This week on Barbell Shrugged we talk weightlifting with renowned coach and founder of Average Broz Gym, John Broz.
By now you might know what to expect from this show. Last week with Cory Gregory we discussed squatting heavy every single day to accelerate strength gains. Well, get ready to meet his inspiration
Learning to shake hands.
If you ask John, his style of strength training is actually very instinctive.
Long before weightlifting, he used frequent barbell practice to accelerate gains in the bench press. He was one of the worst pressers in his old gym, so he closed that gap quickly by practicing the lift all the time. Seems intuitive enough. If you were a passionate basketball player in need of improving their free-throw shot, would you go to the court once or twice a week, or just about every day? Yes, you’d go all the time. So why would you treat barbell practice any differently?
That is a very simple strategy, but just consider the total work. The cumulative difference in workload between 1-2 training sessions a week and 7 is massive! Assuming you’re doing what is necessary to recover and continue the effort, it’s the difference between being a decent novice and a highly-skilled professional.
With consistent effort John soon became one of the best benchers in his gym. It was an early example of a fundamental truth about strength training – To get extraordinarily strong, one thing you MUST do is “shake-hands” frequently with heavy loads.
There are all kinds of reasons you might miss an attempt. The barbell might be too heavy. Maybe your legs are tired, you’re out of position, or you are moving too slow. Whatever the cause, very rarely will it be true strain and grind.
You must spend more time practicing with very heavy barbells. It’s the best way to get very skilled and strong, quickly.
Everyone can lift more often.
Squatting heavy every day might seem excessive, but just think about what John has some of his weightlifters doing in comparison. It’s not uncommon for his lifters to accumulate up to 13 squat sessions per week, working up to 90%-limit loads for sets of 1-3 repetitions.
Often there are missed attempts, but again, there’s rarely any true strain and wear. A very similar approach is applied to the snatch, the clean and jerk, and the results are predictable.
There are no secrets to becoming a better lifter. You just have to find a way to get the work done. And all things being equal, it’s better to do it as fast as you can. Time is precious, after all.
If you are used to training frequently, you might be ready to give daily heavy lifting a try. But it not, that’s fine. Just start by putting a barbell in your hands. As John explains on the episode, any day where you don’t train at all is a minus. A blown opportunity. You’ll never get that chance to improve back.
Sure, you might not need limit squats and heavy pulls 7 days a week just yet, but you could practice the lifts with light loads on your off days, right? Even if you move with an empty barbell for a while, these sessions count as pluses and will help you improve much more quickly.
Squat every day.
Attitude is everything.
Of course, it matters how you train. But programming details matter far less than you might think. The real key is your mindset – How badly do you need to get strong?
John used a prison scenario as an example of this mindset. Imagine that you are locked up behind bars, right alongside all the people you love most in life. There is no escape, unless you can figure out a way to squat 500 pounds.
How hard do you think you would train? How often? Would shaking hands done once a week be enough, or would you work on finding a solution to your program every single day?
Most people would do whatever it takes to get stronger in that scenario, but why should regular training be any different? If you want to boost strength, try injecting a little more urgency and NEED into your training. That shift in mindset will work wonders.
Squat more often, it’s good for you.