At the end of the second installment of this series, the combination of strength principles and hypertrophy tenets was emphasized as a means of reaching one’s physical potential. In light of this, the program you see below was created. More than anything, it is a template. It is a blueprint for the reader to alter to one’s individual needs. A regimen that comprises movement patterns should correlate to one’s goals and individual makeup. The omission of some movements is not an implication that they should be ostracized altogether; the exercise selection is merely predicated on what I have found to elicit maximal physiological adaptations with minimal incurrence of damage to connective tissue. The set and rep schemes and the percentages administered to the compound movements (bench, squat, deadlift, and overhead press) have proved their worth in improving strength over the course of the six years I was involved with strength and conditioning at the NCAA Division-I level. It is paramount to note that these same principles have worked for the general population I have been exposed to since my shift to personal training.
More often than not, programs are created with no explanation for the exercise selection, exercise order, and their respective set and rep schemes. It is the intention of this article to ensure the reader comprehends the rationale of all the program’s facets and nuances.
The Deadlift, Squat, Bench Press, and Overhead Press will all be implemented first, as they are timeless barometers of strength; performing these movements later in the workout would limit one’s strength due to fatigue. The goal is to perform the above exercises without fatigue to truly measure one’s strength levels. Each compound lift requires a tremendous amount of kinesthetic awareness, and coordination between multiple if not all muscle groups (such is the case for the Deadlift), consequently lending themselves to be inherent liabilities. To avert the hazards that can occur from performing the above four movements, the lifter will perform them as 10’s to 10, and 5’s to 5. For example, the 10’s to 10 scheme demands the lifter to deadlift very light loads for 10 reps, moving up in increments of 20lbs. total (10lbs. per side), stopping between sets to take a 20-30 second rest interval: 135×10, 155×10, 175×10, 195×10, 205×10. Upon reaching your maximum weight following the above example, the rest intervals will increase up to 2 minutes. Then begin another set of 10. This process will be repeated until the lifter can no longer lift a weight for the prescribed 10 reps, with 2-minute rest intervals between all subsequent sets. (The same approach applies to 5’s to 5, except the lifter will perform only 5 reps every set.)
This is to establish technical proficiency with the lift, allowing the brain and Central Nervous System (CNS) to learn to execute the above movement patterns. At the same time, the purpose is to also strengthen corresponding muscle groups. Short rest intervals, along with the implementation of light loads will preclude heavy weights from being administered. Despite the incongruousness of light loads, and short rest intervals in the same breath as strength training, it is pivotal that everyone uses these principles in their pursuit of strength training. Furthermore, many legends of strength sports attribute their success to a gradual increase in weight and respective decrease in repetitions over the course of a training cycle.
At the advent of the fifth week, one may attempt a 10 Rep-Max (RM). A RM denotes that the last repetition of a set be the last possible that one can execute. The progression toward a 10RM in week five stands in stark contrast to the preceding four weeks’ parameters. There are specific limitations instituted to reach one’s true RM. They are best described as the opposite to any form of pre-exhaust training. Pre-exhaust training is utilized in exercises following the initial compound movement. The parameters below, specific to the first compound movements, are utilized to not only to avoid fatigue as one progresses toward their goal, but also dispel any onset of injury. This is accomplished through small incremental accretions in poundage. To test a RM, one typically begins with a bar. In the case of the squat, the subsequent guidelines should be employed when working toward a 10 RM: Barx8, 95×5, 135×3, 155×1, 185×1, 205×1, 225×1, 250×1, 275×1, 295×1, 315×10.
Movements following the primary exercise of the day are structured from the most stable to the least stable- a tenet of pre-exhaustion training. The objective is to fatigue the intended fibers, quadriceps in this example, through isolation single-joint patterns, such as leg extensions. Following the single joint movement, one will work their way through progressively unstable movements, for instance Bulgarian split squats. This method ensures that upon full exertion with the last compound movement of the day that failure is due to the submission of quadriceps fibers rather than synergistic muscles, (like glutes or hamstrings.) The above dichotomy between strength training principles and hypertrophy guidelines clarifies how vast the means can and should be for different ends.
Although some prefer the utilization of maximal effort method rep ranges, 1-3, with high frequency, it is best administered sparingly. The second installment in this series covered the benefits of training with high percentages, 100-93%, which directly correlate to the aforementioned repetitions; however, “To avoid high emotional stress, CFmm [maximum competition weight] must be included only intermittently in the training routine.” (1) Aside from risk of injury, other significant drawbacks to the maximal effort method stem from the elevated emotional levels and motivation required to lift such heavy weights: “decreased vigor, elevated anxiety and depression, sensation of fatigue in the morning hours, increased perception of effort while lifting a fixed weight, and high blood pressure at rest.” (1) The above is symptomatic of the use of CFmm weights. To avoid such negative side effects, it is best to implement TFmm (maximum training weight) on a periodical basis, with episodic 1-3RM attempts. (1) Typically, I will have athletes perform 10’s to 10 for 2 weeks, and execute a 10RM on the third week. Weeks 4 and 5 are devoted to 5’s to 5, ending the cycle on the 6th week with a 5RM attempt.
If an athlete was preparing for a competition, the seventh and eighth week would be devoted to 3RM and 1RM attempts, respectively, and a succeeding de-load week. While the primary lifts of each day are considered one’s strength movements, they are to be treated with respect for their ability to induce injury; consequently, rendering those four movements as hypertrophy work for the majority of training. The only exception would be when one attempts an intermittent 1-3RM.
10’s to 10, 5’s to 5, and the execution of a RM (higher than 3 reps) are all examples of the repeated effort method, discussed in length in installment one. Additionally, any movements should follow the tenets of the repeated effort method. Revert to the submaximal effort method only if absolutely necessary; for example, if one is facing injury or fatigue but must continue training, as the submaximal effort requires less exertion on the lifter’s behalf. “To use the repeated effort method, the athlete must lift the weight with sincere exertions to failure (maximum number of times). … With this method, only final lifts in which a maximal number of MUs are recruited are actually useful. If an athlete can lift a barbell 12 times but lifts only 10, the exercise set is worthless.” (1) Exercises succeeding the primary movement should be executed for 6 reps to roughly 25, as to distance themselves from the day’s first exercise. The institution of the repetitions named should be employed in a linear fashion to stimulate continued progress.
The following program was devised with adaptation as its prevailing tenet. Adaptation is a capability shared amongst all living organisms that enables us to modify our physiology in an effort to attain physiological prerequisites for survival in an environment. Considering this biological response, it comes as no surprise that adaptation is perceived to be a main law of training, with four pillars: overload, accommodation, specificity, and individualization. (1)
The principle of overload decrees that adaptation occurs only when the load exercised in training is above habitual level, and continues by promoting three distinct training loads: Stimulating (the quantity of the exercise load is above habitual level), Retaining (the extent of the exercise load is within the habitual level and strength levels are preserved), Detraining (the degree of the load is below habitual level and strength levels decrease). Bearing this in mind, it is critical to ensure that weights implemented during training are stimulating. For the first two weeks of the cycle, the repetitions and sets are identical; as well as weeks 3 and 4, with the only exception being week 5. When successive weeks show the same quantitative variables (i.e., the training load, and its corresponding repetition range), it is paramount to increase the load past that of the preceding week. In doing so, not only does this guarantee that adaptation will take place due to the use of stimulating loads, but also the avoidance of accommodation. The biological law of accommodation declares that decreases in the magnitude of an organism’s response to a constant stimulant will occur; therefore, one must institute systematic qualitative (the exercise) or quantitative alterations. (1)
In short, one must consistently overload the body with increasing weight on a weekly basis. Additionally, one must alter repetition and set counts. Stagnation can also be averted through the substitution of different exercises on a weekly or bi-weekly basis; however, the objective of this program is to incite physiological adaptations through quantitative measures.
The use of quantitative changes is further supported by the biological law of accommodation, which states that, “If athletes employ the same exercise with the same training load over a long period of time, performance gains decrease… This is the manifestation…. of accommodation.” (1) Accommodation, in short, means decrease in physiological responses to consistent stimuli. “Because of accommodation, it is inefficient to use… a standard training load over a long period of time. Training programs must vary.” (1) However, if one insists on the utilization of qualitative alterations, then “the employed exercises should be as close as possible to the main sport exercise…” (1) If one is to successfully use qualitative changes, analogous movement patterns should be administered. For example, if one stagnates on the barbell bench press, it would behoove the lifter to implement bilateral dumbbell bench press.
Aside from the significance of exercise order, and repetition and set schemes, exercise selection is vital in the development of strength and size. Specificity, the third pillar of adaptation, expands upon the need for a myriad of exercises, “Instead of multiple repetitions of a single exercise, many auxiliary exercises were adopted into training programs to improve the abilities specific to a given sport.” (1) This notion was acquired from the epiphany that success in the mile run was due to a number of physical factors other than simply running, such as, “… stamina… strong and flexible muscles and joints.” (1) At its base, specificity is a matter of shifting the effect of training from accessory exercises, the second and third exercises of each day, to the main sport movement. In this case, the main sport movements are the primary movements of each day. Accessory exercises are chosen based on their ability to improve the main sporting action(s). In this program the squat, deadlift, bench press, and overhead press are the chosen exercises. Therefore, on the day devoted to the deadlift, all accessory movements focus on the development of the musculature of the back, and trapezius. Accessory movements for the overhead press should strengthen the anterior, medial, and posterior heads of the deltoid, along with the triceps.
Due to the fourth pillar of adaptation, referred to as individualization, the following program is merely a recommendation; a flexible template to be modified to one’s characteristics, rather than an inflexible model to be strictly adhered to. Individualization clarifies that, “All people are different. The same exercises or training methods elicit a greater or smaller effect in various athletes. Innumerable attempts to mimic the training routines of famous athletes have proven unsuccessful. Only the general ideas underlying noteworthy training programs, not the entire training protocol, should be understood and creatively employed.” (1) Consequently, modify the succeeding template as you see fit, as we are all individuals.
1. Zatsiorksy, Vladimir M. Science and Practice of Strength Training. Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics. 1995. Pgs. 101, 101, 101, 105, 4, 4-7, 6, 6, 6-7, 8, 8, 11