PttP, Faleev 5x5 vs. lifting background

Discussion in 'Barbell' started by Timo Keskitalo, Dec 7, 2018.

  1. Timo Keskitalo

    Timo Keskitalo Still New to StrongFirst Forum


    I was hoping to reach Mr. Tstatsouline himself, but maybe someone of you can help.

    I came accros the PttP book and bought the idea of muscle tension and relatively low speed. I’ve tried it out now on all the main moves. For Squat and deadlift it seems to work, but after one try it seemed that I could not use my pecs(? /chest muscles, I’m not familiar with muscle names) properly, barely at all it felt. I improved my SQ 145kg and DL 140kg sumo but benched only 110kg, 115 rose maybe 2 cm. (Some ig from squat 140 and 145: Timo Keskitalo on Instagram: “Tiukka 140 ja tiukempi 145. Uusi tuleminen ja takana reilu vuosi treeniä johon mahtuu hölmöilyäkin. Enää 20kg jälessä. #raw #seniori…” )

    Today I’m going for traditional DL, hoping to get 170kg, maybe more. 8 weeks ago I squatted 137,5kg after 5s 6r 105kg and benched 115kg after 5s 6r 85kg. The difference with this tensioning stuff is that I used to get bruises from the belt during heavy SQ and DL training, so clearly I haven’t used my body as well as I could have. I mainly don’t use belt in BP, but in heavy BP and SQ i use wrist wraps and still get some elbow muscle problems. My wrists turn and I’ll have to address that. About sumo I’ve felt that I can’t use my legs correctly anymore and I’ve lost a lot of flexibility during my break.

    Questions: Is the slow speed applicable to bench? Is the reason not to talk about bench press in PttP, that it is too technical? Is the slow speed applicable to assistance work (more of this to come)? Am I supposed to get more reps and sets off me as my body gets used to the all out tension? I read also about the Faleev 5x5 training, and I think I’ll follow that with 4 days a week but with some assistance.

    Now my background is that I started training in around 1999 (40yrs old), I’ve had some proper IPF powerlifters as training buddies and friends, I’ve taken a lot of advice and read about lifting. But still it seems that for SQ and DL I haven’t used my body tension enough, not even close. I’m expecting great improvement now that I’ll apply this. In 2009 I was at my best, doing around SQ 165kg, BP 120 from mark, DL 185, body weight maybe 80kg +/-2kg. Now around 84kg, I'm not built for lifting, 176cm tall. The results were far from great, but I was happy with those levels. At that time my best SQ set was 6s 5r 130kg BP around 6s 5r 100 with belt. Especially for bench it felt my max should’ve been more. After base training I moved on training with gear, so the absolute max could maybe be little better. For some reason I didn’t get much out of gear (PB around 195+130+205) and I didn’t really compete. After 2009 I started running more and more and was aiming for marathon at 4 hours in 2012 but got sick before d-day. I did some lifting in the winter of 2012-2013, but after that practically a total break in lifting until Nov. 2017. My raw DL was slightly better with close stance but I started to sumo because you can use SQ gear in sumo DL when wearing the backside in front. Now the idea is to go raw.

    My technique has been ok, I’ve tried to respect empty bar and flexed(? stiffened) my body while lifting, but the tempo has been fast. I’ve always started with empty bar with 20kg rises. After 50 % of max I’ve used around +10 % max rises and reps 5-10 depending on the work out set length. For heavy lifting reps of 3 usually. Never less than the work out. Nowadays I’ve tried to learn snatch as warm up for training, and before that some rotations of legs/hips (rolling of knee outside body) and rotations of back with stick to get some stretch for shoulders. When I was younger I made only some quick stretches and started lifting. And for assistance I’ve used mainly the bar and body weight, e.g. dips and pull ups. As I’ve gotten older a sort of hyper extension and hanging leg raises or sit ups in almost every work out and less of bis. Sometimes other equipment also.

    Recently the week has been MON heavy SQ light BP, WED H BP (L DL only recently), FRI L SQ H DL, with some assistance work that comes to mind. I’ve snapped my acromioclavicular joint 2,5 years ago and went through operations. There is a clear lack of power in my left side/hand.

    The total sets has been around 30 in training, and duration anywhere between 1-2 h depending on work out intensity. Light week has been every 4 weeks, when I started again it was every 3 weeks. I’ve used a lot of excel during the years and planned my training, and defined levels of roughly 5x8x70% and 5x5x80%, 1-2x3x90% and so on for targets. Once I got through the basic training of going through 6x2x80% with 20 s intervals to 6x6x80% 3-5 mins intervals while training once a week the main move; so during 6 weeks. If I reach a certain work out I’ll approximate my max from those levels. And sometimes I max out and usually get the target. Maybe I haven’t maxed out frequently enough because I haven’t competed.

    The slow movement will reduce set length for sure, in DL and SQ a 5 feels like 8-10. So the total volume will drop radically. Will I get any of it back if I get used to slow motion? Also the warm up sets feel harder, and with slo-mo I can use +20 kg rises up to 75-80 % of max. At least that’s how it feels after this short try out. As an example my last hard SQ was 8x70, 8x85, 5x100, 5x115, 4x3x125, 2x4x110 (SxRx). Then I squatted the slow style 140 and 145 after a light week.

    Back in the day I’ve tried out verkhojansky (?) beginner program or some sheiko that I’ve found and I like that type of training. Nowadays when I calculate the volumes (above roughly 50% lifts) I get averaging roughly 4-6 tons a week per move, and around 160 – 200 lifts a week monthly (considerably less than sheiko). If I try to apply the 5x5 program lifts will be roughly 140 a week and when I try to max out some weeks 4x4 and then 3 2 1 the lifts are 110 a week. While originally I was going to increase current volumes and in the spring time I was going to take the 6x2x80% to 6x6x80%, which would result in 190 lifts a week and 5,5 - 7,5 tons a week per lift. If I get my excel-training spot on. Squat has most volume and weight.

    Is it really necessary to cut out all assistance work for 5x5? After all I’m no youngster anymore, my body at least in some point has been used to lifting, and I think I still should do a lot of rehab on my left shoulder and hand.

    When I started out a year ago I was trying to apply old training methods with new supposed max. I deadlifted without belt, and so after nearly 5 months of training I was aiming for a max 3x150 in DL when my back cramped badly. After that I had some motivation problems; but I decided that my base level wasn’t nowhere close that I could apply my old habits. So I lifted a lot of 8-10 sets. After July I’ve been more regular, although only twice a week at start (H SQ H PB / L SQ H DL L PB), and got some of the base back. Sometimes I do for fun a work out that’s in Finland named after our famous javelin man Seppo Raty - 20x20, 19x30, … 1x210. Some people can get it through but for me the end has come at best in SQ 12x100 + 7x110 and BP 14x80 + 10x90 (back then). Usually I will not go to failure, but sometimes it happens, especially when I was younger. And the old guard was very pro occasional failure.

    Now I’ve analyzed that for e.g. squat I’ve done 5x8x100, light (5x5x50%) , 5x6x105, 4x4x115, 2x4x110 + 4x3x120 +2x4x110, light, 5x6x110, 5x5x115, 4x3x125 +2x4x110, light; (+light workouts) until the end of Nov. This has been really close to the limits of my performance most of the time. Is this going too much ”pedal to the metal”? Should there be more progression that could be achieved with a constant 5x5 and going to try the last weight for a few weeks. How often you would have to step back down the ladder in that one? From PttP the answer would be 8-16 workouts. But that is all the time higher, while in 5x5 there is the lighter work out also to increase volume.

    One problem with slow motion is that I can't do that "Seppo Raty". It just wouldn't be the same. Also the warm up sets I'd do much less. Because I do my warm ups before warm up I'd bench 8x40, 5x60, 5x80, 3x90 for low reps; and a 5x5x90 would be a near future target. For squat 5x60, 80, 100, 3x120 for low reps and 5x5x110 a near future target. This slow style 5x5 I was planning to start at relatively high for my ability(?) 5x5x100, and after 110 +light week go for 3 weeks 4x4 +light, then 3 2 1. So quickly another max out and afterwards I'd start maybe from 5x5x90. It seems that during the summer or even the rest of the year I'm not able to train as much as I'd like.

    The light workouts have been a variation: sumo for DL, front squat, box-, stopping at the bottom- as warm up for DL, BP: military, narrow grip, weights hanging from bar with bands. And most of the time light, 50-70 % of max of the variation. A mistake maybe has been that I have changed them almost weekly, kinda like westsidebarbell would do?

    The kindest of regards,

    Timo Keskitalo, Finland
    (I think you don't have representatives here)
  2. Timo Keskitalo

    Timo Keskitalo Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    And oh yeah, my training used to be some kind of MAX day, SPEED day. That's why the tempo in warm up lifting.
  3. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement Staff Member Senior Instructor

  4. Timo Keskitalo

    Timo Keskitalo Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    @Steve Freides Thanks!

    Hmmm... Maybe I'm missing the woods again and getting fascinated of "new" programs. Correct me if I'm wrong, I think this PttP training program is for beginners? The idea in PttP is to raise the weight until you don't get the 5 reps, only 2-3 perhaps. Well incidentally that would be around 90-95% of your max, like @Pavel writes: to train on 85-95 % level. A 5RM would be maybe 87-88%, and 0,9x88% is still 79%. So that would be 2x5 sets >75%, see below.

    Now I have aimed for 5x5 and then 3-5x3 on respective weight, because elsewhere I have read that the optimal training level is around 75-85 % of max. I suppose this is for more experienced lifters, or for lifters that have reached a certain power level. This first one, 85 - 95 % suits beginners? If this is correct, what is the correct level to add sets? Stagnation will tell?

    Maybe the slow style is to
    1. Teach the correct movement
    2. Muscle tension
    3. Safety, these are the first main points that come to mind.

    That's why I want to do this at least for some time, to teach my (core) muscles better. I read from somewhere in these forums that in PttP pro there's talk about explosiveness, a part of technique that I've already been taught to? What would still remain is the question on bench press. There seems to be something wrong with my technique if I can't work my pecs? I didn't make as big arch as I'm used to because I wanted to leave some "room" to make the navel to anus crunch. Or maybe next time I can simply perform better.

    For now, slow speed will reduce my sets and reps, so my bet would be PttP way to have reps at adequate intensity level, against a 5x5 that feels to be too tough on me. If I'd start squatting from 5x5x100 and end to 110 it would be only 69-76% of max; and yet it feels it would be much to ask on this slow style. But, 10-15 reps (when I will be squatting 125, I'll do a warm up set of 115) a week SQ/PB/DL seems too little, I'd like to go hard on all of them 2 times a week. This would require 6 times a week workout, which is out of the question. So what is a boy to do with 4 workouts a week? And again, I think I need assistant work, at least for the shoulders if nothing else. I'll have to pick carefully.

    So, I'd calculate 4 sets from my warm up, which is 2 times 5x high pull added with a comb. of 5x(snatch, squat with bar above head, push up from neck(?)) as a continuous series. Since I'm planning to start squat from 60kg, I'll do a couple of 1x(sn, sq, pu)x30/30+kg.

    5-6 sets will come from the main moves, bench is less. This would leave about 6 sets for assistance work, if I want to limit the amount of sets to around 15. Instead of around 30 that I'm used to.

    Now, to squeeze this into 4 workouts I'd do SQ +assists, PB/DL, SQ/PB, DL+assist. To have 4 different assistant moves. And still I would add abs to this just because I'm stubborn. Then the progression. It's starting to look logical that you can have 2,5kg progression at PttP, but the minimum at 5x5 would be 5kg progression. Maybe I'll go with flexible wave, that would be something new to me, to listen to my body. And the starting point? 80%, I'm pretty certain I'd make a 10RM with that.

    And maybe now that I've tried my best one time, there's no point trying it again at my level? I was planning a new try in the end of the year and then this short application of 5x5 for yet another max out. Skip that and focus on training.

    I'm waiting for my PttP pro and Stretch to flex to arrive, it seems they contain some of the answers.
  5. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement Staff Member Senior Instructor

    Tim, PTTP is good for a while for everyone, at least a year, and it's also fine to return to from time to time, even for an advanced lifter.

    If you'll permit an observation, your initial post is quite long and I think it's difficult to "wade" through all that to get at what you're asking. The same could be said to the post I'm replying to here.

    Could you, perhaps, boil it down for us a bit?


  6. Timo Keskitalo

    Timo Keskitalo Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    Well, I was planning my training at the same time. I'll try to toss the extra aside...

    1. Moving slowly up and down will cut reps and sets from a certain weight. Will I get any of it back if my body gets used to moving slowly?

    2. Is this just a phase of your career, to learn the technique? Or is this a style to use through your whole lifting career? I have basically followed the "explosiveness" -rule. I don't know how to put this. Someone mentioned talk of explosiveness in PttP pro.

    To lift a controlled lift "slow"/controlled movement down and full throttle up, while keeping the body tight.

    Except for deadlift, slowly press your feet through the floor. Actually I've been taught that you shall not squeeze the bar, only take a hold of it and lift, shoulders relaxed, bis relaxed. This way your lifting height will be optimized.

    3. I've tried slow movement and maximum tension on 1RM lifts and warm up sets, SQ, BP, DL. Feels good, safer for example. But not for bench, I couldn't use my pecs. Is this applicable to bench? If yes, then I might have some problems with technique. That you can not comment, without a video.

    4. In an article about Faleev 5x5 (Tim Ferris blog) Pavel told to toss all assistance work aside (while doing Faleev 5x5). This is really hard for me to swallow. I have always tried to strengthen my midsection and back, e.g. good mornings, pull ups, dips, sit-ups, and so on.

    Now that I've had a shoulder injury that I haven't recovered from yet, I'll need to balance the power difference between left and right. Slow movement in assistant work seems to "tickle" the left/bad side muscles more than my usual style, even in dips and so on.

    5. PttP style, working eventually up to 5RM +5x 90% of that, can be applied when doing SQ/BP/DL? I made my own version of this. And I'll cut down on assistance work so I can do all three 2x a week. I want to put some emphasis on deadlift this way, because normally you don't have to train deadlift as much as squat and bench.
  7. Taranenko74

    Taranenko74 Double-Digit Post Count


    Welcome to the forum!

    Check the Barbell Prescription -book or ebook from Amazon. There's a lot of good stuff for older lifter.

    Meanwhile, to me it seems you're bit overwhelmed with programming? Maybe you could hire a coach for a while to help you?

    Try to keep things simple. It's easy to get lost in web and loose the idea... Just keep calm and lift! Good luck!
  8. Steve Freides

    Steve Freides Dir. of Community Engagement Staff Member Senior Instructor

    The point of PTTP is learning to develop tension and maintain it throughout a lift. Being able to generate tension and move quickly is an advanced skill, and it's applicability will vary person to person somewhat. If it works for you - you lift more weight, and you don't get hurt - then by all means, focus on speed. Some programs make it a point to focus on slow strength and speed at different times in a lifting cycle or even different days of the same week.

    When you reach a certain point in your lifting, there aren't so many easy answers. You need to learn about your individual strengths and weakness and focus on improving your weaknesses while not neglecting your strengths.

    It is not written in stone that one must always perform the powerlifts, either. You may find a year of lifting kettlebells does you good - you'll have lost some of your maxes at the end of that year, but then they may come back even better than before once you resume barbell training.

  9. Timo Keskitalo

    Timo Keskitalo Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    @Steve Freides thanks for the clarification. I think I'm getting back on track now.

    I was so impressed after trying this tension described in PTTP that I thought that I have missed something essential. And sort of I have.

    Actually I haven't been entirely happy about my lifting after this restart, and now I know what to focus on. Now I'm planning on 3-4 months of improving my body tension. After that it would be "business as usual", but with more emphasis in quality of lifts and less on assistant work.

    I'll keep kettlebells in mind. In the future I'm planning to do the stupid thing and start running. It's an experiment.

    @Taranenko74 On the contrary, I think it's the salt of lifting. But you're right about keeping it simple. Technical advice and a controlling eye would always be welcome though.

    Strong lifts to all!
    Steve Freides likes this.
  10. Philippe Geoffrion

    Philippe Geoffrion Triple-Digit Post Count

    A lot of your inquiries are answered in PTTP Pro and Deadlift Dynamite!

    1) Tension and endurance are inversely related. Tension is for maximal strength. The best ay to learn tension is through slow lift. These don't have to be extremely slow, just slow enough for one to learn to squeeze as hard as humanly possible. The goal is to make light weights feel heavy so heavy weights feel light.

    2) Periodization is key to prolong your lifting career. Thus, in different phases of weight training, goals change. One must master the basics, and if he feels lost, it may do some good to return to the basics. The grip issue is mentioned in Deadlift Dynamite, using Ed Coan as an example of someone who relaxes their grip completely when performing the lift whereas Andy Bolton crushes it. Pavel recommends crushing it but you get to pick which leader to follow. Your choice will come from experience.

    3) It is applicable to bench but in PTTP Pro, Pavel recommends the Russian Bench style, which is in fact explosive. Are you trying to bodybuild or boost the bench? If the latter, "feeling the pecs" is not as important, although they should contribute a fair amount to the lift along with, well, everything else. Review your setup and make sure your back is set correctly. Also, grip width may be a factor, but your chest should always be high. Pausing helps feel the chest a bit more as well.

    4) In the big lifts, your goal should be to utilize "the most muscle". This should include your back and midsection of course. One of the principles of tension, is irradiation, or tension spilling into all the surrounding muscles to support your cause. Also, a narrow focus makes it easier to hit your target. Then again, I don't think an abdominal exercise will throw the whole program off and would be an exception to assistance work. The others might, however.

    5) Yes
  11. Sean M

    Sean M Strong, Powerful Member of the Forum

    @Timo Keskitalo, regarding your #5:

    An option/version I’ve seen around here is two main lifts done 4x/week Mon-Tue and Thu-Fri, such as DL and MP, and on Wed you do the other two (SQ and BP) for 3 x 3 at 5RM (for maintenance). When you peak on the main lifts, swap them.
  12. Timo Keskitalo

    Timo Keskitalo Still New to StrongFirst Forum

    My thoughts so far, I'm glad that I'm not so lost after all. I'll admit right now that I'm likely to modify existing programs to suit my needs. To summarize this a little:

    1. I'm going for 2x week on all 3. Mon SQ+assist, Tue BP+DL, Thur SQ+BP, Fri DL+assist. Training days will likely live a little but I'll try not to do back to back bench days.

    First 8w of 2x5 and then 6w 5 3 2, starting a little (5kg) higher than the first cycle. If there's interest, I could make a training log to sum up progress. Btw, I've already written down structured wave, so we'll see how flexible I can be...

    @Sean M your suggestion would mean 4xDL? This is too much for me, and I want to train all 3.

    2. I was able to shave off 5-10 reps/week from most of my DL by changing the starting weight from 80 to 85kg (50% of max). This way there was less need for an additional step to training weight, which means most of the weeks was cut down to doable around 6 tons from the not-so-doable <7,5 tons. So the devil indeed is in the detail, follow any real program like it's written. Now I understand the point of using "too short" warm up sets; I'll consider it.

    3. So DL workload and amount of sessions didn't change really from my original plans. But, now all sessions are "hard". To think of it, not too much of my DL routine is changing; only doing less warm up sets, but enhancing tension. The "max effort"-lift (my performance) will stay basically the same. I should get better response with more frequent high intensity. The average intensity of a lift rises in all 3 moves.

    For SQ and BP the the volume drops. The duration of set will rise, because of slow movement. Afterwards, when I'll return to my usual style I can increase volume.

    4. Choice of assistant work. I was planning good mornings + side press (new to me) for squat day; and standing row with db + reverse hypers for deadlift day. And then 2-4 times abs and 1-2 times rotator cuffs per week, depending on fatigue. I've been doing these often and was planning to cycle, but now that I change the system it's not a good idea? I'd like to do pull ups and dips also, with some weight maybe if I do only slow 3 rep sets.

    5. Reverse hypers. I've used it as rehab/conditioning/something like that for my lower back. The idea has been to relax the lower back and legs in down position, to feel some kind of pressure. For now I usually haven't had additional weights, but more reps. Louie Simmons recommends "heavy" weight reverse to recover from heavy lifting. I don't have a real machine at my disposal. I use "lego stacks" to have adequate height for leg hanging, which seems to make it impossible to add weight and have the full range of movement. I should choose the latter if I don't find a solution? Or other suggestions?

    @Philippe Geoffrion I aim for strength.

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