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The De Lorme Method

March 7, 2011 04:02 PM

Senior RKC Dan John has an expression that he applies to football – armor building. It refers to being the right size to withstand the rigours of the sport.
Fighting is no different. Everyone has an optimal size for their body type and height and it is important that a fighter reach this quickly so that important skill and conditioning work can be done leading up to a fight.
One of the hardest elements for me dealing with amateur athletes is that they are often at the middle of their weight class and lack the discipline to cut weight well or stick to a diet. The only alternative then is to stack slabs of meat onto them as fast as possible.
I have been using Pavel’s modified De Lorme approach for some time with them with great success – the average weight gain seen in my guys has been 5kg over three months with massive gains in strength to accompany it.
The basic format laid out in Beyond Bodybuilding is similar to the Russian Ladder system in many of Pavel’s books. However, this is a weight ladder done with rungs at 50%, 75% and 100% of your 5RM. A sample ladder might look like this:
·         Deadlift – 5 x 50kg, 5 x 75kg, 5 x 100kg.
·         Rest one minute between "rungs" and up to three minutes between series.
·         When you can get five series of whatever weight you are using, add ten percent and start again.
I have found that when you add weight it is best to drop the reps to triples. If the athlete can’t manage five series of triples then stop the session when they can no longer complete their top set.
The basic format calls for three workouts per week following the familiar Heavy, Light, Medium approach. Medium is series of 50% and 75%, with the Light day being only sets at 50% - always doing the same number of reps prescribed for the heavy day.
What I quickly found in my fighters was that their training load was so high this didn’t allow them to recover. So we dropped the Medium day and instead they do just do the Heavy and Light days. The Light day takes about ten minutes to complete and is just enough to keep the body adapting without overworking it on top of hours of grappling and striking.
How to make it work:
The De Lorme approach lends itself very well to a minimalist philosophy – A.D.D. Comrades need not apply! It works best with two big exercises that don’t compete.
For example, my favourite pairs are:
  • Deadlift and Kettlebell Clean and Jerks
  • Kettlebell Front Squat and Kettlebell Clean and Press (this in particular leads to some massive improvements in upper body size)
  • We finish with abdominal work for 2-3 sets of five reps and then do Swings for conditioning.
In the last twelve months my guys have won everything they have entered including three from three (out of only five potential spots) at the recent ADCC qualifiers in Australia!
Advanced Strategies:
In Beyond Bodybuilding it is suggested that you do all series of one exercise before moving onto the second exercise. I like to super set these for one main reason –it allows us to get more work done in the same time. The research shows that the Setchinov Principle allows the athlete to handle a greater workload due to the "reflexive relaxation of body parts distant from the first one" (also called random practice by the Russians). More work in the same time gives greater workout density, one of the three pillars of progress (volume, intensity and density).
There is also a tendency in Russian sports science to "wave the load" (called variable practice by the Russians). I have been a big fan of wave loading for many years for a one-two punch for strength and hypertrophy due to the enhanced CNS recruitment you get. The higher intensity sets give strength, the lighter weight sets help to add volume without unduly taxing the body. One of the benefits of this system, very useful for fighters, is that it seems to lead to less muscle soreness.
Because of this I started using this undulating approach within the sessions. Instead of having the athlete perform his super sets with linear steps of load change I would randomise it. In a single workout we would Deadlift everything from 60kg up to 140kg! This final approach has allowed the guys to really make massive gains in strength that has led to big changes in their grappling. It allowed one to go from not even winning a match at the State BJJ titles in April 2010 to winning the National title in November! When he walked off the mat after his first match he said to me that "as soon as I grabbed the guy I knew I could do whatever I wanted to with him. He just felt weak to me". I will add that when we started this experiment he was struggling to Deadlift 60kg at 75kg bodyweight without suffering from back pain severe enough to stop him training for days after. Now, at 80kg, he has a 140kg max for sets of five. Massive changes like that in strength lead to big results on the mat!
Here is a sample wave of workouts:
Assuming a 140kg max 5RM DL and 32kgs C&Js for 5
Wave 1
DL - 100kg x 5
C&J - 16kgs x 5
DL - 140kg x 5
C&J - 32kgs x 5
DL - 120kg x 5
C&J - 24kg x 5
Wave 2
DL - 80kg x 5
C&J - 16kgs x 5
DL 100kg x 5
C&J - 24kgs x 5
DL - 120kg x 5
C&J - 32kgs x 5
Wave 3
DL - 140kg x 5
C&J - 32kgs x 5
DL - 80kgs x 5
C&J - 16kgs x 5
DL - 120kg x 5
C&J - 24kgs x 5
Wave 4
DL - 100kg x 5
C&J - 16kgs x 5
DL - 120kg x 5
C&J - 24kgs x 5
DL - 140kg x 5
C&J - 32kg x 5
The De Lorme method – a brutal and simple approach to gaining strength and muscle quickly.
Andrew Read, RKCII, is head of Dragon Door Australia ( and can be contacted at