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Jordan Syatt on Building Strength [Q&A]

In terms of strength, Jordan Syatt is a freak of nature. He is currently an IPA Powerlifting World Record Holder in his weight class. But, Jordan has the knowledge to back up the brawn. He has obtained some impressive certifications such as Precision Nutrition and Westside Barbell. He’s also worked with some of the greats in the industry like Eric Cressey and Tony Gentilcore at Cressey Performance and Louie Simmons at Westside Barbell – a mecca for powerlifters around the world. Jordan applies this knowledge by helping online coaching clients at SyattFitness.com with losing fat, building muscle, and of course, gaining strength. We touched base with him to get some insight on building strength and designing the best program possible.

Since you’ve worked with the greats in the fitness industry, what’s one piece of advice would you give to guys looking to strictly build strength in the big three?

Don’t forget about Dynamic Effort (speed) work! Too often I see lifters only focusing on all-out Max Effort lifting. Not only will this lead to exhaustion and burn-out but, sooner rather than later, your progress will come to a screeching halt. Learn to move weights quickly or they won’t move at all.

We know you’re a big fan of the Westside conjugate method of training. Can you tell us a little more about that style of training? Is it applicable to the average gym-goer?

Westside’s Conjugate Method combines all necessary methods of strength development into a complete training system. The Maximal Effort Method, The Dynamic Effort Method, and The Repetition Method are all distributed throughout the training week in a manner that cycles both volume and intensity in order to facilitate optimal strength gains and, of course, recovery.

As a brief introduction, Westside trains 4 days per week with 2 days devoted to The Maximal Effort Method and 2 days devoted to The Dynamic Effort Method. On Max Effort days lifters will work up to a 1-3 Repetition Maximum (1-3RM) in a variation of the Box Squat, Deadlift, or Good Morning for the lower body and a variation of the Bench Press for the upper body. On Dynamic Effort days lifters focus on moving sub-maximal weights (~40-60% 1RM) as quickly and explosively as possible in variations of the Box Squat and Deadlift for the lower body and variations of the Bench Press for the upper body. For a detailed description of how to use this method, I encourage everyone to read my article The Westside Barbell Conjugate Method: A Users Guide (Link: http://bit.ly/Vch32u)

To answer your question: Yes, I believe Westside’s Conjugate Method is applicable to the average gym-goer. One of the major misconceptions regarding Westside is that it only “works” for geared Powerlifters which truly couldn’t be any further from the truth. The greatest thing about Westside is that – when programmed correctly – it’s completely tailored to the individual and their specific weaknesses. Anyone who tells you Westside doesn’t work for the average gym-goer either doesn’t know Westside or they don’t know the basic principles of strength training.

What do you typically do for recovery in between hard lifting sessions?

To be honest, nothing too crazy. I like to do various methods of self myofascial release with a foam roller and a lacrosse ball before training as well as on my “rest” days. I inevitably end up doing some mobility drills after foam rolling and, if I’m lucky, I’ll get in the pool or a hot tub but that doesn’t happen as often as I’d like.

Realistically speaking, my recovery is summed up nicely by the acronym, MESS:

  • Mobility
  • Eat
  • Self myofascial release
  • Sleep

I like this specific acronym because if I miss one or more of the above aspects then I actually feel like a mess.

Do you use partials in your program? If so, what are your favorite variations?

Yea, absolutely! Throughout the training cycle I constantly vary the exercises I use in order to change the stimulus placed on my body and keep myself from adapting to any one specific movement. Below I’ll provide a few examples of my favorite partials:

  • For the Squat I incorporate high Box Squat’s every 5 or 6 weeks
  • For the Deadlift I incorporate Rack Pull’s every 3-4 weeks.
  • And for the Bench Press I incorporate Board Presses every 1-3 weeks.

I’d note, while partials can be helpful for improving certain weak spots they are by no means the end-all-be-all of training and should not be the sole focus of any training program.

Cardio training can be difficult to fit in along with all of the squatting and deadlifting. How do you fit it into your program? 

As a Powerlifter my main goal is to lift as much weight as possible in the Squat, Bench Press, and Deadlift. That being the case, traditional “cardio” such as running, elliptical, biking, etc wouldn’t help me achieve my ultimate goals. That being said, I do regularly perform other methods of cardio which provide the same benefits of traditional cardio with the added benefit of strength development. For example, 2-3 days each week I’ll either pull weighted sleds and/or push the prowler. Anyone who has done either of these activities can attest to the fact that they’re infinitely more fun and effective than traditional cardio training.

Obviously flexibility plays a huge role in your ability to move effectively. How often do you work flexibility training into your routine?

Personally, I do a bit of flexibility work during my warm-ups as well as in between sets as “fillers” but not very much targeted flexibility training. In all honesty, I’m fortunate enough to be flexible enough as-is and any more would likely be detrimental to what I’m trying to achieve. That being said, I do coach Powerlifters who perform flexibility-focused training multiple times per day, every single day because their bodies need it in order to train safely and effectively.

In our opinion, most guys rush through a warm-up in favor of getting to the workout sooner. What’s a good warm-up look like to you?

I actually just a released a free e-book on this very topic called The Syatt Fitness Guide to Warming Up: A Step By Step Guide for Optimal Performance which you can download by signing up for my free newsletter at www.syattfitness.com.

Briefly, I totally agree with you and I’ve also noticed that way too many lifters neglect a thorough warm-up and eventually pay for it down the road. In my mind, a well designed warm-up consists of four individual components:

  •      Self Myofascial Release
  •      Targeted Mobility Drills
  •      Muscle Activation Drills
  •      and a Specific Warm-up

Each component builds on the one before it in order to prepare the mind and body for optimal performance as well as maintain long-term health and function. For a detailed guide outlining my recommended approach to warming up I encourage readers to download my free e-book.

Olympic lifts – good or bad for the average Joe?

While I’d like to give a definitive answer, it really depends on the individual as well as the coach in question. Personally, I wouldn’t teach anyone the O-lifts simply because I don’t feel comfortable with my current knowledge-base of those specific movements. On the other end of the spectrum, some trainees don’t have the requisite mobility and/or stability needed to perform them safely, in which case they would likely be better off with less complex exercises focusing on their individual needs. Again, I’m definitely not saying the Olympic lifts should never be used with the average gym-goer, rather it just depends on the situation at hand.

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