Book Review-Matt Wenning’s POWERLIFTING TRAINING A Developmental Approach

Book Review – Matt Wenning’s POWERLIFTING TRAINING

A Developmental Approach

Coach House’s 10 Golden Nuggets

Website note: when writing a book or product review, we pondered the best way to display the information in a straightforward manner with decisive points of emphasis.  We wanted to get you the reader interested in what material the author has produced without doing all the homework for you.  Meaning?  We want you to make the choice based on Coach House’s nuggets is there enough interest for you to invest in the product and put in the work to make your own interpretations of the material.  In effect, “Absorbing, Modifying, and Applying” this information into your own program. As we have found out sticking to the goal of 10 Golden Nuggets is extremely tough.  With that said, these are Coach House’s nuggets, the ones he felt were important to express to the masses.  Coach House will tell you he reserves the right to be wrong.

In this review, we will add in specific notes when applicable after a nugget in reference to how this information has value and serves as a reaffirmation and more justification of our Tier System Strength Training Model as well as our LTAD model as a whole.  Those notes will be in RED.

By now, most of you who follow me, know I am a big fan of the information that Matt Wenning has put out over various outlets the past several years.  Matt’s ability to simplify the complex is a tremendous asset to any coach and athlete.  His continuous journey under the bar has helped him refine his training principles and allowed him to share his learning experiences with all of us.  In this text, he once again helps reinforce our model of training, bringing to light information we may have forgotten and given us new nuggets to “Absorb, Modify, and Apply”.  Matt shares his own journey of education and strength in the first part of this manual and then gives us the nuts and bolts of his interpretation of the Conjugate Method in the second half.  Matt has become another outside influencer for both my personal and professional training development.  I am fortunate he is willing to share his knowledge freely and passionately. 

10 Golden Nuggets

1 – Youth Development

The real reason for various activities during your youth is to develop work capacity and an ability to tolerate things that may be painful or slightly uncomfortable, as well as learn to deal with being tired and fatigued.

Various activities at an early age, help inspire overall physical growth.  It is important that we as parents and coaches, who find our youth excited about physical activity to expose them to as many different athletic stimuli as possible.  This will produce a more well-rounded athlete when it is time to choose a specialization.  The early emphasis on specialization is one of the major reasons we are seeing overuse adolescent injuries continue to spike.

As a huge fan of basic tumbling skills for Block Zero programming for youth, Matt’s big tip for parents is enrolling children between 4-8 years old in tumbling and gymnastics programs.  Some of these characteristics are more difficult to learn as one gets older.  Some mays see this as specialization at an early age, I personally see gymnastics and certain forms of the martial arts as a great introduction to general fitness skills that carry over to an abundance of sports as well as the start of developing relative strength.

2 – High volume training definitely has its place in the developing lifter.

I also believe this to be true when developing entry level athletes to strength training.  This is why I prefer to begin all athletes on certain variations of Volume Accumulation Training (VAT) when they begin the process of handling external loads.  The premise of VAT is to establish a training load at a certain repetition number week one, and then for 2 more weeks, increase the volume by increasing the reps per set while maintaining a flat load (same) for each week.  This is an excellent way to both build general strength and lean body mass at the same time.

3 – Raw lifters need more volume. The raw lifter only has his muscle to rely on, so more hypertrophy is needed, therefore more work needs to be done.

The raw lifter is very similar to a sporting athlete.  Our athletes use minimal supportive gear, if any at all.  Also, in some sports that additional lean mass that occurs when instituting more hypertrophy work also serves as a cushion to help protect the athlete for various contact, collisions, and falls that may take place during competition.

4 – Potentiation of Weak Muscles

Prioritizing weak muscle groups is not only a great way to warm up, but also to ensure proper volume in these areas for injury reduction and future growth.

We actually implemented this type of belief system when we developed our extra workout plan for our athletes to supplement the 3 main sessions of the week.  These programs were short-fast paced routines that were specific to certain improvement areas or used as return to play and prehab routines to enhance protection.  I personally have added this style of work to my Pre-Activity Prep and for the lifter this is an added benefit of additional volume to certain muscle groups. Last year we did implement it with our athletes.  It was a work in progress.

5 – Law of Accommodation

States that utilizing the same stimulus or exercise for too long will cause little to no training effect.  Easiest way to adjust is to change exercises.

One of the major components of the Tier System is exercise choice and order.  Each session has a specific rotation of movements and we rarely repeat a movement in one working week.  As the athlete progresses through their career, the variability becomes more enhanced by sequentially rotating exercise on a cycle to cycle basis.  I have found that it takes a sporting athlete longer to adjust to a new training movement than a competitive lifter.  We must remember the athlete’s training year is dictated by sporting practice, therefore the strength program adjusts based on the specific phase of the training year.

6 – The first 3-5 years of training, volume should take priority, even over Maximal Effort and Dynamic Effort training.

Again, this is why I am a proponent of VAT training early in an athlete’s lifting career.  I also like to keep additional training stimuli in my tool box and when the athlete is prepared, introduce the new methods at the appropriate time.  We have all made mistakes, and I learned in my time at Arizona State especially, that some of our athletes were not prepared to perform certain movements at certain intents. This is what lead to our Quadrennial Plan developmental programming as a form of Long Term Athletic Development

7 – Most Accessory Work is based on the Repetition Method.

Preferably for tier 4 and 5 movements, movements we classify as major assistance or strength mobility (DAVE TATE), the repetition prescription will consist of higher volume work regardless of what training cycles for the top 3 tiers are.  Our goal in tiers 4 and 5 is to increase work capacity as well as build muscle.

8a – Bands and Chains help muscles into having to work through the entire lift, therefore manipulating the strength curve to some extent. This makes sure the middle and the top of the lift do not miss work do to bar velocity creating inertia.

8b – Band and Chains teach the body to maintain velocity as long as possible and drive through portions of the lift where free weights would become lighter.

The Law of Accommodating Resistance popularized by Louie Simmons allowed the principle of Compensatory Acceleration as explained by Dr. Fred Hatfield to actually be expressed to fruition in my opinion.  Dr. Hatfield explains that the goal of compensatory acceleration is to continuously increase bar speed through the ascent of the lift taking advantage of improved leverages.  By speeding up the lift, the athlete is exercising power. 

I had one major issue when I began experimenting with this principle. As the leverages became more advantageous and the bar speed began to increase, we had to but on the “brakes” before completion or the bar may have left our hands or flew off of our backs in certain movements.  For the sporting athlete, this would put them at a risk of injury.

What we found was, the lighter the load the sooner you would need to decrease bar speed.  The addition of chains and bands was the answer to being able to stay in acceleration longer and therefore provide a better return on investment for those who were aware of compensatory acceleration as a mode of training.

The addition of chains and bands and more importantly it’s proper usage as a tool, can be a game changer for any athlete who is physically prepared to implement this advanced protocol into their programming.  The ability to elicit acceleration (and a power component) through a longer duration of a movement has a tremendous benefit to athletes of all sports.

9 – Warm Ups are dictated by needs – warming up muscles that are weak links in the movement or do not functionally correctly.

Our Pre-Activity Preparation work is based on rebooting (activating) small muscle groups that will be involved in the priority movements of the session, as well as working the posterior shoulder and posterior chain which are usually lagging in most athletes.  We also emphasize our root (core), neck and trap region for our main sessions.  This allows us to thoroughly prep the athlete for the session as well as bringing up improvement areas.

10 – Advanced Lifters need more volume in special exercises, while beginning lifters need more volume in the basic exercises (perfect form).

As an athlete progresses through our Quadrennial Plan, the rotation of special (supplemental) exercises increases and the volume of work done with Block 1 and 2 Foundation lifts are minimal.  Most movements that are now Tier 1 movements follow a sequential rotation on a monthly basis.

Although I concentrated on the programming portion of the book, I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Matt’s journey.  He definitely learned to hit the curve balls of life and his ability to fight adversity and win is why he is a success today.

Best Success and Word’s Win,

Coach House