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edited in response to comments

Below is a detailed mixed olympic and power lifting routine. In particular, I have annotated what seems to be the most unusual features. I currently use the routine. I am wondering: is optimal considering it's purpose and my constraints? A list of specific concerns can be found at the very bottom of the post.

Some background: I lifted seriously using a low rep routine for a number of years before getting injured and taking time off for work. I am now, after many years, getting back to the gym. Have discovered and fallen in love with "olympic" style lifting.

The purpose of the routine is to accommodate my ridiculous work schedule (sometimes 6 12 hour days per week of sometimes mathematically creative work). I am not at all interested in bodybuilding (muscle proportions/symmetry), but I am very interested in increasing general athleticism (power/flexibility) and somewhat interested in losing weight.

6 workouts per week; 15 min warm up 15 min high effort. I find it much easier to get to the gym regularly if it is as rigid an element of my schedule as work; I also find that if I expend too much energy on any given workout then I cannot work a full day; also, after completing a full day, I very rarely have the mental energy left to safely lift heavy.

4 power days per week; 2 olympic days per week. Bench; snatch; squat; incline; clean/jerk (I squat or push jerk, not split); deadlift[; rest]. I do not do any assistance work for reasons already described; I chose these exercises for the following reasons:

  • snatch: it's my favorite lift and it is the most athletic movement that you can do at the gym
  • clean and jerk: it's the most explosive movement you can do at the gym; it's always fun picking heavy things up over your head
  • squat: muscular/mechanical -- and also electrical/mental and endocrine/chemical -- effects of doing big movements with heavy weight are compelling
  • deadlift: same as for the squat
  • bench: it is the heaviest and one of the longer upper body movements
  • incline bench same as for bench

I used to only bench, snatch, and squat. I found that (with 2 squats per week) to be too repetitive; in particular, too hard on the knees.

On any given day I warm up as necessary. Then do either two or three weighted sets (depending on how I am feeling) for some number of reps, according to the following progression:

  • Week 0. Start with a 45 pound bar "W0". Do as many reps "R0" as possible.
  • Week 1. 3 sets of R0/3 reps with W0 weight.
  • Weeks 2 - ??. While possible, do the same number of sets and reps, but increase W0 by 10 or 20 (depending on the exercise and how I am feeling: 20 for squats, deadlifts, clean/jerks, snatches; 10 for bench/incline, clean/jerk, snatches).
  • Weeks ?? - ????. When the above loop fails, decrease R0 by 10, 5, or 1 (depending on how low the reps were already: bigger drops when the reps are high; smaller drops when reps are low). Return to the previous loop, with the current weight replacing W0, and this new number of reps replacing R0.

That progression eventually leads to performing 2 sets of 1 with your near maximum load, though the timing is slightly different for each of the 6 exercises.

The reason for beginning with such high reps (typically 20 for snatches, 60 for squats, 80 for benches) is to 1) develop intuition for the particular lift; and 2) develop muscular endurance. I find these issues to be oft overlooked but extremely important in lifting heavy: since so much of lifting is mental, doing thousands of reps early in the cycle with light and medium weight helps you to develop the courage to pull/push heavy; also, especially for olympic lifting, the movements are so long (3 pulls and 3 pushes in a clean/jerk), poor technique due to fatigue, even with low reps, is a genuine concern.

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    With such a long post, it's unclear what you're asking. – rrirower Dec 14 '14 at 0:35
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    You may want to break this one up in a few different questions. Good stuff, but just going to be hard to answer it all. If it's broken up it will be of more use to others because people will be able to identify with different pieces if not the whole. – Eric Dec 14 '14 at 3:09
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    One comment, if you insist of designing your own program, 10lb jumps on weight is insane. It may work until you get to 75% bodyweight (at most), after that you're asking to get hurt. – Tyler Dec 14 '14 at 4:43
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    Have you snatched a barbell before? It sounds like you haven't. That could be a problem; it's both highly technical and highly demanding of shoulder and hip mobility. Strongly consider a coach. – Dave Liepmann Dec 14 '14 at 17:22
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    @Dave Liepmann: I have done a few thousand snatches and about half as many clean and jerks, all with between 1/4 and 3/4 my body weight. I have a power coach (and have done tens of thousands of reps) who competed in nationals in the 198 squats in the 70's; I do not have an oly coach, but for technique advice I have started training with a lifter with 15 years experience including competitions (all heavyweight seniors'). He wants me to adopt a more traditional program, but that is because he wants me to compete; I have no interest in competing. – entprise Dec 14 '14 at 18:08
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It sounds like you've done a lot of solid research.

Your exercise selection and daily schedule looks sound. I'd personally switch incline bench with pull-ups, because 1) I have no desire to incline bench and 2) pull-ups would balance pulling with pushing exercises, which is desirable for a number of reasons, including shoulder health.

Your program's set/rep scheme and weight increase scheme are, to my limited knowledge, unique in the literature. That's not promising. I'd go with a better-tested model. 5/3/1 comes to mind as a good candidate to be adapted to your problem space. It shares your one-major-lift-per-day system, and accounts in better-tested ways for your goals of developing intuition for a lift as well as muscle endurance.

NB: Do not assume that you will do the exercises correctly or safely without coaching of some sort. This is almost certainly the source of knee and shoulder pain. Video form checks are available in various the Starting Strength and Catalyst Athletics forums, as well as here and on several subreddits. In-person coaching by someone known to do power and Oly lifting correctly is several orders of magnitude better.

Other researchers in this field have noted the issue of ravenous hunger. High-protein, moderate-fat, moderate-carb intake generally shows itself to be best in terms of sating hunger and developing muscle rather than fat. Eating less is the standard algorithm for preventing weight gain while lifting heavy.

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  • Thanks, Dave! See my above comment regarding coaching. Adding to that: I would love to get a proper oly coach; waiting on availability at my current gym. – entprise Dec 14 '14 at 18:20
  • Regarding 5/3/1: high reps for intuition and endurance is something my power coach suggested and it has really made a big difference for me, especially with the squat. I trained with low reps for a few years; felt like a monster and got pretty big, but things never really felt "fluid." That is no longer the case. His other lifters, a lot of them younger guys who are in school and have the time, are all setting massive PR's for their weight using similar programs... but none of them are oly lifting. What I am most curious about is if anyone else has tried this sort of routine for oly lif – entprise Dec 14 '14 at 18:22
  • For coaching: If you have access to a video recording device, a form check post to any number of venues can be a fantastic stopgap. – Dave Liepmann Dec 14 '14 at 18:22
  • That is an excellent idea! Would this forum be an appropriate place for such a post? – entprise Dec 14 '14 at 18:24
  • Wait, so you were powerlifting heavy with low reps for a while before you deloaded and started this? You need to add info about that prior programming, then. I'm starting to agree that this needs to be split into multiple questions. – Dave Liepmann Dec 14 '14 at 18:25

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