Strength Training Seminar Notes

Last week at Destination Dallas, we had an open house that included a seminar with Josh Bryant, a well-known and respected trainer who has mentored under many powerlifting icons, as well as holding impressive powerlifting records of his own. The seminar was over two hours and was recorded to be put up on the EliteFTS website soon. As well, Josh has a new book out (Built To The Hilt) that is now available at EliteFTS. For those not making the seminar, here were some of the highlights.

Although Josh trains many competitive powerlifters, these techniques are applicable for people just looking to increase strength on a particular lift.  Many of these methods are quite taxing, so be sure sure to back off when in doubt on what you can handle.  Proper warm-ups and form are a must.  Use at your own risk.

The 7 Laws Of Training

  • Law of individual differences – Everyone responds differently to some degree due to individual strengths and weaknesses.
  • Overcompensation Principle – Our bodies react to stress by overcompensating, so that it will be able to handle stress again in the future. This is why beginners see greater improvements at the start of training programs.
  • Overload Principle – You must stress your muscles beyond what they are used to in order to make gains.
  • Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID) Principle – You must train in the same way you want to improve – i.e. if you want to be stronger, train for strength. If you want to be explosive, you need to train explosively.
  • Use/Disuse Principle – You must continue to train or you lose some of what you gained (“use it or lose it”).
  • General Adaption Syndrome (GAS) – You need to factor in deload periods.
  • Specificity Principle – If you want to get better at something, you need to do that something – i.e. if you want to increase your bench press, you need to bench.

Training Methods

Next, Josh went over several different approaches to training. For these, you will want a spotter since some of these will push the muscles to failure and tax the central nervous system. Most of these would be advisable to do over the short-term (6-8 weeks) and then switching to some other technique as gains will diminish or a deload will be necessary.

  • Compensatory Acceleration Training (CAT). CAT is a method, not a routine, made popular by world champion powerlifter Fred Hatfield. The focus is to move weight explosively as possible without sacrificing form over a full range of motion. More sets with fewer reps (8 sets of 3 reps, for example). Max force using a sub-maximal load. Control the negative and explode the positive parts of the movement.
  • Rest-Pause Training. This approach is done by breaking down one set into several subsets. Do as many reps as possible without failing or losing technique, then rest, then start the next subset. Good for hard gainers. Good for strength and hypertrophy. For strength, use a higher percentage of 1RM and rest a little longer.
  • Isometrics. You can produce 15% more force isometrically than you can concentrically. Producing greater force during the weakest part of your lift helps break plateaus. Examples for the bench press include holding the barbell in the same place or pressing as hard as you can into the pins of a power rack. Note: This is not advisable for those with high blood pressure.
  • A variation would be to combine isometrics with CAT. For example, for increasing bench, set the pins in a power rack to where you want to target. Then bench press the unloaded barbell using max force for 5-6 seconds. After that set, rest 2-7 minutes and then do some CAT work (1-4 reps).

Bench Press

The methods above can be used for increasing bench.  Next, Josh discussed some of assistance exercises for helping the bench press. Among them:

  • Wide grip paused bench press
    • wide grip means 1.5″ wider than normal grip
    • 6-10 reps, pausing 1 second at the bottom each rep
    • not meant for people with long limbs (risk of injury overstretching the pecs).
  • Cambered bar bench press
    • also not meant for people with long limbs
  • Paused bench
    • pause 1” off the chest
  • Dead bench press
    • in a rack, start is 1” off the chest (2” for taller lifters)
    • singles only
  • Board press
  • Weighted dip
  • Chain flys
    • nice since resistance increases as you lift


Next, Josh discussed the deadlift and some assistance exercises for it. Those include:

  •  Olympic pause squats
  •  Block pulls
    • preferred over rack pulls due to the flex of a deadlift bar.
    • good for taller lifters.
  • Dead squat against bands or chains
    • singles only.
  • Deficit deadlifts
    • singles only
    • platform should be 4” or less
  • Deadlift hyperextensions
    • use the 45 degree hyperextension
    • builds hamstrings, glutes, and lower back
    • 5-8 reps
  • Shrugs
  • Good mornings

It was a good session.  Check out the video when it comes on-line for the full details and session. The seminar included many videos to illustrate some of the techniques and methods.

24 Nov 2014 Update: The videos are now being posted at EliteFTS.  Part 1:

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