Category Archives: pendlayWOD

Dealing with Imperfections.

This is one question that never goes away.  We all want to improve, most of us are willing to work our ass off the improve, but most are plagued with doubt about which program to use, and why.  Every aspiring champion has doubts about the program they are using, and whether or not it is the right one.  And who can blame them?  The Bulgarians maxed out constantly, and they did pretty well.  The Russians and others did a more varied program, with lots of different exercises and rep schemes, seemingly a whole different style of training.  So what should WE do?  Who should we copy?


I for one don’t think we should COPY anyone, but we can certainly learn from everyone.  America is a unique country, and we will need to come up with unique methods.  We are one of the only countries in the world with a large population of recreational weightlifters, or lifters for whom winning is not part of their livelihood.  Some think of this as a disadvantage, I disagree.  It simply makes the genetic pool we draw from bigger.  This pool is where we will eventually find the people who will move us back to the top of the sport.  I am biased towards the Bulgarian way of doing things, and always approach training with the mindset of wanting to go as heavy as possible, as often as possible.  I am impatient, I want to move that max clean and jerk up as fast as I can.  But although my default position is always to max out, I know there are a lot of reasons why a constant diet of nothing but maximal lifts often doesn’t work out for American lifters.


For one thing, we are not all perfectly suited to the weightlifting movements.   None of us were selected at age 9 for perfect limb lengths or other factors that make superior lifters.  Some of us are just built wrong!  Whether the problem is a spine that is too short or two long in comparison to our legs, or elbows that don’t completely lock out, these physical imperfections mean that we are not lifting machines designed solely for weightlifting!  This does not mean we will never snatch or clean big weights, it does mean we might have to resort to extraordinary means to do so.  Whether this means that you have to do way more push presses than jerks to build the necessary strength in your shoulders and triceps, or whether like Jared Fleming you have to resort to isometrics to build the necessary pulling strength to break an American record reaching your best total is likely to mean more than just maximum snatches and clean and jerks.  In fact you might have to resort to completely different methods of training, like Jared did.


Most lifters who do not quickly become national champions or world team members are lacking strength in at least one particular motion.  Fleming lacked pulling strength, others might lack strength in the squat or lockout strength on the jerk.  If you have lifted for a year, and you have not yet qualified for nationals or aren’t yet high on the ranking list for the world team, don’t fool yourself.   A lack of strength in some movement is the problem.   The Pendlay WOD uses lots of back squats and push presses, and even deadlifts for part of every 8 week cycle as the fastest ways to increase pulling, squatting, and lockout strength.  These strength exercises are programmed twice per week with one higher volume and session and one higher intensity session every week. They are pushed HARD.  If you are allergic to grinding our heavy sets of squats, this training program is not for you.  On the other hand, if you believe gaining muscle and getting strong are necessary parts of the sport of weightlifting, come on over.  We will get along just fine.     


Size verses Strength

On the podcast this morning, we got on the topic of how muscle size relates to strength.  Many do not realize this, but size of a muscle is very, very closely related to the strength of the muscle or amount of tension that muscle can produce.  So why aren’t the biggest bodybuilders the strongest athletes?  Well, strongest at what?


This is an interesting question and the answer is part physiology, and part physics.  The physics part is pretty straightforward.  The human body applies strength through a system of levers, or bones.  The arrangement of these levers is just as important to how much force can be applied in any movement as the amount of tension the muscles involved can generate.


Let’s look at an example.  Donny Shankle is a pretty strong guy.  He also has an extremely long spine as a proportion of his height.  For a lifter proportioned like Donny, flexion/extension of the torso is always going to be difficult.  If you have trouble imagining why this would be, imagine you tried to hold a 1 meter stick with a 10 pounds attached to the end perfectly vertical.  Not too hard, but now imagine you tried to hold it at a 10 degree angle.  What about a 45 degree angle?  The 1 meter stick represents Donny’s spine, or the spine of anyone built like him.  Imagine how much easier it would be to hold the stick either at either angle if it was a 1 FOOT stick instead of 1 meter.


This is why Donny is a superior front squatter, where the torso is kept very close to vertical, a reasonable back squatter where the torso has a moderate forward lean, and a terrible deadlifter where the torso developes lots of forward lean.  Do you ever wonder why the world record holder in the squat rarely also holds the record in the deadlift?  Same reason.


Luckily for Donny, he chose a sport (weightlifting) that utilizes the body God gave him very well.  But the reason why the biggest muscle isn’t always the strongest has a physiological basis as well as a physics basis.  The weightlifting snatch and the powerlifting deadlift at first glance would seem to be very similar lifts.  Yet one regularly leads to the development of pretty big muscles, and one rarely does.  Now I love Weightlifting as much as anyone, and more than most, but let’s be honest.  A big snatch doesn’t automatically mean big muscles.  Developing a big snatch is as much about speed as it is about strength.  Applying force at high rates of speed is a neural adaptation more than a muscular one, and developing motor patterns is more important to snatching big than big muscles are.


Bodybuilding and weightlifting are two activities at opposite ends of the spectrum, and powerlifting is somewhere in the middle.  But just as you will never see a 500 pound bench press and a 5 minute mile done by the same person, you will never see a 20 inch arm and a 200kg snatch by the same person either..   Some things are just mutually exclusive.

Sept 15th 2015


This is the first digital watch I have owned in years.  As soon as I got done with my first 5k, I got the itch to run faster.  So yesterday I went out and invested in a new digital watch to help me keep track of my times more accurately.

Since I ran the 5k I have been doing a quick run every morning of about 1 mile, followed by a longer run later in the day of about 2.5 miles.  I don’t go that fast in the morning, but in the afternoon I have been getting steadily faster over the past 7 days.  The day after I ran the 5k I ran the 2.5 miles pretty slow, it took me roughly 40 minutes.  Definitely more of a slow jog than a run.  But I ran the distance faster every day, and yesterday I ran it in 24min and 25 seconds.  That is below a 10 min mile pace, and that milestone is what prompted me to go out and buy a new digital watch.

My friends know how tight I am with money, and they will understand how big a deal this was to me to prompt me to go out and buy something like a new watch.

I am now anxiously awaiting my second 5k, and hoping to complete it with a pace of less than 10 minutes per mile!


Ran my first ever 5k today.

I feel like i completed the conversion from weightlifter to runner today.  I really do not like to run, but in the interest of health I think that at this point in  my life I need to concentrate on something besides being big and strong.  This Journey started in December of 2013 when I had a stroke that left me in a coma for almost 2 months.  I was very lucky and escaped that experience with very few lasting side effects, but I realized that I needed to lose weight and worry more about my blood pressure than my squat numbers.

When I had the stroke I was about 310lbs.  I lost a lot of weight during the coma, but most of it was muscle because that is what happens when you lay in bed for months at a time.  When I first woke up, walking was quite a challenge.  I started equating again right away, and used a C2 rower a ton.  Once I got strong enough to walk easily I started trying to run a little.  At first it was just 10 oe 20 steps but pretty soon I was jogging half a mile, then a mile,then 2 miles.

This morning I ran my first 5k, the labor day 5k in Matthews, NC.  My time was 36.09  Not a great time, but I will admit I had more fun than I thought I would, and this first one will definitely not by my last.


Friday July 17th PendlayWOD


Today was a super busy day.  We had a seminar at MDUSA for school age lifters, and that took from 9am till almost 4pm.  Then we had to set up for the Summer Open, which is going on this weekend.  The kids who attended the seminar will lift tomorrow.  So it was a busy day, and will be a busy weekend.  But still  had the same breakfast as always (2 eggs, sun dried tomatoes, tortilla, ton of coffee), I had left over spaghetti meat sauce and zucchini for lunch, and supper was not one of my better suppers, just pork chops, corn, and broccoli.  A little boring but it did the trick.




Tuesday July 14th PendlayWOD

pork chops

So after the great kebobs yesterday I was not in the mood for another food adventure today and my meals were a little on the boring side.  Breakfast was 2 eggs with one slice of cheese and tons of hot sauce all rolled into a tortilla.  Which is which is what i eat for breakfast every day.  I washed it down with way too much coffee then had 4 apples from late morning to early afternoon.  What can I say, I love apples and they are very convenient to take to work with me.  I was super hungry for supper though, and had 2 pork chops, a big plate of broccoli (probably 3 oe 4 cups) and about 4 cups of frozen corn,

I am making big effort to stay “pale-ish” at least.  It was easy today, but i can already tell I need to think of a few more different meals to give myself some variety.

Monday July 6th PendlayWOD


Well we are starting our second 8 week training cycle.  For this cycle we are going to concentrate on strength.  So the programming will be slightly different from the last cycle.  Our weightlifting days will be Mon, Tue, Wed, Fri, and Sat.  I will post workouts on the other 2 days though, but they will be very short conditioning workouts.  If weightlifting is your only game, there is no need to do them, but if yo u want to be healthy as well as look good naked, they will help with that.  I might also throw in some very short conditioning stuff on the days we lift.  I am really enjoying doing these PendlayWOD workouts, and I hope some of you guys are enjoying it also.  Here is the workout for today…

snatch 75% 10 lifts EMOM

clean and jerk 75% EMOM

back squat 3 sets of 5 at 80% of your best set of 5