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Training with Purpose: Programming Thoughts and Considerations for the New Year
Being that it is near the end of the year, I wanted to compile some thoughts on programming concerning a variety of subjects. T hese are things I have picked up over the years—things I have learned f rom my experiences in training, coaching, and reading. Some of these things are additions, changes, or reconsiderations of things I have previously written; however, some are completely random.

In ref erence to block periodization…
While I have written a f ew articles about this in the past, there are a f ew things I didn’t really write about or address directly in either article. T he f act is, I wasn’t really talking about a f ew important aspects. One major thing I lef t out in both articles was the f act that the purpose of using this system is to utilize concentrated loading and to take advantage of delayed and residual training effects. T his may have been brief ly mentioned in my other writings, but it wasn’t directly addressed in either article about the system. Basically, the reason f or setting up this training in blocks is to concentrate loading toward a small amount of directed and desired training effects. T his, in turn, will cause an initial decrease in these areas. Yet, af ter ceasing the concentrated loading, there will be a super-compensation, and the delayed training ef f ect will begin to be realized. If you look at the bigger picture, the residual training ef f ect (or how long a certain training ef f ect can last) needs to be considered because if the timing is of f , the gains that were realized may have diminished by the time they are of use. T his is what sets this system apart f rom standard linear periodization. Linear periodization doesn’t necessarily take into account how long these ef f ects last. It also doesn’t aim to use concentrated loads in short, condensed blocks in order to take advantage of the coupling ef f ect. Instead, there is a long, gradual transition f rom point A to point B. T his is why the area/muscles trained in the f irst part of a standard linear program may no longer be realized by the time the competition has come. Other things I did not cover in regards to this system are 1) the f ocuses of each block and 2) what to build on. Now, it doesn’t really matter which terminology you are f ollowing since the principles are all (more or less) the same. T he f irst block will f ocus on building a base of something, and this in turn will lead to a f ocus f or the second block. T his second block will then be directed by the f inal block bef ore a competition. A lot of the literature f rom authors like Verkhoshansky discuss track and f ield events that f irst need a base of maximal strength, f ollowed by explosive strength, and then reactive ability since this is what was needed in these disciplines.

However, when applying this to powerlif ting, some considerations must be made. While the sport has one directive—to display maximal strength against a signif icant external resistance, there are other things that need our f ocus in order to make this possible. Of ten, when people try to apply this system, they are taking linear periodization concepts and viewing/applying it like how each block should be designed. For example, most people will think that they should f ocus on hypertrophy in an accumulation or A block. T his is usually done because the literature talks about “morphological changes,” and f or whatever reason this gets people thinking that it is time to break out the Y-backs and Z ubaz. T he other side of the argument will be those who are concerned with their weight class and who think that “morphological changes” should be avoided. T he reality, however, is that this can be any number of things. It can be changes in f iber type, tendon and connective tissues, energy systems, etc. While hypertrophy can be f ocused on here, it doesn’t have to be the sole f ocus. In reality, this block is to provide a base, and this can involve a lot of things. Also, even if hypertrophy is a goal, this would involve a caloric surplus.

Another thing I have written in the past but would change now concerns including the competitive exercise during the blocks. Even if this is done using low volume, it should be used to practice the movement. So, while the early stages of a powerlif ting training cycle may include more volume, this may be shif ted to either specialized or general exercises. I would also include the competitive exercise in some capacity to maintain f orm. Also, I did not previously list the dif f erence between preparatory and competitive phases. T he second article I wrote about block periodization really wasn’t about the system as much as it was about f requency and specif icity. Looking back, I wouldn’t necessarily use that style of programming year-round since a larger variety of exercises may need to be used at times. T he second article mostly f ocused on outlining what would be usef ul in a short-term, competitive phase of training. During preparatory periods, a larger complex of exercises may be needed to f ocus on weak areas or raise GPP.

In ref erence to concurrent training…
Concurrent training is something that some people may think I do not advocate because the f irst f ew articles I wrote discussed block periodization. However, this is not even close to being true. I think that it has a lot of positive aspects. Also, bef ore going any f urther with this discussion, concurrent styles of training are almost a necessity f or some sports because there are too many things to f ocus on to train in a block-style. With most team sports that have multiple qualities, concurrent training is something that is always done on some level. T he consideration to be made is that there will be f ocal points during certain parts of the year. Take f ootball, f or instance. In the of f -season, many qualities need to be addressed, such as energy systems (alactic and aerobic), maximal strength, explosive strength, reactive ability, mobility, etc. Early on, this may require your athletes to f ocus on using tempo work in order to teach both correct running/movement skills and to address the aerobic base. Af ter tempo work, you may want to transition to alactic work—periods where dif f erent types of strength are a priority (which will vary depending on each position). With each phase, there will be something that should take priority (and a certain amount of volume should be used) while other aspects, on the other hand, are waved down. As the season approaches, all of this becomes secondary to perf ormance on the f ield and is used to support the main goal. T he problem here is that some coaches will still try to f ocus on certain things (such as maximal strength) during in-season periods with too high of an intensity. In f act, a Division-I strength coach earlier this season was bragging about how he trained maximally year-round, and how he had numerous players PR in-season. Unf ortunately, this particular university has also had an unusually high number of injuries this year. T heref ore, this shows a lack of f ocus on the number one priority—on-f ield perf ormance. T hese CNS-intensive stressors can’t be prioritized at the same time. As f ar as concurrent training in a sport like powerlif ting, it works well f or many lif ters and is a great system to use due to the many f actors that need f ocus. However, attention should still be paid to the technical perf ormance of the competitive lif ts. While accessory work and specialized exercises have their place, this still goes back to the one consideration I made earlier. For some lif ters, complete exclusion of the movements is a bad idea, especially if they are not technically prof icient or new to lif ting. T he other sentiment echoes my thoughts in regards to concurrent training f or a sport like f ootball. While many qualities are being trained at once, there should be prioritization and an adjustment to the volume or intensity of certain qualities as the meet gets closer. T his is a mistake many lif ters make since they either do movements f or the sake of doing them, or they train too many exercises with either too much volume or too much intensity too close to a contest.

In ref erence to exercise selection, volume, and intensity…
For this last point, I’ll use an analogy. Imagine the training process as a dish being prepared by a chef (which would be the coach or the athlete as some are self -coached). T he exercises selected are the actual ingredients, the volume is their quantity, and the intensity is the heat/temperature at which this should all be prepared. T he ingredients are what will actually make up the dish. It is pretty dif f icult to make a meal if you have no idea what ingredients are needed. In turn, the “chef ” must adhere to the quantity/measurements of the recipe because too much or too little of a certain ingredient may leave the dish tasting like shit or seem incomplete. T his also applies to the heat/temperature of the oven—too little will mean that it isn’t f ully cooked…but too much and it might burn to ruin. Now, take this back to training. Without knowing which exercises to use, it is hard to have a set plan. In turn, it is nearly impossible to logically sequence the movements of a training session (or training cycle on the larger scale). T his isn’t necessarily the actual movement but the tempo and conditions at which each exercise might be perf ormed. Without an idea of volume, there is no idea of how much to use in order to get a desired training ef f ect. In turn, if your intensity is too high, you can burn an athlete out, yet not enough may not provide enough stimulus. Now, let’s take a look at the chef example again, and let’s compare that to what happens all too of ten with team sports. Let’s say a group of chef s are working on a dish. One chef has a certain recipe in mind, and he already knows what ingredients, measurements, and temperature at which his dish should be prepared. However, one of the other chef s thinks that the amount of a certain ingredient is too low, so he dumps a couple extra cups of this in. T he third chef then thinks that they are both being too conservative in regards to the baking temperature, so he consequently puts the dish in the oven at 100 degrees higher than what was specif ied. T he dish, unf ortunately, comes out looking like shit. It’s burnt and looks like it would taste like shit too.

T his happens a lot with sports, especially at the high school level where kids are impressionable and coaches don’t have an understanding of the training process. Let’s say the f irst chef f rom the above example is in charge of the physical preparation of his team. However, one of the positional coaches decides that whatever exercise is being done isn’t enough, or he likes a dif f erent exercise better. T heref ore, he adds this on top of the athlete’s current training. Now let’s say that another positional coach decides that none of this is “hard” enough, so he decides to have an athlete add maximal ef f ort work or intensive conditioning on top of his current training program. Our athlete is now being pulled in numerous dif f erent directions at high volumes and intensities, and he will end up perf orming like shit.

Related Articles:
Block Periodization for Powerlifting: Revisited and Revised Training with Purpose: Specialized Exercises EFS Classic: A Practical Guide for Implementing Block Periodization for Powerlifting

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