• Ben Schnake

PROGRAM DESIGN AND PERIODIZATION

Updated: Oct 12, 2018


Once you have made the decision to improve your fitness, it is paramount that this is built upon a plan of action. Achievement of any sort is always accomplished behind a solid, yet adaptable, plan. Psychologically, periodization can be interpreted as your vision broken down into smaller plans of action. If your vision is to lose 40 pounds and hike to Everest base camp with your son, you don't want to start with the highest mountain. You build up to 9,000 feet, then 11,000, then a 14er, and eventually your body is ready for 17,500 feet. Each goal achieved sets up the foundation for the next, slightly more difficult, mountain to climb. Your strength, endurance, and mind grow stronger and more confident with every goal you've hit along the way.


In the strength and conditioning world periodization can be defined as an organized approach to training that progressively cycles various aspects of a training program during a specified period of time. This is your vision broken down into smaller more achievable goals! Your big vision can be called a macrocycle. In reference to time, this is usually 6 months to a years' worth of training. Breaking down the macrocycle, the mesocycle is a smaller block of training time that usually lasts, on average, one month. During this time it is important to fulfill the training prerequisites necessary to progress to the next, month-long, phase of training. Every mesocycle you should have a smaller goal related to your vision that you want to accomplish. Finally, within each mesocycle there are week-long blocks of training called microcycles. During a microcycle all the "little things" matter! Think of it this way. Doing the small things with excellence promotes you to do bigger things of more significance. Learning and showing proper form with designated movements, having intention with every repetition, hitting all the workouts, and developing a better mindset, built on a foundation that will hold up to change.


Personal training really is an art form. Applying principles of kinesiology, psychology, and nutrition science. Every individual is highly unique. Not only from a personality perspective but also from a biomechanical one as well. As a result, providing personal experience and research-based knowledge to each client is very important. Acknowledging your goals, understanding your current/previous injury status, your health and fitness level, physical competency, and self-confidence establishes not only the starting point for a program but helps fulfill its achievement in the long-run. While there certainly are general training principles that apply to everyone, there are a number of factors that affect program design and client motivation. Designing a training program that focuses on your specific needs and goals is significant. As you progress, the training stress should slowly be increased based on frequency, intensity, and type of exercise. Meaning that the stresses placed on the body in each proceeding phase should be greater than those of the previous one. This can be accomplished by increasing the loads, reps, sets, or decreasing rest periods. Also, advancing from low-skill to high-skill exercises throughout the program allows for planned progressive-overload based on a your ability and speed of adaptation. Finally, planning variations with exercise-selection will keep you motivated and enjoying the process of your fitness journey.


GETTING STARTED- ESTABLISH A FOUNDATION


As a trainer, my goal is to get your body moving through space as efficiently and pain-free as possible. Period. That is why I believe in periodization so much. Before we can even start, though, there must be a few assessments done to decide which movements will work best for you. Determining where you need more mobility and stability will go a long way towards your training success. In general most people need more range of motion in their ankles, hips, and thoracic spine. However, we are all unique and some of us require different modalities to achieve the effect that is being sought after. For example, individuals that are loose jointed or have hypermobility in their joints won't respond well to static stretching. As a matter of fact, this will more than likely cause more issues than it solves. Even if someone with loose joints requires more range of motion in their hips, this should be done with soft tissue work and more dynamic based stretches. On the other end of the spectrum are individuals who run "tight." We could get away with and solve mobility deficits with static stretching these people more. However, performing either of these approaches will only solve half the problem. For every group of muscles that are tight there are antagonist muscle groups that are too loose and need stability! If you've been performing soft tissue work on an area with little effect, remember that you must strengthen its antagonist! The classic example of this would be rolling and stretching the hell out of your hip flexors, glutes, and piriformis while neglecting strengthening the gluteus medius and maximus. Hip extension and abduction strength is essential for quality movement and a healthy lumbar spine.


My approach to this is multifaceted. More than likely, most of your chronic injuries including nagging joint pain, lack of mobility, lower back pain, or strained muscles started with loss of stability and isometric strength in the middle of your core. Your core, or what I like to refer to as your pillar, includes everything between your two ball and socket joints. Those being your hips and shoulders. In the center of your core are many very important muscles that are used to keep your lumbar spine as stable and movement-free as possible. The science of fitness is probably only in its adolescence. As a result, through its development there have been many bluntly stupid approaches to training the core. What we have learned is that the primary role of the deep core musculature is to hold the lumbar spine in a stable position for force transfer from your lower to upper extremities. Twisting (rotation), side-bending (lateral flexion), and rounding (flexion) based movement is a huge detriment to the health of the lower spine. In the golf swing, for example, you rotate thru your hips and thoracic spine. Not your lower back. As a result, exercises that resist forces that act on the spine while isometrically contracting muscles such as the internal/external obliques, transversus abdominus, multifidus, and rectus abdominus, are your best approach to training the core. Therefore, avoiding flexion-based movements on the lumbar spine has been shown to improve and maintain healthy discs.

Throughout the entirety of your program, and especially in the foundational phase, exercises such as planks, side-planks, dead-bugs, and chops will be incorporated to challenge the gravitational forces that act on the spine. Think "anti-movement" when it comes to training the core properly. And if you think for a second that any of these will run out of variety. You're wrong! There are a ton of progressions for any type of plank or side-plank alone. And don't even get me started on the variety of chopping exercises that can be thrown in based on your current fitness level. Progressing chops is not that hard and can keep you challenged forever. Trust me.


The foundational block is used to teach you the most important and primary movements needed to develop the capacity for more challenging exercises to come. Remember we don't want to start with Everest. We are looking for coordinated and controlled movement, mastering technique, improved mobility, and greater stability thru the core. The main goals of this phase are to establish fluid movement patterns, start correcting mobility deficits, especially in the ankles, hips, and thoracic spine, and strengthen the stabilization capacity of the deep core. All of this is accomplished with what is called "neuromuscular efficiency." Basically, your nervous system needs to send clear instructions to your muscular system. Performing exercises with slower tempos, where your muscles are held with more time under tension, improves this process.


Movement patterns such as squats, hinging, lunging, horizontal pulling, and horizontal pushing will be emphasized. As a general rule, however, upper body horizontal pulling, that strengthens the mid and upper back musculature, will be integrated at a ratio of 2-1, in comparison to upper horizontal pushing. Quite frankly, we all sit too much. In the process your postural muscles weaken and their oppositional groups become overactive and tight. Applying a 2-1 ratio of rowing to pressing will help expedite proper length-tension muscle relationships, while still challenging important movement patterns necessary for the development of your program. Vertical pressing movements, that challenge strength with your arms above your head, will be performed only on an individual basis. After assessments to determine their immediacy within your program. Most people compensate getting their arms above their head by moving the lumbar spine into extension or arching. Try it. Go stand with your back against a wall and reach your hands (with your arms straight) above your head and touch the wall. More than likely you had to arch your lower back to even get close. In the process, you shut off your deep core to compensate for lost range of motion in your thoracic spine and shoulders. This only exacerbates mobility and stability issues throughout the kinetic chain. Weakening the deep core, tightening the thoracic spine and shoulders even more. Overhead movements will be incorporated in a logical way, and only when proper range of motion has been established, while maintaining a tight neutral (straight) spine. In accordance with this, the rotator cuff, or 4 muscles that hold the head of the humerus (upper arm bone) in a stable position on the glenoid fossa (socket), must exhibit proper strength. The shoulder is a unique joint in regards to its extreme range of motion and need for stability. As a result, it usually takes a brunt of injuries.


Once mobility and stability issues have been addressed, movement patterns become markedly more efficient. Using a multifaceted approach to training will go a long way as to how you feel when you move. Applying the right modality of soft tissue work and stretching, strengthening your glutes with abduction and extension patterns, increasing stabilization endurance in your deep core, and building the strength of your postural muscles will alleviate a number of problems. On top of this, if your goal is weight loss and you start losing those extra pounds, while getting stronger and balancing out alignment issues thru your kinetic chain, you're going to move way more efficiently! This is called relative strength. Or your strength relative to your mass. It's one thing to lose weight. Even better is to lose weight and get stronger. However, if you lose weight, get stronger, and balance out mobility and stability issues, you're going to feel like superman in comparison to your previous self. Believe it or not, a lot of this can be done in the foundational phase. You might not lose 15 pounds. But 8-10 is definitely achievable the first month. The golden rule is consistency as you continue your program. Period. Consistency over intensity wins every time! The key is to continue the things that got you started in the first place. Keep doing your soft tissue and mobility work. Keep strengthening hip abduction and extension. Regardless of what phase you're in.


Now let's talk about the variables within the foundational phase itself. You will get the best results with a full body or upper/lower split routine. In this phase emphasis should be placed on synergy not workout volume, frequency, or maximal strength. Meaning that we are preparing the body for the phases to come. We are trying to correct a lot of mobility and stability issues during this phase. These problems need to be given attention. The best strength and conditioning programs apply what I call the "law of synergy." Meaning that everything interplays in your production. A symphony needs all the instruments to produce beautiful music. Just like you'll need a balance of everything as well. Practice patience and consistency and have the foresight to know that you are building your house for the future! Applying the right amount of mobility, core stability, strength, and conditioning to your program is what it's all about. Don't neglect any of the above or you will run into problems in the future. Synergy is all about balancing and adjusting the variables according to your body's needs.


Applying progressive overload throughout this mesocycle will get you where you want to go. We will do this in such a way. Your reps in week 1 of the foundational phase will average 12 for most strength movements. Depending on your goal they will drop week by week to 10, then 8. Along with this, your weights (loads) will increase slightly week by week. This is progressive overload in relation to weights used. Tempos will remain slow. Allowing for increased neuromuscular facilitation and efficiency. On average it will take 6-7 seconds to perform any given repetition for your exercises. For example, if performing a squat, your tempo will be 4-2-1. Go down for 4 seconds, pause at the bottom for 2, and come up with control for 1. We won't be as concerned with volume in this first phase. Although, your sets will increase slightly week by week. Again, what we want is improved communication between your nervous and muscular systems, proper technique, and moderate gains in strength.


MUSCULAR ENDURANCE


Muscular endurance can be defined as the ability to maintain submaximal muscle actions. The main goals during this block of training are to continue improving strength in relation to proper exercise technique, proprioception (body and joint awareness in space), and stabilization endurance. However, now that the neuromuscular systems are on better terms with each other, we can add a bit of volume to the program. Training volume can be equated by multiplying your number of sets, by repetitions performed, by load or weight. Even more simply, it is the number of sets done within a given workout. In order to achieve this, compound sets will now be incorporated as an added training technique. For example, an exercise that is more strength based will be performed first. Followed, without rest, by an exercise that challenges a similar movement pattern that is more proprioceptively based (challenges sensorimotor awareness). You may perform a barbell bent over row and then, without rest, continue straight to a single-arm/leg dumbbell row. The first exercise will be executed with moderate tempos such as 2-1-2 and the proceeding movement with slower tempos like 4-2-1. The results of this are two-fold. First, higher amounts of training volume can be generated resulting in hypertrophy, or an increase in the size of muscles. Second, muscle tendon strength and proprioception, or joint and body "awareness," will positively adapt. Again, we are planning for the future. With increases in tendon strength, muscle endurance, and hypertrophy we are preparing the entire muscular system for higher amounts of volume and load in the phases to come. It should be noted that muscle hypertrophy is best achieved with moderate loads and a number of other variables that will be described below. The muscle endurance phase will not substantially challenge all the factors necessary for maximal muscle building, however, this is an added benefit to strength training in general.


A full body or upper/lower split will still work best in the muscle endurance phase. We still want to remember the "law of synergy." Listen to your body and don't neglect those mobility and stability modalities that got you moving so much better. We will also continue strengthening the deep core with isometric, "anti-movement," exercises. However, each will be progressed and a greater variety of chops and planks will be integrated. Repetitions in this phase will be aligned so that the body can maintain sub maximal contractions. Therefore, we want them a bit higher, even if we are performing compound sets. For most of you we will start with 12-15 and drop to 10-12 as the phase progresses. Rest periods will be shorter. Starting at 90 seconds and decreasing to 30 seconds. Increasingly challenging endurance by the last week.


HYPERTROPHY


Muscle hypertrophy can be defined as an enlargement in cross-sectional area of skeletal muscle. There are two basic types of hypertrophy, contractile hypertrophy and non-contractile hypertrophy (i.e. sarcoplasmic hypertrophy). Contractile hypertrophy is usually manifested by adding sarcomeres, or the basic units of structural muscle tissue, in extra lines parallel to each other. According to Brad Schoenfeld, who is widely accepted as one of the world's foremost authority's on this subject, these added, parallel, sarcomere lines are the primary hypertrophic response in those who lift weights. In contrast, sarcoplasmic hypertrophy is an increase in non-contractile units within a muscle like collagen, water, and glycogen. Glycogen is simply stored carbohydrate. Although sarcoplasmic hypertrophy might seem non-functional, this may not be true. It is thought that hydration can cause cell growth because the extra fluid is perceived as a threat against cellular integrity. Thus, the cells respond by adding structure and growing. Resulting in subsequent increases in contractile hypertrophy.


All of this info is fine and dandy but what is more important is to understand how resistance training will elicit such a response. The three main pathways that this occurs are mechanical tension, muscle damage, and metabolic stress. Mechanical tension is the amount of tension generated by a muscle in response to a stimulus such as weight lifting. Metabolic stress is the buildup of various metabolites such as lactate, hydrogen ions, and creatine. When we resistance train properly, we actually damage the myofibers just enough, and not too much, to elicit an acute inflammatory response. This in-turn mediates the hypertrophic response and causes the release of growth factors like IGF-1 and testosterone which are known to help build muscle. This is just a short summary of what has been scientifically shown to cause muscles to grow!


Now that we know a little about the processes of muscle building let's talk about the hypertrophy phase itself. If you were on a full-body routine in the foundational and muscle endurance phases, it is best to switch to a split routine such as upper/lower or upper push/upper pull/lower. This will allow greater training frequency which has also been shown to aid in muscle growth. Repetition ranges will average 6-12 and rest periods will last 60-90 seconds. Also, training intensity and load will vary between 65 and 85% of 1RM. Although increasing training volume has been shown to illicit muscle growth, this should be done logically. I have found it best to modulate volume within each microcycle. On a weekly basis. For example, volume in weeks 1 and 3 will be high and very high and in weeks 2 and 4 it will be medium and low. Enabling the muscular system to adapt in a progressive way to the number of sets performed and allow a "deload" week before the next phase. Remember, training volume basically means the number of sets performed within each workout and is dependent on the goal of each phase. Muscle gains have been shown to be greatest with rep ranges of 6-12 and intensities between 65 and 85%. Therefore, just count your number of sets within each workout and you'll get the desired volume for each workout in that phase. If you performed 24 total sets in week 1, week 2 should drop to about 18, week 3 should be the highest and therefore about 30, and week 4 the lowest, or around 15.


It should also be noted that hypertrophy has been correlated with the eccentric portion of repetitions, lengthening of tissue under load, time under tension, the mind-muscle connection (you now know this is called neuromuscular efficiency), blood circulation in muscle (the pump!), and training muscle groups at a variety of angles. These variables can usually be easily adjusted to fulfill as much of a hypertrophic response as possible. Using the dumbbell bench press as an example. The eccentric, lowering portion, of the movement should be executed slowly for 3-5 seconds. Pausing under tension with the weight for 1-2 seconds and then concentrically pressing up for a count of 1. This gives extra attention to the eccentric part of the exercise, lengthening the tissue under load, and challenges it with a greater time under tension. All done in one movement.


Warranting that joints and muscles are relatively healthy, incorporating a variety of exercises during this phase is ideal and challenges the tissue from novel angles and force vectors. For example, on upper push day, exercise selection should be increased to include barbell pressing, dumbbell pressing at a different angle, and horizontal adduction, or flyes, at yet another angle. Added novelty can be thrown in by simply changing your tool. In general, make sure to include as many tools as possible during your training. However, this should especially be done in the hypertrophy phase. Although I value simplicity when it comes to training and getting by with less, this is the phase to throw in more tools. Use barbells, dumbbells, cables, bodyweight, kettlebells, machines, and TRX in your training arsenal. How then, you might ask, could you keep your training simple? Let me tell you.


Let's again use upper push day as an example. Start with flat barbell bench press as your heavier movement for the day. Work in rep ranges around 6-8 and loads around 80-85%. Use moderate to fast tempos here. Incorporate what Dr. Fred Hatfield popularized in the 1980s known as "compensatory acceleration." Lower the bar for 2 seconds and without pausing explode up as fast as possible with control. If you have completed the first two phases of training your body will be ready for such power. Power can be defined as force over time. This will also prepare your body for the maximal strength phase coming next. After this, move onto incline dumbbell bench press. Work in rep ranges of 8-10, loads of 70-80%, and moderate to slow tempos. You have now changed your angle, tool, and tempo in one movement. Finish with decline cable flyes compound setted with push-ups. Perform the flyes with slow tempo, pausing under length and load, and do 12 reps. The push-ups should be done with strict form and a moderate tempo. Again, you have changed your angle, tools, tempo, and added a compound set for extra intensity. Performing two exercises, back-to-back, without rest, will also elicit more circulation to your muscles. If you are after a pump in your workout, incorporate supersets and compound sets! Note, the difference between compound sets and supersets. Compound sets are two movements done back-to-back without rest for the same muscle group. While supersets are done for oppositional movement patterns and muscle groups. Since you now know to change volume on a weekly basis you can adjust your sets accordingly.


MAXIMUM STRENGTH

You have now completed 3/5 of a macrocycle, 3 mesocycles, and 12 microcycle of training. Pretty cool huh? Next comes the maximal strength phase. Depending on your goal, I like to divide this block up into base strength and max strength components. If you aren't interested in testing your maximum strength all that much then base strength will be emphasized more. Sensorimotor awareness, tendon strength, core endurance and stability, and hypertrophy have all been challenged and positively adapted. Rest assured, your nervous and muscular systems, tendons, core, and joints are ready for higher loads. It is time to test your grit and challenge your strength!


Placing higher loads on the tissues of the body has been shown to recruit a greater number of motor units, increase rate of force production (power), and improve motor unit synchronization. Provided your form is perfect. Since we are always looking to the future when it comes to periodization and our training, it is no coincidence this block is placed right before the power phase. For maximal strength training has also been proven to help accentuate the benefits of power training. While training with light and moderate loads in the muscle endurance and hypertrophy blocks recruited more slow-twitch (type I) muscle fiber types, training heavy in the strength block will recruit more fast-twitch (type II) fiber types. Fast-twitch muscle fibers are used for short-duration and high intensity force production. They fatigue fast yet provide a high level of energy. These are the same fiber types that need to be developed for the power phase.


Maximum strength represents the greatest amount of force that can be generated against resistance, regardless of the amount of time it takes. This is accomplished with heavier loads (>80%) and longer rest periods. From a physiological standpoint, training heavy with longer rest periods increases the amount of circulating testosterone, while using moderate loads, such as in the hypertrophy phase, can lead to greater increases in growth hormones (Willardson, 2008). In accordance with this, sequencing of training has a complimentary effect. The increases in cross-sectional area of muscle tissue resulting from the hypertrophy phase will greater promote strength gains in this phase. Also, the neural improvements from maximal strength training will accentuate the hypertrophic response (Haff G. H., 2012). If you want to make gains, then periodize and plan ahead!


Let's now break down this phase into base and max strength components. Again, dependent on your goal. If you're not interested in challenging a near maximum lift on any of the large, primary, movements, such as squatting, hinging, vertical pressing and pulling, and horizontal pushing, then I'd stick with the base strength side where reps will range from 3-6 and loads will be between (85-93%), respectively. Again, this is largely dependent on your level of fitness. For many individuals training at intensities above 85% will be contraindicated due to injury history, fitness level, and goals. However, for those with more experience weight training, good-standing in regards to injury history, and goals specific to the task, training with loads greater than 85% is warranted and fun!


If you are sticking with base strength for any of the above reasons then this will still be a month mesocycle of training. An upper/lower split or full-body routine will work best based on your schedule and goals. At this point in your training, exercise selection is paramount to determine which lifts to train heavy with. Choose only 1-2 per workout to challenge. For example, let's say you're on an upper/lower split and it's leg day. You will have 2 separate lower body training days during each week. The first will challenge bilateral hinging or deadlifting strength and the second bilateral squatting or pushing strength. Reps will decrease slightly each week and you will follow the same volume modulations used in the preceding hypertrophy phase. However, since loads are so high this phase, the number of sets per workout will be less. Usually by about 20-30%. In week 1 you will work with loads around 85% and reps will average 6 per set. In week 2 loads will increase to 87% as reps drop to average 5 per set. Week 3 will decrease to 4 reps and loads will average 90%. Finally, week 4 will challenge 3 reps and 93% intensity. Pretty simple rep scheme (6, 5, 4, 3). Using the principle of progressive overload during each microcycle (week), means that the loads will continue to increase slightly week by week.


For those who want to challenge maximal strength I would still start with 6 reps and 85% intensity. However, loads will increase more each week. Building up to maximal testing in weeks 3 and 4. For example, week 1 would average 6 reps. Week 2, 4 reps. Week 3, 2-3 reps and week 4 you would test your max. Remember, this is where progressive overload, as it pertains to load, really comes into play. Don't increase loads so much that form breaks and always follow the rule of technical failure. Meaning that you can test a rep or set to failure but not beyond technique. Below is a video of me attempting 515 on a sumo deadlift. I stopped even though my form was still set (aside from my extended neck, ha!). Only you can feel your body and what it is capable of. This only comes from experience in the gym and good neuromuscular-facilitation.


POWER


Power can be defined as force divided by time, rate of force production, or force times velocity. With gains in stabilization endurance, tendon strength, core stability, hypertrophy, and maximal strength, you are now primed to use these adaptations. Remember that maximal strength training or training with maximal intensity increases the recruitment of motor units, rate of force production (even if it takes longer to finish the lift), and motor unit synchronization. Strength really is your foundation for power. This form of training will use the adaptations of stabilization and strength acquired in the previous phases and apply them with more realistic speeds and forces that the body will encounter in sports and life. Although, moving forward into this phase is largely goal dependent I believe it is a necessity to express fast rates of force against resistance. Whether you need to sprint and help a friend, jump over a curb, react to a moving car, or throw branches cleaning up the back yard, you are utilizing power. You may not want to become an olympic gymnast, however, in life there will be times when you'll need to use strength fast. With many of my clients I'll call this phase athletic development or weekend warrior. In any case, this is the mesocycle in which you will use everything we have developed.


Any increase in force or velocity will produce an increase in power. Therefore, by either adding load, as in progressive strength training, or the speed with which a load is moved, power will go up. The combined effect is a better rate of force production for daily activities or sporting events. Let's go a little more in depth as to the muscular and biomechanical methods which help accentuate power production. It is important to understand what is called the stretch-shortening cycle (SSC). When you descend into a squat, you stretch the muscles in your legs. The hamstrings, glutes, and quads all lengthen like a rubber band. The SSC describes an eccentric phase, or stretch, followed by an isometric transitional period (amortization phase), leading into an explosive concentric action. The SSC is synonymous with plyometrics, also known as jump-training.

Really plyometrics can be thought of as any training modality that challenges the efficiency of the SSC. Examples include jump training, bounding, agility, sprinting, or the windup in throwing.


Although you do create a pre-stretch in the descent of a squat. Our muscles don't hold energy with length as effectively as a rubber band or other tools like a bow and arrow. In archery, a bower can pull back and hold the stretched weapon for quite some time while still releasing all of the stored energy. The muscular system, however, as a much lower threshold for storing and holding potential energy. This is where the amortization phase comes into play. Energy or force output is directly correlated with the least amount of time spent in the amortization phase as possible. In other words, the less time spent between eccentric and concentric muscle actions and the higher force output there will be. This can be seen in jump squats, plyometric push ups, medicine ball throws, and many other exercises. This is why it is so important to understand the SSC. Especially as it relates to strength.


Remember me mentioning compensatory acceleration? There are many ways to express power. For it can be utilized in reference to maximal strength training which prepares the body for faster and lighter expressions of force production. Compensatory acceleration takes advantage of the amortization and concentric phases of muscle action. The only difference is that this technique uses heavier loads. Minimize the amortization phase and explode up with the bar!


Another form of power training that has grown in popularity over the last 30 years is the potentiation effect. More specifically post-activation potentiation. I've been fascinated with this ever since I heard of Canadian olympic sprinter Ben Johnson squatting 600 pounds for 3 reps 10 minutes prior to his record setting 9.79 seconds in the 100 meter sprint. Although he was later stripped of his medal due to testing positive for performance enhancers. None the less, this form of training has peaked my interest and that of many other strength coaches.


Potentiation can be referred to as the increase in strength of nerve impulses along pathways that have been used previously, either short-term or long-term. Put another way, you literally enhance muscular performance characteristics based on their contractile history. Basically heavy loading prior to explosive activities induces a high degree of CNS stimulation which results in greater motor unit recruitment. There are a few keys here to get such an effect. First, the movements must be similar. Second, the load of the heavy lifting must be around 90-95% of 1RM. Lastly, the timing must be such that you don't go straight to the explosive movement or event and not too long that the effect diminishes. You must wait just long enough to recover from the heavy lift and thus improve subsequent explosive performance but not too long that the nervous system loses its stimulation! I've personally used this technique prior to a 500 meter rowing contest with rather exceptional results. Deadlifting 455 for 3 reps 5 minutes before the competition and then rowing the 500 meters in 1 minute 18 seconds. At the time this was the 11th best in the world in such an event. I personally believe this form of power training has merit. Although it has been hard to prove with science. Yet, strength and conditioning coaches do use it quite a bit. Calling it "complex" or "contrast" training. An example would be performing a back squat at 93% 1RM for 3 reps and pairing it with squat jumps done right after.


As you can now tell, there are many ways to train for power. Due to the complexity, high motor unit recruitment, and multi-joint movements involved, it is wise to implement power development early in a training session. Usually right after a thorough warm-up. If your goal is not related to a specific sporting event there is no need to get too complicated in this phase. Start with some simple box jumps and always focus on a soft landing. Do 2 sets of 4-6 reps jumping forward onto a box that allows you to finish in a half-squat position with your shoulders over your knees, over your toes. Heels down and chest up. Wait 2-3 days and then do the same thing. Except this time you will jump laterally to the side. You are now alternating between linear and lateral plyometrics. There are a multitude of ways to progress these movements. For now just focus on a soft landing. Once this is established, try landing and sticking it for a count of 2 seconds, on 1 leg. After you can do this with a solid, stable, landing. Increase the height of the box. You could do this on Mondays and Thursdays or Tuesdays and Fridays.


For all your other workouts during this phase you will focus on the potentiation effect. Implement post-activation potentiation into your strength workouts for 1 month. I prefer a full body split during this mesocycle. For example, start with heavy back squats and do sets of 3-5 reps at about 90% of 1RM. Go straight to a similar explosive movement like jumps squats or broad jumps for sets of 4-6 reps. Rest for 2-3 minutes and repeat for 3 sets. You can still follow the same volume scheme, week by week, mentioned earlier. Next, go to barbell bent over rows and do 4-6 reps with a heavy weight. Go straight to medicine ball slams, no heavier than 12 pounds, and do 6-8 reps. Finish with barbell bench press and do 3-5 reps around 90% 1RM. Go straight to plyometric push-ups done off the bench or the floor. Focus on getting space between your extended arms and the floor or bench. Do 4-6 reps here. That will be plenty of focus on power development. After this you could finish with walking dumbbell lunges supersetted with pull-ups. Focusing on base levels of strength for each exercise, or around 6-8 reps for each movement.


You have now competed a full macrocycle of training. Taking about 5 months. I hope you will notice and feel the importance of building from one phase to the next. Many people ask me what to do after they have finished the last block. I say go on a vacation and relax. If that's not for you, then go test out your gains by hiking a new mountain or exploring a unique city. In any case, it will be best to take 1-2 weeks off and let the body recover. You won't lose any of the strength, muscle, or athleticism you worked so hard for and your body will thank you. I promise. Come back to the gym feeling refreshed and start back over. Either in the foundational or muscle endurance phase. The best part about starting again is seeing how far you have come. Your numbers will be so much higher than they were previously, which will only build your confidence more. I STRONGLY believe that you influence the people in your life. Encourage them to workout with you. Show them what you have learned. We are all in this together. Give back to others what you have built here. It will only reward you that much more. This really is the last part of your mission. Teach and encourage those around you to do the same.