Tag: Strength Training Principles

Strength Principles

Strength Principles

These Strength Principles describe how to perform our Strength Programs properly. Though these strength training principles were made specifically for the Mathias Method Strength System, they can apply to any training program you are currently on to help you get the most out of every workout!

315 lb bench press

Learn how to get Stronger—Faster!

Strength Principle #1: How to Warm-Up Properly

Strength Principle #2a: Main Strength Work

Strength Principle #2b: Back-Off Sets

Strength Principle #3: Accessory Work

Strength Principle #4: Conditioning

Strength Principle #5: Mobility Work

Strength Principle #6: Foam Rolling

Strength Principle #7: Rest Periods

Strength Principle #8: Lifting Equipment and Gear

Strength Principle #9: Training to Failure

Strength Principle #10: Principles of Olympic Weightlifting

Strength Principle #11: Olympic Weightlifting Steps

Strength Principle #12: Prilepin’s Table

Percentage of Max Reps per Set Total Optimal Reps Optimal Total Reps Range
55-65 3-6 24 18-30
70-80 3-6 18 12-24
80-90 2-4 15 10-20
90+ 1-2 4 1-10


Strength Principle #13: Dynamic Effort Lifts

Lift                                          Sets x Reps                 Percentage                 Rest

Dynamic Squat Variation                  10 x 3              @        60-75%            30-60 sec. rest

Dynamic Deadlift Variation               6-10 x 1-2        @        65-80%            30-60 sec. rest

Dynamic Bench Press Variation         10 x 3              @        50-65%            30-60 sec. rest

Strength Principle #14: Accommodating Resistance (Bands and Chains)

Strength Principle #15: Overload Techniques

Strength Principle #16: Underloading and Deloading

Strength Principle #17: How To Work Your Weaknesses

Strength Principle #18: The Mathias Method has NO Limits!

Strength Principle #19: The Mathias Method is Adaptable to any training style!

Strength Principle #20: Cardio

Strength Principle #1: How To Warm-Up Properly

First, the Mathias Method Strength System begins by emphasizing the importance of a proper warm-up before you begin any strength training routine or workout program. This is to help decrease pain, prevent injury, and fully prepare your body for the workout ahead.

Dynamic Bodyweight Warm-Up

To begin, we start with a short and simple dynamic bodyweight warm-up to see how your body is feeling. We begin by simply going through a few full-range of motion bodyweight exercises to lubricate your joints and check for any minor pain that you may need to work on.

If you do feel some muscle or joint pain during any part of your warm-up, you can start by trying to massage your tight tissues and see if that fixes the issue.

After you get some movement going and feel out your body for the day, you will then do some mobility exercises to stretch out any tight tissues that may prevent you from getting into better and stronger lifting positions. For example, if you have tight hamstrings or ankles that prevent you from reaching full depth during the squat, you will do some mobility work on these muscle groups.

It would also be a good idea to have a basic stretching routine that you do before every workout. You can customize the routine to you and what you need to mobilize based on your workout for that day.

Warm-Up Routines:

For our specific workout based warm-up routines, you can check out our How To Warm-Up Properly Guide.

Muscle Activation

The next part of the Mathias Method Strength System’s warm-up uses muscle activation techniques, or exercises, to fully prepare your muscles for the workout ahead. These muscle activation exercises teach the correct muscles to turn on, or activate, and bring blood flow to the muscles before the workout begins.

Muscle activation exercises are specific to every workout’s main strength movement. These muscle activation techniques include balance training to improve neuromuscular proprioception, or muscle activation, and joint stability.

By combining your bodyweight mobility warm-up with these muscle activation techniques, you are improving your range of motion and strength in those positions. Now you are ready to start your workout!

Weight Lifting Technique Work

Now that your body is warmed up, it is time to start your workout. The start to any workout program must focus on lifting with proper technique to avoid injury. The Mathias Method Strength System adds this to the start of every workout so that you are always improving your lifting technique.

Your technique work should include one exercise that is the same or closely related to your main movement. For example, if you are going to do squats as your main lift, then you can do squats or something like front squats or box squats for your technique work. 

Also, the exercise you select should be something you need to improve. To make it simple, just choose something you are not good at, or that you need to work on, that utilizes the same muscles as your main movement.

Keep It Light

Perform your technique exercise with the relatively lightweight and perfect form. The point is to improve your lifting technique, so stay focused and lift with intent. You should do only 3 sets of 5-10 reps or as many as you can do without getting fatigued or losing perfect form. Again, the goal is to improve the motion of this exercise and better prepare your body for the work ahead, not to pre-fatigue those muscles.

Any other bodyweight or plyometric exercises in your warm-up should also be relatively easy and not overly fatiguing. Remember, if they are before the main strength work, they are just a warm-up. So do them as a warm-up and not as a taxing exercise.

After completing all of your warm-up exercises the main strength work should begin.

Strength Principle #2a: Main Strength Work

Next, the Mathias Method Strength System focuses on building strength first because strength is the base for all other training goals. Without a solid base of strength to build on, you will just be training in circles. If you want to build muscle, lose weight, jump higher, or reach any other health and fitness goal, then you need to be strong!

The main strength work of the Mathias Method Strength System includes one main movement used to build full body strength. All of the training before and after your main strength work is set to better improve this lift. If you improve your main lift, then you are improving your entire body and working towards your goal. So make sure that your main lift helps move you towards your goal.

Your main lift can vary in many ways (intensity, volume, range of motion, positioning or style performed) depending upon your goals, but it should be a standard motion that improves performance in your chosen sport. Some examples are:

Again, the goal of your main strength work is to build strength. Often this exercise will be done with high to moderate intensity to build maximum amounts of strength. However, you cannot go heavy all the time. You also need to vary the intensity and volume for optimal growth. This means that you will often train the same lift with different intensities multiple times a week.

Varying Intensity

When you are lifting to build strength, use fewer reps, moderate-high intensity, and more sets. For example, you can do 5-8 sets of 1-5 reps using >75% of your one rep maximum to build strength. This is considered “heavy training”.

For “lighter training” days in which you are focusing on building muscle or increasing training volume, you can do 3-5 sets of 5-10 reps using 50-75% of your one rep max. This will give your body a break from heavy work and help build growth in different ways.

Light Doesn’t Mean Weak

The main lifts on light training days are still the focus of the training session. Though this exercise may be different than what you do on your heavy training days. However, everything should still focus on improving this movement, which builds full body strength.

During light training days the goal is to accumulate volume and practice technique, creating a better potential for strength gains on heavy training days. These sessions will focus on building muscular size, speed, and endurance while bringing up weaknesses. This allows for different stimuli created through varying intensities.

So, if you need to build stronger triceps for the bench press, you can do close grip bench press on your light training days. Or if you need to build a stronger chest, you can do wide grip bench press or pause press. The point is to do something a little different, and harder, on your light training days. This will help you build more strength on heavy training days.

Also, as your muscles grow and adapt to lighter loads, they will have an increased potential to grow more absolute strength. Together, light, moderate and heavy loads utilized on the main lifts will allow for continuous growth without stagnation. This is just one way Mathias Method Strength System will keep you growing stronger.

Strength Principle #2b: Back-Off Sets

Back-Off sets are 1-3 extra sets done after the main strength work on heavy days, using a lighter load. These are done to increase training volume and add more work to the main lift. Typically these are only done with advanced lifters that need more training volume. However, they can be added to any of the Mathias Method Strength System workout programs.

After completing your first main lift on the heavy days you can then do an extra 1-3 sets of the same, or a similar, lift to further increase its effect. Use only 50-75% of your one rep maximum for 5-8 reps per set. 

The purpose is to build up your main lift with lighter technique work before moving on to the rest of the workout. So, ensure that you finish strong with perfect form.

Strength Principle #3: Accessory Work

Next, the Mathias Method Strength System only uses the most effective strength training exercises that build the most muscle and strength in your workout program. All exercises done after your main lift are considered “accessory work” or “accessory exercises”. These exercises are meant to increase training volume and improve weaknesses by focusing on individual muscle groups.

Accessory work should be performed with low to moderate intensity to allow for optimal muscle growth and proper technique. Failing on accessory work should be rare, and only utilized when the intensity for the main lift was relatively low. This is because failing a lift teaches your muscles to fail. Yes, it is good to push yourself to failure, but not if you do it every set. It is better to do more work through more sets than to constantly push yourself to failure totaling less overall volume. 

For all accessory work, always stop 1-2 repetitions before failure on all sets other than the last, which can be taken to absolute failure if desired.

Upper Body Accessory Exercises (Chest, Shoulders, and Triceps)

Lower Body Accessory Exercises (Legs, Back, Hips, and Biceps)

Heavy vs Light Accessory Work

Heavy accessory work is done on heavy training days. Light accessory work is done on light training days. The focus during heavy sessions should be to achieve a strong muscle contraction. The focus on light training days should be to increase muscular endurance and hypertrophy (muscle growth).

Heavy accessory work should utilize some full body movement, known as “body English” or “cheating”, to increase the muscular stimulus needed for a strong muscle contraction. However, this needs to be limited. Again, the focus should be on stimulating the muscle rather than just throwing around tremendous weight.

Light accessory work should be done at a slow to moderate pace with relatively strict form to ensure proper muscle activation throughout the entire exercise. It is important to always be in control of the weight during every exercise.

For bodyweight exercises on both heavy and light days, perform the exercises as explosively as possible while maintaining control of your entire body.

Another option for accessory work within the Mathias Method Strength System is to perform it on the days between your main lift sessions. The same strength training principles apply to heavy versus light accessory exercises, though they can be done in the same training session.

Even on accessory only days, it is important to warm-up properly before and mobilize after the training session.

Strength Principle #4: Conditioning

Conditioning is any form of work that improves your cardiovascular health and total work capacity while assisting with the goals of training. Examples are; jogging, sprints, jump rope, battle ropes, light circuit training, a daily WOD, sled dragging, or just manual labor. Not walking, because walking is not exercise!

Conditioning in the Mathias Method Strength System is used to help improve recovery between strength training workouts and increase work capacity so you can handle greater workloads. Conditioning is not necessary for all strength training goals but can be helpful. Feel free to use it in any Mathias Method Strength System workout program.

Overall, conditioning is meant to increase the ability of your body to withstand work and become stronger. This is also known as, increasing your work capacity. If you have low cardiovascular health and little muscular endurance, then your work capacity is low.  If you have a low work capacity, then it greatly affects your ability to get stronger.

Frequency, Duration, Intensity and Rest

Conditioning should be performed 2-4 times per week for 10-20 minutes at a time. You may utilize high-intensity interval training (HIIT) or moderate intensity steady state cardio.

With high-intensity intervals, work to rest should be at a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio. For example, sprint for 30 seconds, then rest for 30 seconds to one minute. Repeat for 10-20 total minutes including rest periods.

For moderate-intensity steady-state cardio, your body should stay in motion throughout the entire time with little to no resistance. This is to sustain an increased heart rate and improve endurance.

It is best to do conditioning immediately after completing your workout and just before mobility work. This will add to your workout and allow for the greatest increase in muscular advancement.

Conditioning can also be done on non-training days if preferred, but should then be done for 20-30 minutes.

Remember, conditioning is meant to condition your body, not break it down beyond what your body can repair before the next workout. So, use relatively light loads and just keep moving.

Strength Principle #5: Mobility

To finish, mobility is an important aspect of the Mathias Method Strength System. Just by taking a few minutes after every workout to improve your mobility, will greatly decrease your risk of injury and greatly improve your recovery. So, do not neglect your post-workout stretching! It is vital for your success as a strength athlete!

A healthy joint and muscle must be both strong and flexible. If there is too much strength without enough flexibility, then there is a higher potential for ligament, muscle, and joint tears. If there is too much flexibility without enough strength, then the joint is unstable and has a higher potential for dislocation. Therefore, to maintain a high level of performance there must be strength and flexibility throughout the body.

Mobility Practices

The mobility before training is utilized to improve positioning and better prepare the muscles to perform at their highest level, through activation techniques. However, if you have specific muscles that prevent you from getting into the proper position needed for optimal performance, then these muscles should be fully mobilized both before and after training with active stretching and massaging techniques.

The time spent after a training session to mobilize should focus on, but not be limited too, the muscles used during your workout. If a joint or muscle has proper alignment and range of motion then do not focus on it. Instead, focus on mobilizing short and tight muscles to better improve range of motion.

Each post-training mobility technique should be utilized for a minimum of 2 minutes on each muscle to create lasting change.

Mobility can also be replaced by yoga or any other activity that improves your body’s ability to move as intended without pain, such as rolling out soft tissues.

It is best to mobilize right after a training session but it can also be done on non-training days. The goal is to get at least 30-40 minutes of mobilization done weekly to enhance your recovery and performance. That is just 10 minutes 3-4 times per week.

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Strength Principle #6: How To Use A Foam Roller

This can be done most effectively with a round object that can roll over your soft tissues, such as a stiff ball or cylinder. Though softer objects should be used at first to decrease the intensity, the most effective way to roll out tissues is with an object harder than your soft tissues. If the object is not as firm as your tight soft tissues, then the object will break down and it limits the amount of tissue release you can obtain. Your tissues can only be fully released with dense objects that can break apart the adhesions. This also will increase the intensity of the massage so it should be utilized less frequently, similar to if you do high-intensity workloads when training it can break down tissues too much for them to recover before it occurs again. This massage breaks apart adhesions in the tissue layers, moves fluids through soft tissues and overall assists with recovery. You can use this to aid in the mobility of tight tissues or just as a recovery technique.

You can roll out your tissues anytime, from before, during, or after training sessions or on non-training days. The same muscles should not be rolled out more than four times per week and often not multiple days in a row, to allow for recovery from the breakdown. To properly break apart adhesions in soft tissues, relax the muscle into the object and slowly roll over the entire tissue. When you feel a tight area, stay on it for at least 30 seconds at a time and breathe to let is relax. If no tightness is felt in a certain muscle, then either obtain a more firm tool or move on.

At first, self-myofascial release may take a very long time due to multiple tight tissues. If it takes an hour, and you have time, let it take an hour. Do not rush through this process. Over time, as your tissues are released it will take less and less time. If you have limited time, it is best to focus on the most important areas during the time you have. Set a timer if needed. For a more effective self-myofascial release technique, attempt to crush your tissues lightly by rotating on them horizontally using controlled pressure. This will reach down to deeper tissues. It is not necessary to roll out soft tissues but is very valuable to anyone who wants to enhance their body tissues natural performance.

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Strength Principle #7: Rest Periods

The rest between most sets and exercises is not given. This is because different rest periods are used for different purposes. Depending on your goals rest periods will vary depending on your goals and time available. Less rest is typically used with lighter loads and promotes greater conditioning. Longer rest periods allow for more recovery, so generally heavier loads will be used and strength will be the focus.

General guidelines for rest periods are, when using lighter weights, <70%, such as on a light day, use rest periods between 30-60 seconds. A useful rest technique for dynamic lifts is to do a set every minute on the minute (EMOM). When using heavier weights, 70-85%, such as on heavy days, rest periods should be between 1-2 minutes for accessory work and at least 2-3 minutes if not longer for the main lifts. It takes about 10-20 minutes for your phosphagen system to be fully prepared for another maximal lift, >90%, but do not waste your whole training session waiting around too long. Most of your strength will return within 3-5 minutes, which would be a more optimal rest period for training versus maximal testing. For most lifts just begin again when you are ready, within reason. The only rest needed between exercises is the time it takes to set it up.

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Strength Principle #8: Lifting Equipment and Gear

This could be very light assistant gear that has little to no impact on increasing loads, such as sleeves, all the way up to extremely supportive gear, such as lifting suits. One of the most common pieces of equipment to be used is a lifting belt. When used properly, a lifting belt allows you to better brace your core for stabilization by increasing the intra-abdominal pressure placed on your spine. By increasing stabilization you are enabled to lift heavier loads. Equipment in this form is very useful but can also have adverse effects when used improperly. If any one piece of equipment is used too frequently, then it will limit your body’s ability to grow stronger in that area. Essentially, the equipment will become a crutch that then must be used every time training occurs in order to keep up with the strength developed in other areas.

The most effective way to use equipment is only when it is necessary. For example, when using light to moderate, or even near maximal in the offseason, loads avoid using any equipment at all to bring up strength in all areas. Then when you put on equipment for maximal loads you will be that much stronger. Even if you have an injury, only use the equipment when you need it. If your injury does not hurt, then do not cover it up with equipment. Allow it to grow STRONGer. When you are building strength, use little to no equipment. When you are testing strength, use whatever you can to improve your lift.

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Strength Principle #9: Training To Failure

Technical failure is the point in which you can no longer perform a repetition with reasonably perfect technique. This commonly occurs 1-2 repetitions before absolute failure. Absolute failure is when no more repetitions can be completed without assistance. Failure, in both forms, should not be obtained too often.

It is good to know what failure feels like but most of the repetitions performed should be done with reasonably perfect technique to build the most optimal amount of strength. For any given exercise, technical failure should only be reached on the last 1-2 sets if at all. This allows for maximal stimuli of the muscle fibers and central nervous system while still performing safe technique. It is relatively safe to reach technical failure without much chance of injury and the muscles will still be able to recover reasonably quickly. Reaching absolute failure too often will result in a much greater chance for injury and a much longer recovery period that may extend beyond the next training session. Absolute failure should only be reached on the last 1-2 sets of the main or final assistance exercise for a given muscle group. This should not occur more than once per week to ensure adequate recovery.

The idea for strength training is to accumulate volume for growth over multiple training sessions per week utilizing perfect practice. Reaching failure is useful for strength training but needs to be used with caution. At least 85-90% of training repetitions for any given exercise should be performed with reasonably perfect technique. 10-15% can be utilized for failure, with less than 5% being absolute failure. This will ensure safety while gaining the most amount of strength over time.

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Strength Principle #10: Principles of Olympic Weightlifting

The two main lifts used in Olympic weightlifting are; the snatch, which is taking a loaded bar from rest on the ground to overhead in one swift motion, and the clean and jerk, which is taking a loaded bar from rest on the floor onto an individual’s torso before being pressed overhead. Both lifts are very complex and take a lot of practice to master.

Olympic lifting in the Mathias Method is not a major focus, though it can be, but it is still highly valuable. The goal with Olympic lifting in the Mathias Method is to achieve a greater level of fitness, teach proper body mechanics, increase flexibility, build greater explosive power and create a stronger, more complete athlete.

Olympic lifting is very technical so for the first few months up to years, the focus should be on proper technique rather than major weight increases. Read the “Olympic Weightlifting Steps” section to find out more on Olympic lifting progression.

Olympic lifts are part of the warm-up for bench press days to allow enough recovery both before and after training so the effect on lower body training days is limited. To further ensure the best results from both Olympic lifting and deadlifting multiple times per week; keep the intensity low on Olympic lifts when the intensity is high for deadlifts and vice versa. This will create an extremely strong core for lifting objects off the floor.

It is not most optimal, but Olympic lifts can also be performed earlier in the day from your normal bench press training or on a different day. For every lifting session perform a thorough mobility warm-up and cool-down. Olympic lifting in the Mathias Method is very valuable but not essential for great success. However, in replacement lifters should perform extra external shoulder rotation work and explosive trapezius work to help balance pressing to pulling motions in the upper body.

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Strength Principle #11: Olympic Weightlifting Steps

As your flexibility improves, more complete lifts should be attempted. If you are able to get into the proper positions for each level of progression then the only other limiting factors are technique and explosive power. It takes a lot of accumulated volume to perfect the Olympic lifts, so be patient. You can move forward and start to practice each lift variation as your flexibility and technique enables. Do not move forward until you are mobile enough and have an understanding of the basics for each lift variation. Realize that the bar will likely drop many times, so only perform lifts in a safe environment. If they are not set up f0r Olympic style lifting then they are not set up for you to gain the most strength possible and will hold you back. If you cannot do Olympic lifts at your gym, it is time to find or make a new one. Here are the Olympic lift progressions in order:

  1. Muscle Clean
  2. Standing High Pull
  3. Power High Pull
  4. Hang Clean
  5. Power Clean
  6. Power Clean + Front Squat
  7. Full Clean
  8. Hang Clean + Press
  9. Power Clean and Jerk
  10. Clean and Jerk
  11. Muscle Snatch
  12. Muscle Snatch + Overhead Squat
  13. Power Snatch
  14. Power Snatch + Overhead Squat
  15. Full Snatch

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Strength Principle #12: Prilepin’s Table

Percentage of Max Reps per Set Total Optimal Reps Optimal Total Reps Range
55-65 3-6 24 18-30
70-80 3-6 18 12-24
80-90 2-4 15 10-20
90+ 1-2 4 1-10

Alexander Sergeyevitch Prilepin was a highly knowledgeable Russian Olympic weightlifting coach from 1975-1985. He was known for analyzing weightlifting for optimal training and, during his time coaching, found the most optimal way to train lifters using percentages of there one rep max. He created a table that shows his results for optimal training known as Prilepin’s table (shown above). In the table he gives the most optimal reps to perform per set based on a percentage of a maximum, the optimal total number of reps to perform at this intensity and a range of optimal total reps to perform.

To use the table effectively, select a percentage of your actual or estimated maximum for a given lift. Then select a number of repetitions to perform per set within the given optimal range and perform as many sets as it takes to reach the total optimal reps, or at least enough to fit within the optimal range. Prilepin’s table can be used for any lift which has a pertinent actual or calculated maximum.

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Strength Principle #13: Dynamic Effort Lifts

In physics, Newton’s Second law states that force equals mass times acceleration (Force = Mass x Acceleration). To create a larger force there needs to be an increase in the mass, which is the weight lifted, or increase in acceleration, which is the speed the lift is performed. Louie Simmons from Westside Barbell said it best by stating, “You can’t lift heavy weights slow.” After a certain level of muscular strength, endurance and size is achieved there needs to be an increase in the speed of contraction to allow for greater strength gains.

Dynamic lifts are for advanced lifters only because lower-level lifters do not yet have the muscular advancement needed to be most efficient with them and will better benefit from practicing the lift; and building muscle through repetition training. By starting dynamic training too early lifters may stall or plateau in strength due to an inefficient amount of accumulated training volume.

During dynamic training, the load and accommodating resistance, such as bands or chains attached to the bar, will vary depending on the lift. The goal of dynamic lifts is too increase the speed at which a lift is performed when using heavier loads. To achieve this goal most optimally the lift needs to be performed reasonably quickly. Good guidelines for the speed required are faster than a 90% lift but not so fast that the weight brings your body out of position. To prevent the later, accommodating resistance allows for a better opportunity to apply maximal force to sub-maximal weights without greatly altering your body positioning. If you perform a maximal contraction to sub-maximal weights on an exercise without accommodating resistance, then either the weight will be thrown away from you or your body will be pulled out of position. Therefore, accommodating resistance is necessary for optimal dynamic training in which the weight does not have room to jump such as the squat or bench press. Accommodating resistance for the deadlift is not necessary, but helpful, because the weight has the ability to continue the motion upward without changing the lifter’s foot or hand position greatly.

In choosing a weight for dynamic lifts the most effective way is to move a heavier weight fast with little accommodating resistance. This means that if you can move a load that is 70% of your maximum just as fast as a load 55% of your maximum then the heavier load should be chosen for greatest results. If a certain weight is too heavy in which it greatly decreases your speed, and therefore force production, it should be lightened to create the most optimal results. Accommodating resistance should be just enough to stop the weight from jumping but not greatly decrease the speed of the lift. About 10-15% of your max on a certain lift should equate to the tension at the top. From this tension, you can raise or lower the amount depending on your explosive ability.

The sets and reps performed for each lift vary depending upon the percentages used and how it compares to Prilepin’s Table. Each week the same sets and reps will be presented but the load will vary. The accommodating resistance and lift variation performed should always stay the same in each cycle but the bar weight will increase each week of the cycle. To begin, chose a lift variation with a standard amount of accommodating resistance and then find a starting weight within the percentages given (see below). Each week of the cycle increase the load by a set weight, 10-20lbs for starters, or a set percentage. Always ensure that the bar weight does not exceed the given optimal percentages for a given lift. The first week all sets will be performed with the same working weight, while the following week or weeks will have the first one or two sets consist of the previous week’s weight or weights used in the same cycle. For example, week 1 would be 10 x 3 @ 65%, week 2 would be 1 x 3 @ 65% + 9 x 3 @ 68%, while week 3 would be 1 x 3 @ 65% + 1 x 3 @ 68% + 8 x 3 @ 70%. All percentages are based on the competition style lift maximum. For all dynamic work, the rest periods should be consistent for each type of lift. Rest should be no less than 30 seconds and no more than 1 minute between sets. Less time will promote muscular endurance while more rest will allow for greater force production. Here is a quick overview of dynamic work with percentages:

            Lift                                          Sets x Reps                 Percentage                 Rest

Dynamic Squat Variation                  10 x 3              @        60-75%            30-60 sec. rest

Dynamic Deadlift Variation               6-10 x 1-2        @        65-80%            30-60 sec. rest

Dynamic Bench Press Variation         10 x 3              @        50-65%            30-60 sec. rest

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Strength Principle #14: Accommodating Resistance (Bands and Chains)

The most common forms of accommodating resistance are bands and chains. For each of these tools, the load decreases as the lifter lowers the weight and then increases as they raise the weight. This is known as accommodating to the lifter’s leverages. There is less leverage towards the bottom of a lift and greater leverage towards the top of a lift. Accommodating resistance is useful in teaching acceleration throughout the entire lifting motion, building explosive power, under loading, overloading and creating a more optimal environment for dynamic, or speed, training.

To under load using accommodating resistance the tool used, such as chains, will pull the weight down adding to its load but lessening the straight weight being used, or un-varied load on the bar. To overload, bands can be attached higher than the weight and pull it against gravity to allow the straight weight to be more than the lifter may be able to handle alone. Both forms of loading allow for a decreased load towards the bottom of a lift and increased at the top.

When starting with accommodating resistance in your training, it is most optimal, to begin with chains before going to bands. This is due to the elasticity of the bands creating many micro-flexions to hold the weight stable and balance while performing the lift. When using chains they can move along the floor more freely while the base of the bands are stable in one place so that coming out of alignment even slightly will create muscle flexion for balance. For accommodating resistance, begin with less tension to get used to the new stimulus and slowly increase to the most optimal tension over time. 10-15% of your maximum for a lift is an optimal amount of tension to add to the straight weight being lifted. This can vary over time.

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Strength Principle #15: Overload Techniques

A simple example of an overload technique is wearing a lifting belt. By wearing a lifting belt you are overloading a completely raw squat done without a belt. To overload, you can use assistive gear such as a belt, knee sleeves, knee wraps, lifting suits or weight lifting straps. To overload the standard variation of a lift you can simply do a variation of the lift which allows you to lift more weight. This can be a decreased range of motion such as a rack pull or board press, or an assisted lift done with the help of a partner or equipment.

A common way to overload some lifts effectively is using reverse band technique. This is where the bands are attached higher than the weight and take the weight off as you lower it while giving it back as you lift it. The bottom position of each of these lifts can hold loads near your maximum, or even over it, but will still allow you to perform the lift properly. To determine if you are overloading a technique, look at the straight weight on the bar and see if it is more than you can do without the equipment attached. If it is then you are overloading. Overloading can be very effective for building confidence towards a new maximal lift and getting your body more accommodated to feeling the heavier weights. Physiologically this also helps tremendously with making it easier for your body to handle the heavier loads.

A great technique to use in the weeks before a maximal lift is just holding overload weights at the top of a squat or bench press. This should always be done with assistance or at least safety equipment in case the weight falls, so it will be caught by the safety pins, placed very close to where the top hold takes place. By holding these weights your body will work very hard to support it by increasing bone density to withstand the load and all your motor units will be firing as if you were lifting with a maximal contraction. This better prepares your body for new maximal lifts. In any case, the overload should never exceed 110% of your current maximum. Going beyond this point will be too much for your body to handle and it is an unreasonable amount to strive for in the next maximal attempt.

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Strength Principle #16: Underloading and Deloading

Even if there is an overload at the top of the lift through excessive accommodating resistance, there can be an underload at the bottom due to the decreased load. Underloading is useful when nurturing an injury or when a de-load from extreme intensity is necessary. To under load, you must use less bar weight. You can still obtain a strong contraction by using accommodating resistance that allows the top of a motion to have a reasonably heavy load. This can be done with bands, chains or assistive gear. While underloading it may be useful to increase the volume of that exercise to still allow for enough stress to maintain or increase your strength. If you are nurturing an injury, it may be best to either take a short amount of time off from the lifts that hurt or just do fewer repetitions to have a decrease in the time under tension which will allow for less breakdown. By doing fewer reps and more sets you can get the same amount of total work in while decreasing the stress placed on an injury.

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Strength Principle #17: Work Your Weaknesses

The Mathias Method trains your body in all the major planes of motion to build full body strength in the most optimal way. As different exercises are performed, you may find that one or more are much more difficult than the others. This means that this exercise, or trained muscle group, is your weakness. After finding the exercises or muscle groups that are your weaknesses it is vital for your strength progression to train them.

You may have a weak technique that needs to be practiced or a lack of muscular strength that needs to be pushed. In either case, the exercises that train your weaknesses should be trained with higher volume and increasing intensity. The goal is to do perfect practice when training a weak technique to encourage proper movement mechanics. It has been found that after 3-5 repetitions, or going over 80-85% of a relative maximum, technique greatly diminishes. To improve technique weaknesses, start with 3 sets of five repetitions during every workout that best accommodates that lift. This is your exercise technique warm-up done before your main lifts.

To further improve, increase the intensity over time by adding weight or the number of sets performed in week 1 of your training cycle. After that technique weakness has improved significantly, move to the next weakness. For a muscular weakness, add more accessory work that focuses on training that muscle group. Train it in many ways to get different growth. Find the exercises that then build the most strength for that muscle group and utilize that throughout your training career. Make your weakness your strength. There will always be a weakness in training. At least one lift will need technique work more than others, and at least one muscle group will be relatively weak compared to others. By finding these weaknesses and making them better you will become brutally strong and knowledgeable. May your weaknesses guide you.

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Strength Principle #18: No Limits

These are simply guidelines that are found to be the most effective for many individuals. You can always do more work and you are encouraged to try new exercises often, after completing the rest of your workout. Beginners should always try 1-3 new exercises after completing all their other training to get many stimuli and find what works best for them. More advanced lifters should add work to bring up their weaknesses. If there is a certain lift or muscle group that is limiting your strength or creating a greater potential for injury, train it often. Always do the exercises that you are not good at, even though they also tend to be the individual’s least favorite exercises. Again, the written program is not meant to limit you but present an effective base training that you are meant to add on too. Always ensure that the written work is completed before trying to add any other exercises that would take away from the effectiveness of the given exercise. To continue to grow stronger, you have to try new things, push yourself and train your weaknesses.

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Strength Principle #19: Adaptability

The main protocols of the Mathias Method are too; mobilize positioning first, activate your muscles, warm-up through technique practice, build strength through main movements, do more work with accessories that support that main movement or a current goal, condition, and then finish with more mobility to improve positioning and proper body function.

These principles can apply to any sport or other training programs. It is simply a system that works most optimally for creating a complete athlete. You can apply this system to general fitness, Bodybuilding, Powerlifting (which it was originally created for), Olympic lifting, Crossfit, Strongman, or any other sport. In every sport, it is important to be strong, conditioned, mobile and durable.

The Mathias Method is the most optimal system to reach all those goals at once. The specific exercises and work presented are meant to be followed until they are understood, then you can develop upon them for your own personal growth. After understanding the purpose of each exercise you can either choose to stick with that exercise or use one of your own. Also, the type and amount of work or intensity can change depending on your goals and personal needs. Some people need more work while some need less. The work presented has shown to be most effective for numerous people but can adapt to your own specifications. The goal is to train yourself most optimally at all times and to do that you have to learn what your body needs by trying many things.

The Mathias Method is not written in stone and, like the fitness industry, it will constantly evolve. The Mathias Method, however, will not follow trends unless proven over time to be more useful than what is currently being put to use. What is presented can change but has stood the test of time for many years. To gain strength to change the world, be ready to adapt to anything.

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Strength Principle #20: Cardio

Cardiovascular training in this form is not necessary during the Mathias Method but is optional. There are two main reasons to do cardiovascular training; to improve heart health and burn calories. By training properly during the Mathias Method your heart will get plenty of work in to improve its health. Every warm-up exercise and set done will raise your heart rate and make it stronger.

Now, it is popular for individuals to do cardiovascular training to expend more daily calories, but that is not the most optimal way. By doing cardio training you are burning calories today, that you will have to continue to burn off each day, but with increasing effort as your body adapts. By building strength and muscle to better your body you will expend calories and continue to burn them each day after with a newly raised basal metabolic rate. This is why conditioning is implemented in the advanced levels of the Mathias Method. At that point, more work needs to be done and your heart will need to be stronger for it. Until then, it would be beneficial to take action in a sport or hobby for an hour or more multiple times a week. This can be as simple as a walk or as challenging as a martial art. Go ahead, challenge yourself. You may be surprised at what you can do just by trying.

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