How We Added 40lbs to Our Squat in 4 Months Using The PUSH Band

An Intro to Velocity Based Training and PRs

As I previously stated in our review of the PUSH BAND we have stumbled across what I feel is a bit of a unique training style that resulted in Jillian adding 40lbs to her squat in 4 months.  I wanted to give an overview of the exact training that we implemented with the help of the PUSH band.

Training Overview

I have long been a fan of utilizing percentage based programming that revolved around the idea of a training max or an everyday max.  This is nothing new to many of you that have been training a while and for good reason, it works.  I felt that we were leaving a bit on the table when training and I also had a few things that I disliked in regards to percentage based programming.  The aspects that I didn’t like were:

  • The idea of an “everyday” or “training max” can vary greatly from day to day
  • Some days are a lot harder than others, we could be pushing either too hard or not enough but you really don’t know for sure
  • If you are training for the sport of powerlifting the only thing you should be concerned with is the ability to hit one single rep, a perfect rep under near max or maximal weights.  To sum it up…..we needed more practice with heavy weights, but HOW HEAVY should they be?

Background Info

Jillian completed her first powerlifting meet in late February and it was a great experience.  Her peaking cycle resulted in her hitting a 225lb squat at her meet.  We based the peaking cycle around a 250lb squat and to be honest, I think that we programmed it too high.  The cycle utilized a lot of rest pause work which I feel was really beneficial and we learned a lot.

Fast forward a month

After recovering from the meet and doing a bit of hypertrophy we finally had the PUSH band in our possession.  I stated before that I reviewed a lot of Chris Duffin’s training methods that resulted in his world record squat.  One of the ideas that I really liked was his heavy speed work.  We trained with CAT methods but I felt that heavy singles and doubles really needed to be practiced as they had direct carry over to the meet.  I know that you can get a lot stronger utilizing 60-70% and training explosively, I have been doing it for a while….but in Jillian’s case, she needed more practice with the heavy stuff.

Phase 1: Rest Pause Raw Work

First things first, we needed to fix some technical issues in the squat.  We needed weights that were heavy enough to cause a break down in form and would allow us to fix problems during the lift or during the next rep.  The goal of this phase was to really practice how we played.

We started out with the PUSH Band and worked up to a max for that day, paying specific attention to bar speed.  This gave us a baseline of data to work with and establish our training protocol.  We found that when working up to a number that would be our max for that day the bar speed was between .25m/s and .2m/s.  I feel that as the bar speed gets closer to .2 vs .25m/s then we are really approaching weights that could be missed if something wasn’t right with the rep.

Rest Pause Sets

I read a lot of the writings by Josh Bryant and how he utilizes rest pause training.  It makes sense and it’s Josh Bryant.  If some of the strongest people around go to him for advice than the average person like you and I should probably take notice.

We started to perform rest pause sets with a weight that we could hit a speed between .4m/s and .3m/s

This was done in a wave of 3 weeks that looked like this

  1. Work up to a weight of .3m/s-.25m/s (trying to beat velocities of the previous week on way up.  After this, we performed 10×1 with 60s rest aiming for velocities between .4m/s-.3m/s.  If the speed dropped to .25m/s twice in a row then the set was over
  2. Work up and try for 10lbs heavier than the previous week but pay attention to bar speed, if it’s not there then it’s not there…..for us we always were able to add 10lbs with the appropriate speed.  add 10lbs to the 10×1 and aim for the same bar speeds
  3. Same as above, add 10lbs  to each and complete the workout.

*This ended up with us taking the highest weight worked up to in week 1 (.25m/s) for 10×1 with bar speeds up around .4m/s.  Stronger? Absolutely.

Phase 2: Rest Pause with Reps

I blatantly stole this idea from Josh Bryant and his “Jailhouse Strong” Book.  We decided that we needed more time under tension and we needed more reps to grow and get stronger.  This was another 3 week wave based on rest pause reps on the final set.  Here is the break down by each week

  1. Work up to a weight that was around .3m/s-.25m/s (this ended up being a lot more than in phase 1 and is the “training max for the next 3 weeks) and then take 80% of that number for 5×3.  After this, the final set (set 6) was a rest pause set where we hit for AMAP rest 20 sec AMAP rest 20 sec AMAP.   The reps were usually around 5,3,1 for that last set
  2. No working over the weight for reps, you will get plenty of work in without it.  This week was 87.5% of that weight that we worked up to in week one (training max) for 5×2 with another final set of rest pause work with 30 secs rest between each set.
  3. 90% for 5×1 with a rest pause set at the end in the same manner as week 2.  As we worked up to that weight we started to notice the increase in bar speed with every rep.  We knew we were definitely getting stronger because the lighter weights were getting obnoxiously fast.

Phase 3: Knee Wraps

We compete in the “raw with wraps” division so it was time to see how everything we had done so far carried over to competition style squats.  I really liked Chris Duffin’s idea of heavy speed doubles and we started to train with those same heavy doubles.  He mentioned .3m/s as the sweet spot and we already knew based on our data that this would also apply to us.  Basically, this is heavy enough that we need a perfect rep but not so heavy that you can’t make adjustments.  Again, the week by week break down

  1. Work up to a heavy double that results in the last rep being around .3m/s-.28m/s.  After this, we shut it down.  It was very close to that same training max used in phase 2.
  2. Work up to a single above the weight in week 1, stopping when we approach .25m/s.  After that 2×2 with same weight used for double in week 1.
  3. Work up to another single ( a bit higher than week 2) followed by 3×2 with the double weight used in both weeks 1&2

Deload- After this we were feeling a bit banged up and thought it would be a good idea to work in 3-week waves with a deload in between.  We worked up to something light in the 60% range for 5 and shut it down

Phase 4: More of the same

Again, work up to a new single with hopefully more weight than in the previous phase.  We found a great deal of bar speed after the deload.  It’s nice to see previous weights moving faster and faster.  At this point Jillian was hitting PR’s left and right.  Every week she would work up to something in the .28m/s speed and it was always more weight than she had ever had on her back before.  Not only that, she was SMASHING the reps.  The week by week break down is very similar but I will add it in any way.

  1. Work up to PR (leave some in the tank-bar speed is the guideline here) Then add 10lbs to the doubles in phase 3 and hit 1×2 (setsxreps)
  2. Work up again, same weight as week 1 for 2×2
  3. Work up, doubles with same weight for 3×2

Why Does This Work?

I think there are a few things to take away from our training blocks from the last 4 months or so.  The first is that we never, ever hit a grinder.  This really isn’t possible without the help of something like the PUSH band to gauge speed.  We realized that things that “felt” heavy really weren’t in terms of bar speed.  We could make educated decisions without pushing too far.  I equate this to getting stuck in the mud.  Push too hard too often and everything starts to slow down.  We wanted to straddle that thin line between too heavy and heavy enough to elicit a training response.

Live to fight another day

The phases also built upon each other (progressive overload) but we kept the training incredibly fluid.  If something didn’t feel right we weren’t afraid to shut it down.  “Live to fight another day,” was a phrase used over and over in our squat sessions.  We were constantly dipping a toe into the heavy stuff and then getting right back out.  This was testing the water and allowing us to get acclimated to heavier weights and more importantly practicing singles with heavier weights.  Powerlifting is a sport and the skill is hitting a single heavy rep.  Just like any other sport, this needs to be practiced.  Jillian’s heavy singles and the improvement that she displayed was the direct result of practicing the skills.  Hitting something at .4m/s vs .25m/s is a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT FEELING.

We stopped worrying about numbers and started to just practice the feeling of heavy weights, getting into the .3m/s speed means we are in the right area for training.  I really don’t care if this is 80%, 92.5% or 102%….. the number just simply doesn’t matter.  What does matter is that come meet time we are prepped to be comfortable with that speed.  This took me a little while to wrap my head around and I will say it again.  I really think the sport is more about not panicking with 95%+ and completing the rep.  Regardless of how strong you are, it will feel the same to everyone whether that is 135lbs or 600lbs.  The push band allows us to zero in on the weight that will give us that feeling.

Similar to RPE??

This methodology closely resembles the RPE scale and style of training with one key difference, you don’t have to know your body to make it effective.  It’s really hard to tell whether you have another rep or set based on feel, especially if you are new to training.  Using the data from the PUSH band let me know whether or not Jillian needed to do more or shut it down.  I think more important than letting me know what weight to call, it gave her the confidence to know that she could hit the next weight.

Final Thoughts

The progress made in the last 4 months was without a doubt a tribute to the effectiveness of the PUSH band as another tool to combine with smart programming.  Just like any other tool, you need to experiment with the PUSH band a bit and get a handle on the bar speeds that you are able to generate and their association with a percentage of a max.  Looking at the data from our first training session with the PUSH band to last week it is clear how much progress was made.

The data on the left is the analysis from the first training session where 215 was pretty much a max effort.  The screen shot from the PUSH app on the right shows the bar speed with 215 as a warmup to the rest of the training session.  Both are raw with sleeves.  By my calculations that is an increase of 143% bar speed!  This is something that pretty much everyone can use to their benefit to get stronger.

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