Lessons & Inspiration from THE Barbarian Brothers.
I know that some people will dismiss this information.
Others are simply not ready for it. They don't have an open mind yet.
For me, with my decades of experience, I have seen a lot and gone through a lot. This gives me a massive pool of knowledge and experience to pull from. So if you're ready, read on. Heck, even if you're not ready, jump in and read on......
The weight room at my high school has been PACKED to the gills since Summer Strength & Conditioning has began. This past year was a wild ride thanks to covid. The schools were open and closed. My restrictions in the weight room were all over the place. I had a knee surgery with a blood clot aftermath and was coaching on crutches for a month. It's been crazy to put things lightly.
At my high school, with these large groups right now in the Summer, there is not enough space, not enough equipment and not enough WORK happening. Yes, I said it. WORK. So many Coaches out there are against the WORK. They think every athlete needs perfect rest periods, perfect this, perfect that.
Well, when it comes to the unpredictability of competition, NOTHING perfect happens. EVER.
Now, I am humbly stating that I a well versed Coach. From bodybuilding methods to Russian training methods to 26 years of coaching with my boots on the ground and lifting weights since 1989. I've studied, experienced and seen a LOT. I've seen what works in theory vs what works in competition. I've seen how the most respected sports scientists write / talk about methods and yet those methods don't produce in the real world.
So guess what!?
Sometimes, you gotta open up the arsenal of ideas to get that WORK done.
I recall reading and hearing about The Barbarian Brothers NOT counting sets. I read about them in the late 80s. Instead of counting sets and reps, The Barbarian Brothers trained for time on each exercise. They trained to see who could outwork the other guy. They pushed THROUGH "normal" limits and instead decided that the limits were self imposed, starting in your mind.
As I always say, The Mind Drives the Body.
Here's what I heard from the early days of The Barbarian Brothers:
2 Hours of Squats for MAX Work.
1 Hour of Benching for MAX Work.
The 10 x 10 German Volume Training you've read about was nothing for The Barbarian Brothers. 10 x 10 was a JOKE for these guys.
When I read about this, I believe it was originally from an article where Muscle & Fitness interviewed Mr. Big, Vic Richards. Vic said that as a teenager, his initial mentorship was from The Barbarian Brothers. Hence, this was a massive influence on his mindset and attitude.
Below is Vic as a teenager.
Below is Vic DB pressing with The Barbarian Brothers spotting him. Looks like he is pressing the 140s, possibly 150s. At my best, I was DB benching the 130s for sets of 5 and it reminds me that we can get STRONG from any tool. So many high school kids I train are against the dumbbells, they struggle to understand that the dumbbells need to be pushed.
Bench the 100s for 10 and guess what? You ARE STRONG.
Ironically, so many Coaches today are bashing WORK. They are bashing sweating and being tired from a training session.
Now, fatigue is NOT the goal of a training session. I want athletes feeling BETTER when they are done training, NOT worse. But, athletes DO need to get pushed. If there is no challenge, there is NO change.
If you're NOT working, you're NOT getting Stronger, Faster, Bigger, Tougher and All Around BETTER PREPARED. If you want to prepare for sport, there needs to be a challenge.
Perfection does NOT prepare athletes for the rigors of competition.
Now, onto training the large groups. How large am I talking? My first week I must have had 100 kids in the weight room! With just me Coaching. Yes, 100 kids!
My buddy Paul Kolody (listen to our podcast here) reminded me to split up the groups to open up the equipment / exercise options. So, after a prep phase of about 15 minutes that goes from movement to calisthenics, then segues into jump training and acceleration / power work, we hit the weight room.
Groups are given 2, maybe 3 exercises to work on for about 15 minutes.
I have 1 group for incoming freshman.
Then we've got the experienced lifters and this might be a blend of Football players, girls from Soccer & Basketball and then boy's Basketball.
The freshman get 1 program. The athletes who are experienced in training with me get another program and then there are modifications given to free up equipment.
A) Trap DL or Goblet Squat
B) Jump (Multiple Variations)
C) DB / BB Bench (Possibly Push Ups for some)
The other group might be on:
A) DB Clean & Press / KB Clean & Press
B) Pull Ups or Rows (Bodyweight or Kettlebells)
C) Skater Jumps / Squat Jumps
15 minutes each and switch. If more time allows, it is 20 minutes each.
Sneak in band pulls and various abs throughout. Work together for spotting, changing weights and coaching one another.
Hill Sprints at the end. Various Starting Positions always.
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My earliest group of the day has ONLY 30 minutes to train with me so after the prep phase, they get 3 lifts and attack for 20 minutes.
Think 'STRONGEST SHALL SURVIVE' programming from Bill Starr!
Tell me you know STAR MANN!?!? 😮
While the S&C Perfection Police will yell at how wrong this is, how imperfect this is, well, so is training 45, 60, 80 or MORE athletes at once.
It is what it is, so rather than cry, I choose to MAKE IT WORK.
So, with Sports being "imperfect" and unpredictable, we make it WORK. We find a WAY.
I learn from ALL, whether it's The Barbarian Brothers, Zatsiorsky or Louie Simmons, I am always learning.
Keep the mind OPEN 🙂
For Coaches who want to keep learning and take your coaching & business to the next level, dig into The SSPC Certification.
Frank DiMeo says
Great stuff, Zach, as always! Thanks!
Zach Even - Esh says
Peter Bolsius says
100 athletes that’s wild!! I’ve done 30 men in a similar fashion. Great article.
Zach Even - Esh says
It’s insane in a good way, After all the covid restrictions, to finally getting big numbers training again, I have to get creative with HOW we train to make sure these kids stay focused!
Jim Davis says
I had the (good?) fortune to run into the Barbarians times i the mid-70s, when I was training at Gold’s in Santa Monica, on 2d Street. They were funny, obscene, and almost absurdly intelligent. They took an aspiring young BBer under their wings, and aside from occasionally making me feel like the iron was going to crush me, really helped me get my training under control. I really enjoyed them. It was a shame my work schedule didn’t let me stay working with them. but I did run into them from time to time.
Zach Even - Esh says
Jim, that must have been amazing! My friend, Coach Buxton, wrestled with them at The U of Rhode Island in the early 70s I believe.
He said they were very big back then as well.
I’d love to hear more about the workouts you guys went through. It must have been Intense!