Constant working poundages

7.123 As John McKean explained to me, some of today's old timers, when they were in their prime, used constant "working poundages" for most of their training. (McKean has extensive experience in competitive Olympic weight-lifting, powerlifting and all-round lifting, with the latter being his current focus.) A constant poundage means a fixed weight for each exercise, not the same poundage for all exercises.

7.124 ^is approach ties in with what was explained towards the end of the segment Little Gems, earlier in this chapter. Poundage progression on a weekly or monthly basis cannot continue indefinitely. Once a drug-free trainee reaches very advanced status, poundage progression slows down dramatically, though it does not have to cease for quite a long while. Now is the time to consider intentionally using a fixed poundage for the working sets of each exercise.

7.125 To clarify, the use of fixed poundages for relatively long periods by the old timers came after they had already become very strong. Prior to that stage, and over a period of many years, they had focused on making small but regular increases in strength. Once at the very advanced stage, however, they would only rarely increase the poundages in their regular training. For months at a time they would continue to knock out their usual three or so work sets of however many reps they chose for a given exercise. ^e poundages would tax them but never push them to the limit.

7.126 A few times a year though, when they felt good, and perhaps motivated by competition (formal or informal), they would pull out the stops and try for new personal bests with limit weights. ^en they would increase their regular working weights a little for the next stretch of their training lives. ^ey would still keep the poundages less than their limit weights for the reps they were doing, but hold them until they started to feel not-quite-so-taxing. ^en another record day would be lined up, and, if records were made, some new working poundages ( just a few pounds heavier than before) would be used for the next few months, or longer.

7.127 ^e use of constant working poundages for long periods, even for a super-advanced trainee, would not apply to a new exercise, or to a movement that was being reintroduced after a long period away from it. In these cases, even the super-advanced trainee would start comfortably. Time would be needed to learn/ review form, and build up the poundages in the regular bit-by-bit manner. Only once very near the hilt of the individual's potential in that new exercise would it be an option to move to constant working poundages.

7.128 Here are some of McKean's comments on this approach:

If one of the old timers was a local, national or world record holder, he knew that one more year's uninterrupted, constant-poundage training might yield a mere 5-pound gain. Not much, but a new record, and all that could be reasonably expected for such a super-advanced trainee. Many of my present very-

advanced all-round buddies are happy to increase their records by 5 pounds at each annual national contest.

Many wise old trainees liked to keep their workouts simple and enjoyable. Most of them still laugh at the so-called scientific formulae and other numbers which the younger generation seem to pull out of thin air. But in performing an invigorating workout with a familiar, comfortable yet strength-stimulating poundage, these more down-to-earth guys always left the gym with a confident smile on their faces. None who I ever knew tortured themselves to failure on a set, or spent any workout time barfing into a bucket.

A final note pertains to the importance which most old timers devoted to perfect form on all lifts. Fixed-poundage sets allowed the security that the lift would always go, so even more attention was devoted to ideal positioning, and perfect angles of push. ^ey never went to the wall (or even wanted to think in terms of any failure) on these sets, where serious breakdown of form could occur, and thus develop bad habits or injury.

7.129 ^e use of constant working poundages is an advanced training technique you might want to experiment with. Remember that you must first already be very strong, and closing in on realizing your strength potential. If you do try constant working poundages, you would need a few weeks of experimentation in order to discover the ideal working weight for each exercise. It should be taxing, remember, but not draining. You should be able to do it twice every 7-10 days per exercise, though some of the gifted old timers did this three times a week, and keep it up for several months at a stretch. If you do not feel your conditioning and strength increasing as the months go by, you will probably be using weights that are too heavy for you, or using too much training volume and/or frequency.

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