9 Steadfast Principles of Elite Performance Raw Powerlifting: Part 2
by Jordan Syatt January 20, 2015
Q: How Important is Exercise Variety?
Q: Should You Train with a Pause?
Q: What’s Better: Straight Weight or Bands & Chains?
These are all highly debated questions in the world of Raw Powerlifting so today I’m going to discuss each of them with you to end the confusion once and for all.
Just in case you missed it, you should also readPart 1.
1) Exercise Variety
Cambered bars, swiss bars, SS bars, and fat bars.
Wide stance, close stance, moderate stance, and single-leg.
Dumbbell rows, barbell rows, machine rows, and chest supported rows.
You get the point: There’s no shortage of exercise variations.
Truth be told, there’s probably too much for our own good.
Which begs the question…
How Important Is Exercise Variation?
Not that important.
Hold on, let me explain:
Exercise variety is important for a number of reasons, not least of which includes preventing overuse injuries and avoiding boredom in training.
And while those two things play a major role in the training process…how important is exercise variation in the development of strength?
Not very important.
While, in some circles, it’s become “fact” that daily or weekly changes in exercise variation is absolutely necessary for strength development, the reality is that’s just not true.
Some of the worlds greatest lifters have trained the exact same exercises for weeks, months, and years on end with little-to-no variation yet they continue to make astounding progress.
I mean, hell, I recently deadlifted nearly 4x my bodyweight (535lbs at a bodyweight of 143lbs) and I haven’t changed my squat or deadlift variations in several months.
How can this be?
Because exercise variety is not a major determinant of strength development.
But if exercise variation isn’t so important…what is?
Volume and intensity.
Systematically and progressively varying volume and intensity throughout the training cycle is arguably the most significant determinant of advanced strength development.
That means examining the training process as a whole rather than by 1-day, week, or even month at a time.
Your Takeaway: Each training program builds upon the one preceding it. Understanding how to modulate volume and intensity from program-to-program is absolutely essential to your strength success.
If you’re not sure how to modulate volume and intensity, you should take advantage of the sale I’m running on my brand new resourceRaw Strength for Powerlifting.
12-weeks of pre-written raw powerlifting training programs (in addition to a bunch of extra bonus chapters and video tutorials) I take care of all the thinking for you. All you need to do is download the program, head to the gym, and lift some heavy ass weight.
You don’t always need to train with a pause – it’s not the end-all be-all of strength development – but training with a pause is one of the best ways to improve both starting and absolute strength in the squat and bench press.
How Do You Train with a Pause?
For the bench press: Lower the bar to your chest as you normally would but instead of pressing it right back up, pause the bar on your chest for 2-3 full seconds. After the pause, press back up to the starting position.
For the squat: Descend into “the hole” as you normally would but instead of standing right back up, pause at your lowest point for 2-3 full seconds. After the pause, stand back up to the starting position.
How Often Should You Train With a Pause?
I prefer roughly a 50/50 split of paused/un-paused lifting variations within my training programs.
Splitting it up evenly allows me to get the best of both worlds while reaping all the benefits each variation has to offer.
Your Takeaway: Training with a pause is one of the best methods you can begin to incorporate immediately within your training programs. The pause not only forces you to control the bar which reinforces perfect form, it also directly improves both starting and absolute strength.
3) Straight Weight or Bands & Chains?
Raw lifters tend to be better off using straight weight.
Don’t get me wrong…
Bands and chains are great training tools and certainly have a time and a place within a well designed program.
But, practically speaking, they don’t carry over very well to raw powerlifting performance.
Here are several important points to consider before using bands and chains:
1) Band/chain resisted squats and bench press overload us at our strongest point (lockout) and de-load us at our weakest (out of the hole & off of our chest for each respective lift). This essentially causes us to train around our weaknesses rather than directly targeting and improving them. In other words, band/chain resisted squats and bench press are not the best choice for the vast majority of raw lifters.
2) Band/chain resisted deadlifts overload the lift near lockout so, if that’s your sticking point, incorporating bands & chains into your deadlift programming might be a good idea. However, if you’re weak off the floor, bands and chains would be a poor choice.
3) Bands and chains are phenomenal training tools for drills outside of the competition lifts (squat/bench/deadlift). For example, push-ups, chin-ups, goodmornings, and hip thrusts are all great accessory exercises to incorporate within your programs that may also benefit from being overloaded with bands and chains.
4) Most lifters and training facilities don’t have access to bands or chains. It’s important to remember that they are not necessary for raw strength development. My clients and I haven’t used bands or chains in YEARS and we continue to get stronger every single day.
Your Takeaway: Bands and chains are valid training tools but are in no way, shape, or form essential for your strength development. If you have them at your disposal, feel free to use them during your accessory work and sparingly with your competition lifts. Just remember that straight weight is 100% effective and, truth be told, probably better for your overall strength improvement.