Chad Wesley Smith founded Juggernaut after becoming a national champion as a collegiate shot-putter. He opened his own Strength and Conditioning facility two months after finishing college, mostly training track and field athletes and football players. He was a North American champion Strongman, and is currently a national record holder in powerlifting. He’s currently in Sydney for the GPA World Powerlifting Championships.
He bought along Brandon Lilly and Dr Mike Israetel. Brandon Lilly is a powerlifter who has totaled Elite both in multi-ply and raw. He originally trained at the famous Westside Barbell, under Louie Simmons. He now competes raw; his raw total of 2204 is the 16th highest total of all time. Brandon suffered a catastrophic injury at a meet in January of this year. His recovery from being so badly hurt to competing at Worlds in November has been nothing short of amazing. Throughout the day he went out of his way to make sure we got as much out of the seminar as possible.
The third presenter was Dr. Mike Israetel. Dr. Mike is a professor of Exercise Science at the University of Central Missouri. I hadn’t read any of his articles before I went to the seminar, so I didn’t know much about him apart from knowing that he was Juggernaut’s go-to nutrition guy.
The day itself was about a half/half split between theory and practical. We started at 9PM, and dived right into a lecture on periodization. Chad and Brandon talked about creating a training program and proper periodization. Brandon made an excellent point about where steady, incremental increases will take you over time. This is something I have come to be a huge believer in, and I think it’s something that people mess up a lot. Guys get greedy with their weights, and try and jump up too fast. Their ego gets in the way of smart programming and they go for 20kg increases on their work sets. Instead of building a foundation of strength, they just want to hit the heaviest possible number that day, regardless of if that’s in their best interest or not.
There was also an interesting discussion about accessory work; in particular how different accessory movements might be better for different lifters, or even at different points during their training. I’ve seen a lot of arguments about how X is the best squat accessory, or Y is the best movement for the deadlift, but if the hamstrings are the weak point in a lifter’s deadlift then the “best” accessory for that lift is going to be something that targets the hamstrings.
After a few hours of theory, we moved onto squatting. Instead of trying to ‘teach’ a group of powerlifters how to squat, they merely got to start lifting, adding weight to the bar each set. They then came around and offered individual coaching to us. It was certainly an experience having someone of the caliber of Chad Wesley Smith correcting your squat. He had me change my head position on my low bar squat. I had been following Rip’s advice of looking down, which Chad didn’t like. The new position did feel better, but it might take some getting used to. They encouraged us to go for PRs if we were up to it, so despite feeling fairly beat up from squatting two days before, I hit 190×1.
We broke for lunch, and then while that was settling Dr. Mike gave his nutrition lecture (he has a similar lecture here). This largely centered around total calories and macronutrient breakdown, rather than a food-sources approach (like Paleo or raw vegan would). One of the big things I took away from it was I probably need to track my macros better if I really want to dial in my nutrition. At the moment the only thing I track is how many grams of protein I have per day. I definitely think most people don’t need to go overboard with counting calories/marcos, and some people end up with a very unhealthy relationship with food from too much counting, however it might be worth me trying it out for a while.
After that we covered the other two lifts. Bench is probably my weakest lift, since I spent a substantial amount of time solely overhead pressing, so it was could to have the chance to do it in front of world-class coaches. Chad fixed my foot drive, which I knew I didn’t do very well. He showed me that I wasn’t using my lats at all during my bench, which was news to me. Once I got them working my bench did feel much better, though it was hard to hit heavy reps whilst also remembering my foot drive and turning on my lats. I took 120×5 and then called it a day.
Deadlift didn’t end up being much of a change of technique for me. Anna has recently transitioned from conventional deadlift to sumo, and it hasn’t been feeling as solid as it could be. Brandon volunteered to have a look at it, and spent the next half an hour sitting next to her platform helping her out, also offering to help out at Worlds. It was another example of what a nice guy he is. At one stage Anna had Brandon coaching her from one side of the platform and Chad on the other. Since Anna is competing this Friday, we kept her weights pretty light. Brandon had her work up to an easy double at 115kg, which came up like it was half that weight.It was 6PM by this stage, and I was starting to feel it. I hit 210×2 and then pulled the slowest 220 of all time before calling it quits.
We finished off the day with a Q&A. Throughout the seminar all of the presentations were less like lectures and more like conversations. They were happy for people to interject and steer the topic one way or another. I asked Chad as many questions as I could on the topic of athletic development, and got some really interesting answers. I was surprised he was so dismissive of the deadlift for athletes, preferring to rely on the squat and O lifts. He also laid out the progression for the off-season, and how to tie in the multiple stressors of lifting weights, plyometrics, and sports practice (which is an in-depth topic, and probably worth its own article).
Lastly I’ll mention the talk Brandon Lilly gave on mindset and motivation. I wouldn’t be able to do his words justice, but I will say that they both moved me, and forced me to take a look at my own motivations. I’ve met some pretty inspirational people in my life, from Olympic athletes to a man whose actions saving the lives of his teammates won him the Victoria Cross, even though it cost him his life. So when I feel inspired by a speech, that’s not something that I take lightly. He talked about the importance of passion, and having love for what you do. If you picture something as a chore, then it becomes a chore. ‘Oh, I have to go workout today, because I don’t want to get fat.’ But if you change your perception of things, it can become ‘I get to go train today, and I’m going to be stronger because of it.’ That might sound trite, but it’s something I believe is true, and that sort of mindset has helped me a lot in life.
Juggernaut put up a tremendous amount of this material for free online, so check out their articles and videos, if you’re not following them already. Out of all the seminars and workshops I’ve been to, Juggernaut’s really stands out in my mind. It was an outstanding experience, and I’m just glad that I had the opportunity to attend.