19 Aug “Sitting Down” With Josh Bryant
One of my mentors, Bill Gillespie, told me a while back that if I ever got a chance to go visit and learn from Josh Bryant, it would be one of best educational experiences in my career.
A while back I reached out to Josh and while I’ve had some grand plans to take a trip to Texas for some time now, it still hasn’t happened.
Fortunate for me, Josh is incredibly generous with his time and so genuinely giving that he got on the phone with me to answer the questions I’ve wanted to get his answers to for some time.
If you don’t know who Josh Bryant is, I’m not sure what you’re doing reading this blog. But seriously if you don’t know who he is, I’ve included a bio at the bottom and definitely go check out his website at – http://www.joshstrength.com/ or pick up one his books on Amazon here.
Josh is in my opinion one of the last true innovators in the world of strength, physique, and athletic development and his depth of insight into the “art and science” of planning and programming training is something to be studied.
So without further tapping on my laptop that you could not care less, here’s the talk with Josh that I would have sat down with him in person to have if I wasn’t too lazy and used to making excuses to go to Texas.
Check out the talk, you won’t be disappointed:
Jesse: Josh, you’ve coached a ton of very high-level powerlifter and bodybuilders with a lot of success for long periods of time. What would you say is the key to training that makes the difference between stagnation and continued progress year after year?
Josh: I would say its consistency. But not just being consistent in training for multiple years, or just getting in some training for the week like most people think. Being consistent with not missing a planned training session. Think about it, if you plan to train 5 times a week, that’s generally around 20 times a month. Let’s say that first week you miss just one training session. That means you trained four out of five days and most people would say that’s pretty good and that you’re working hard. But look at it objectively. Missing just one training session a month is already missing 5 percent of your total training volume. That’s already 5 percent of your workouts that you didn’t do.
Taking it even further, suppose on average you miss two training sessions a week. Once again a lot of people would say that three out of five isn’t bad but let’s compare this to something else to put it into perspective again. What if you missed 10 days of work a month just like this? I’ll tell you what, you’d probably be fired. People think that training is so different from everything else in their lives but when we compare it like this, it’s a little easier to see that we may not be working as hard as we think.
If you have a solid plan and one workout builds on the next, it’s especially important to keep this consistency. If you only bench press once a week and you miss that one day, you’ve missed out on an entire week of progression. Manipulation of volume and intensity, while important, is secondary in my mind to this kind of consistency.
Jesse: You have a really successful coaching business. What do you think makes people feel that your coaching is unique besides the great programming that obviously gets them results?
Josh: First, you really have to care that your clients really make progress and not just say that you do. But really it starts with screening people ahead of time to make sure that everyone you coach is fully committed to you and to the process. When everyone you coach is committed, you build a business where success is typical.
I think the key to doing this is to be straight up with everyone who comes to you. I’ve told people who were interested in training that we should start tomorrow just to see if they hesitated or if they agreed right away.
Those who agree right away are the ones who will be really dedicated. I’ve told other people that training with me just wasn’t working out or that we should take a couple of weeks off just to see if it’s something they really wanted to continue.
All this has helped me build a coaching business around those who are as driven as I expect, and this is what builds long-term success.
Jesse: When training a strength athlete, do you believe in constantly varying lifts or do you hold more to the idea that specificity and practice of “sport” with only slight variation at times is key?
Josh: This is a great question and I’m glad you asked it because I think the answer can be very beneficial to your readers.
Talking specifically about powerlifting, the competition lifts need to be at the center of the programming. Beginners need to slow down and focus on just squatting and benching more. More frequently and more weight. I’ve seen a lot of lifters go pretty far with just practicing the main lifts.
As you become truly advanced, you may need some more variation but it all comes back to the law of overload. This doesn’t always have to be linear in nature but you should never abandon trying to get stronger in the core lifts
This goes the same for the bodybuilders I’ve trained. There are far too many bodybuilders who never built a base of appreciable strength and did too much variation too soon in their physical development.
There is a study involving a group who did a traditional bodybuilding training routine with constant variation and a group who did more powerlifting type training focused on increasing strength in core lifts. At the end of the predetermined time, the researchers found that both groups had gained the same amount of muscle. But the powerlifting group, as expected, was much stronger.
While the higher level bodybuilder may need more variation, a lifter still new to the sport could do better with focusing on increasing strength in core lifts. The research shows that this route will yield the same size gains in inexperienced trainees and the focus on strength will build the base necessary for future improvement.
Even with my more experienced bodybuilders, we’ll start off a training cycle with more of a power building routine which has this focus and then dial it in closer to competition and really work on muscular development then. But just like with any kind of lifter, trying it get stronger should never be abandoned.
Jesse: There’s a lot of back and forth between strength coaches who believe that the science and art in programming is something to be refined again and again and that results are due to how good this plan is.
How much of progress do you think has to do with specific arrangement of training or is it rather the application that is more important? Should we be obsessing about programming the development of different types of strength on different days in the correct order or should we be trying to simplify things?
Josh:I’ll start out by saying that there are more similarities between modern conjugate style systems of training and block. Each system has traces of the other found in it at certain points.
We need to identify what’s realistic and what the intended result of our training is. There was another great study done observing two groups Division 1 football players who were told to train differently. The first group performed reps in core lifts with a usual tempo of going down and up just like you’d see typically done in just about any gym. But the second group was coached to move the weight as fast as possible (this is the method for CAT). The group coached to move the bar explosively had exponentially greater gains in strength over the group that received no coaching. Something as basic but a also as specific as this can have a huge impact in performance.
This is where the art of programming comes into play because the science and the guidelines that have come from research and study of sport science sometimes needs to be taken at face value. For instance, I’d like to see new research done for the appropriate percentages that should be used for a traditional speed/dynamic day, specifically for geared powerlifters.
If we take a guy who can bench press1,000 pounds and tell him to do 12 sets of 2 reps with 60% of his 1RM, he’d have to do 12 explosive sets with 600 pounds. If there’s someone out there doing that, let me know and I’ll hop on a plane right now to go watch. Obviously the gear complicates the issue but you get the point.
When dealing with something like speed days, sometimes the percentage used is less important to success than finding the groove to push whatever the selected weight is with maximum intent of moving it as fast and aggressively as possible for that particular weight (recall this is CAT).
You can think about this groove in lifting weights in terms if jumping on a trampoline when you first start jumping, you’re actively trying to jump higher and putting a lot of effort into it. But you don’t get as high as you’re capable until some time has past and you hit a groove. After some more tries with hitting this groove where you’re just bouncing reacting and getting height, you don’t have to try to jump higher because you’re better at doing it. Moving heavy weight explosively, which is the practice of CAT and the needed attribute to lift maximal weights, can be thought of the same way.
Jesse: Wow, I’ve never heard it explained like that. That’s an amazing analogy.
Josh: Yeah, I literally just came up with that now. That’s all yours to use.
Jesse: Thanks so much for being so generous with your time. Really appreciate it.
About Josh Bryant
Along with ISSA certifications in fitness training, nutrition, and conditioning, Josh has been awarded the prestigious title of Master of Fitness Sciences (MFS). He was also recently named the ISSA Director of Applied Strength and Power Development. In addition to being certified by the NSCA as a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and by NASM as a Performance Enhancement Specialist (PES), Josh completed his Master’s degree in Exercise Science, with an emphasis in Performance Enhancement and Injury Prevention at California University of Pennsylvania. He is the co-author of the EliteFTS Best Selling eBook, Metroflex Gym Powerbuilding Basics.
As an athlete, he won many national and world titles in both powerlifting and strongman. At 22 years of age he was the youngest person in powerlifting history to bench press 600 pounds raw. He squatted 909 pounds in the USPF, officially bench-pressed 620 pounds raw, and officially deadlifted 810 pounds raw. In 2005, he won the Atlantis Strongest Man in America competition.
Josh has been focusing on providing outstanding personal training in person as well as via the Internet. He has combined his education along with his in-the-trenches experience to develop The JoshStrength Method. This method has provided countless clients the road map to success.
Find him at – http://www.joshstrength.com/
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