When Laddie Gibson came to work with us at RTS back in February of 2015, he already had an extensive training history (since 1987). You can find out more about Laddie and his twin brother Troy – who is also a Masters World Champ and world record holder – on our podcast. So our job at this point in Laddie’s career is to hone and peak rather than teach and develop. With that unique position in mind, let’s discuss how we adapted Laddie’s training.
We used a similar training strategy for Laddie both in prep for his world record-setting performance in Finland, and then again to exceed those marks a few months later at Raw Nationals. In June, his lifts were 220/170/245/635 (kilos of course). By October, he had improved beyond those marks to 230/180/265/675. That’s a 40 kg (88 lb.) improvement on his (already world record) total in just over 3 months.
In the beginning of working with Laddie, we were simply looking to get established on a productive training regimen, so we opted for a 3-day-per-week training template. My thinking was that this would provide a good starting point and help avoid any potential recovery issues. If Laddie was recovering easily, we could just turn up the frequency. However, if we started too high, there would be more steps in getting training stress back under control. When he responded quite well to this level of frequency, we kept it. This leaves another tool in our toolbox for later as well.
Training the Competition Lifts
We decided that training the competition lifts should be the driving force behind all of his strength development. Laddie would train the competition-style squat, bench, and deadlift at least once per week, with more work targeting assistance and supplemental movements. We kept intensities for the contest lifts fairly high. In the beginning of a training cycle, intensity would start at about 80% and then gradually increase in waves up to 92-95%. The overall pattern of intensity was linear, but it came and went in waves.
All of Laddie’s training was done using an RPE system to auto-regulate the weight on the bar. This way, he could use heavier weights on good days and could reduce the weight to an appropriate level on bad days. He trained his main lifts by working up to an 8 RPE and repeating this load for multiple additional sets. The volumes I required from him were quite brutal, but we managed recovery via auto-regulation, as well as the 3x frequency template (more on recovery later).
Laddie’s assistance work targeted the bottom of the squat and the bench – typical problem areas for raw powerlifters. We did very little assistance work for Laddie’s deadlift, which had a propensity to beat up his hips. For the squat, this meant lots of 2ct pause squats and pin squats. Laddie loved the pause squats. He said he had never really done them before and felt they played a big role in increasing his squat.
Laddie also did some squats with chains toward the end of his training cycles. For the bench, we used various pause lengths as well as pin pressing, touch-and-go benching, feet up bench, close-grip benching, etc. Again, intensities stayed fairly high – there was less 80% stuff than for the main lift, but less 90%+ work too. RPEs were, again, around 8 with lots of volume.
Supplemental movements were rotated and varied a lot more than other slots. For the lower body, we included lunges, SSB squats, good mornings, more pause squats, and 303 tempo squats at various times for various periods. For the deadlift, we mostly used lots of rows and some stiff leg deadlifts. When it came to benching, it was dips, DB bench, and lots of close-grip partial pressing (such as pin press and board press) to develop triceps strength. All movements were rotated regularly, but when trained, were done at a fairly high intensity (say 80% +/- 5%). RPEs for these movements were typically higher (9 RPE) and volume was lower.
As we came into each peaking phase, the general intensity of all the work would rise just as you’d expect it to. But then we would also begin incorporating heavy-ish singles into his training. Some weeks it would be just x1 @8. Other weeks it would be x1 @8 and x1 @9. These were always followed by down sets afterward. We approached training in this way in order to provide a highly specific stimulus as we approached competition. Additionally, this type of training helped Laddie hone his competition skills, practice commands, and in general focus on the coming contest.
We managed volume in a way that allowed recovery on most training weeks. Other weeks, however, would be “high stress” weeks, and we would intentionally do more volume than Laddie was able to tolerate. To balance this out, we planned deload weeks after every 3-4 week long training block. Laddie’s deadlift in particular seemed sensitive to this and needed some deloading. He is a sumo deadlifter, so all the volume that I required on the deadlift pushed his hips and adductors to the limit. As such, every three weeks or so, Laddie would skip sumo deadlifts, usually replacing them with conventional deadlifts. This allowed him to continue getting in some pulling practice without continuing to tax his hips and adductors.
Particularly when training for Raw Nationals, Laddie credits much of his improved health and recovery to his daily stretching regimen. Every day (sometimes twice a day), he would stretch whatever seemed tight and sore for 15-30 minutes. Most times, his focus seemed to be on the upper body – particularly chest and shoulders. Laddie told me: “This was the first time I was able to bench press with no shoulder pain at all. [Stretching] helped me with both [recovery and avoiding injuries]. This was the first time I had no major injuries.” This is huge – especially for a masters lifter!
As was mentioned earlier, the result of Laddie’s work was a world record-setting performance at IPF Classic Worlds in Finland. Then, only a few months later, he exceeded all of those marks by 40 kg total at USAPL Raw Nationals in Scranton, Pennsylvania.
After Nationals, we changed up Laddie’s training quite extensively in an effort to keep him healthy and strong. This short restoration phase will be followed by more loading phases, but the strategy is ever-adapting. Future cycles should allow for better recovery and improved stress management so Laddie can continue to set world records for years to come. Just like with all of our lifters, Laddie’s training has been unique. The general principles are constant, but how they take shape into a training program is not.How a Masters World Champion improved his total by 40 kg in 3 months. Click To Tweet