T Nation

Programming for an Athlete


#1

CT,

I have been using 5/3/1 for awhile now. I basically followed the 5/3/1 percentages for my main lifts, and then focused on Bodybuilding type accessory work. To give you an idea of what I have been doing as a template, it looked like this:
Day 1- 5/3/1 Bench - Chest and Back
Day 2- 5/3/1 Squat- leg accessory work
Day 3-OFF
Day 4- 5/3/1 Overhead Press - shoulders accessories and direct arm work
Day 5- 5/3/1 Deadlifts- leg accessory work

I am a huge fan of supersets, so I implemented them into my template, especially for upper body days. My question is - I am an athlete, I'm looking to build that explosive power, but gain the size and strength as well. So I found that I enjoyed working with percentages for my main lifts, but I love doing bodybuilding type accessory work along with it. Can I have the best of both worlds as an athlete? I am eager to start a new program and many of yours are very appealing to me. Is there a specific program I should look into starting in your opinion? Or can I continue this template, but maybe focus on a more quad dominant day on squat day, and focus on glutes/hamstrings on deadlift day?

Thank you!


#2

My only issue w/ 531 was that I left the gym everyday with something left in the tank. I wanted more volume and more of a pump. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend using a version of CT’s layer system, easily found in a search on this forum. While you’re only doing one lift each day, you combine strength work with pump/hypertrophy work and really get the best of both worlds. Im doing something like this right now:

  1. bench
    Ramp to 3rm
    100% of 3rm x 10 singles
    70% of 3RM x 3 extended sets

  2. deadlift (same % as bench)

  3. press (same %)

  4. squat (same %)

  5. high pulls (same %)

I squeeze in upper back work by doing a sets of PULLUPS in between pressing sets on upper body days. I do a few sets of abs after the main lift on lower body days.


#3

5/3/1 has always seemed to slowly progressing and too low in frequency, but quite importantly I’ve never tried it.

I ramp up to 3RM on the following 4 exercises: deadlift, squat, press (sometimes bench press), high pull. Afterwards I do a circuit with 75-85% of that ramp for 4-8 reps, a prehab or weakness exercise (usually band pulls or abdominals, sometimes I do two in this category), and a higher rep lift targeting the muscle I started with last workout

ex (what I did yesterday):
A: 3RM ramp for squat

B1: squat 80% of ramp for 5 reps
B2: band face pull x 10ish
B3: Dips (did pressing in the previous workout) x8
B4: Hand walks x3

I take my time with the ramp, resting 2-3 minutes in between the last few sets. I did the circuit 4 times and needed about a minute rest total going through it each time. I love this system as it incorporates strength in the first phase, and then I keep the circuit faster paced to get a nice metabolic effect and pump and get into the zone. Also encourages hitting the muscles multiple times a week, and gives a nice window to focus on weak points.

Anyway, I saw you liked supersets so I felt compelled to share my $0.02. I don’t know what turned me onto this method or program, but I have always preferred supersets as well. I might include some clusters at at around 100% of 3RM as suggested too in the future.


#4

[quote]GraniteJack wrote:
My only issue w/ 531 was that I left the gym everyday with something left in the tank. I wanted more volume and more of a pump. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend using a version of CT’s layer system, easily found in a search on this forum. While you’re only doing one lift each day, you combine strength work with pump/hypertrophy work and really get the best of both worlds. Im doing something like this right now:

  1. bench
    Ramp to 3rm
    100% of 3rm x 10 singles
    70% of 3RM x 3 extended sets

  2. deadlift (same % as bench)

  3. press (same %)

  4. squat (same %)

  5. high pulls (same %)

I squeeze in upper back work by doing a sets of PULLUPS in between pressing sets on upper body days. I do a few sets of abs after the main lift on lower body days.[/quote]

So you do a main lift and then accessory work?? What does the accessory work look like?


#5

[quote]GraniteJack wrote:
My only issue w/ 531 was that I left the gym everyday with something left in the tank. I wanted more volume and more of a pump. If that’s what you’re looking for, I recommend using a version of CT’s layer system, easily found in a search on this forum. While you’re only doing one lift each day, you combine strength work with pump/hypertrophy work and really get the best of both worlds. Im doing something like this right now:

  1. bench
    Ramp to 3rm
    100% of 3rm x 10 singles
    70% of 3RM x 3 extended sets

  2. deadlift (same % as bench)

  3. press (same %)

  4. squat (same %)

  5. high pulls (same %)

I squeeze in upper back work by doing a sets of PULLUPS in between pressing sets on upper body days. I do a few sets of abs after the main lift on lower body days.[/quote]

So you do a main lift and then accessory work?? What does the accessory work look like?


#6

By saying that you are “an athlete” you don’t give much info.

A football player is an “athlete” and so is a gymnast. Both require power and strength but their training wont be alike at all. I would need more info. For example a linebacker will benefit from added muscle mass even is his weight goes up but a long jumper should try to keep his body weight lower while increasing strength and power (a lighter body is easier to propel in the air far).

Can an athlete do “bodybuilding work”? Sure, but to what extend depends on your level of development and the need of your sport.

An athlete who is undersized or one that is frequently injured could benefit from more muscle even if that added muscle doesn’t directly increase his speed or power.

However at one point it becomes a question of investing your resources in the right place. Your body has a limited capacity to positively respond to training. You can’t just pile on more and more work and expect everything to always be alright.

You have a maximum amount of “training money” (amount of work you can do) to invest, and that money should be spent on what will give you the most benefit as an athlete.

You didn’t mention your sport. But you mentioned improving your explosiveness and strength. So I will assume that it’s a sport in which you need speed, explosiveness, agility and the capacity to overcome an adversary (or heavy implement).

If these are the things you need to excel in your sport, right off the bat, without even talking abiut strength training you’ll need to do jumps, sprints and agility drills. Not to mention conditioning work if you need some endurance.

That cuts into the amount of lifting work you can do. And if you have to practice your sport, that also reduces the amount of lifting you can do.

For lifting itself the first priority is to do the lifts that will help you be a better athlete.

Understand that LIFTING DOESN’T IMPROVE YOUR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. Lifting makes your muscles stronger and more powerful, but it doesn’t directly lead to an increase in performance. You need to become efficient at utilizing your new capacities during your sport, which is why if you don’t run, jump and practice your sport you will not see that much improvement.

The main objective of lifting for an athlete should be to get stronger overall. That’s your no.1 priority. Lifts like the deadlift, military press, push press, squat, front squat, bench press and chin-ups are all things in which you need to (1) become very strong and (2) become very strong with perfect technique and body positions.

The second objective (performance-wise) is to use lifting exercises to build power. I’m partial to the olympic lifts. They are by far the best option to build explosiveness with a lifting exercise. However if you can’t do them properly and can’t find a coach who can teach you, it might not be the best option.

You can also do speed work a la Westside in which you do the basic movements (squat and bench for example) with 50-60% done for sets of 3-5 reps as explosively as possible. Not as effective as the olympic lift variations, but a good alternative.

There are also loaded ballistic exercises like jump squats with 20-30% of your max back squat, jump lunges with 10-15% of your body weight and medicine ball throws.

The third objective is to reduce the risk of injuries. This means strengthening the core, smaller muscle groups like the rotator cuff muscles and doing mobility/activation work.

When that is all done well you can think about adding isolation/bodybuilding work.

When I worked with a lot of high level athletes I would either give them 10 minutes of “beach work” at the end of their session or allocate half a workout per week for bodybuilding/ego work.

The 10 minutes of beach work was basically a free period where the athletes could do whatever they wanted as long as:

  • it was only isolation exercises
  • it was kept fairly light (6 reps or more)
  • it didn’t interfere with the next workout (e.g. if they bench presses on tuesday they couldn’t do pecs, delts or triceps isolation work on monday)
  • it didn’t last more than 10 minutes (YES we used a timer)
  • it was done at the end of the workout, when everything was done

The second option was doing 30 minutes of bodybuilding work once a week, as the second half of the least demanding performance workout.


#7

[quote]Christian Thibaudeau wrote:
By saying that you are “an athlete” you don’t give much info.

A football player is an “athlete” and so is a gymnast. Both require power and strength but their training wont be alike at all. I would need more info. For example a linebacker will benefit from added muscle mass even is his weight goes up but a long jumper should try to keep his body weight lower while increasing strength and power (a lighter body is easier to propel in the air far).

Can an athlete do “bodybuilding work”? Sure, but to what extend depends on your level of development and the need of your sport.

An athlete who is undersized or one that is frequently injured could benefit from more muscle even if that added muscle doesn’t directly increase his speed or power.

However at one point it becomes a question of investing your resources in the right place. Your body has a limited capacity to positively respond to training. You can’t just pile on more and more work and expect everything to always be alright.

You have a maximum amount of “training money” (amount of work you can do) to invest, and that money should be spent on what will give you the most benefit as an athlete.

You didn’t mention your sport. But you mentioned improving your explosiveness and strength. So I will assume that it’s a sport in which you need speed, explosiveness, agility and the capacity to overcome an adversary (or heavy implement).

If these are the things you need to excel in your sport, right off the bat, without even talking abiut strength training you’ll need to do jumps, sprints and agility drills. Not to mention conditioning work if you need some endurance.

That cuts into the amount of lifting work you can do. And if you have to practice your sport, that also reduces the amount of lifting you can do.

For lifting itself the first priority is to do the lifts that will help you be a better athlete.

Understand that LIFTING DOESN’T IMPROVE YOUR ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE. Lifting makes your muscles stronger and more powerful, but it doesn’t directly lead to an increase in performance. You need to become efficient at utilizing your new capacities during your sport, which is why if you don’t run, jump and practice your sport you will not see that much improvement.

The main objective of lifting for an athlete should be to get stronger overall. That’s your no.1 priority. Lifts like the deadlift, military press, push press, squat, front squat, bench press and chin-ups are all things in which you need to (1) become very strong and (2) become very strong with perfect technique and body positions.

The second objective (performance-wise) is to use lifting exercises to build power. I’m partial to the olympic lifts. They are by far the best option to build explosiveness with a lifting exercise. However if you can’t do them properly and can’t find a coach who can teach you, it might not be the best option.

You can also do speed work a la Westside in which you do the basic movements (squat and bench for example) with 50-60% done for sets of 3-5 reps as explosively as possible. Not as effective as the olympic lift variations, but a good alternative.

There are also loaded ballistic exercises like jump squats with 20-30% of your max back squat, jump lunges with 10-15% of your body weight and medicine ball throws.

The third objective is to reduce the risk of injuries. This means strengthening the core, smaller muscle groups like the rotator cuff muscles and doing mobility/activation work.

When that is all done well you can think about adding isolation/bodybuilding work.

When I worked with a lot of high level athletes I would either give them 10 minutes of “beach work” at the end of their session or allocate half a workout per week for bodybuilding/ego work.

The 10 minutes of beach work was basically a free period where the athletes could do whatever they wanted as long as:

  • it was only isolation exercises
  • it was kept fairly light (6 reps or more)
  • it didn’t interfere with the next workout (e.g. if they bench presses on tuesday they couldn’t do pecs, delts or triceps isolation work on monday)
  • it didn’t last more than 10 minutes (YES we used a timer)
  • it was done at the end of the workout, when everything was done

The second option was doing 30 minutes of bodybuilding work once a week, as the second half of the least demanding performance workout.[/quote]

First of all CT, thank you very much for that response! Very helpful! I should have specified which sport I’m involved in- MMA. I have trained for years, but it is more of a hobby for me and a way too stay in shape. I’m not scheduled for any fights, and I go to school full time at the moment, so I only get to train in MMA two or three times a week.

As of right now, I am lifting four times a week and adding jump rope, sprints (and incline treadmill sprints) as well as core training into my weekly routine.

Basically, I want to keep my speed, explosiveness and agility as I’m not training as much as I would like to for MMA. I just need to follow the right template and I should be good to go.

Thank you for you time, CT!

Chris