Quest for Strength
By Mike Miller


Seasonal Schedule

For the first 3 years as a powerlifter I trained the lifts I enjoyed. I found this to be very unproductive in the long run. Prior to squatting 1200, my goal was to cut body fat and increase overall conditioning so that I could be a better athlete. I did this through a better diet and by increasing the volume and intensity of workouts. I left power lifting briefly to pursue Strongman. After my first competition, I realized that I was not in the shape I thought I was in. Strongman training increased my general physical preparedness level, my overall muscle mass and dramatically decreased my body fat percentage. It made me a better all around athlete.

Now I have adapted my training schedule to accommodate both sports. Right now I train for Strongman and supplement with power work from spring to fall and train for Powerlifting and supplement with Strongman work from fall through spring. I have found that the Strongman training complements powerlifting and vice versa. The Strongman training/hypertrophy work increases endurance, builds more muscle mass and highlights your weak spots. I also feel that this type of work when done properly helps with functional strength, increases mobility, range of motion and prepares you to go back on the powerlifting platform with more tools at your disposal. The Powerlifting work aids Strongman training by increasing central nervous system stimulation with the massive heavy loads that are carried, trains the body to become explosive and brutally strong.

April-November: Strongman/Endurance work

This period consists of event specific training; atlas stone work, yoke walks, farmer’s walks etc. I do unconventional lifts for core strength, such as barrel lifts, rolling thunder holds, sand bag training and sledge hammer work. This time period also gives your body a break from the heavy max work. By increasing your functional strength, your core, stabilizers and secondary muscle groups, tendons and ligaments, the Strongman type training actually improves your one rep max for power. As proof of this I spent 10 months this past year without doing one traditional squat and was able to hit an 1100 pound squat after only 6 weeks/1 wave of ESP max training. Powerlifting when mixed with Strongman can be a very intense combination.

November -April: Powerlifting/ESP (Enhanced Strength and Performance) max work

Most powerlifters train each lift, squat, bench, deadlift and throw in some core work or other form of strength training. They get stuck in the rut of doing one movement every seven days. This causes the body to become familiar with the stimulation and limits its reaction, therefore limiting your gains. What I have done is combined traditional powerlifting movements, added some non-conventional and strongman movements, increased my overall volume and upped my days of training.

All out, all the time endurance work

At my first International Strongman meet in Edmonton, Canada this fall I had the opportunity to pick the brains of a few Ukrainian competitors. Watching them perform was an education in itself. Their technique, strength and endurance were remarkable. Like the energizer bunny, they just kept going and going. What I found out was that what the average American considers being a workout is no more than a warm up for these guys. They shared their “secrets” with me. One that I will share with you is what I have incorporated in my own training; the 2000 rep day. Do you want be a lazy American or do you want to be strong?

5-6 week waves of power work

Three days a week are spent doing conventional work; squat, bench, deadlift. For the squat this involves a 5 week wave consisting of static and active resistance. Training begins with 85% total bar/band or bar/chain weight and progresses to over 100% at the end of the 5 weeks. These work sets are done for 5 sets of 2 reps. Bench training consists of progressive overload, heavy triples every week, mixed with boards, lock outs and heavy triceps/back work. This training has not been changed dramatically except for the addition of more deadlifting. The other two days of the week are spent doing non-traditional lifts to increase core strength. One day I pick a movement and do 50% of my one rep max for 10 to 20 sets of 10 reps. It might be log lifts, front squats, safety bar squats, flat bench or deadlifts. The final training day is spent on core work again; yoke walk, sled dragging, shoulder the stone for reps, 300 pound neck drags, sand bag work and tire flips.

Here are some training examples:

Endurance workout

I warm up with a 300 pound sled drag for 3 sets of 200 feet, then move to three sets of 200’ tire flips, the log press follows 4-5 sets of warm ups then move to 320 pounds for 5 sets of 5 on a heavy day. I may also do 20 sets of 10 reps 120-180 pounds, this is followed by dumbbell shrugs, 4 sets of 20 at 220 pounds and front and side raises. I finish up with some abdominal work.

Auxiliary Power workout

Most of what I am doing is very unconventional, for example, training the same body part two days in a row. I feel that changing exercises weekly is beneficial. Some Mondays I will start my workout with sled dragging and good mornings or deadlifts. Then I move on to heavy abdominal and oblique work, like weighted sit-ups with a 100 pound plate for sets of 20, trunk twists with a grappler or weighted leg raises. After this I move on to glute/ham raises and Reverse Hyperextensions. On all secondary exercises that I do I constantly vary the weight, set and rep scheme. One week will be heavy weight and low reps and one will be the opposite. This is done the day prior to my heavy squat workout.

ESP Training concepts

ESP training is designed to build brute strength and improve endurance all year around. The concepts were developed by training myself and my team over a 5 year period. It allows you to perform at a higher level, not just cycle and peak for a competition. With this system, you should be able to squat/bench/deadlift 90% of your max at any given time.

CNS Overload training

I took a couple of years off of three lift competitions for focus on bench only work. During one 4 month training cycle my body benched 700 pounds or more over 70 times. I inadvertently conditioned my CNS to manage this load by primarily using my upper body. Three months later when I went back to squatting, my first lift back was 865 pounds done off of a 15” box with only a pair of denim groove briefs and a belt. During my time off from squatting my body managed loads bigger than I had ever squatted just benching. When I went back to the squat I was already conditioned to handle the weight.

In the quest for strength a key factor that is typically ignored has always been the central nervous system (CNS). With the use of ESP training and correctly applying static and active resistance, you can add tremendous gains to your lifts in short periods of time. CNS overload training is an attempt to fool the body into doing more work than it actually is. You condition your body to recruit more muscle fiber and tissue in the performance of a movement and as a result it becomes more explosive. A lifter can spend a year or more training in the 90% range and will continue to make gains.

Zero Momentum Training

The human body will do no more than required to complete any given task. Zero momentum training challenges the body to never quit pushing a load and conditions it to react to lighter weights with the force required to move heavier weight. Zero momentum training was designed to increase power and torque at the top end of a movement. It was also designed to work in conjunction with CNS overload training. It is a very strenuous mode of training and should only be done once or twice a month.

Train at 90% all year long

In my quest for strength and power I have drawn on the knowledge and experience of many. The conclusion that I have come to is that if you want to move heavy weight, you have to move heavy weight. It’s our old “Do the thing and you will have the Power” quote from Emerson. The use of bands and chain are assistance tools, but in the end it is the repetitive lifting of heavy weight that moves one forward. ESP training allows an athlete to train at 90% all year long and continue to make gains.