid soreness.

TL;DR

I have a wiry build & want to mainly train with singles (plenty of assistance/technique work on the side) to make a significant gain in strength while avoiding soreness & weight gain.

Is this reasonable? could I go even further... around 365-405lbs?


#2

160lbs at 6’ is pretty skinny dude, but to answer your question ya you can get stronger without gaining weight just be regularly doing those lifts but you will plateau out at some point. What is your reasoning for being so afraid to gain weight?


#3

I know of no one who, from experience with himself or others, has found this the best way to go or even a good way to go, if by “focused on singles” you mean mostly or entirely doing singles.

There are a number of things that stimulate positive response by the body, including from the energy stores of the cells being highly depleted, oxygen levels in the muscle being depleted, volume of work, and more.

Singles being the main method of a workout program will leave these things out.

Reinvention isn’t necessary, there are many excellent beginners programs as well as excellent general approaches to follow.

There is a distinct limit to how much strength can be gained without gain of actual muscle. You can see performance improvements particularly in skill lifts, but for substantial real strength increase, muscle increase is needed. 405 legit squat, probably not without gaining muscle.


#4

Thanks for the responses.

cparker, about weight, I have a couple reasons. 1. I want to minimize soreness because I have many other physical activities to accomodate. 2. maintenance: I don’t want to buy/cook/eat more or poop more. 3. aesthetics: I don’t want to buy a new wardrobe. Ultimately what excites me is the process of making a fixed amount of tissue produce more force & though skinny by tnation standards I’m muscular by most people’s standards.

Bill Roberts, Thanks for the advice. sounds like 315 is doable but not 405 without some extra ice cream. You sound a bit disagreeable though. My skill work does include higher repetitions with weights that aren’t insignifcant & I work to exhaustion with kettlebells often enough. I’m not asking if this is a smarter way to train overall just if it can reasonably get me to 315. this is my goal because I think it is reasonable, not too demanding of my overall work capacity & still puts me head & shoulders above non-lifters (AKA everyone I know). I would honestly be fine if I never got much stronger than 315-365.


#5

Few find me disagreeable; disagreeing with an idea or pointing out its limitations shouldn’t be disagreeable. I apologize for any such apparent tone if it existed, my intent was nothing like.


#6

I posted here because I respect your opinion. thanks for that & no need for apologies :slight_smile: I’ll check back in with my progress.


#7

Here’s to excellent strength gains, looking forward to your report!


#8

As to your “avoiding soreness” comment, I almost never get sore from workouts unless I pick specific moves that I know will make me sore. Volume doesn’t always translate to soreness. Moves that are most likely to make you sore are eccentric when the muscle is in a more elongated position. For instance, doing an overhead tricep extension has the muscle stretched more than if you do a standing tricep extension downward with cables.


#9

Hey typicalteenager,

As others have said, yes, it is mostly doable. And I agree. The parameters you lay out might seem a bit odd, but that’s totally your choice. Your life, your body, your rules.

But I wanted to comment on your thoughts regarding gaining more weight. My experience was somewhat similar to yours. I started lifting at 6’1" and 150 pounds. So even skinnier than you. I did a lot of endurance activities and was good at pullups and pushups, so like you, I had a “muscular” skinny frame. When I started lifting, I was interested in getting stronger and not really getting bigger. But I did not try to NOT get bigger.

My workouts were super consistent, though nothing special (lots of kettlebell work, deadlifts, front squats, overhead presses, etc.). After a year or so I was up to 162 pounds and could deadlift 305 (that was the most weight I had at that point) for doubles.

I continued to do a lot of the same stuff over the years and got up to the low 170s. I never had to change my wardrobe. If you are gaining all muscle, you’ll be surprised at how not much bigger you get. I suppose if you currently have super tight clothes you might need a few new items. But if you wear regular fitting jeans and shirts, you will not fill them out with another 10 to 15 pounds on your frame.

About that time I did start eating a little more, and at that time I noticed my workouts got much easier and the weights started climbing again. Everything Ecchastang said about soreness is correct. But I also want to add that not eating enough to support your lifting can limit your recovery and also add to soreness. So make sure you eat enough for your lifting and other activities. It might take more than you are eating now, but it does not necessarily have to take a ton of food to keep you going.

I’m not trying to convince you to change your mind and bulk up. Too many people have done that to me, so I know how it feels. But I just thought I’d share my own experience from my changes. And the last thing I’ll say, now that I’m approaching 180 lbs and have maintained all my leanness, I feel more athletic and capable than I ever did in the past.

Good luck to you!


#10

[quote]typicalteenager wrote:

  1. I want to minimize soreness because I have many other physical activities to accomodate.
    [/quote]
    Such as?

I see no reason why avoiding soreness would limit you to singles or similar. Like Ecchastang above, I rarely get sore.

That’s your call to make. Personally, I always love an excuse to eat more

No, no you’re not. I’m the same height as you with a tiny bone structure, and even at my most emaciated, I wasn’t below 170lbs.

I’m also intrigued what you think the “big 7” lifts are? I’ve never heard the term used before.

That said, it sounds like Dan John’s Easy Strength program would be ideal for you. It gives you plenty of opportunity to practice your technique, involves no soreness in anyone but the most deconditioned, and could easily help you achieve the kinds of strength gains you’re looking for with minimal hypertrophy.


#11

Short answer is: yes, it will work, for awhile. You may get to 315, and you may not.

When (not “if”) singles stop working forward, you can move to triples and do that until you stall, and then back to singles, and so on. Several other options, but there’s one.

That will get you so far before you’ll need to add muscle mass to get stronger. The basic theory is that between strength work and technique work, you can get better at using the muscle you already have.

At some point, if you want to get stronger beyond that, you’ll need to add more muscle via more hypertrophy focused work (more volume, shorter rest periods, working closer to failure, usually with somewhat lighter weight) and a caloric surplus. And then, again, go through the process of teaching your body to use that new muscle.

I went through basically the same process with my bench pressing and squatting, trying to get as strong as possible without adding muscle mass, but eventually topped out training that way. (285 high-bar squat, and 195 slight-incline bench at ~148 @ 5’10). You may go further than that; you may not.

Most of the effective long-term routines include both strength-focused work and hypertrophy-focused work. Some alternate between the two, some do it at the same time.


#12

[quote]typicalteenager wrote:
I would honestly be fine if I never got much stronger than 315-365.[/quote]
Seriously? I mean, everyone’s goals are their own thing, but this just sounds so… defeatist. Like, you’ll turn in your gym membership and quit lifting at 27yrs old because you can deadlift 315?

I’d rather not assume jack squat (pun intended). What does your weekly training look like - the days, exercises, sets, and reps.

Also, what seven basic movements are you referring to?

Like Ecchastang said, soreness has very little to do with programming in the way you’re talking about it. I agree that certain exercises and techniques seem to bring more DOMS, but also nutrition plays a big part in it. Skip a workout shake and/or go low protein the day after a hard training session and see how perky you feel.

And anyhow, it’s not just singles that build strength. Total volume is much, much more important. It could be argued that you’d see better results from something like 3x3 instead of just singles.

The goal is reasonable, without a doubt. It looks like the raw squat world record for 165-pounders is over 600, raw deadlift record is over 700. So, yes, a guy your size can squat 405 with hard work and a well-designed approach. The plan you’re thinking about using (even though you’ve been vague with the actual details) and the multiple self-imposed limits you’ve set up are not reasonable.


#13

[quote]Chris Colucci wrote:
And anyhow, it’s not just singles that build strength. Total volume is much, much more important. It could be argued that you’d see better results from something like 3x3 instead of just singles.[/quote]

Indeed.

How many of those with years of experience, or competing at a high level, choose to do just singles? None so far as I know, because it’s just not an optimal protocol. Some singles, sure… meat and potatoes, at least triples. Accumulated knowledge from all the experience others have had is really best not thrown away.

I would say though that the guys squatting weights like this have much more muscle for the same weight. They would be described as compact, at least fairly thick and muscular rather than “skinny/muscular,” as the OP self-described. And are probably not 6 feet at his weight. It takes muscle gain as well as skill improvement to lift that much. These lifters will have better leverage than most as well. Not that you were disagreeing that to gain really a lot of strength, substantial muscle gain is needed, more than may perhaps be achieved with a singles-centric training method.

Agreed completely that with the right approach (including muscle gain) 405 is a reasonable goal.


#14

[quote]typicalteenager wrote:
2. maintenance: I don’t want to poop more.
[/quote]

Well, that’s a new one…


#15

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:

[quote]typicalteenager wrote:
2. maintenance: I don’t want to poop more.
[/quote]

Well, that’s a new one…[/quote]

At some point OP will wake up and recognize the pressures of life closing in around him and come to appreciate the precious sanctity offered by a nice big dump.


#16

I don’t believe there is even a remote chance the OP will reach a 405 squat at 6’, while still weighing 160 lbs. As Bill mentioned, the guys that have put up huge numbers in meets at that weight have been shorter, and many of them likely cut water for weigh-ins, so they’re not actually walking around at 160.

A 315 squat at that height and weight is do-able, but I doubt it will be achieved by focusing mostly on singles, as far as the main lifts go. I would put this in the realm of possibilities though, especially if the accessory work was very well selected. Like if one of the accessory leg movements was barbell lunges for 5 sets of 10. And let’s say a similar set/rep scheme on the hack squat machine as well. That kind of stuff could be sufficient for moving the squat in the right direction, even if the OP is only performing singles when he squats.


#17

[quote]twojarslave wrote:

[quote]usmccds423 wrote:

[quote]typicalteenager wrote:
2. maintenance: I don’t want to poop more.
[/quote]

Well, that’s a new one…[/quote]

At some point OP will wake up and recognize the pressures of life closing in around him and come to appreciate the precious sanctity offered by a nice big dump.
[/quote]

Lol. The toilet is my sanctuary, my place of zen at 9:30 Mon-Fri.


#18

[quote]flipcollar wrote:
A 315 squat at that height and weight is do-able, but I doubt it will be achieved by focusing mostly on singles, as far as the main lifts go. I would put this in the realm of possibilities though, especially if the accessory work was very well selected. Like if one of the accessory leg movements was barbell lunges for 5 sets of 10. And let’s say a similar set/rep scheme on the hack squat machine as well. That kind of stuff could be sufficient for moving the squat in the right direction, even if the OP is only performing singles when he squats.[/quote]
I’m having brain failure at the moment: who’s the famous earlier-era lifter, phenomenally strong, who almost never squatted except in competition or for a record but relied on other exercises, largely good mornings? This was from knee injury.

It can be done to build strength with non-single-rep on other exercises as the real builders. Squat strength doesn’t necessarily have to be built with the squat itself, though the great majority find it productive to work at least some type of squat.

I may have misunderstood the OP, but I’d thought that he wanted most of his training to be single rep: the arguments about soreness etc would seem not to be specific to the particular lifts discussed.


#19

[quote]Bill Roberts wrote:
I’m having brain failure at the moment: who’s the famous earlier-era lifter, phenomenally strong, who almost never squatted except in competition or for a record but relied on other exercises, largely good mornings? This was from knee injury.
[/quote]

Bruce Randall.


#20

Yes, thank you!

(I misstated above: not knee injury, but leg injury.)