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The right amount of unpredictability should not be left to chance.” — A.K. Dixit & B.J. Nalebuff, Thinking Strategically
In the June ’98 issue of MILO, a relatively advanced accelerative strength training concept was inferred from a basic physical law: Since the forces acting on a mass are proportional to its acceleration, that object — regardless of weight — must be accelerated to the limits of one’s ability in order to generate maximum force. A case was then made for the equal importance of rate and magnitude of force development (even for non-ballistic exercises), and it was proposed that:
· Without exception, movement range of motion can — and should — be considered an
· Successful movement execution is determined by the ability to achieve a critical power
output (read: velocity with given resistance) in the sticking region. While this paradigm can be a powerful realization, it’s only one weapon in an athlete’s training arsenal. This article will present a means of using this concept as part of a sound strategy — specifically, by coupling accelerative techniques with more traditional heavy resistance methods in order to capitalize on their additive effects. Processes vs. Tasks If there is one self-limiting tendency among strength athletes, it’s that they micromanage their training. Primary focus is often directed toward elementary tasks (such as exercise choice, reps and weight) rather than on planning them as part of a process. On one hand, this is understandable because the need for program planning leads to the issue of periodization, which has alienated its share of coaches and athletes. Indeed, there are still too many “experts” who try to explain this concept with intricate theories and jargon rather than in terms of its underlying simplicity. When probing such people for down-to-earth information, the smokescreen response that gives them away is usually something to the effect of “well, it depends on….” The good news is that periodization principles and their application are neither complicated nor confusing. Even at the task management level of planning, however, two prevalent but misguided tendencies deflect attention away from where it should be directed: 1. Volume-based factors (e.g. reps and sets) are generally emphasized at the expense of intensitybased factors (e.g. the resistance itself and how it’s being moved). This violates the fundamental premise that the quality of both effort and recovery is to be given priority over quantity. An example of this is the accelerative aspect of force addressed in MILO 6(1), which is often neglected in favor of a RM or pump-and-burn approach. The latter may have their place, but certainly aren’t the exclusive answers. Perhaps more typically, coaches and athletes are in the habit of adjusting resistance in order to achieve a predetermined rep count rather than doing the opposite — i.e. rest-pausing between reps as needed to achieve the desired power output. As will be discussed below, these two distinct approaches can yield very different effects.
2. The ubiquitous search for magic rep schemes continues. This is really another manifestation of the rep max mentality. Every weight room has more than its share of “x no. of reps builds strength, y no. of reps builds mass” disciples. Some researchers have reinforced this mode of thought by conducting studies along these lines. Once again, it’s possible — and desirable, at least during certain workouts — to complement this approach with other methods. Even operating on the assumption that resistance changes in concert with rep count, however, this
Viru (pp. in order to exploit cumulative training effects. low/moderate volume) tasks. each 4-7 days in duration. represent only the first tier of decision-making. traditional exercises. The factors comprising a training session. Even some of the most radically advanced training methods — e. In an article entitled “Lift more. consider the Eastern European weightlifting and field event throwing programs that have been translated into English in recent decades (e. There’s a better way. Think of a periodized program as a series of summated cycles. The next question then becomes: What are the tasks to be used in constructing it? This is where our accelerative approach fits in as an ideal complement to classic heavy training methods. 344-421) cites the need to structure training cycles around a 4 ±2 week window in order to superimpose the delayed training effects of distinct targets distributed over that time. Adaptive Planning . low/moderate intensity) to intensive (high intensity. A fringe benefit is that stagnation and overtraining are prevented. Misunderstandings originate from those who manipulate numbers with no apparent rhyme or reason. where unidirectional blocks with progressively stronger effects are successively introduced — generally agree with this monthly cycle guideline. S t r a t e gi c Thi nki ng Periodization refers to planned variation or distribution of workload on a cyclic or periodic basis. or try to make it sound like there are secrets shrouded behind some complicated rhetoric. Optimal results can be realized with a finite menu of basic movements. To illustrate the role of accelerative-impulsive training. Randy Strossen demonstrated just how simple the whole idea could be. 241-299) cites the half-time of training effect involution as the rationale for a 24-28 day cyclic training structure consisting of 4-6 subcycles. are usually conducted. the following trends are seen: Multiple daily workouts. there’s absolutely no mystery to how this can be accomplished. a growing number of coaches and athletes are discovering the profound results that are possible with limited but well-planned volumes of work.g.approach is unsound by virtue of placing primary emphasis on a secondary (volume) parameter. The number of sets per exercise is high (typically 5+ in addition to warm-ups). In any case. the key considerations involve a progressive contrast of tasks in order to achieve interactive and summative effects.g. It can — and ought to — consist of basic. in order to summate their training effects. while significant. each progressing from extensive (high volume. a 3-4 week period seems to be an optimal biological window within which to organize such training: Matveyev (pp. where variation is achieved mainly through some sort of reciprocating heavy vs. Verkhoshansky’s “conjugate sequence” concept. From a hierarchical standpoint. In either case. in Michael Yessis’ former S ovi et Spor ts Revi ew. Based on the following recommendations. but that’s not the case. or the routines published in the weightlifting textbooks by Aján & Baroga or Vorobyev. This might seem to imply the need for an in-depth exercise science background (or all sorts of exotic exercises and technique variations). Zatsiorsky (pp. Even when examining programs that aren’t aimed at elite athletes. and the texts comprising Bud Charniga’s S p or ti vn y Pr es s ) . accelerative progression. Its goal is very straightforward: to exploit complementary training effects over an optimal time period. each consisting of 3-6 subcycles of approximately 1 week duration. 245-259) cites the existence of natural monthly biocycles as a rationale for constructing training cycles that are approximately 1 month in duration. using Matveyev’s principle” in the premier issue of MILO. and remarkable overall volumes of work.
It’s important to note that these athletes. and more typically 2-3 per set). have body weight limits to contend with. is to do so with a cooperative rather than competitive approach. Hence. but the advantages outweigh the drawbacks because high-threshold (and quickly fatigable) motor units are recruited at their greatest discharge frequency and synchronicity. Clean pull or Clean [M-Th] and Jerk [Tu-F]) are each performed twice per week. training schedules need not be constrained by the calendar. or in conjunction with Table 2 when performing Olympic and non-Olympic movements in one’s training (note that these examples aren’t necessarily intended to be used in preparing competitive lifters. maximum force can be developed with either method. However. Furthermore. By definition. Emphasis is directed at executing each rep with maximal effort in the freshest possible state. This scheme can be used independently. A Lesson From Game Theory What I’m going to propose now is nothing more than basic coaching strategy applied to strength training. This is where the real fun and productivity starts.· The rep schemes for Olympic-style movements tend to be very low (seldom venturing above 5. Second. except for the superheavyweights. volume and objective as the previous Clean/pull workout. focusing instead on its respective function and how to best use it as part of a sound plan. To borrow a simple football analogy. Each Jerk routine follows the same intensity. For example. the latter tactic activates a narrower corridor of motor units than the former. The basic objective on heavy days is to lift the heaviest weights achievable with good form for the designated no. at least among those who overlook two important points. So it seems that we could benefit by losing our fixation on what any training method is called (and how it looks on paper). of course. Table 1 depicts an orthodox cyclic variation distributed over 3 weeks. the same progression can be distributed over 4 weeks such that each movement is executed 3 times biweekly. your body’s adaptive mechanism — to regularly adjust or redirect its efforts. This has lead to a good deal of confusion or disillusionment with periodization models. A given work volume is typically subdivided into multiple sets of low reps. thereby preventing it from accommodating your tendencies.g. Adaptive Planning . it’s commonly assumed that most Eastern European athletes undertaking such training were administered performance-enhancing chemicals that yielded exaggerated adaptation responses. hypertrophic methods like “submaximal/repeated efforts” tend to be meticulously avoided. whereas on explosive days it is to reduce the weight ~10%. of reps (i. but even in the case of non-Olympic exercises (where the reps are a bit higher) they don’t appear to correspond with the prescribed intensities. but rather to combine the benefits of weightlifting and powerlifting movements for athletes in other sports). the objective of such training is almost universally aimed at power or “speed-strength”. which in turn seem more appropriate for sets of double-digit reps. this reciprocating heavy-explosive approach — coupled with periodic progression in intensity and volume — reaps the combined benefits of two simple means of variation. where two Olympic lifting routines (e. The objective is to manipulate your adversary — in this case. while a 4-day-per-week routine was chosen in this example as a matter of convenience.e. The critical difference in training. and compensate by accelerating the bar with good form such that each rep is executed at full power. According to Zatsiorsky. and attention is instead directed toward “maximal efforts” executed in an unfatigued state. First. effectively rest-pausing at every opportunity. a classic repetition maximum approach). Case in point: anyone who has watched a weightlifter or thrower work out knows that they execute every rep at full power. you’ve got to mix your plays and use the interior game (by running between the tackles) to set up the perimeter (passing) game. The key to success in either case is to outsmart your opponent. but are in no rush to hurry through each set despite its brevity (in order to minimize metabolic stress).
Likewise. Table 2 depicts an unorthodox cyclic variation distributed over 3 weeks. a pair of simple descending pyramids is effectively distributed over several weeks rather than concentrated within single sessions. Step back and take another look at both examples. volume and objective as the previous Clean/pull workout. and also that the no. the load/rep scheme chosen in each of these cycles illustrates a possible starting point for a long-range plan. on heavy days: Olympic lifts … a subsequent cycle starting at 2.Mon Clean pull Intensity: 85%·1RM Volume: 6 reps/set Objective: heavy Tue Jerk Wed Thu Clean Intensity: 75%·1RM Volume: 6 reps/set Objective: accelerative Clean Intensity: 77. Once again this scheme can be used independently.5%·1RM Volume: 5 reps/set Objective: accelerative Clean Intensity: 80%·1RM Volume: 4 reps/set Objective: accelerative Fri Jerk Clean pull Intensity: 87. volume and objective as the previous structural workout. This scheme can be used in conjunction with Table 2 for athletes performing Olympic and non-Olympic movements. Note that the designated resistance on accelerative days is once again ~10% below repetition maximum weight.g. where routines for structural (e. taken to its completion. Note that the supplemental routine follows the same intensity. where Clean & Jerk routines are each performed twice weekly. half) that of the previous heavy day. of reps/set is lower than (in this case. and so on non-Olympic lifts … a subsequent cycle starting at 5% greater resistance (and 2 fewer reps Adaptive Planning . Each Jerk routine follows the same intensity. and immediately accelerate out of the hole and through the sticking point as powerfully as possible with good form.g. A similar tactic can be used on upper-body movements. In each case. The total number of sets and/or exercises selected is thus a matter of individual discretion. being careful to throttle down at the top of each rep. In addition to a 10% weekly increase in resistance (and corresponding reduction in reps) on heavy days. For example. The number of sets and/or exercises selected is a matter of individual discretion. The prescribed intensities and volumes are intended for actual training sets.5%·1RM Volume: 5 reps/set Objective: heavy Jerk Jerk Clean pull Intensity: 90%·1RM Volume: 4 reps/set Objective: heavy Jerk Jerk Table 1: An orthodox cyclic variation distributed over a 3-week period. as was explained in MILO 6(1): to sit at a controlled speed into an optimal position. or in conjunction with Table 1. and do not account for warm-ups.5% greater resistance (and 1 fewer rep per set) can be deployed at the completion of the cycle outlined in Table 1. the following techniques can be used to achieve the prescribed intensities: Week 1 … reps to exhaustion Week 2 … partner-assisted reps Week 3 … rest pause The objective of accelerative squat-deadlift workouts remains essentially constant throughout. squat-deadlift) and supplemental (e. upper body) movements are each performed twice per week.
not in catchy names or numbers. The number of sets and/or exercises selected is a matter of individual discretion. there are no surprises here — just a methodical progression designed to synergize the training effects achieved with basic exercises. it has been said that anyone can complicate simple things. but not everyone can simplify complex things. This scheme can be used independently. where momentum or velocity are believed to defeat the purpose of strength training) The isolation mentality.g. upper-body) routines are each performed twice weekly. each of these mistakes can be corrected: The simplistic progressive overload mentality. look beyond the numbers and think in terms of underlying strategy. volume and objective as the previous structural workout. and do not account for warm-up sets. or in conjunction with Table 1 for athletes performing Olympic and non-Olympic movements. taken to its completion. where the chain is supposedly best strengthened by targeting each link separately In closing. Summary Perhaps the management syndrome and other common shortcomings in many training programs can be rectified with a tactical approach. where struggling to move the bar for a given rep count — or acute fatigue/exhaustion — presumably triggers the desired effect (typically accompanied by an anti-acceleration mentality.g. where a valid principle is misinterpreted to mean that training intensity must be increased in a constant linear fashion The rep-max or pump-and-burn mentality. simplicity in training can be found in fundamental principles. It’s a simple matter of appreciating and applying their interdependence. Specifically. The prescribed intensities and volumes are intended for actual training sets. Squat/Deadlift) and supplemental (e. where structural (e. As is the case with any endeavor. Mon Squat / Deadlift Intensity: 50%·1RM Volume: 20 reps/set Objective: heavy “reps to failure” Squat / Deadlift Intensity: 60%·1RM Volume: 16 reps/set Objective: heavy “assisted reps” Squat / Deadlift Intensity: 70%·1RM Volume: 12 reps/set Objective: heavy “rest pause” Tue Upper-body Wed Thu Squat / Deadlift Intensity: 65%·1RM Volume: 10 reps/set Objective: accelerative Squat / Deadlift Intensity: 70%·1RM Volume: 8 reps/set Objective: accelerative Squat / Deadlift Intensity: 75%·1RM Volume: 6 reps/set Objective: Fri Upper-body Upper-body Upper-body Upper-body Upper-body Table 2: An unorthodox cyclic variation distributed over a 3-week period. Each supplemental routine follows the same intensity.per set) can be deployed at the completion of the cycle outlined in Table 2. and in turn maximize the athlete’s abilities without exceeding Adaptive Planning . The operative concept is to optimize the trade-off between fitness and fatigue by emphasizing quality of work — and recovery — at the expense of quantity. and there isn’t any between-the-lines mystery about what they mean or how to skillfully manipulate them. In any case. with the possible exception of the (hopefully) not-so-novel accelerative tactic. These principles are straightforward. and so on Otherwise.
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