The Ashman Strength System by Jay Ashman
Copyright ©2013 by Jay Ashman Edited by Drywall & Jason Ashman Cover designed by Aharon J. Sailor No part of this book may be rewritten, reproduced or redistributed in any means without written consent by the publisher. The author and publisher are not responsible for misapplication or neglect using this program resulting in injury or death. It is to be assumed you are medically fit to embark upon this training program or have been cleared to do so by a medical professional. Printed in the USA ISBN pending
Table of Contents INDOCTRINATION ............................................................................................................................................................ 5 FROM GEEK TO SWOLE .................................................................................................................................................... 7 WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO EXCEL WITH THIS SYSTEM ...................................................................................................10 THE ROOTS OF THE ASHMAN STRENGTH SYSTEM ...........................................................................................................11 THE SYSTEM BASICS ........................................................................................................................................................16 THE MEAT OF IT ALL ........................................................................................................................................................19 THE ASHMAN STRENGTH BLOCK SYSTEM ........................................................................................................................25 SETTING UP ACCESSORY WORK .......................................................................................................................................28 WARMING UP AND PREVENTING INJURIES......................................................................................................................31 NOBODY WANTS TO BE FAT, OUT OF SHAPE AND STRONG .............................................................................................34 EXERCISE APPENDIX ........................................................................................................................................................39 A SAMPLE ONE MONTH SETUP .......................................................................................................................................46 WHAT ABOUT THE DELOAD? ...........................................................................................................................................51 THE VARIATIONS OF THE ASHMAN STRENGTH SYSTEM ...................................................................................................54 FAQ.................................................................................................................................................................................58 CLOSING WORDS ............................................................................................................................................................65 THE PATH IS ALWAYS FILLED WITH HELP .........................................................................................................................67 ABOUT JAY ......................................................................................................................................................................69
This training template is not designed for the novice lifter, nor is it designed for those who want to worry only about strength. There are other programs on the market for beginners and strength specialists that focus on that area. This is designed for the intermediate to advanced lifter, for the competitive lifter who wants to add something different to his/her training, or for the general gym rat who has been toiling in gyms and program jumping for years. This template is for those who want to increase their strength while creating a more aesthetically pleasing physique. Not many people will argue against that, will they? There are enough of those other e-books out there, if you bought this and are reading this, I assume you already have the motivation to want to change or improve your current strength program. If you need some extra motivation other than self-improvement, simple words on paper are not going to be much help because once you put the book down you will forget those words in a few days. In my lifting “career” I tried a lot of programs. I was that guy who went from program to program every so often trying to find one to stick. When I started out lifting I was all about the bodybuilding magazines and drinking high calorie, sugarladen shakes. Sure I got big, but I got fat as hell too. I tried Power Factor training (which was a time-under-tension program), I did Heavy Duty, I dabbled in the ways of the HIT Jedi (god that was a mistake), I bought Power to the People way back when the book came out, I did 5/3/1, Juggernaut, and tried to implement my own Westside-type system using the knowledge I had from reading the Book of Methods several times. I used Mike Tuscherer and Team RTS to program my lifting. I competed in Highland Games, Strongman, Push/Pull meets and even took an 18 month stint of doing CrossFit – selling my soul to the Kool-Aid. Basically I did a lot of different experimentation in the gym.
I trained professional athletes, soccer moms, kids, average people who wanted to get in shape, and nationally ranked raw Powerlifters. As I get older my goals have shifted: no longer do I want to train solely for strength; it beats you up over time as you push yourself to the limit over and over. You don’t need any more evidence of that than going to any big powerlifting meet and watching the older lifters moving around. Some have bad hips, back backs, torn shoulders, and a host of other injuries or chronic aches and pains. Some are healthy- they know when to back off and know when to push it. Then there are some that look remarkably close to bodybuilders, and finally some that look like ten pounds of shit crammed into a 5 pound bag. It all depends on their weight class, goals, diet and body composition. Currently, my goals have shifted towards a more intelligent training approach; one utilizing not only strength and max effort work, but also bodybuilding-type training for aesthetics and to allow my body to rest and recover from the heavy lifts. For some lifters, such as myself, we take on some vanity with wanting our hard work to show off. Some people can gain muscle easily, some cannot. Some people get jacked as hell doing lower rep work, some will not. Some have naturally lower body fat; some have to eat insanely clean to show even a semblance of an ab. This template will solve a lot of the issues some have with trying to train for strength and hypertrophy without burnout. I am not going to write a plethora of filler to sell this book for more money. This book is not for the beginner; if you are reading this I am going to assume you know how to lift. If you are a beginner, save this book for when you are past that stage of wobbling with a bar on your back. You should be worried about getting stronger before you start to fine tune the machine you call your body. I am not going to overkill this: If you need your hand held, hire a good trainer.
FROM GEEK TO SWOLE A lot of us have stories; some are great, and feature success from a young age to their adult years. Some of us grew up in hard times, stayed in those hard times, and never realized their potential. Mine starts in a town called Reading, PA. I was born in 1974 to blue collar parents. I was born with a hearing problem that wasn’t diagnosed until kindergarten. Growing up wearing two clunky-ass devices on my ears wasn’t the greatest thing in the world, but thankfully it was fixable. Even as a young kid I was very athletic. Playing, and excelling at, baseball, basketball, track and field and soccer. Football didn’t get into my life until High School. I was blessed with above average speed which was evident looking at childhood photos of me blowing away the rest of the pack in sprints. Yes that is me in the front of the pack smokin’ those fools.. As I got older I drifted away from sports, save for baseball and football, and never worked out. I can look back and wonder what my athletic career would have been like if I actually had coaches who gave a shit rather than coddling the ones that were genetic marvels. Yes, I said it… My HS football head coach was an asshole. He loved his star players and focused on them while the rest of us were shuffled aside to fend for ourselves. This plays into my philosophy with coaching kids today… NEVER push aside ANY kid, you never know what you have in front of you and that small kid may turn out to be the best athlete your town ever had, and YOU as a coach gave him a chance. 7
Back on track - I played one year of football in high school; coach was a dick, that’s already established. After the season was over I went into his office and talked to him about how I could be a better player. And I fucking quote, which I NEVER forgot…. “You don’t have what it takes to play football here, son” Back then, I wasn’t in the right mind to combat that internally. My dad died in my 10th grade year, I was in full on fuck the world mode mentally. Grades were slipping, I wasn’t being a good son to my mother and instead of thinking “screw you coach, I will show you”, I gave up. Only after high school did I re-develop my athleticism and start lifting (at my mom’s advice). Only then did I start to take sports seriously again. A very good friend, Sean Lawlor, was able to get me a professional football workout in Cleveland in 1998. I did very well. Benching 225 for 38 reps, ran a 5.0 40, a 4.69 shuttle run and did my drills pretty well… oh I was 305 pounds for that. So call me slow, but at 305, I wasn’t expecting to run like the wind. I didn’t make it because of my raw skills. Strength, speed and athleticism were there, but the actual skills with the hands and feet were raw. Keystone Strength Classic Keg Throw
Later I discovered rugby which became my favorite sport, a sentiment I still have today. Although I picked it up later in life, I was able to earn a starting spot for a National Qualifier Division 1 team. Playing team sports wasn’t the only thing I did. I competed in Strongman, never finishing below 3rd in amateur competitions.
I tried my hand at Highland Games, and was lucky enough to be trained by a professional Highland Games competitor, Mark Moyer, who also took me under his wing in the gym. It was at that time that I started to drift away from the popular bodybuilding-type training seen in magazines, and to begin lifting with a purpose. I had moderate success in strength sports; top 3 in all amateur-level NAS contests, 2nd in a push/pull meet in my weight class, but I always looked back and thought, “what if I had coaches who instead of telling me what I couldn’t do, told me what I could do?” Some kids have that internal fire, that inner burning to drive them when people push them down. I Running with a slab, beating the field didn’t develop that internal fire until later in life when I learned how to truly push my physical limits. Coach wasn’t responsible for teaching me that fire. That is something I had to learn how to do on my own. Now, at 38 years old, I look back at my formative years in athletics with a sense of “what might have been”. I no longer play team sports; I now compete for myself. The years of rugby and competing in various strength sports have taken its toll on me. I wish I had that same drive as a kid that I have now, who knows what would have happened in my athletic career. But I am stronger now, and look and feel better physically (minus the speed) then I ever had. Every time I think why I keep going and keep trying to find new ways to improve myself physically, I always remember the words of my old coach who told me when I was in 10th grade, “you don’t have what it takes, son”.
WHAT YOU NEED TO DO TO EXCEL WITH THIS SYSTEM This template is not designed for percentage based lifting. By the nature of the system it introduces lift variety into it and the dynamic nature of the lift selection makes it virtually impossible to set up a training day based around percentages. I am pretty confident that no lifter around is going to know their 1RM max for all the different squat exercises you can choose from. Having said that; this system is based on FEEL. This system is predicated on keeping your ego in check, both with the main lift and the accessory work. More will be expanded on that later. I will say it again, because it bears repeating; this is NOT a system for beginning lifters. This is a template for those who have had time under the bar and are aware of the proper way to train, and who are open to using the concepts of both strength and bodybuilding-type training. They are aware of the difference between the two and know how to adjust the exercise style accordingly. Novice lifters do not have that awareness yet, nor do they have the proper base to start messing with training variables. Beginners need consistency and a solid, basic strength program that will give them the necessary base to choose a more advanced program after it. This system requires discipline: There is not an option for those that want to train 2-3 days a week like other programs. This is a four day a week program. Commit to four days a week and reap the benefits of how this system works. All you need is between 60 minutes to 90 minutes four times a week to do this. That is 4 to 6 hours a week. Take note that this does not include drive time to and from the gym, chatting with your buddies between sets, walking to the shake bar after lifting to grab a protein shake and talking to the person making it for 15 minutes, etc. If that describes your average gym day, you need to whittle away that fluff time, be a man on a mission and train.
THE ROOTS OF THE ASHMAN STRENGTH SYSTEM THE SQUAT IS THE KING OF THE LIFTS The squat is almost universally recognized as the single greatest overall strength and mass builder of all the barbell lifts. A properly executed squat not only works the quads and hamstrings, but also the traps, arms, back, chest and abs. If you had to choose between one exercise and its variants to do for the rest of your life, you would do well to choose squatting. I used to hate the squat when I was younger because I performed it incorrectly, after being coached on it and learning the right way to squat, I have since learned to love the lift, experimenting with squatting three times a week to my current two times a week. For those of you worried that squatting twice a week will cause overtraining, relax: Our legs are built for heavy usage, and squatting is part and parcel with that. If your fears persist, I suggest you go read about how Olympic Lifters train and then reconsider your views. OVERHEAD PRESSING CREATES THICK DELTS A big chest is cool, yes, but a sick pair of delts that look like cannonballs stands out whether you are shirtless, sporting a thick hoodie a tank top or anything in between. Thick shoulders add width to your body and look damn impressive. Plus there is something to be said for putting a bar over your head with your bodyweight or above on it. IF SQUATS ARE KING, DEADLIFTS ARE THE PRINCE Deadlifts build a strong posterior chain, a strong back, grip, forearms, traps and abs. A proper strength program is incomplete without the deadlift. They are a man-maker of a lift, picking a bar from a dead stop on the floor to lockout is almost as primal as it gets, 11
HYPERTROPHY IS AS IMPORTANT AS ABSOLUTE STRENGTH There are two strength sports that require max effort lifting on a regular basis: powerlifting and Olympic lifting. Of those two, Olympic lifters will not use this system unless they are taking a break from their sport. Powerlifters, however, will. The sports of Olympic lifting and powerlifting are both predicated on max effort lifts, and training for their respective meets involves using near max effort loads. The “strength sport” of bodybuilding uses higher reps for hypertrophy, but without the base of heavy lifting, you are just pumping up a dead muscle. There are specific ways to train for each discipline; this system combines sound principles of both bodybuilding and powerlifting to give you a strong and wellrounded physique. Muscular size supports muscular strength. Your body will only grow to be so strong with constant max effort work. Keep pushing it without proper weight gain and something will break. The best way to get stronger is to combine the two principles of hypertrophy and max effort work in a program that allows for both strength and size. The reverse is true as well. Strict bodybuilding training will push you to new levels of muscular size, but continual training in the 8-20 rep range across all lifts will not give you the overall strength to go along with that size. We want to be show and go, look strong and exhibit strength. This is why this system uses both powerlifting and bodybuilding. THE BACK IS THE KEY TO LIFTING One of the first things to go on people as they age is the back. Knees as well, but it has been said that 2% of the population has a herniated disc and by the age of 50, and half the population shows signs of degenerative disc disease. While these may
or may not be directly related to the musculature of the back, they are a sign that the back is a terrible thing to waste. 1 Along with the hamstrings and glutes, the back is a part of the posterior chain. These are not the glamour muscles that some misled trainees prefer to train; you cannot have a strong push without a strong back. It is a shelf for overhead lifts in the way that you activate your lats to help drive the bar upwards. 2 In the bench press a thicker back will shorten the bar path from chest to lockout and a proper bench technique always includes activating the lats and squeezing the back together as you actively pull the bar to your chest. 3 A strong back supports all lifts, from the squat to the deadlift and the upper body pressing lifts. All you have to do is perform a squat with a back that isn’t tight and you will see for yourself how quickly you fail at weights you can do for reps with a tight back, same as for the deadlift. It’s a no-brainer, building a strong back is essential to lifting progress, Too many people in the gym push back training off in lieu of training more glamour muscles. I do not have a stat for that, but I know you’ve seen this as well: How many people are doing rows compared to bench or biceps. Furthermore take a look at the “rows” being performed; is anyone really doing them correctly? Hell, are YOU doing them correctly, or are you jerking the bar into your chest like you are performing self CPR? Training the hell out of your back means a stronger, healthier back and bigger lifts. Period.
Degenerative Disc Disease Fact Sheet http://wwwp.medtronic.com/Newsroom/LinkedItemDetails.do?itemId=1101769745199&itemType=fact_sheet&lang=en_US 2
Lat Activation via the Military Press Negative and Pull-up - http://averagetoelite.blogspot.com/2009/06/new-video-lat-activationvia-military.html 3
How to Bench Press - http://www.dieselsc.com/how-to-bench-press/
TRAINING FOR STRENGTH DOES NOT MEAN ALWAYS TRAINING FOR STRENGTH What the hell does that mean? That’s one of the biggest oxymora around, or so it seems. This simply means that training to get strong also means training to SUPPORT the strength. That means, hypertrophy, mass, swole, pump, and bodybuilding workouts. Bodybuilding training is laughed at by some people in the strength sport, but let’s be honest, REAL strength sport athletes know the value and dedication it takes to be a bodybuilder. They know that building muscle supports bigger lifts. I say this all the time: Nobody will give a shit in the end how much your lat pulldown is, how much you can curl or how much you can do on shrugs. There are three lifts- four in old-school gyms- that most people will be impressed with; your bench, squat, deadlift, and overhead press. Depending on where you are, and if you wanted to be a stickler, you might be able to lump power cleans, stone lifts, or half-a-dozen other strength sport specific movements into the fold. But, at the end of the day, wherever strong people pick shit up, those four lifts are the ones being weighed and measured. This is why accessory work on this template should be performed in a strict bodybuilding-style of training. You will train the main lifts to not only be strong, but add mass and you will train the accessory work to add muscle to support the main lift and balance out your physique. CARDIO IS NOT FUN FOR A LIFTER, BUT IT HELPS I will be brutally honest here. There isn’t any excuse to be out of shape. If you can find the time to screw around in the gym for 2 hours a day, you can find the time to pace up that workout to one hour, and throw in some simple cardio afterwards.
You will probably have a temporary strength plateau introducing basic cardio to your program, but with the increased work capacity and the fact that your body does adjust to the cardio, you will progress. Doing cardio isn’t all about body composition either. Diet plays a huge role in that as well, but what cardio really helps with is not feeling like a fat sack of shit when you walk up steps, play with your kids or even bang your girl. You can be that lean, strong, machine-like object that is suddenly called out on the beach to play some volleyball with a gaggle of girls because you look like you can actually play a game and you look good. If your cardio sucks, you will embarrass yourself on the court. Those hot beach chicks will look at you and think “well his cardio sucks, he will burn out in bed”. Or you can do a couple days a week of sprints, steady state work (see cardio appendix for suggestions later in the book) and look competent even if you are a below average player. Win-win for all. Strength without the ability to utilize it makes you no better than a walking statue, sure you may be great to look at, but that’s all you will be good for.
THE SYSTEM BASICS In this system you lift four days a week, no more, no less. Part of the way this system works so well is that it allows your body to adapt to frequent body part training over the course of it. I can personally attest that since I started using this template I have dropped fat, gained muscle, increased my lifts across the board and have become more aesthetically balanced. If you have a busy, physical job, there will be an adjustment period with this system until you adapt to the training load. In the next chapter you will see the actual template broken down, it isn’t a large training load, but it may be different from what you are used to up until this point. However if you have a relatively sedentary job and you are worried about overtraining, you need a smack in the mouth. THIS SYSTEM IS CUSTOMIZABLE Part of the problems and issues lifters develop with set programs, set exercises and planning out 4-5 weeks in advance are:. 1. They get bored as shit with the same thing over and over and over and over. 2. They may want to do something different like walk with a yoke instead of busting out another set of squats on squat day. 3. They may be having a period of stress related to life and want to cut back on the barbell lifts for a day or two. 4. Did I mention boredom? This is why I program a template and NOT exercises. It is up to you to fill in the blanks. While I will give a semi-exhaustive list of exercises you can do at the end of this book, this will not be a fully complete list. There are literally hundreds of selections you can pick from for each body part, but I will list the ones I feel are the 16
most important to use and have the best applications for muscle growth and strength gain. ORDER OF IMPORTANCE: BARBELL, DUMBBELL, BODYWEIGHT, MACHINE I prefer using free weights, but there are benefits to using a machine at times. Let’s face it, lifting is not our life, we may have had a couple nights of bad sleep, some external stress in our lives, diet has not been up to snuff or your job is driving you to unheard of levels of stress. This will affect your motivation and training. It is part of life; you have to work around that. You can do four things here with regards to exercise selection. Lighten up the load for the day across all lifts, including accessory lifts: This is lifting by feel and is an integral part of this system. Not every day is going to be one of those earth-shattering sessions, you have to work with what you have on any given day and if it means your weights suffer a little for that day, so be it. Live to fight another day. Choose to do bodyweight exercises: Choosing a day of Barbell Squats followed up by using bodyweight movements in other parts of the template for higher reps will still give you a good workout without the extra load with a weight in your hand. (See template and exercise appendix for clarification). Choose some machines for accessory work: Sometimes using them for a day or two will allow your body and mind to rest from the barbell while still giving you work. This template is designed to minimize training burnout, but as I said, life happens and you have to work with what you have.
Suck it up and push through it: This is a given otherwise, and the only exception to this is if you are injured in some way or seriously exhausted from life. Some of my best workouts were on days when I did not feel like touching a weight, warming up was painful and the work up sets felt slow, but then a switch was flipped and PR’s happened. This has probably happened to you as well. Under no circumstances do you replace the first lift of the day with a machine. No hammer strength bench press, no leg press, no machine shoulder press and no machine deadlifts. My gym has a deadlift apparatus, I never used it and don’t intend to. The system is built around compound lifts, if you have to go lighter on a certain day for whatever reason, so be it, but do the main lift with a barbell or dumbbell in your hands.
THE MEAT OF IT ALL Day 1 Main Lift: Squat (1)
Day 2 Main Lift: Chest (1) Rows/Thickness (1)
Hinge/Hamstrings Shoulders/Overhead (1) (1) Shrugs (1) Triceps (1) Chins/Back Width Abs (1) (1) Biceps (1) Abs (1)
Day 3 Main Lift: Pulls/Hinge (1)
Day 4 Main Lift: Overhead (1)
Squat/Quads (1) Pushups/Chest (1) Shrugs (1) Rows/Thickness Chins/Back (1) Width (1) Rear Delts (1) Biceps (1) Triceps (1) Abs (1) Abs (1)
*** (1) is the number of exercises you will choose for each lift – explained further below *** You may look at this and think “HOLY SHIT!!!! How can I train back four times a week!!!! Squat twice a week!!! THIS WILL KILL ME!!!!!” No it will not. I assume people are going to get this system rather easily, but I will explain this in painstaking detail anyway to avoid any crazy email questions that make me want to smash my face off a wall. Day 1 and Day 2 will be completed two days in a row, take a day or two of rest and complete Day 3 and Day 4 the next two training days in a row. For example: Sunday – Day 1 Monday – Day 2 19
Tuesday – Rest Wednesday – Rest Thursday – Day 3 Friday – Day 4 I realize that sometimes life and work get in the way and you cannot always get to the gym 4 days a week, but if you have a life where consistent attendance at the altar of the power rack is causing a problem, this is not the program for you. Missing a day every so often happens, missing them frequently is going to go against how this system works, commit to four days a week or choose something else. In a future chapter I will elaborate even further on the lifts you can choose from in the exercise appendix, for now, this is a basic primer on the template. Day 1 Squat (1) You pick one squat exercise. Yes, ANY squat… Back squat, front squat, Zercher, pin squats, whatever… just pick ONE and do it. Hinge/Hamstring (1) Pick one hinge exercise or hamstring exercise. This is a posterior chain movement either a knee flexion movement or a hip extension movement. In the exercise appendix I will list recommended exercises and label them hip extension or knee flexion movements. Shrugs (1) One exercise for shrugs. If you need a shrug explanation I don’t know what to tell you. 20
Chins/Back Width (1) You can either do chin-ups/pull-ups or some sort of a lat pulldown. Again, one exercise…. Seeing a pattern here? Biceps (1) Pick any bicep exercise from the exercise appendix. Abs (1) There are good ab exercises and there are worthless ones. In the exercise appendix I will list the ones you, as a lifter, should choose from.
Day 2 Chest (1) Choose one chest exercise from the list and perform it, the goal here is using a barbell or a dumbbell. Not a machine on this particular day, not ever. Rows/Thickness (1) Choose one rowing exercise from the appendix. Shoulders (1) You can do some overhead work here or choose to do some detail work like rear delts or side laterals. The choice is yours, but choose according to your needs and your goals. Triceps (1) Choose one tricep exercise from the appendix. 21
Day 3 Pulls/Hinge (1) Starting off with a deadlift or a hinge exercise. Rack pulls, deficit deads, trap bar deads, good mornings. No banded exercises here like banded good mornings, there needs to be a barbell in your hand in some way. Squats/Quads (1) Pick a squat or quad exercise and do it. This is when you can do some bodybuilding type stuff as well; leg press, hack squats, lunges, step ups, ass to grass squats, etc. Don’t do leg extensions too often. Personally I hate them, but I will do them at times when I feel like smoking my quads out like a bad cigarette and I don’t feel like killing myself doing it. Shrugs/Chins – Width/Biceps (1 each) At the risk of being too repetitive and taking up unnecessary space, I combined the next three exercises into one for that sake. See previous days for the description. If you can’t remember what shrugs/chins/widths/bicep exercises look like, see your doctor about treatment of early-onset dementia. There is one caveat here that I will strongly recommend you following as well. If you choose one day for a pulldown exercise, make the other day chin-ups. Chinups are a staple for a good training program for a reason; do them at least once a week in this system. Abs (1) There are good ab exercises and there are worthless ones. In the exercise appendix I will list the ones you, as a lifter, should choose from.
Day 4 Overhead (1) Choose an exercise from the exercise appendix and perform it. I will highly recommending avoiding using explosive lifts like the push press or a jerk on any higher rep days, save those lifts (if chosen) for the lower rep day to get the maximal benefit from the explosive nature of those lifts. Pushups/Chest (1) I like weighted pushups: On certain days, I will do them with a super heavy band through my hands and around my back for extra resistance- it adds some variance to the workout. If you’re not a fan, pick a chest exercise and rep your ass off. Rows/Thickness (1) Choose one rowing exercise from the appendix. Rear Delts (1) Now that you have done overhead work, balance it out with some rear delt raises, some face pulls or band pullaparts. Nothing looks worse than a lifter with some sick-ass delts but when viewed from behind, it is a frozen tundra- flat and barren of muscle. Triceps and Abs (1) One tricep exercise from the appendix and one ab exercise from the appendix There it is, laid out for you in about as much detail as I can for the simplicity of this system. It is not rocket science and you are not doing 3 exercises per body part per day. It’s a multi-day system which will allow your body to adapt and grow using different exercises to keep it fresh. 23
People are so scared of overtraining that they train one body part per week, over recovering and never giving the body a chance to adapt to constant stimulus. Let’s be real here, the body is a machine meant to use, you use every single body part every single day in some way, it adapts to walking, doing yard work, etc... Why can’t it adapt to a high frequency system? It will if you are smart about it and not training the piss out of everything like you see in a magazine. The greatest strength and conditioning programs and the best bodybuilding programs involve the usage of barbells, dumbbells and compound lifts. Workout multi-joint movements as much as possible will increase your muscularity in a way that machines or excessive isolation exercises do not. That is why this system is built around compound lifts and accessorized with isolation lifts for maximum effectiveness.
THE ASHMAN STRENGTH BLOCK SYSTEM You have the exercise template and you have the basic description of what to do, now what is next… sets and reps. This is where it gets fun and tricky at the same time. This is when you set your ego aside and LISTEN to your body. You have to be smart and know when to push, know when to back off. You have to understand that one day you may be able to smash the shit out of the weights and the next day you go through the motions. This is auto-regulating in the way that your body is your guide and your ego needs to shut the hell up. If you are an ego lifter, you will have half-assed results and I don’t want to hear you bitch about it. This system is set up in blocks, for each two days of this template that is one block. Block 1 – Day 1 Day 2 Block 2 – Day 3 Day 4 Block 3 – Day 1 Day 2 Block 1 – Day 3 Day 4 And so on and so forth, this is when a solid training journal is a must to keep track of what block you are on, what exercise you selected in the last session and to compare progress across blocks. Block 1 8-12 reps across 3-4 sets
Block 2 4-6 reps across 3 sets
Block 3 1-3 reps for one max effort set
Rest between main lift Rest between main lift 90-120 secs Back off 85% for max 60-90 secs reps (optional) Max effort day, rest as needed 25
Starting this template out from day 1 means you will squat first, that first day of squatting will put you in block 1 and on block one you choose a squat exercise from the appendix and perform it for the required number of reps in the block. On day two is bench and this falls into block 1 as well, you choose one bench exercise from the appendix and perform for the required reps as said in block 1. Once you get to day 3 and 4, that falls into block 2. Choose a pull and an overhead exercise and perform the rep ranges from block 2. Once you return to day 1 and day 2 at the beginning of the next week, that second week is the start of block 3 and that is max effort day, when you select a squat for day 1, a bench for day 2 and you find a 1-3 rep max with that exercise. Only the MAIN lift on those days will follow this rep pattern. I don’t go by percentages whatsoever. That’s not practical in a system like this when the main exercise changes often. This is by feel. You select a rep range from 8-12 for the day and you find a challenging weight for that day for the main exercise and you repeat that across 3-4 sets. You need to challenge yourself to keep with the rest period which will not only build muscle and burn fat due to the shorter rest period but will also humble the hell out of you because chances are most of you never monitored rest periods closely. You may think you can get 400 pounds for 8 across 3-4 sets but by set 3 you are struggling to get 5 reps. This is where the ego check comes in handy… if by set 2 you are almost failing with the weight, drop down in set 3 so you get the required reps. This block is NOT about pushing the weight, its about building muscle. If you have to drop weight this block, the next few blocks of 8-12 reps will get better, it takes time to build up a work capacity to do higher reps if you are used to lower reps, I know this from experience. In block 1 the last rep of the main lift should be done to near muscular failure… with GOOD FORM!!!! This is bodybuilding type training, not max effort work. You should have muscular fatigue and not pushing it as heavy as you can, there is a difference… the only exception will be deadlifting and hinge exercises. The last rep should be challenging but not enough to break down form to a horrible level. Exercises like that done to failure often are rather foolish in my opinion. 26
In block 2 the rest period is a little longer because this is heavier. Again, let me reinforce this rep range is for the MAIN LIFT only. I would stay away from 5x5, 4x6, etc. This isn’t Starting Strength; you have to keep in mind this is a heavier and more frequent training load than a basic 5x5 program because of the exercise selection and the number of days lifting. Stick to 3x5’s, 3x6’s, 3x4’s… but this block is meant to be a hard 5 repeated across the required sets. Challenge yourself and push the weight, but don’t go to failure on this one, just make it a hard set sequence. Now you are back to Day 1 and 2 of week 2. This is block 3. Block 3 is max effort work. This is when you strap on the balls, crank up the adrenalin and throw the main lift around for a max effort set of 1-3. One max effort set please. In block 3 you will rest as needed to recover for the heavy lifts. Being that this is max effort work, you should rest anywhere from 1-5 minutes - depending on your own body’s threshold for recovery. As you progress in this template you will most likely find you are able to take shorter rest periods on the max effort days and still be able to work as heavy as you can. After the max effort set, drop the weight down to 85% of what you just lifted and rep out. This type of work will help you build strength and mass. This is an optional scenario. You may have tapped yourself out doing max effort work or you may feel like a champ after it. You have the basics down for the main lift of each day. You should, by now, have a general idea of how to set up the blocks and what rep range to use, this may take a couple weeks to feel out working weights and feel out your body as to what weight is appropriate per selected exercise. This template is unique in that there isn’t a set percentage because of the variety of exercise selection and also each person’s individual work capacity, you will find as you go on, you will be able to do a higher percentage of your 1RM for reps than when you started, this means growth and strength increase. This also means you will have your favorite lifts and less favorite ones. I caution you against always choosing the same lift over and over for a particular day. This template is at its best when variety is introduced as it prevents adaptation and allows for a more complete training system. 27
SETTING UP ACCESSORY WORK There are several ways to set up sets and rep ranges for accessory work and several ways to do them. Most lifters seem to prefer the 3x10 or 4x10 way of doing them, you may prefer 8 reps or you may prefer 20 reps. I recommend a range between 8-20 because the accessory work is designed to stimulate muscle growth and not exhibit strength. As I wrote earlier in this book, people aren’t going to care if you can do heavy lat pulldowns, they are a vanity lift and an accessory lift, use this work intelligently to support the main lift and to add symmetry to your physique. Again, let me reinforce that this work is done in the strict method of bodybuilding training. Stretch Contract Repeat This means the reps are controlled, not thrown. This means you will have to humble yourself some to do a lighter weight than normally to BUILD muscle. If by the middle of the rep range in the 2nd set you are heaving the weight, you have gone too heavy; however if by the last few reps of the third set these are harder than hell, chances are you are doing them right. There isn’t any reason to rush the actual sets here, control the weight, stretch and contract each rep and feel the muscle working. Rest between 30-60 seconds between each set. This rest period is important as high lactate levels are created in the muscles and the shorter rest period helps your muscles learn to buffer the lactate, which will improve your muscles ability to contract. 4
Rest Periods Between Sets: Everything you Ever Needed to Know - http://www.protraineronline.com/exercise/rest-periodsbetween-sets-everything-you-ever-needed-to-know/
In layman’s term; as your muscular endurance increases from the shorter rest periods, you will be able to do more reps, more weights and still be able to stick to the stretch/contract way of training and get larger muscles. Larger muscles mean stronger muscles, combining this type of training with the template I outlined in the previous chapter creates a stronger more aesthetic physique. When choosing accessory exercises you can take a couple different approaches. There is the traditional approach of regimented training by choosing one exercise and repeating it for as long as you progress at it, when progress stalls, change up either the sets/reps or the exercise itself. For example on Day 2 you choose Reverse Grip Barbell Rows for your chest thickness exercise, you perform this for 3 sets of 10 reps for 5 weeks on Day 2 as an accessory. On week 5 you get 225 for 3 sets of 10. Week 6 comes around and you repeat that same number. On week seven, you can either choose a new exercise from the list, or you can modify the sets and reps of it to something along the lines of 4 sets for 8 reps, 3 sets of 12 reps, 3 sets of 20 reps, etc. As long as you stay within the parameters of the template’s set/rep scheme its adjustable. The only exception is using bodyweight or band for resistance. Those will require higher reps than 20 to get a response, so adjust accordingly. You may want to do 3 sets of 25 reps for bodyweight squats, 3 sets of 25 reps for band pressdowns or something like 3 sets of 30 for unweighted pushups. What you can do and work with is what you should do. Some people like that regimented approach as it gives them a more quantifiable progression to look at in terms of strength and gives them an element of consistency. If you are like me and crave a dynamic template (which is the reason why I created this in the first place) you can take my approach and insert randomness into this structured template. 29
I don’t believe in total randomness. I believe an element of consistency is essential for progress in any program, but I do believe that switching up exercises within the set template gives your body consistent progress as it never adapts to a set exercise. Some people may not agree, but this works for me and it works for countless other lifters. This template allows you to select that option. For example on Day 2 the first week you may choose Pendlay Rows for 3x10, on Day 4 the first week you may choose Dumbbell Rows for 3x20. When week 2 rolls around you may select Chest Supported Rows for Day 2 and Reverse Grip Barbell Rows on Day 4. All of them increase thickness of the back with different exercises; your body constantly adapts to it and never gets accustomed to a regimented exercise selection. The choice is fully yours in this template. You need to keep this important bit of information in mind, accessory work is accessory work. It’s not to replace the main lift; it assists it like Robin helps Batman, but without the tights. As you go from block to block, you need to keep in mind that as the intensity increases, you need to adjust the volume of the accessory work. There isn’t any need to push accessory work to the max when doing heavy singles to triples.
WARMING UP AND PREVENTING INJURIES None of us are that lucky to avoid aches, pains, pulled muscles, strained tendons and tightness. If you lift for any period of time with any intensity, you will develop some sort of minor injury, and god forbid, a major one. Major ones are away from the scope of this book and are doctors and physiotherapists are for. Do not take this section as any sort of medical advice for treating injuries; it is merely a guide for getting yourself ready to attack the lift with some semblance of mobility. FOAM ROLLING You can buy either a black roller or if you have balls made of steel, a 6” PVC pipe cut into a three foot length. There are key areas you want to address with rolling. o Hamstrings o IT band o Upper, lower and mid back o Lats o Piriformis You don’t need to excessively roll the entire body like you are trying to work out every single kink in your frame. If you have a tight area not specified in this list, do it. Odds are the listed 5 will be plenty to keep your self-massage needs fulfilled. Roll out each area for a couple minutes. If you come across a particularly painful area, hang out on it for 15-20 seconds. Grit your teeth and get it worked out. It will take longer than one session to fix any issues, so be patient. This is why it’s best to start this ASAP to get your stiff ass moving with some level of fluidity again. 31
You can also use lacrosse balls, softballs or a baseball to really dig in to the tight areas. Be a man, tough it out. HIP MOBILITY AND GLUTE ACTIVATION Tight hips are a problem for many of us, especially those with a sedentary job. If you are on your ass most of the day your hip flexors are shortened, causing tight hips and sleepy glutes. Even if you have an active job, keeping your hips and glutes in good working order will ensure better lifts and better results without nagging aches and pains. o Glute Bridges o Side to side leg swipes o Front to back leg swipes o Hurdler’s stretch o KB Swings Do about 15-20 of each of these for 2 cycles. Be sure to fire the glutes at the top of the bridge and the KB swing. SHOULDER MOBILITY For a lifter this is a key area of concern. Hell, for anyone really. You don’t need to have fancy devices and a crazy routine to warm up the shoulders and keep them healthy. A broom handle and a skinny band are all you need. o Shoulder Dislocates Do about 10-20 of these, trying to get the hands closer together as you continue these. You can use a skinny band as well if lugging around a broom handle isn’t practical. 32
These are a good all-purpose exercise to loosen up the shoulders to get ready for lifting. Using the skinny band and a 5 pound plate after dislocates, you can do this suggested warm-up: With skinny band: Band Face Pulls Band Scapular Retractions Band Pullaparts With 5 pound plate: Circles – in and out Halos – clockwise and counterclockwise External Rotations Do 2 cycles of these with about 15-20 reps per exercise. There are numerous ways to warm-up and entire books devoted to the methods of warming up and mobility, if you keep yourself loose, mobile and stretch when things are tight, you can prevent any unnecessary injury due to neglect. You may not be able to entirely prevent an injury, but you can lessen the chances by doing a proper warm-up and making sure all tight areas are addressed.
NOBODY WANTS TO BE FAT, OUT OF SHAPE AND STRONG Well, unless you are one of the ones that actually like that. Let’s face it, cardio sucks. The only people who really enjoy it are those who run for a sport or participate in something that involves random exercising with unplanned progressions. The rest of us look at it as the bane of our existence. I realize you can have a fantastic body composition by just eating properly and training smart, but a lot of us need the extra help. I know for a fact I do and I would probably be correct in saying you do as well. Cardio not only assists in body composition by burning calories, it also raises your aerobic and anaerobic threshold, increases your lung capacity, lowers your heart rate and does all sorts of awesome things for your body that a lifter who does no cardio doesn’t have. How does this actually relate to a lifter? How many of you have performed a set of higher rep squats, or even a particularly grueling single or double, and felt gassed as hell afterwards with a heart rate that is racing like you did a hit of meth? Cardio will help with that. It won’t get rid of the work, but the increased lactate threshold along with the increased lung capacity will allow you to do more work in less time. That means instead of taking the customary 5-6 minute break between sets of squats will start to be reduced to 2-3 as your recovery improves and your work capacity is increased. 5
Does Running Give You a Bigger Lung Capacity? - http://www.livestrong.com/article/484982-does-running-give-you-a-bigger-lungcapacity/
This doesn’t mean we need to start running 5K races. That may be overdoing it for many of us, as our specific needs as lifters demands a shorter, more intense form of cardio. About 2-3 times a week, either on rest days or after leg days (I don’t recommend higher intensity cardio before a leg day unless you are a sadist or have worked yourself up to it first) go run a few hills, push the prowler around, do some treadmill sprints, or do a light barbell complex. Cardio on this template is to assist, not be the end goal. So to keep that in mind here are some recommended cardio workouts to take part in: TREADMILL INTERVAL SPRINTS 10-20 seconds of sprinting with 30-60 seconds of rest, this is dependent upon your current fitness level. I suggest using a slight incline, increase it as you adapt. Push the sprints as fast as you are able to without falling all over the place. Treadmill sprints are tricky, the best way to do them is to keep the treadmill running at the allotted speed, jump off onto the rails when the time is up and carefully jump back on when its time to move. Treadmills do not replace outdoor running, or hills, but not everyone has the ability to sprint outside, or has a hill within a decent distance from your home or work. These are a competent substitute. HILLS AND SPRINTS If you are one of the lucky ones with a hill nearby and/or a place to sprint, take advantage of it. It does not matter how big the hill is or how steep it is, its going to suck. Run up, walk down, rest as needed and do what you can. The purpose is not to puke; it is to get a solid workout in. Once your hill running is starting to resemble a staggering drunk, stop.
Sprints are easy, find a nice straight path from 40-100 yards, go as fast as you can and rest fully between each one. You can use a handheld stop watch to measure approximate time for your records and see how you are improving. I would recommend starting out slowly with these, doing 5-6 the first time out and gradually working up to 812 over time. You will find the first few times you do these you will be incredibly sore the next day or two. This is why I said earlier about not doing these BEFORE a leg day. Plan accordingly and plan smart. STEADY STATE CARDIO Sometimes you just do not feel like sprinting up a hill or sprinting in general, but mentally you want to do something. These are the days you would want to do steady state cardio. This is doing 15-20 minutes of light jogging, elliptical, step mill, bike riding or even some fast paced walking. Push your heart rate to a decent level and maintain it for the duration of the session. Find your recommended target heart rate and maintain that level. I know it’s a pain in the ass if you don’t have a heart sensor on and you have to check your pulse manually, but give it a shot. 6If you have a hard time finding your pulse, go by the breathing method. If you are breathing too heavy and can’t get air fast enough, slow the pace down some. Over time your lung capacity will increase and you will be able to maintain a faster pace through these sessions. PROWLERS AND SLEDS Treat these as sprints, but with shorter distances. Lighter weight to start and keep them about 20-30 yards and go balls out with them.
Pulse and Target Heart Rate - http://my.clevelandclinic.org/heart/prevention/exercise/pulsethr.aspx
If you are one of the lucky ones to have access to these, take advantage of them. They not only give you a great cardio workout, they also strengthen the legs without the soreness of eccentric contractions. CONDITIONING USING BARBELL/DUMBBELL OR KETTLEBELL COMPLEXES These need not be heavy at all to whip your ass. They also don’t need to be super complex as well. Do not make the mistake of stringing together movements that take a higher amount of skill to complete. Start with 65 pounds on the bar and as your conditioning increases, increase the weight, reps, rounds or any combination of them. Start with 3 rounds using a barbell complex and rest as needed between each dependent on heart rate or breathing. Complexes are deceiving little bastards so be warned. Here are two examples of barbell complexes: 8 Deadlifts 8 Hang Power Cleans 8 Front Squats 8 Push Presses 8 Bent Over Rows 8 Romanian Deadlifts 8 Hang Power Cleans 8 Push Presses 8 Back Squats Note that in those two examples you can follow a sensible bar path. Stringing them together in a way where the rest point of the last movement is the beginning of the next movement – or an easy transition into the next one – is the key to a good complex. 37
Doing something like the next one is how NOT to create a barbell complex: 8 Push Presses 8 Deadlifts 8 Front Squats 8 Good Mornings In that one you have to readjust on the fly, taking away from the continuity of the bar path. Simple enough? Good.
EXERCISE APPENDIX Squat: Back Squat with various bars – Ass to grass or Powerlifting style Front Squat Pin Squats – dead stop squats. Set the rack pins up at parallel or slightly above and grind out Zercher Squats Goblet Squats Kettlebell Squats Pause Squats using various pauses from 1-3 seconds, various bars and front or back Squats with chains or bands Box Squats with front or back to parallel or below Quads: Lunges with barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells or bodyweight – walking or stationary Reverse lunges with barbell, dumbbells, kettlebells or bodyweight – stationary only please Bulgarian split squats with BB, DB, KB, BW Split Squats with BB, DB, KB, BW Step ups with BB, DB, KB, BW 39
Leg Press Hack Squats Hinge: Romanian Deadlifts Straight Leg Deadlifts DB Single Leg Romanian Deadlifts Good Mornings Band Good Mornings Hip Thrusts Back Extensions 45 Degree Back Extensions Pull Throughs KB or DB Swings – heavy or light in rep ranges from 10-20 – not for conditioning Pulls: Deadlifts from floor, rack or deficit with bar or fat bar Trap Bar Deadlifts Snatch Grip Deadlifts Hamstrings: Glute Ham Raise 40
Lying Leg Curls Dumbbell Leg Curls Band Leg Curls Chins/Back Width: Chin-ups and pull-ups using different grips, width of grip. Use ropes, towels, ledges, anything you can hold and pull yourself up on is fair game. Weighted chins and pull-ups. Lat Pulldowns using various bars, palms facing, palms away or palms in a neutral position, and different hand widths.
Rows/Back Thickness: Reverse Grip Bent Over Rows Barbell Rows Pendlay Rows Chest Supported Row T-Bar Row Inverted Rows o Lying on floor on your back with a bar set in the power rack high enough to reach with straight arms. Grab pronated or supinated and row your entire body, touching the chest to the bar right below your nipple line. The only part of your body left on the floor is your heels. Do these with bodyweight or weighted using chains or plates on your 41
chest/stomach. That isn’t the most comfortable feeling in the world, but this is training, not playing house. Seated Cable Rows Batwings Weighted Scapular Retractions Biceps: Barbell curls using straight bar, fat bar or bicep bar. Dumbbell curls o Seated straight up or incline o Standing o Hammer Curls Barbell Cheat Curls i.e. Power Curls Low Cable Curls Band Curls Inverted Bodyweight Curls o Place a bar in the power rack far enough to reach out to grab, curl your entire body to the bar using only your biceps and leaving only the heels of your feet on the ground. Triceps: Lying DB Tricep Extensions Tate Press 42
Seated DB Tricep Extensions JM Press Tricep pushdowns using a variety of bars or ropes Band Tricep Pressdowns Shrugs: Barbell Shrugs Barbell Power Shrugs Standing Dumbbell Shrugs Seated Dumbbell Shrugs Mid-back Shrugs Chest: Barbell and Dumbbell Bench Press using different width grips and bars (for barbells). Incline BB and DB Bench Press using different width grips and bars and chest angles. Pushups either with bodyweight or added resistance in the form of bands, chains or plates. Feet Elevated Pushups with bodyweight or added resistance. Dips with bodyweight or weighted. Shoulders: Plate Raises 43
DB Side Laterals DB Rear Delt Raises - standing, seated or lying down Face Pulls DB Front Raises Seated DB Power Cleans Band Pull Aparts Overhead: Military Press using a variety of bars Standing Behind the Neck Press (Rack Press) Klokov Press Push Press – front or rack Push Jerk – front or rack Z Press Seated DB Press Standing DB Press Arnold Press Seated Press, either behind the neck or in front. Rear Delts: DB Rear Delt Raises – standing, seated or lying down Face Pulls 44
Seated DB Power Cleans Band Pull Aparts Abs: Decline sit-ups – weighted or unweighted Hanging Leg Raises Planks – weighted or unweighted, done for time Glute Ham Sit-ups – weighted or unweighted Standing Crunches using bands or pulldown station Ab Wheel Barbell Rollouts o Take a barbell with two 45 pound plates on it and use this for an ab wheel. This is much more challenging than an ab wheel. This is not a comprehensive list of all exercises for each body part. I left out exercises you can do with the Elite FTS Blast Strap/TRX and advanced bodyweight exercises. Most of us don’t have access to TRX/Blast Straps and can’t do handstand pushups. If you have Blast Straps or the TRX available to use, by all means feel free to substitute exercises using those pieces of equipment as needed.
A SAMPLE ONE MONTH SETUP There are going to be some questions in your head as to how to set this up. Below I am going to list a sample month of exercise/set/rep selection so you can clear this up in your head and see the above section laid out for better comprehension. Week 1: Sunday Back Squat 3x10 Choose weight which makes the last 2 reps of the 3rd set hard Romanian DL 3x10 Seated DB Shrugs 3x20 Neutral Grip Chin-ups 3 sets to failure Hammer Curls 3x20 Hanging Leg Raises 3x12 Interval Sprints :30 on :60 off
Monday Incline BB Bench 3x10 Choose weight which makes the last 2 reps of the 3rd set hard
Thursday Trap Bar DL 3x6 Challenging 6 across 3 sets, not to failure
Friday Z Press 3x5 Challenging 5 across 3 sets, not to failure
DB Walking Lunges 3x10
Weighted Pushups 3x10
Reverse Grip Bent Over Rows 4x8
Barbell Power Shrugs 3x8
Chest Supported Row 3x20
Plate Raises 3x15
Wide Grip Pulldowns 3x20
Face Pulls 3x20
Band Pressdowns 3x20
Incline DB Curls 3x15
Decline Sit-ups 3x15
Tate Press 3x12 Glute Ham Situps 3x10
Planks 3 sets for max time Prowler sprints 10 sprints @ 20m
Week 2: Sunday Front Squat 3RM
Monday Pin Press (Bench) 2RM
Glute Ham Raise DB Rows 3x10 3x10 DB Side Laterals Barbell Shrugs 3x12 3x8 Rope Close Grip Pressdowns Pulldowns 3x10 3x12 Fat Bar Curls 3x10 Decline Sit-ups 3x12
Thursday Deficit DL 3x8 Barbell Reverse Lunges 3x10 Standing DB Shrugs 3x15 Weighted Chinups 3x8
Preacher Curls Planks 3 sets for 3x15 time Glute Ham Situps 3x12
Friday Standing Press 3x8 DB Bench 3x15 Cable Row 3x20 Rear Delt Raises 3x12 DB Tricep Extensions 3x10 Standing Crunches with Band 3x20
6 – 40m sprints
20 mins steady state incline treadmill walking
Week 3: Sunday Monday Safety Bar Squat Close Grip 3x4 Bench 3x4 Weighted 45 Degree Back
Pendlay Rows 3x8
Thursday Deadlift 1RM
Friday Rack Jerk 1RM
Leg Press 2x10
Band Resisted Pushups 3x10
Inverted Row 48
Extensions 3x10 DB Front Raises 3x12 Seated DB Shrugs 3x12 Band Pressdowns Neutral Grip Lat 3x15 Pulldowns 3x10 Ab Wheel 3x12 DB Curls 3x10 Hanging Leg Raises 3x12
Band Pullaparts 3x20
Barbell Curls 3x8
Tate Press 3x10
Weighted Glute Ham Sit-ups 3x8 Barbell Rollout 3x8 Treadmill Hill Sprints
15m Step mill
Week 4: Sunday 1 Count Pause Squats 3x10 Single Leg RDL 3x10 Seated DB Shrugs 3x20 Close Grip Pulldowns 3x15 Cheat Curls 3x8
Monday DB Bench 3x12
Thursday Snatch Grip DL 3x6
Chest Supported Row 3x15 DB Step Ups 3x12 Rear Delt Raises 3x15 Power Shrugs 3x8 JM Press 3x10 Weighted ChinDecline Sit-ups ups 3x8 3x12 Hammer Curls
Friday Pin Press (Overhead) 3x6 Weighted Dips 3x10 Reverse Grip Barbell Rows 3x15 Face Pulls 3x15 Tricep Pressdowns 49
Hanging Leg Raises 3x12 5 – 30m sprints
Standing Crunches with Band 3x20
Ab Wheel 3x10
Barbell Complex 3 rounds
WHAT ABOUT THE DELOAD? I do not program deloads. Everyone is different. Some people can lift for weeks at a time without a programmed deload, and some people can only go three weeks without one. Thinking a cookie cutter deload is going to work for everyone isn’t always the best option. You have to LISTEN TO YOUR BODY! This template regulates intensity in a way that frequent deloads are not necessary. That is the nature of this template, but like all good things in life, there are also going to be times when things are not so good. Stress, eating like hell, feeling beat up from lack of sleep, work is getting to you, etc... If that happens, it would be a smart idea to either take a couple days off, pick up where you left off, or go through the motions in the gym. By going through the motions you can attack this in a few ways: 1. Just do the main lift at a lesser intensity. Meaning you cut back on the working weight to make it easier. For example you have to do Squats on a day you feel like hell, but you will mentally beat yourself down if you don’t go in and do something. The last time you pulled off 300 across 4 sets of 10 for the back squat, so instead of trying 310-315, drop to 225 for 4x10 and give it the “going through the motions” treatment. You are still getting minimal work in and slightly satisfying your ego by actually showing up. 2. Lessen the intensity on the main lift and also the accessory work. If you want this option do example 1 across the board. Lessen the weights across all movements, get minimal work in, skip cardio and go home. 3. Don’t bother going in at all, and just rest. Sometimes your body needs a break. This may be the best option of all of them, because in reality one or two missed workouts isn’t going to kill your progress, and in many cases a 51
good couple days off from even touching a weight will give you the rest you need to come back with a vengeance. With all three of these options you will want to keep one thing constant. Eating. When you are feeling like a break is needed, that is your body’s signal to refuel. You need to continue to eat as your normally eat and give your body a chance to recover properly, whether it is mental or physical. If you slack off on proper eating, your body will tell you. Understand that once you tackle training as a life-long commitment, you are different than people who don’t train. Deviate too long from your plan and you notice a lack of energy, lack of endurance, lack of strength and lack of well-being. It is easy to fall off the wagon if you allow yourself too much room to jump. It is important to rest, but equally important not to say “you know, I will just take 3 weeks off and come back”. Meanwhile in those three weeks you decide to hit the bars all weekend, drink, eat like hell, sleep in late, and act like a college freshman. That rest will make it that much harder to come back as excuses start coming into your head. You may say “I’m tired, I will start tomorrow”. Trust me there; I went through this exact thing at a couple points in my life. There is a fourth option and sometimes this happens. Once in a while you feel like going home from the gym before you even start. I remember one recent lifting session I had when I was sitting on the bench, tired both mentally and physically. I was starting to take my lifting shoes off to go home before I even started and I just said “the hell with it, I am here, I will just lift”. On that day I set a new overhead PR of 30 pounds more than my previous best. Sometimes your body surprises you, we are resilient, sometime you have full intentions of taking a deload and all of a sudden the weights are explosive and you feel like you can take on the Huns. 52
Listen to your body and lift according to feel, not by ego.
THE VARIATIONS OF THE ASHMAN STRENGTH SYSTEM You talk to 10 strength coaches and you will get 10 different answers for most strength/physique related questions. There is no one right way to train, but there are a shitload of wrong ways to train as well. If you bought this book, you purchased one right way to train with a ton of variations involved with it. DEADLIFT Some people respond well to higher frequency deadlifting, some people do well with less infrequent pulling. If you respond well to higher frequency of pulling you may want to use a pull (or variation of a pull) for the first exercise on Day 3 most of the time. Higher reps build muscularity and work on form, moderate reps build strength and the max effort days will test your ability to pull heavy weights and grind them out. As with the base template, lift on feel. You don’t have to shoot for a PR with every max effort day; the max effort day is based on how you feel ON THAT DAY. If you respond to less frequent deadlifting (as I do) pull every other week. On the weeks you don’t pull start with a hinge movement (on Day 3 in case your attention span is the same as a gnat’s life) to strengthen the hamstrings, glutes and lower back. I will highly recommend you don’t do good mornings as a max effort movement, if you have to ask why, please slap yourself. The risk/reward is potentially too great for a max effort good morning. As this book is for intermediate to advanced lifters, I expect some common sense to be used with it since you have an idea of how to train already. I highly advise against pulling twice a week. Some people can do it, most of us can’t. Day 1’s hinge/hamstring movement should always be done in the rep format as described in the accessory work section, save Day 3 for pulling from the floor. BENCH 54
The template is just that, a template. It starts with the main lift first and as you go down the rest of the day’s training it ends with the smaller muscle groups. Powerlifters and bro benchers (you know the types, the ones that want a big bench before all else) will want to slightly modify this template to adjust to the needs of that lift on Day 2 and Day 4. On Day 2 the order of exercises is as follows: Main Lift: Chest (1) Rows/Thickness (1) Shoulders/Overhead (1) Triceps (1) Abs (1) If you are a bencher with weaker triceps (problems at lockout) you will want to make the tricep movement your SECOND lift of the day. Don’t get caught up in boards, partials and other geared lifter tools. This is a RAW lifting program and you will build raw strength. I don’t believe that using boards will help a raw lifter out as much as some people think they do, so there isn’t a pressing need to work on lockout strength. People were benching some big ass weights before boards were being used, and they still do. Do a tricep movement that builds tricep strength and size, not necessarily partial movement strength. Immediately after you can continue on with the program on Day 2 as written. If you are a bencher with weaker shoulders and stronger triceps (lockout isn’t a major issue, but strength off the chest is), make a shoulder movement your SECOND lift of the day. You want to hit the muscles that you need to first (in order of weakness that pertain to the bench) and then carry on with the rest of the program. 55
This requires analysis of your lifting with a critical and honest eye. Training alone makes this harder, but with a partner they can tell you where the issue happened and you can go from there. On Day 4 you can do the same thing, even if shoulders are the first movement. The template was written for a general strength/physique application, but if you are an off-season powerlifter you are free to swap bench and shoulders around, make bench the first movement and follow the suggestions for Day 2. See how this template works? It’s simple to adapt it to your needs as an off-season powerlifter looking to add strength and mass before the meet prep. SQUAT You can attack this in a few different ways. 1. On Day 1 and Day 3, make squatting the FIRST movement of the day with Day 3 having the hinge/pull being the second. Deadlifting, good mornings, hypers, extensions, any sort of hinge movement will be acceptable after squatting on Day 1 and Day 3 using the set/rep scheme in accessory work. This is a great way to build lower body mass with the squat since you are focusing on the squat 2 days a week while using the hinge/hamstring/pull day to add posterior chain mass. 2. Stick with the template as is, but choose a squat exercise for the second movement on Day 3. Work the lift more that way by adding extra volume to the weekly squat load. 3. Stick with the template and add unilateral work on Day 3 for the second movement. Unilateral movements for the lower body will really work the hip flexors hard, balance and stability in ways a squat don’t. These will add to your work on the squat and allow for a bigger lift progress.
4. Leg Press…. Mainly for leg size as I don’t buy into the notion that leg pressing directly helps the squat since they are two entirely different movements. It won’t hurt it, but there are better ways to get a bigger squat rather than leg pressing. I’ve seen 1000 pound leg pressers struggle with 315 on their backs. If your approach is a well-balanced duo of strength and size, leg pressing may be your buddy after the main lift on Day 3. If you are focused on using this template to get geared up for meet prep, you don’t really need the leg press. BACK STRENGTH You are doing back 4x a week. If back strength is a problem, be patient. It will come. Rome wasn’t built in a day and doing a shitload of volume to make up for years of back neglect won’t help as much as sticking to the plan as written. In a couple months, on this program, you will have a stronger back and that weakness will start to catch up. Be patient. This program, as it is written, offers adaptability and variations for both powerlifters and powerbuilders; however, the core of it remains the same. Cycle the intensity between higher reps, moderate reps and max effort and hit the accessory work in a bodybuilding style to add size and support for the main lift. Trying to adapt the basic principles of the program will render this program pointless and you may as well write your own up because you sure as hell won’t be following this one.
FAQ 1. Why cycle core lifts using different bars/lifts? You cannot make progress forever using just one type of core lift. Every program on the market, every coach who is worth their weight in muscle and every effective system utilized in a legitimate strength gym uses various types of boards, boxes, pauses, bars and bar position to help their lifters get bigger and stronger. The same applies here. Using different lifts work the lift in different ways which will help increase the straight bar lift over time. 2. I like doing CrossFit workouts; can this be used with some WOD’s? Not at all. Combining programs is a good way to ensure lesser results across both programs. Stick to one, see it through and reap the benefits of doing one program. 3. Can I pick more exercises to do instead of one? It doesn’t feel like enough on a day. No you cannot. In this template you will do Squats twice a week, some sort of posterior chain dominant movement twice a week, biceps and triceps twice a week, a chest exercise twice a week, back four times a week, abs four times a week, traps twice a week, shoulders twice a week and rear delts once. If you feel you need more, you aren’t doing it right. 4. Can I do back squats all the time instead of the other variations (instead bench, deadlift, shoulder press here)? The beauty of this template is in the variation of the exercise selection. Being that this is not a traditional percentage based program, you don’t have a marked percentage to work off of like other programs. The nature of that alone does not necessarily allow for progressive overload. You will have some progress sticking to one main lift for a period of time with the different rep/set combinations, but you will come to a point where you will stall. 58
5. Can I do accessory work heavier, like 4-6 reps? I’d prefer you not. This template combines both bodybuilding and powerlifting training. The accessory work is designed to be executed as a bodybuilder would. Furthermore you will see better muscular gains doing the accessory work in that manner. Sure, once in a while you can push the envelope and do some heavy shrugs, rows and other accessory movements, but for 95% of your accessory work, stick to the 8-20 rep range with weights and higher for bands and bodyweight. 6. I want to do cardio four times a week, can I? Sure, but keep in mind your gains may be slower than you expect until your body adjusts. Also be smart about it and don’t do sprints four times a week. You are a lifter and chances are you will be incredibly sore and burned out for any lower body work for a while if you choose to start off doing sprints all the time. 7. What about Olympic Lifts? Can I do power versions of them? Not on this version you cannot. In a future supplemental version there will be additions on adding power cleans, power snatches and explosive pulls to increase athleticism and power. For now, just focus on getting bigger and stronger. 8. What about lifting tempo? We are not going to count seconds to lower and raise the bar. That is taking it to another level that I have no desire to go to. Train the main lifts like a powerlifter, meaning you stay tight and treat every rep – no matter the bar weight – as a max effort lift. Same exact form using 135 as you would using 400. With accessory work you train it like a bodybuilder; controlled concentric and eccentric contractions, fully stretching and contracting the muscle. You shouldn’t be heaving the weight doing accessory work, if you are, lighten the load. 9. What about a workout log, should I keep one?
The answer to this is always yes. In this log you should keep a detailed record of the lift, the bar used, the sets, the reps and the weight used. Make notes about how heavy the weight was relative to the day so you can go back to see progress and increase weight and reps as needed. Being that this template relies on using multiple main lifts and accessory lifts, keeping a detailed log will make your training a hell of a lot easier. 10.
Can I use this to train for a powerlifting or strongman meet?
This current template is designed for a general strength, hypertrophy and offseason program. I am working on a version as of this writing to peak for a powerlifting meet. Strongman will be a different animal as events, weights, times of events and implements available for your own personal use change. That will be expanded upon in a future supplement edition of this e-book along with the powerlifting peaking program. 11.
Can I superset the accessory work?
Yes you can. Feel free to superset how you please after the main lift. If you are pressed for time this is a great way to get a workout in quickly. This will also accelerate your heart rate and add some conditioning and work capacity to your training outside of cardio. Experiment a little; it’s a template, not a set-in-stone program. 12.
What do I do if I “stall” with this system?
I realize that with every program on the market, you will stall. There isn’t a single program on the market you can do for a lifetime without modifying it in some way to change up the stimulus you receive. Since I have started this program I have adapted it two different ways. I kept the core lifts and the set/rep scheme the same, the only thing I changed is the accessory work schedule. 60
The two modifications are below: Day 1 Main Lift: Squat (1)
Day 2 Main Lift: Chest (1) Rows/Thickness (1)
Hinge/Hamstrings Shoulders/Overhead (1) (1) Shrugs (1) Triceps (1) Chins/Back Width Conditioning (1) Biceps (1) Abs (1)
Day 3 Main Lift: Pulls/Hinge (1)
Day 4 Main Lift: Overhead (1)
Squat/Quads (1) Pushups/Chest (1) Shrugs (1) Rows/Thickness Chins/Back (1) Width (1) Rear Delts (1) Biceps (1) Triceps (1) Abs (1) Conditioning
For the first modification I realized I was being pressed for time in the gym with doing abs and conditioning, once I actually “scheduled” conditioning training I stuck to it more instead of making excuses and leaving the gym before I did it. This may be an option for the lazy lifter who thinks they don’t need to do some form of cardio. After doing this for a couple months, I wanted to add more to my core lifts to give them some extra work. I am forever tweaking what I have and this template is very dynamic to work with. This is my current setup: Day 1 Main Lift: Squat (2)
Day 2 Day 3 Main Lift: Chest Main Lift: (2) Pulls/Hinge (2)
Day 4 Main Lift: Overhead (2) 62
Hinge/Hamstrings Shoulders (1) (1) Shrugs (1) Rows/Thickness Triceps (1) (1) Chins/Back Width Biceps (1) (1) Conditioning Calves (1)
Squat/Quads (1) Chest (1) Chins/Back Width (1)
Rear Delts (1) Biceps (1)
Rows/Thickness Triceps (1) (1) Calves (1)
Abs (1) In this tweak I increased the core lift to 2 lifts per session. This means you could follow up a squat movement with a quad dominant movement such as Olympic squats, leg presses, lunges or even leg extensions. Same goes for chest and overhead. You aren’t restricted to doing two barbell movements; feel free to use dumbbells or other tools to work the core lift only after doing the main movement with a bar in your hand. Pulls are the only one where you really don’t need to do two deadlift variations on the same day. Some will love that, I don’t. I choose to do some lower back work like back extensions or reverse hypers to keep my lower back healthy without overdoing the pulling. If you are one of the lucky ones who can tolerate frequent deadlifting, feel free to knock yourself out by utilizing two different pulling movements back to back. Another tweak I added was consolidating the back work into two days. Doing this allows me to focus hard on the back work over two days rather than spacing it out over four. Changing it like this means I now moved all arm work to two days doing bis/tris on the same day. You can see I added calves to the mix as well. Why? I wanted more calf development. 63
I would recommend running the original template as described before trying out one of the tweaks, especially the second variation above. It adds volume to it and you’ll need the work capacity built up from following the program as described in the previous chapters. That original system worked wonders for me for several months, as well as others who have used it. The tweaks were added to prevent the body from becoming accustomed to a set exercise order.
CLOSING WORDS I wrote this template out of need. I was a habitual program hopper. I got bored easily; I did not self-regulate my intensity like I needed to. I was in the mindset of always lifting heavy or it is a bad workout. A lot of us fall into that category as well. If you have a certain amount of years under the bar you already know what it is like to be competitive with yourself. If you compete, you know what it is like on a whole other level. We don’t like to dial it back and often dial it back only when needed or if we get hurt. That is no way to train long term. You can’t compete forever, you can’t go heavy forever. The body develops aches and pains. You get hurt. You burn out. Life happens. Goals change. This template takes the guess work out of regulating intensity but provides enough stimulus and variation to add size and strength to your frame. It solves the problem a lot of us have with knowing when to push and when not to push. It has helped me immensely and it will help you. There are literally hundreds of programs on the market you can buy, use and read. Of those hundreds only a handful are programs you can use long term. 5x5 doesn’t work forever, programs with a set routine don’t work forever, and gimmick programs don’t work forever. It’s a fact. The human body adapts to a stimulus and the only way to ensure long term progress is to modify sets, reps, exercises and intensity. Progressive overload and repeating the same exact program over and over again will cause plateaus. Variations need to occur. This template uses all of them to achieve a system that can be used for years of progress if programmed intelligently with regards to what your body needs. Not what your mind needs, what your body needs. You may love to back squat and want to do it all the time, but changing up the bar, changing the depth, changing from back to front, etc. will give your body the “whoa what is this?” factor it may need to break past a plateau and spur it to muscle growth and strength increases.
This is a huge reason why I don’t provide a program, I provide a template. The template uses body part training with an exercise list to choose from to give you the best results possible. It’s adaptable, it’s customizable and no two people using this system will have the exact same program. Its dynamic, its fun and it may just be the spark your training needed to give you an awesome combination of size, strength and conditioning. The template is customizable, you can change order of accessory work based off your needs, you can emphasize squatting over pulling, you can emphasize bench over overhead pressing or you can keep it as is (as I have and many others as well) for a more well-rounded approach to training with weights. The basic principles remain the same, cycle the intensities among the main lifts and hammer the accessory work with the purpose of building muscle, not exhibiting strength. This is NOT weak point training; this is training to add size, strength, aesthetics and balance. As a raw lifter/powerbuilder, the weak points will take care of themselves with the frequent lifting and building overall muscularity. Training should be fun above all. If you approach the gym with a sense of dread, something is wrong. Boredom creates dread. Boredom is the kiss of death for any training program. Have fun, lift smart, grow and be a better version of yourself. Thank you for buying this e-book and I am confident you will enjoy using it.
THE PATH IS ALWAYS FILLED WITH HELP This e-book has been a journey from a maybe to a yes. I look back on the years spent in the gym and what I have learned from everyone along the way. I have been blessed with some luck being exposed to some great minds along the way. Dan John who always takes the time to talk with me regarding training and life, he is a father figure in many ways and one of the smartest men I ever met. As a strength coach, he has almost no peers. He has an innate ability to make the complex easy; his simplicity of training philosophies has been my inspiration for a very long time. Having the chance to meet him, talk with him and speak on the same billing as him was a great honor. To see him taking notes on my topic was about the greatest moment in my strength coaching career. I was thinking, “Dan has forgotten more about training then I will ever know and he is writing down what I am saying”. That alone shows you we NEVER stop learning when even a coach as respected as Dan is still looking for information. Tim Mosolino who invited me to attend his strength coach workshop in Boston when I was starting out on my own, with himself, Elliott Hulse, Joe Hashey and Ari Selig. Five coaches sitting around talking training, that weekend was one of the most educational of my life. We had the chance to sit with CJ Murphy and Matt Rhodes at TPS in Boston as well. Fantastic minds in training. That weekend is still inspiring. Angry Coach from Elite FTS. He doesn’t use him name there, so I won’t here. When I need honest opinions and no bullshit criticism, he gives it. When someone will tell me I am wrong, it is usually him. He goes above and beyond what a friend/mentor does for someone and he has opened many doors for me. To this day, he is there criticizing me and also helping out. He is a coach’s coach and one of the most knowledgeable men in this industry. I will place his expertise and experience against anybody in this industry, past or present, and his track record with athletes and coaching speaks for itself. Sean Waxman of Waxman’s Gym in CA has been a tremendous help with expanding my knowledge base. 67
Mark Watts of Denison University for allowing me to speak at his Annual Strength and Conditioning Seminar, being up there with collegiate and professional strength coaches and discussing my training methods in front of the attendees, and the coaches, was an awesome experience. There are many more, but these people stand out as ones who took the time to really help out. They have my appreciation and helped forge my knowledge base. One more person… one woman told me years ago to start working out and she doesn’t know it yet but that set in path this entire chain of events. She took me to her gym with her and encouraged my progress. That is my mom; she started the ball rolling for me more than anyone else did at that time. Her insistence that I “start to fill out” led me on a path to my love for the iron. It was the single greatest catalyst a young man could have; to be encouraged into a healthier lifestyle. My mom was teaching STEP classes part-time and was very physically fit so she was a good role model at that time. As I said, I have been lucky to be around people who have given their time, resources and knowledge to me over the years and I thank them all. Without being exposed to these people, this e-book would have never been a thought in my head. Para mi diosa, para mi musa.
ABOUT JAY Jay Ashman has been training clients and athletes full and part time for over 12 years. He got his start in Reading, PA and has worked with various athletes from the professional ranks, high school kids and college athletes from PA to NY and Ohio. He has worked with older populations, young kids, normal adults and post-rehab patients looking to return to a good level of fitness. He has been a featured speaker at the Denison University Strength and Conditioning Seminar speaking on the topic of “Training considerations for pitchers” and was a part of the 4 speaker seminar with Dan John, Gant Grimes and Jack Reape called “Putting it all Together”; speaking about Strongman training and programming. He has been published online at Elite FTS and in Ohio Sports and Fitness. He is certified through AAAI/ISMA but firmly believes that certifications mean little as continual education and time under the bar is the key to success as a strength coach. Currently, he is eyeing a return to Strongman competitions in 2013 and takes on a limited number of both online and in-person clients. To contact Jay; visit his website at http://www.ashmanstrength.com or email him at [email protected]
Look for the Ashman Strength System Facebook group – http://www.facebook.com/groups/ashmanstrength 69