Sunday, April 21, 2013

GZCL Method: Update, Clarifications, & Misunderstandings

Buy the original GZCL Method on Amazon.

I told everyone that I would be releasing an updated .pdf version of my method well over a month ago now… well, that time hasn’t come but I assure you it’s for good reason. Therefore I am publishing this blog post because I believe the good people deserve updated information, and because I said I’d give you something; which I have yet to do. The reason a new .pdf of the GZCL Method hasn’t been published is because I’m currently awaiting some improved graphics to integrate into it. These are being done by a skilled (and thankfully volunteer) graphic artist who is as busy as I am. The two of us have decided that it would be best if I went the route of textbook visual aids rather than flashy pictures that add little to the text. So expect visual aids, not pretty pictures to entertain you mid read.

However, this is a little puppy to entertain you right now. 

I said I would give you a cheeseburger but instead here’s a slider. Good, just not filling enough by itself. Expect a cheeseburger in the future. As of right now I cannot provide a timeline for that project. In the mean time, enjoy reading the original GZCL Method on Scribd.

There was your update. Now for the “clarifications and misunderstandings.” The following is a synopsis of some comments or questions I’ve gathered from various people interested in my method.

The greatest misunderstanding that people have which comes to mind is the idea that the method is inherently a “reverse pyramid” style of training. This couldn’t be further from the truth; at least in the traditional sense. Could you create your own training program using the GZCL Method as your guide and end up having something that is a reverse pyramid approach? Certainly. But that doesn’t mean every individual using the method as a guide will end up with the same product.

I knew this would be a misunderstanding when I decided to use they pyramid as an analogy to how I structure my training. I do my heavy stuff first, then my lighter stuff, then my lightest stuff. That however does not mean all my reps and or weights within each Tier are pyramid structured. This also doesn’t mean everyone has to do it that way. In fact, some individuals have come to me asking whether it is permissible to split their T1 & T2 work into separate days; doing T1 deadlifts with T2 squats on the same day for example- this is permissible. As long as you’re getting in that ratio of 1:2:3 (or thereabouts) you will end up ok.

I want to make it clear; the GZCL Method is not intrinsically a reverse pyramid style of training.  Furthermore, you will not die if you do not adhere strictly to the “rules” or guidance put forward in the document. Actually, I benefit a great deal from learning how people have changed or altered the method to fit their needs. Like I’ve said before, the GZCL Method is a guide, not a treasure map. Allow it to Sherpa you up your personal Everest of strength. Wow, that was lame.

This guy is laughing at your lack of conditioning and strength.

The only other misunderstanding that comes to mind is people thinking you have to adhere strictly to the percentage and rep range “rules.” I know I called them rules, but lets go ahead and think of them as recommendations. The fact is, some people are going to have to ease themselves into this style of training; whether that be the frequency, volume, or intensity. In order to accomplish this they’re going to have to bend the “rules” a bit in order to eventually reach their desired destination.

Some common questions and answers are listed below. Hopefully these will clarify some hazy items within my original text.

Q: How do I choose my goal weight? (Training Max, what have you.) 

A: From the text:

Before you start to construct your pyramid, you first have to know how high you want it to be. This is what I call choosing your goal weight. This concept is similar to how Wendler uses “training maxes:” 10% less than your actual or estimated maxes. If you are used to using that method then continue using it as it ensures training longevity.
Personally, when prepping for the IPL Worlds I chose a weight that I could hit with a slight struggle. Something that at best I could get 2 − 3 reps with on a great day or just a single on a bad day. My plan was to train so I would be able to hit these weights easily, any day of the week, under the shittiest conditions. The kinds of conditions I might expect having completed a cut, and being nervous as hell on the platform. When choosing your goal weight you can take 10% off your actual or estimated maxes or just use the weight of something you can hit for a double or a grinder of a triple. The idea is that at the end of a training cycle that goal weight can be moved easily on your worst day.

There you have it. I will continue to choose a rep I could hit for single any day of the week with the goal to build my work capacity in percentages very close to that number with the hopes that at the end of my training cycle I could perform that Goal Weight percentage with much better form, speed, and ideally, additional reps. Using this method of choosing where I program my percentages from has resulted in a new bench PR of 295 pounds, 275x3 (previous best meet PR), as well as a 475x2 conventional deadlift (best was 480x1 about a year ago.) Either way, choose what works for you, stick with the plan, and see great things happen.

Keep your eyes on the prize.

Q: What is your recommendation for assistance work? How much? What types? For what tiers?

A: I usually will have 1-2 different assistance exercises in the 2nd Tier and 2-3 in the 3rd Tier. These will have different set/rep schemes, usually with the first one having higher intensities. An example workout would look something like this.

            T1 Squat: 90% x2 Reps x5 sets
            T2 Squat: 70% x5 Reps x5 sets
            T2 Front Squat: 8 Reps x 3 sets
            T3 Lunge: 10 Reps x 4 sets
            T3 Leg Curl: 12 Reps x 4 sets

Q: When you say “these reps count” in the GZCL Method, does that mean they count towards your training volume?

A: No, and yes. Really, this depends on how you warm-up. If you’re hitting a significant amount of reps in percentages between 65% and higher, than I’d count those. However, I choose to warm up with much lighter weights and once I get to about 50% of my Goal Weight I’ll just do singles up to my first work set making jumps in weight using only the 25 and 45 pound plates. What I really meant about those reps “counting” was to put additional importance on them as it has been my observation that people tend to not care about form, technique, etc., whenever using weights that are 50% or less of their max. This is counter to what they should be doing as it goes against patterning the movement and learning the proper form and technique. These reps “count” in the sense that of the thousands of reps you amass over time how many of those are going to be done with suboptimal form and technique? Hopefully very few. If you’re using light weights it’s in your best interest to be sure they’re perfect reps and you’re just not playing around under the bar undoing your own hard work.

Q: Is it ok if I split up my tiers throughout the week?

A: Yes, as long as you’re not coming up with an excuse to put T2 and T3 work on the back burner. Look, we all like doing heavy singles, doubles, and triples. It strokes our ego pretty hard to nail a heavy single in front of a bunch of bros and brodettes but just doing that goes against the method. If you’re going to split your tiers for your lifts on separate days I’d go with something like this:

            Monday: T1 Squat, T2 Squat
            Tuesday: T1 Bench, T2 Bench
            Wednesday: Off
            Thursday: T1 Deadlift, T2 Deadlift
            Friday: T3 Squat, T3 Bench

This is a perfectly fine way to program. Get your heavy and moderate stuff early in the week then hit the light weights at the end. “But GZCL, where’s the T3 deadlift?” Well, jokers,  T3 squat and deadlift work are interchangeable in my opinion. GHR, leg curls, leg extensions, lunges, good mornings, glute bridges… all those things benefit both the squat and the deadlift. Just don’t be a moron and blow off your Friday just because you’ll be hammering out higher rep sets.

"But Friday is the night I go clubbing GZCL!"

Q: Back work? How do I get back work in? I know you say it’s all T2/T3, but where do I program it in?!

A: Look, the back is important. In fact, it might be the most important aspect of your training as your back strength is a huge deciding factor on pressing and squatting ability; a weak back is going to result in both of those lifts, as well as your deadlift, being weak as well. This is the way I look at it. Deadlifts are your T1 back movement whether you like it or not. Sure you’re not contracting your “back” as you would a bicep curl or your quads like you would on a squat, but that’s because your “back” consists of a whole lot of different muscles which generate force in different ways; concentrically, eccentrically, isometrically, planes, trains, and automobiles… wait, what was that? Here’s the deal. Use the deadlift as your T1 movement and get additional T2 work on that day. Then get as much T3 work throughout the week on your pressing or squatting days. Here’s how I’ve been training my “back” for the last two months or so:

Monday: Squat (With 10 reps x5+ sets pull ups or lat pull downs throughout the workout)

Tuesday: Bench (With facepulls and band pull-aparts ad nauseum.)

Wednesday: Deadlift (With heavy rows or shrugs for T2.)

Thursday: Bench (More face pulls and band pull-aparts)

Friday: Squat (With weighted pull-ups for a total of 20-30+ reps)

With this style of adding back work (adding it in as densely as possible throughout my week) I’m getting in a ton of reps and a solid amount of intensity also. The heavy deads coupled with shrugs and rows on Wednesday more than likely will result in trap or rhomboid cramps until the next Wednesday and I would wager my weekly band pull-apart and facepull volume to rival the number of enemy slain by Attila the Hun.

It should also be noted I hate calling it “back work” and the like. I don’t have a “leg day,” I squat. All other things are done to make that movement better.

"Bro, what muscle does this work?"

Q: Should I just stick with your example programs in the book or can I make up my own?

A: I’m not your dad. I’m not going to ground you for “not doing the program.” However, there have been very many individuals who have come to me with their own GZCL inspired programs which looked good to me, but turns out they over or under programmed for themselves; more often, it was over doing the volume- which many cannot handle at first. This is where the good news comes!

As some of you may or may not know I’ve been blessed enough to work with a good friend on an online training tracker as well as being given the opportunity to have my program represented in an online program "chooser" of sorts. For these two projects I have created four different GZCL styled programs. These are “Intro, Intro+, Regular, and Regular+.” These are built in a way to ease an individual into this style of training. The intro program is lower volume with slightly lowered intensities and it gradually increases from there to the point where it reflects what I typically do. The intro and intro+ aren’t necessarily “beginner” programs as you still need the ability to choose a Goal Weight that is high enough to yield weight jumps in 5/10 pound increments; that is unless micro plates are factored in.

Keep a look out on and for those programs to become available in the near future.

So there you have it, some clarifications, and some common questions answered. If you have any other questions or would like me to clear anything up just comment below, message me on reddit, or Fitocracy, or TheSquatRack, or Twitter, or carrier pigeon. 

Smoke signals being the most paleo option.