Posted by Tony Montgomery under Weight Lifting  Training  Video  on Jul 26 2017

Adjusting your program comes up a lot but not in a good context, you will see people just starting a program and wanting to make adjustments right off the bat and if that is the case then why even start it in the first place? Or the other one is athletes wanting to combine their favorite programs together to make a hybrid program because of course if one program is good combining it with another one is even better.

This video and article is just my way of making adjustments to the program that has worked for me and my clients over time.

1. Have a training philosophy to build upon. This is far more than a program but having an actual training philosophy that you've studied, built, and believe in will help mold your program for you. So when things aren't going the way you want them to you can simply just make changes within the philosophy rather than adding things that don't mesh well together. For instance, if you do things in a block format then trying to add in a conjugate approach as well for certain movements may take away from the purpose of the block.

2. Make small adjustments first. Simple enough, if the results aren't there instead of scrapping the whole program make small changes to the program. Maybe look to change up the total volume or how you come about it. Instead of 3 sets of 10 for 30 reps at the same weight, maybe try pyramiding up in weight or working up to a top set then doing backdowns after to get the desired volume. You can also try different accessories or main movements to work on or expand your rotation so you have time to build before coming back to the movement.

3. Give it time. You have to give your program time to work and you have to understand it. Some programs are designed to accumulate fatigue with a ton of volume and you may not feel your strongest which you shouldn't in an offseason. Being able to know how the program works and the reasons behind it will allow you to know what is to be expected and the only way to do that is to give it time to run its course. That means you are not changing programs every 3-4 weeks and that you give it 12-16 weeks to manifest itself before you pass judgment on it.

4. It may be you. This is really taking a look at the things outside of the program that can make it successful. Having your diet on point can play a huge role in your success. Making sure you get good quality sleep and naps can help with recovery and performance. Decreasing stress and increase your recovery modalities are all ways to improve your program before having to find a new program. Because if these things aren't your priority no program will work. Work on optimizing the things you can control to get the results you desire.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Weight Lifting  Training  on Jun 28 2017

Being a coach is more than developing a badass excel spreadsheet and being able to quote this research paper you read to validate your training philosophy. A real coach has to not only have the education from academia but also and more importantly from under the bar. Experience goes a long way in becoming a good coach. Being able to work in person with clients so you can see their mannerisms as they walk through the door and tell if they had a shitty day or not and adjust on the fly. Anyone can write a program these days but very few can actually be a good coach. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I wanted to pass on what I have learned from being in this industry a little over a decade.


In order for your program to be successful, you must first take in a few considerations about the athlete. Things like lifestyle, work conditions, sleep, nutrition, and personality. Beyond that you also have to see how the athlete moves, in person this is easy but being an online coach now and going through video it gets to be a difficult task, so make sure you have a criteria you want the athlete to meet as far as filming goes so you can properly assess the athlete. I know this sounds like a no-brainer but if you are an online coach or an athlete looking for a coach you must evaluate the lifters videos and if you find a coach that doesn’t get your money back immediately. I’ve seen a great lifter recently work with a coach and never once did he ask for a video or provide any type of analysis of weak areas or technique improvements and you know what happened that athlete lost 40 plus pounds on his squat and had a mediocre day on the platform. Please don’t be a lazy coach that relies on just statistics alone to program for you and have some pride in what you do.


As a lot of coaches can attest being a coach is more about being a people analyzer than an actual coach, anyone can write out a program that is the easy part. What if your client is in school and has 4 exams the next week are you going to give that person the hardest or longest workouts of the training cycle, probably not. Getting to know the client and their lifestyle is important and you can’t impose your beliefs or wants on to them. They will do things the way that best suits them and how they live and as a coach, it is your job to work around that and still provide them with a great plan that they progress on. Knowing things like your client works all night as a bouncer on the weekends, so giving them an accessory day on Monday that is not too demanding is a great way to not pile on top of their crappy conditions or even giving them a rest day. You have to figure out what works best for the client's situation and not what works best for your program. That is the difference between a paper coach and a real coach.


If you are working with individuals that work a manual labor job or have a crappy sleep situation which in powerlifting is a very common thing you must know their ability to recover is going to be small. So you won’t be able to overload them with volume upon volume and expect them to be able to recover for the next workout. Sure you can provide them with tips on how to improve sleep and to help with recovery but those things won’t overcome poor programming because you are running them into the ground. Start them off at a low point with volume and each week get feedback on how things are going, find out which days are the hardest and which days you can push a little more and slowly add things in, but be sure you ask the right questions because an athlete will always tell you they are good and ready to go. So make sure you are able to get real feedback like how did warm ups feel? Do you feel like fatigue is hindering you more than strength? Things looked kinda slow this week how was work and sleep? You have to dive deep with questions to get the right answers out of the client so you can write out the following weeks plan so they are able to succeed.


I can not stress nutrition enough, if you have an athlete who’s idea of proper nutrition is McDonald's breakfast you will have some issues with their ability to recover. Sure getting in enough calories, which most powerlifters do, or used to nowadays everyone wants to diet down to a weight class, is of the utmost importance the type of calorie does matter for performance. Mainly thinking of things like digestion, gut health, and peri-workout nutrition can go a very long way in improving body composition which can create better leverages to lift more and it will strongly impact their ability to recover to keep pushing hard every session. Now if you can’t get an athlete to buy in or an athlete who is always dieting this is a huge consideration to their programming. Be sure to understand your client's nutrition and their nutrition goals to make sure it falls in line with their lifting goals. If not briefly explain to them the contradictions and see what route they want to go. Either way, the athlete's nutrition plays a big role in how you set up their training so ask about it.


The last thing I want to cover is dealing with an athlete's personality. Now I know this is not often thought about but getting to know your athlete beyond the training and nutrition is equally as important in order to set up an effective training plan. Finding out their personalities and what/how they enjoy lifting. I’ve noticed a lot of extroverts do better with a more conjugated approach and before you say it doesn’t work for raw lifters please do some research on what conjugated training actually is. I’ve also noticed the opposite for introverts they can do the same thing each week and just put in work more of a grinder mentality. Giving the athlete what they enjoy will create more motivation in the gym for them to train hard and training hard is very critical to maximizing your gains.


I hope after reading this article you will take a bit more time getting to know your athletes and truly doing your job in creating a program. Being an online coach has become a real easy way to rip people off, don’t be that person. Spend time doing video reviews, ask questions about life outside of the gym and build a rapport with your athletes to help them reach their goals.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under General  Weight Lifting  Training  on Dec 20 2016

Mitchell Rothbardt To me, whenever you change something pretty drastically in a program, for example going from 8-12 to 4-6 reps, just the change itself will get you a training effect because the body just isn't used to the new stimulus. For that reason, you just don't have to, and probably can't push the intensity super hard during the first week or two. You just can't handle the weight, to put it simply. Knowing that, if you just approach that week, with the idea of leaving two or three reps in the tank, and the 2nd week leaving maybe a rep or two in the tank with your sets that would act as a sort of deload and a transition all in one.


Paul Oneid Ok, I have two answers for this. I currently don't organize my training in that fashion and I'm more in a "concurrent" type periodization model, But I have in the past, so.... You need to be deloading regularly. Even within a block, there should be deloads. It won't interrupt the training effect what so ever and serves to keep you healthy and fresh. Plus, I can train harder during the working weeks when I know a deload is coming. A deload between dedicated blocks is essential IMO. 2- you will get a large drop in volume with a transition week, so you could argue that would be enough to elicit some recovery. The problem is that intensity is far more stressful than volume. So the spike in intensity may negate the drop in volume, depending on the disparity between the two. It will all depend on what you are used to tolerating. I'm a slow and steady guy now, so deload weeks are fine by be. The cost/ benefit definitely favors their usage. I plan them. IMO if you wait until you feel you need one, it's too late. The deload is there to mitigate a large deficit in recovery. If you always keep the gas tank above half, it takes less time to fill. If you wait until you "need" to deload, your gas tank will take longer to fill and in most cases, especially stronger lifters, this is longer than just one week of reduced training load. I still train hard on my deloads. Typically its just low volume speed/technique work in the 60-65% range for doubles/ singles. It has gone a long way to keeping me healthy.


Casey Williams If you need a "deload" week then it's assumed you feel like shit. Or you know you're body well enough that you're preventing yourself from feeling like shit by going hard that one extra week. 


So to "transition" into a different phase of training to prevent yourself from feeling like shit I would assume you'd have to lighten the intensity regardless of volume. Effectively "deloading." Assuming you transition to a high intensity but drastically lower the volume- would it act as a "deload?" For me, no. For someone else, maybe?


Long story short, for me, it's all about quality over quantity in terms of feeling good and making progress.


I deload intuitively. More so seems to depend on outside stressors at least in the last couple months. 


If it's a relatively younger lifter or young in training years, then I think a moderately higher intensity relative to the previous block is usually the way to go. 


As an experienced lifter or a lifter with a high training age, I don't see a reason for it. Risk vs reward. 


Then again every training session to some degree should be warm up and see how you feel.


Will Kuenzel There are lots of different ways it could go but just as an example, let's assume that the last phase of the hypertrophy block was aggressive (not sure why it wouldn't be but anyway...). It's no secret hypertrophy work is hard. I, speaking personally as a powerlifter, would generally not be using the same exercises for hypertrophy work as I would for strength. So between recovering from the accumulated fatigue and switching exercises a quick shift into a strength block might not be optimal. 


I'd take a week to give my body break but also to transition into the new exercises. I'd do singles or doubles at 50-60% for my main movements, adjusting the accessory work as needed while keeping the reps decently high, but keeping the weight lighter. Let the joints and muscles have a break while finding the muscle pattern to the new exercises. 


From there I'd be more confident to roll into a week of 65-70% while starting to peak over the next couple weeks.


Joe Sullivan, I prefer using a transitional week where you are changing from one focus to another. In the example of volume hypertrophy to strength block, the reps tend to drop, but due to the unfamiliarity of the individual having the amount of weight on their back that may be required for a strength block, I would keep the RPE lower and the volume lower as well. This way, they will begin the process of being accustomed to performing lower reps in an explosive manner, but having this built in "restoration week" where all stimulus has decreased, but they are still beginning the process of changing focus from accumulation to intensity


Jake Hartman, I start each 4 week wave very light in the hypertrophy phase/beginning of strength phase. The volume usually stays moderately high like a 5x5 but I start off light enough to transition straight into it. Other factors would be how long it's been since my last deload and how my body feels. I'd have most of my clients deload intensity and volume for the first week and then ramp back up. Before the deload my training generally 3x12 4x10 5x8 6x6 Reset +10-20lbs then I'll run 5x5 for 4 weeks linear progression. Then I'll cut a rep each week keeping the sets at 5 linear progressions. Then I go top set method with drop sets back to straight sets depending on how far out I'm out. Then I'll do 3 escalating sets the last 4 weeks or so.


Corey Clark For me or anyone I'm helping it comes down to what they need. How fresh or beat up are they. How fresh do they need to be for the next phase? My go to for bench is 3x 6-12 @50-70%. If I'm feeling great I'll do 3x6@70, if I'm ok I'll just do more like 3x10 at 50%, if I'm beat up or need full recovery for what comes next I drop the main lift and just do the accessories. And accessories follow a similar idea. I'll keep them the same or adjust volume and intensity for my needs. Depending on my training I will do more bodybuilding work on my deload sessions. Usually closer to competition I'm resting more days and doing fewer accessory lifts so I use the deload week to directly hit muscles and lifts that have been dropped or neglected during my heavier weeks.

My Perspective I will give you a few scenarios on how I would set up a deload because it really depends on the block set up and if you are transitioning to a different phase of training or into the same phase of training but just a different block. For one, I try not to ever plan a deload I just go by feel unless it is meet week. So if I feel beat up I take a deload if I feel good I extend the block. Pretty simple and intuitive which is important as a lifter to be able to do things based on how you feel that day. This is a whole other article in and of itself. I am in the process of finishing up a hypertrophy block or high volume block and I am transitioning into a strength block. So instead of taking a traditional delaod of something around 3x5 at 50% I will simple transitioning right into my first week of the block. Now if you block is planned correctly the strength block will bring about a different variety of exercise and an extremely lower amount of volume in the first week. So coming from a high volume block the best idea is to reduce the volume not so much the intensity because volume is what builds up fatigue and the point of the deload is to reduce fatigue so transition into a strength block will deload it automatically and with the new variance of exercise selection it will also give you another stimulus to relearn which in itself will lower the intensity. Plus you don't start a strength block off with a high intensity anyways it is something you build up to. So the traditional deload is not needed in this case and instead of feeling like you are taking a week off you are able to get the next phase of your training under way. 

When it comes to going from a strength back to a hypertrophy then you drop the intensity and do a more bodybuilding style transition week where you take the barbell out of your hands and off your back and hit some higher reps. I feel like setting up transition weeks over
deloads will do the same trick but give you a good week of training and not a typical deload. The key to this transition is to rest a bit from the higher intensities and a great way to do that is to eliminate the barbell movements. 

A huge key to consider is that a transition week, if programmed properly, should not be a death by reps week, you have to consider it an intro week and something that will be built upon from week to week, so if you go in and blast this week you will find yourself trying to recover more so than progress.

If you are building
upon blocks with the same purpose you still use the transition period to reset from the work you are doing while still getting in solid work on that week. So, for example, going from a hypertrophy block to another one you would make your transition week more of a speed/technical refinement type week. Get in there and move weight purposefully but for a few sets of 2-3 reps at a submaximal weight of 70-85% depending on how you feel.

You have a lot of different opinions here from so very good lifters, try the one that makes the most sense to you and
don't be afraid to experiment with different things in training.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under Weight Lifting  Training  on Sep 05 2016

As I write this I am sitting at 12 weeks out from my next meet and I am looking back at the body of work I have put in this offseason. I can't help but be confident going into this training cycle because I have never had such a long and productive offseason. I fixed some form issues, stayed healthy and fixed some limiting range of motion issues that has caused problems in the past and I improved on all of my weaknesses. As hard as it was for me to put in 15 weeks of offseason and now 12 weeks of prep without competing, it is something I had to do in order to reach my goals I have set for myself. The one thing I have learned over the years and it actually started in the Marines is that the amount of effort and time you put into the work up the more successful the mission and the same is true with sports. The harder you work and push yourself in your offseason the better and more productive your competitive season will be. It's a mindset that not a lot of people understand, I hear it all the time, "I'll take it more serious when the prep starts" or "I just need time off to have fun and enjoy myself, I will focus more when the meet gets closer." These are the same people who don't progress much then blame everyone but themselves after its all said and done. I posted a video on how I gauge a successful offseason and in it, I go over some of the things I look for in my offseason that by the end of it, I can have a checklist of did I accomplish this or did I not accomplish it. If you aren't tracking then it can be very hard to progress in training and nutrition. Here is the video below, check it out and subscribe to my channel.

Before moving onto the meet prep, I just want to emphasize how important confidence is in the sport of powerlifting. It can literally make or break a lift and confidence is built in the gym under the bar, training. This may sound like a no-brainer but how often do you see lifters going in and maxing out or missing reps? Probably very often and for every missed rep it brings a little bit more doubt into your brain about what you will be capable of when it comes meet time. It is also the same scenario when it comes to chasing numbers, just because you think you are capable of a number doesn't mean you should be chasing it every training day, because if you have a bad day or two things will spiral out of control quickly and you will start to doubt yourself and that will cause you to miss attempts in training and on the platform. Just take each day as it comes and builds some confidence each week in small victories.

This leads me into the meet prep and how I like to do things going into a meet prep phase. Like, everyone, I have goals but I don't let the goals dictate my training cycle. I have learned over the years to be patient and take what each training cycle gives you. This has led to better totals and fewer injuries. This is a long meet prep for me so I have to be careful with how I pick my weights and reps. What I like to do is have an intent or rage for the day in the beginning of the prep and then as I get closer to the meet I will have a better grasp of my numbers and where I am at. So before the week even starts I already know what weight I want to work up to for my main movement and what the rep scheme is. So let's just say I have a 455lbs bench press planned for a triple if it's a good day I get all 3 if it's an off day I will hit 3 singles, either way, I get my 3 reps in with no misses. This has worked very well for me as I get more out of pushing my top sets to accumulate strength. Staying at a certain percentage and building is great for the offseason or for a certain phase but when it comes to meet prep I get a better response from pushing weight and making week to week adjustments based on how the week goes. Learning how to feel things out and taking the lifts one set at a time will not only help with the lifting of that day but will have a great carryover for learning how to pick your attempts come meet day so you can still go 8 for 9 even on a bad day.

As far as my accessories go for this meet prep, since I am pushing my main movements to top sets I find I need to lower intensity a bit on my secondary and other movements. In order to still elicit a positive training response, I pick exercises that mimic the main movement but at a degree of difficulty that requires me to use a significantly smaller percentage of my max load. So after squats I am doing pause squats with a high bar, the high bar is not a good position for me so I can't use as much weight and the pause makes it harder so that decreases the load, but by making these more demanding exercises I can still get a huge benefit out of them without having to have 600 plus pounds on my back. This will lead to better recovery week to week and less chance of injury. I also keep it within the same rep range, so if my top set of squats is 3 rep then my secondary movements will be between 3-5 reps. So I don't accumulate a lot of fatigue and I am still within the same ballpark intensity as my main lift. Finding ways to increase the intensity of the lifts without adding weight is a great way to stay fresh and injury free but still making progress to your goals. This works for me mainly because I am pushing my main set to a near max intensity every time out. Finding what works best for you is key.

Setting up numbers and reps takes some time but if you had a productive offseason you should have a decent understanding of where to begin. I feel like there is a mental edge when you know exactly what you are supposed to hit for that day. you start to think about it and visualize it so when it comes time to do it you just do it and not overthink it. Being mentally tough and confident is huge in the powerlifting game as soon as you start to doubt a lift you will inevitably fail that lift. So learning the psychology of developing mental toughness is something every athlete should look into. I spend 20-30 minutes every day working on breathing techniques and visualization not just about lifting but about being successful and everything else that is going on in my life that requires better clarity. Thinking and visualizing about your upcoming lifts will not only help you build up confidence going into the lift but it won't require you to think too much about it once you start the workout mainly because it has already happened in your head. The breathing I do just help me get focused and is my way of getting "fired up" I am not saying this will work for you, I am saying you need to find your method. The mental approach will help you in and out of the gym.

As far as my meet training is set up here is a video going over exactly what I am doing and the waves I am going through.

In my next article, I will go over meet prep nutrition and supplements to help me reach my goals and stay healthy and fully recovered.

Posted by Tony Montgomery under Weight Lifting  Diet  Training  Nutrition  on Jun 03 2016

You might begin to see a theme in a lot of my articles, the key to success is to do things in a way that is sustainable and will create longevity. There are a ton of really strong guys that show up and in a year you never here from them or we all know the people who dieted super hard but couldn’t sustain it and ended up gaining all the weight back and few more for good measure. Now I respect these people because they go hard and go all out but there has to be a smarter way to approach things so you can maintain what you’ve built. We’ve all been there to some extent, starting something new is always exciting and we always want to start things off right so we go into the gym and blast a body part because we feel good and training makes us feel good, but we push to hard to the point where we can’t even move for a few days because of DOMS. A classic case of going in to strong and without the idea of progression and after this destruction we are left with a decision to miss the next couple days or to keep pushing harder and harder next time, until 3 weeks down the road we are burnt out and decide to pursue yoga instead. This is a bit of a stretch i know but you get my picture and for a few of you this may have happened. The same thing goes for dieting, start to low on calories and to high on cardio that you just can’t sustain for more than a few weeks and when you plateau you have to add more work or less food. You can clearly see the dilemma here.


The way to avoid this problem with training and diet is to come in with a plan that you can build on week to week to get better. Lets cover training first, how you approach training should be on a week to week basis so that you can build each week. You can do this by adding weight, reps, or sets each week so you start off with an easy week to get back into things, followed by a slightly harder week by making the small proper adjustments. For example I started my offseason plan with higher volume, after a meet the volume was low and weight was heavy, so I just did the opposite when I came back to training but not at a crazy pace. I started slow with DB movements and keeping everything somewhat light and easy. The next week I introduced barbell movements and started with a lighter weight that I know I can add to for the next 3-4 weeks. It’s a slow building process as I am not concerned with anything but building a solid foundation and staying healthy. The bigger the foundation the better the peak and if you can repeat that process over the course of 5-10 years you will be an extremely strong person as long as you stay smart and healthy. This is done with smart exercise choices and listening to your body. I’m not saying don’t push things but it doesn’t have to be every session all out failure and fatigue. You want to look for clean and smooth reps, not grinders or missed reps. A huge reason for doing things in a slow and methodical approach is it allows you the opportunity to develop proper motor patterns and technique, the best way to do this is not by maxing out it’s by sticking with reps and sets in the 65-80% of your 1 rep max. 


Key takeaways here

  • Start off slow, lighter and easier workouts without pushing to failure
  • Build each week by adding weight or sets or reps not all at once though
  • Stick with building better movement patterns over lifting heavy weight


Nutrition is definitely the hardest of the two to be patient with, when you are at the gym easing into things you are still putting in work and training hard, with a slow and methodical start on nutrition, although it will yield huge dividends at the end, it is tremendously hard to wrap our heads around in the beginning because we want to lose weight and get lean now!! So the regular person starts with a ton of cardio and starts with an extreme diet like a no carb, paleo diet. This is a recipe for disaster because if you start out fast like this yes you will lose weight and fast but what happens when you stall? You have to do more extremes and more because you started at the high end already the only way to keep the train rolling is to do more and eat less. By a month into this approach you go binge crazy and quit everything all together. Taking things slow and get the most out of the least at the start, because once you hit a plateau you have to do more or eat less and if you already start with an extreme deficit you have to keep going and thats not sustainable nor is it healthy. Look into your current diet and if it is compete crap like you drink 6 sodas a day, cut them down to 3 week one, than 1 week 3 and finally eliminate them. Once you get that down you can go into a set diet with balanced macros, never eliminate any macro if you are a performance athlete, because you’ve already dropped the junk and the next step would be to get organized. For cardio same thing start with walking 10-20 minutes for 2-3x a week. Than week 2 you can add another day and so on and so forth. Its an easy thing to do it just takes a ton of patience which is hard to do because we want results and we want them now. Slow and steady progress will yield longer and more sustainable gains, in reality if you are losing weight at a rapid rate you are also losing muscle so look to shoot for a 1-2lbs a week depending on size of athlete.


Key takeaways here

  • Don’t go into a strict diet right away if you are not use to it, slow cut the junk out week to week until gone
  • Do the least amount at the beginning so you can make adjustments when a plateau hits
  • Look to lose bet 1-2lbs a week depending on the size of the athlete
  • Start slow with cardio a little will do a lot if you don’t do anything


The giant takeaway here is to slowly build into things and have a long term view of the process. Key word here is the process, not the end goal, you must learn to enjoy the process of building. You don’t want to get to down and you don’t want to get to high just know that throughout the journey there will be a lot of bumps in the road and a lot of victories. Take it day by day and week by week and try to get a tiny bit better every time. Keep in mind the guys and ladies you look up to have been training and eating right for decades so don’t expect their great results after a 3 month training/diet plan.

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