Dead letter: My second Sheiko cycle

After my last run of sheiko I decided to try another succession of #37 and #31. While in theory the numbered programs are to be seen as peaking cycle, I know several people who ran #37 and #31 (or #30, for the lighter lifters) back to back with great success, so I gave it a try. Well, long story short, it did not work out as good and I feel weaker than before these two cycles.

Lessons learned

While there is not much more to say about the cycle itself, I learned quite a bit about Sheiko and training in general in these two months. It would be sad if not.

1: I need volume

Quite early in the cycle I already had the feeling that I should have done at least a few weeks of higher volume training before going back to Sheiko and, as the training weeks passed, this became even more apparent. No surprise here, but makes me wonder, why other people can run #37 and #30 back to back, or even several blocks of #37. Well, one of these people is my girlfriend, which, given that she is a girl, benefits more from low rep training. But there might be more to it or they do some other modifications I do not know about.

2: Deloads are useful

Well duh. While Sheiko feels like low volume, moderate intensity and one does not think of it as taxing, I noticed that I did not take a planned deload week since forever. As mentioned in my post about the transition and realization phase I experimented with lighter loads before testing. But this has not the same effect as a deload during a volume block. Probably I missed out on quite some supercompensation during the accumulation phase.

3: Just enter a lower max for deadlifts (and accept your form sucks)

As noted in the previous post, deadlifts seriously did not go well in the last cycle. Googling around, I found that other people also have had this problem. One of the things that happens during Sheiko is that your form just gets better and better. As they say, there are mostly strong people with bad form, so his programs intend to improve your form. Now the average conventional deadlifter, including me, usually does not have a picture perfect form. Letting the back round even a tiny bit often gives your hamstrings a bit more room to work and this translates in kilos on the bar. So when your deadlift max is over 40kg over your squat, letting your back round might be the reason.

However, during Sheiko the weights are in the beginning so light that you do not have to let your back round and when they finally get heavy, this just feels wrong and you can not pull the weight. This is actually a good thing, once one gets one ego out of the way and past the fact that there will be twenty or thirty kilos less on the bar for the next few months. Third world people are disadvantaged, as this translates into forty-five to sixty-five pounds, much bigger and painful numbers.

Note that Sheiko often recommends people to try sumo deadlifts for a while, as for many people this might be the better (i.e. allowing for a bigger total) way to deadlift.

4: Sheiko says everything above 50% is working weight

When first looking at his programs, one might be tempted to ridicule the intensity. However, Sheiko says that anything above 50% is a working weight. While in western programs often only the top sets are considered as working weight, he says that when factoring in the warm up sets leading to these sets already count towards the working sets, leading to much more reasonable estimates of the average intensity.

5: Quads and chest for total, hams and tris for balance

At least in my training, both Justin Lascek as well as the guys "around EliteFTS and Westside", i.e. Dave Tate, Jim Wendler, Louie Simmons and the like have been an influence for me. They often emphasize training the hamstrings and triceps, for several reasons. One, at least the Westside crowd comes from geared lifting, where you obviously need other muscles than in raw lifting. Secondly, most people already focus on the so called mirror muscles and often neglect those muscles you do not see in the mirror. However, this results in an overemphasize of the muscles on the backside in literature, so that many people do RDLs, rows and what not diligently, but do not give their prime movers the love they deserve. Me included.

Looking through forums, you often see recommendations like "two reps of pulling for each rep of pushing", which are the result of this misconception. Or guys barely able to bench eighty kilos doing floor presses. However, in raw lifting, the quads drive your squat and the chest often drives your bench. So act and program accordingly.

6: The biceps is part of the shoulder musculature

Powerlifters in spe often laugh at biceps training. Hell, everyone but strongmen and bodybuilders laugh about it. It just seems so vain. However, the biceps has two heads attaching at the shoulder, where the long head abducts, the short head adducts and both are involved in anteversion. This is Latin for "helps your bench dude".

7: Grinding is a skill best trained with reps

One of the things that might happen during Sheiko is that you forget how to grind a weight out. This is something also Mike Tuchscherer has observed:

A good friend of mine developed this problem while doing Sheiko-style training cycles. He did an 8 week cycle where he kept the volume and intensity the same, but he simply did more reps in each set. So instead of doing 5 sets of 3 at 80%, he did 4 sets of 4 at 80%. That’s roughly the same number of reps and the same load, but more reps in each set. The end result was some nice PR’s and an ability to grind that he had never experienced before.

I actually had failed some sets in the later cycle, because I just forget how to keep going for longer than a very short duration. I actually had to concentrate on not to quit during the lift, which then allowed me to repeat those sets.

Next month(s): More volume

So the next few months I will again spend more time accumulating volume. As Sheiko is essentially two to three months of peaking, I should spend at least that much time doing higher reps and building muscle. Also during this time I like to shift the focus to presses instead of bench presses. Or at least press as often as I bench press, for putting weights overhead is just much more natural.