Training with Angelo Beradinelli’s

 Progressive Evolution System

By Sean Donegan

 

I spent the winter of 2003/2004 flying back and forth from Dallas to Cleveland every week for work.  Many people ask how I can possibly find time or motivation to train with that kind of schedule.  One; it doesn’t last forever and two; I see it as an opportunity to learn from other lifters.  Luckily, the other lifters this time turned out to be Angelo Berardinelli’s PES team.  I want to acknowledge the guys from PES for welcoming me into their group.

 

PES is a conjugated method program very similar to Westside.  The training days are Sunday – Speed Bench, Tuesday – Max Effort lower/posterior, Wednesday– Max Effort Bench, Saturday – Squat/Dead.  The main differences I noticed compared to Westside are no use of bands, limited use of chains, no “sitting” on the box, lower volume of assistance work, direct chest/shoulder work, no GPP, slow workout pace, rotation of very few ME movements, limited rotation of accessory movements, alternating free squatting on Squat/Dead day, and using gear in training.  The execution of the exercises is also extremely strict, especially on the main exercises.  The best way to describe the above would be to show some template weeks.

 

Week 1

Sunday – Speed Bench (I never trained with them on Sunday due to travel though I did train every Sunday)

Bench Press - 50% 8x3 straight weight alternate 3 grips*

Incline Dumbell Press – 4x10

Triceps Pushdown – 3x10

T-Bar Row – 4x10

Hammer Curl – 3x10

 

* Do not drop the bar Westside style or lower it very fast.  The bar is lowered under control, paused, and pressed explosively.

 

Tuesday – Max Effort lower/posterior

Low Box Squats Frantz Squat Bar – up to 5 rep max close stance*

Seated Calf Raise – 4x12

Dumbell Side Bends – 3x10 heavy

Stability Ball Sit Ups – 3x10 heavy

 

* When I say low, I mean LOW.  Angelo used a 6-inch box and I worked down to an 8-inch before I left.  As I emphasized earlier, stay real tight and lower the weight slowly under control.

 

Wednesday – Max Effort Bench

Comp Bench up to 60%*

Add Boards, add shirt – off 3, 2, 1, maybe off none if feeling good or near contest

Seated Military Press – 4x5-10

Lying Dumbell Extension – 3x10

Lat Pulldown – 4x10

Hammer Curl – 3x10

 

* I thought it was interesting that we always warmed up on the bench competition style for the ME movement.  60% is an educated guess based on what we did.

 

Saturday – Squat/Dead

Box Squat w/chains - 50% - ½ weight of chains at top* 8x2

Deadlift – up to 75% triple

GHR – 4x10 strict

Dumbell Side Bends – 3x12 med

Leg Raises – 3x12

 

* educated guess at bar weight adjustment for chains

 

Week 2

Sunday – Speed Bench

Bench Press - 50% - ½ weight of chains at top 8x3 straight weight alternate 3 grips*

Back Supported Dumbell Press – 3x10

Triceps Pushdown – 3x10

T-Bar Row – 4x10

Hammer Curl – 3x10

 

* Do not drop the bar Westside style or lower it very fast.  The bar is lowered under control, paused, and pressed explosively.

 

Tuesday – Max Effort lower/posterior

Suspended GM Safety Squat Bar – up to 1 rep max close stance

Seated Calf Raise – 4x12

Dumbell Side Bends – 3x10 heavy

Stability Ball Sit Ups – 3x10 heavy

 

Wednesday – Max Effort Bench

Comp Bench up to 60%

Floor press – up to max single, down set of 5-8

Seated Military Press – 4 sets up to heavy 5

Rolling Dumbell Extension – 3x10

Seated Cable Row 4x10

Hammer Curl – 3x10

 

Saturday – Squat/Dead

Comp Squat – 75% x3 with gear*

Deadlift – 60% 5x1 start with 1 block and add 1 each set until feet touch bar at 5

GHR – 4x10 strict

Dumbell Side Bends – 3x12 med

Leg Raises – 3x12

 

* Add gear as % increases.  For this weight I used briefs, belt and a loose wrap.

 

 

ME Movements

The three ME exercises we used for upper body were board presses w/ shirt, floor presses, and pin presses at 2 high heights for the same session.  The four ME exercises we used for lower body were lox box (6-9”) squat w/ Frantz squat bar, GMs with small cambered or SS bar, high box (17-18”) squat with Manta Ray, and suspended SS bar GMs.  All ME movements were done with close grip or close stance except, obviously, the shirt work.

 

I liked only having a few exercises because it made it real easy to see if I was progressing.  When I took a weight with the shirt after training this way, I sucked…bad.  I had lost all my pressing power in the middle.  This combination didn’t work well for me because there was no time under tension in the middle of the movement.  I have since changed my ME Bench exercises and am having good results.  Bad Attitude decided to keep a 3-lift rotation with a repetition day thrown in when we’re feeling beat up.  The ME Squat/Dead exercises are working better for me than doing GMs most of the time.  PES also taught me to do GMs correctly by lowering the buttocks and really stretching the ham/glute tie in.  Bad Attitude is keeping the ME Squat/Dead exercises but switching bars and adding a reverse band deadlift for a test here and there.  We are also incorporating more repetition (3-5 reps) work on ME Squat/Dead days per PES.

 

DE Movements and No Bands?!!

One of the first things my friends at PES noticed was that my eccentric or lowering phase of main exercises was very fast.  They slowed me WAY down when lowering weights on ME movements and recommended I do the same on DE day.  I knew immediately where this had come from.  It also dawned on me that this is why I was now having a problem lifting in single gear.  Thru years of lowering the weight fast on speed days, I started losing the ability to control the eccentric portion of my lifts.  All the accelerated eccentrics from band work were taking their toll.  I don’t think the guys from PES knew exactly why they dropped the bands.  I’m guessing their experience was similar.  I know the grounding affect of the bands showed up with them but I’ve never had that problem.  When I step back and look at it, the guys from Westside are much heavier and thicker than the PES team or me.  Possibly, these affects are more pronounced in lighter lifters.

 

Before you have a heart attack, I’m not saying don’t use bands (now Angelo is having a heart attack).  Joe Average has had great success using extreme bands but his team lowers the weight.  They don’t let the bands slam them as I was doing for soooo long.

 

It took me a while to adjust but I am now lowering the weight slow and under control on my DE days for squat.  On the DE bench, I change it up from slow and under control coming down to drop catch, usually about half and half in a session.  Bad Attitude still incorporates bands in our bench training, deadlift training, and plan on using them, though sparingly, in squat training.

 

Shoe Box Squatting

One of the first things I noticed about the PES equipment, besides the badass “Predator or Prey” logos, was that their boxes are rectangular, not square in shape.  They look like a long shoebox.  I’d say 8 x 24 is a good estimate.  The reason they use these boxes are so one does not flop their fat butt down on the box but has to maintain tightness.  These guys were more crisp and explosive off the box than any team I have ever seen train.  They never sat down on the hams and glutes like I was used to seeing.  Using a narrow box like this will force one to adjust their eccentric phase as covered earlier.  Bad Attitude is switching to the narrow box.

 

Combining Progressive Overload and Percent Training for the Squat

This is the “holy grail” of the PES method.  Angelo, Joe Dougherty, and Kenny Patterson have had great success with their squat after using this type of training.  Starting 8, 10, or 12 weeks out from the meet, one can set up an alternating free squat and box squat program.  The weight starts heavy on the box and decreases by a set percentage each week.  For the free squats, the weight starts light, increases by a set percentage, and the reps decrease down to a single with an opener or 90% two or three weeks out from the contest.  The last week or weeks will be around 40% off the box.  Because the free squatting is on an aggressive loading curve, and the box squatting is on a regressive loading curve, speed is maintained throughout the cycle.  I am not at liberty to share the program in its entirety.  I tried contacting PES for permission to create an .xls document similar to the circa max one floating around but as of this writing we haven’t heard anything.  Just know that one does not want to start with a terribly high percentage on the box squats and wants to gradually decrease the reps down to a single on the free squat days.  The free squat days are designed to get one used to the equipment so add in equipment as necessary up to full gear the last couple of times.  The free squat days should not be taxing.  Control reps and volume accordingly. 

 

 I know that my first competition squats after using this method were much stronger and faster than those before.  I also felt prepared to squat with gear when I stepped on the platform and didn’t have to guess about how my opener was going to feel.  The training itself is also nowhere near as tough as a circa max phase.  As a word of caution, one probably wants to do some reps on the ME days before taking weights at 80% or over on free squat day.

 

GPP and Assistance Work

PES does not believe in sled dragging, extra workouts, or raising GPP in warm-ups.  Their opinion is to save the muscles and energy for the main exercises.   The assistance work is also kept at a relatively low volume to promote recovery.  Shoulder girdle training is a priority for pressing muscle development.  Their workouts sessions take a long time by most standards.  Usually about 2 hours.  Funny thing is, these guys are ripped.  Because they are mostly lighter lifters, 220 on down, I think the restricted dieting helps keep them in good health.  I asked about conditioning a couple of times and the answer I received was, “How good of shape do you need to be in to sit around all day at a powerlifting meet?”

 

As a drug free lifter who is 100 lbs over my non-powerlifting bodyweight, I need more conditioning both in order to recover and maintain health.  My GPP suffered while I trained with PES.  I did no extra workouts to address weak points or sled dragging for conditioning.  In the past I did band good mornings, weak point training, and sled dragging in at least two extra sessions per week.  I was injured in my last meet (as of this writing) and will attribute it directly to a lack of low back conditioning.  My general health declined to the point where I dreaded going to the mall.  The walking would leave me winded and dripping with sweat.

 

Conclusion

Not every program works for every lifter.  There are positives and negatives in all programs.  While my GPP went down with PES, I did get stronger on lifts that I had not broken records on for some time.  I also recognized some new weak points.  Overall it was a great experience that I would not change.  The training with PES came at the perfect time in my career, when what I was doing stopped working.  The knowledge I gained will push up my total to Elite status.

 

Team Bad Attitude has successfully adopted many of the techniques we learned form PES.  Please check out our training logs at www.badattitudegym.com.

 

Sean Donegan 04/27/2004