If you’ve been in the strength game or training for any period of time then you will eventually learn that progress is not linear- linear in the sense that you cannot simply add 5-10 pounds to the bar every training session, every week forever. If that were the case you could linearly progress to a 600-pound Squat over the course of a few years or less. Once an athlete leaves the early beginner stage (6 months to a year depending upon the individual), their rate of progression will inevitably slow down and they will be unable to progress week-to-week- constantly hitting PRs in all of their lifts. Since this is the case, you must be more conscious about your programming and how you organize training. Below I’ve laid out 3 strategies that I use successfully with my own athletes at Nova Strength Training Systems that I hope you will find useful and apply to your own programming.
In my opinion, one of the most effective and simplified ways of having consistent, measurable progress over time is by following a phasic structure that includes Hypertrophy, General Strength, and Peaking Blocks programmed into your yearly plan. Although there’s much discussion between the validity of Daily Undulating Periodization, Block Periodization, as well as other forms of programming (which all have their merit), I personally believe that following a phasic structure allows the athlete to take a step back from training post-meet, “switch gears” and focus on building a larger foundation in anticipation for the next meet prep.
Weekly Undulation Strategies
This is a concept that I first heard from Chad Wesley Smith of Juggernaut Training Systems a few years back and I’ve since incorporated a similar version of Weekly Undulation into my own athletes' programming. By varying the intensities weekly, but continually driving the total volume an athlete performs throughout the course of a training block you are able to potentiate when to hit rep PRs, as well as when to back off the intensity to allow for a slight recovery, adaption effect. A few of my athletes, in particular, have responded extremely well to this style of training, but all have seen consistent results.
An example of Weekly Undulation during a Hypertrophy Block would be as follows:
Week 1: 4x8
Week 2: 1x8 @ RPE 7-8, followed by a -10% reduction in intensity for 4x8 back down sets.
Week 3: 5x8
Week 4 (Planned Functional Overreaching Week): 1x8 @ RPE 8-9, followed by a -10% or -15% reduction in intensity for 5-6x8 back down sets.
Week 5 (Deload Week): 4x6-8
As you can see the program calls for top sets ranging from RPE 7-8 and 8-9 every other week, this is typically when rep PRs are performed or matched. This allows the athlete to set goals, but also to continually drive training volume over the course of the training block, eventually accumulating enough training stress and fatigue to warrant a Deload Week. I will be making a more detailed, in-depth article on Weekly Undulation Strategies in the near future because I firmly believe it is one of the biggest factors to consistent progression in training.
The term “variation” is widely misused and often misunderstood as a way of “switching up training” too frequently in an effort to avoid staleness when in reality training variations should be used strategically and sparingly as ways to build upon the competition movements.
Exercise variations should closely mimic the competition-style movement in order to get the best carryover possible- for example, a good variation for the Competition Low Bar Squat w/sleeves would be a High Bar Squat or a pause variation that allows you to make the lift more difficult by putting you through a greater range of motion, while also putting you in a less than advantageous position. Although an SSB Box Squat with bands and chains may look good for Instagram, it will not have the greatest carryover effect for the Raw Powerlifter (Notice how I said “Raw Powerlifter”. Box Squats have their place in equipt training, but in my opinion have very little carryover or use to the raw Squat).
As always, if you have any questions feel free to leave them in the comment section below or on Facebook!