People won’t believe this story, but when I first started running track at McGill University, I could not do 3 sets of 10 reps Bench Press with 70lbs (7, 10 lb plates) on the Universal stack machine. Being a machine and not free weights, you can argue it wasn’t even 70 lbs. I will try to post a photo of this decrepit machine.
At the time, I had no idea you needed some upper body strength to run. After all, you run with your legs, right?
I followed this from 1986 up to 1992 quite religiously. Within the second year, I was able to bench press one repetition of the famous “2 plates”, 225 lbs. or 100kg, or 2 large 45 lbs. plates on each side. I only weighed 175lbs at the time. Within a few more years, I was able to bench press 315lbs or 3 plates each side.
We only focused on 3 main exercises: Bench, Squats, Cleans. It was then followed by hamstring curls, and lots of Abs. Sometimes we did an ancillary exercise to complement the workout, such as Lat Pull-downs.
For the exercises, we varied each one:
Bench: flat, incline, decline, dumbbell, regular grip, wide grip
Squats: half, full, front squats, hack squats (45 degrees) with machine
Cleans: dead lift, full cleans off floor, speed (hanging) cleans
The first month of weights, and the start of a new season, would be a maximum of 8-10 reps. Maybe 10-12 reps with lighter weights for women. It was just general fitness and getting used to weight training. Some of us call it GPP phase.
After the first month, we didn’t plan to go over 6 reps at a time. And we NEVER did a 1 maximum repetition (or 1 RM) except for testing, as it may cause injury. 2 repetitions are called a “double” and 3 reps are a “triple” in technical lingo.
Always keep track of the total number of “lifts” performed and we cycled the weeks with 3 weeks hard and 1 week easy.
Sometimes we would go straight from the track to the weight room, and have no warm-up set, as you would already be warm & loose from the track workouts. Of course, putting on a fresh T-shirt would be nice.
Otherwise, the first set should be done with a BROOMSTICK or the 20 kg bar to really emphasize on technique, especially for the power cleans. This is followed by a warm-up of 8 – 10 reps of a light weight.
Here is an excerpt of the entire indoor season (total number of “lifts” in parenthesis)
September – Month 1
3 x 8 reps (24 total lifts)
October – Month 2
4 x 6 reps (24)
November – Month 3
7, 5, 3, 2, 2, each set increasing load (19)
December – Month 4
4 x 5 reps (20)
Easy week at Christmas Break!
January – Competition phase – Month 5
3 x 3 reps (9)
Sometimes we paused between the positive & negative movements, i.e. in Bench Press, having the bar on your chest for one second
February – Competition phase – Month 6
6, 4, 2, 2, increasing load (14)
March – Championships Meets – Month 7
Remember, this was over 20 years ago, and we’ve come a long way in training principles and research! It is worth noting that our focus was running, and weight training or strength training was to complement the running.