Strength Basics

Getting stronger, fitter, and healthier by sticking to the basics. It's not rocket science, it's doing the simple stuff the right way. Strength-Basics updates every Monday, plus extra posts during the week.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Another Option for Undulating Periodization

Undulating Periodization is basically a fancy way of saying "vary the sets, reps, and intensity of your training to maximize your results." It's a great way to deal with plateaus, and it's a great way to train when you're older and it's hard to sustain maximum effort for a long period of time.


One way to use undulating periodization is to vary three intensity/volume schemes:

- heavy (such as 4 x 6, 5 x 5, or 3 x 5)

- light (such as 3 x 12, 2 x 15, or 2 x 20)

- medium (such as 3 x 8 or 3 x 10)


This variation can be workout by workout (Monday is heavy, Wednesday light, Friday medium) or week by week (Week 1 is heavy, Week 2 is light, Week 3 is medium, and then start back over on week 4).

Recently T-Nation published an article called "Tapping Your Full Growth Potential" that uses a slight variation of this - basically heavy/light and heavy/medium instead of evenly mixing heavy, medium, and light days. It puts a priority on strength/heavy lifting while still supplementing them with lighter days for strength-endurance, more muscular hypertrophy, and effectively proving a deload.

This idea isn't new - a great example of it is Alwyn Cosgrove's Holiday Program.

If you find the breaks between heavy weeks or heavy days is too long, this heavy/medium/heavy/light approach might be for you.

Related Posts:

Undulating Peridization

Periodization in General

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

What I Include in Every Routine

I include some things in all of my workouts.

Some Warming Up - Even for the most time-crunched workout, I include some warming up. These might be mobility drills, using a cardio machine, starting off with lighter weights and lower resistance. None of my routines lack for some kind of warmup.

Some Strength Training - There is always something there with the aim of getting stronger, or maintaining strength. Something in the 5-8 rep range, sometimes in the 1-3 range, in terms of intensity. Something that requires a bit of strain, and which is aimed at getting you more muscular strength (increasing your 1 rep max, for example) or keeping your strength intact. The goal isn't always to progress the weights, but to at least ensure that they aren't going down more than necessary to achieve some other goal.

Some Bodybuilding - Some training in the 2-5 sets of 10-20 rep ranges. A lot of 3 sets of 10, or 3 of 20, or something of that sort. The goal is to get some muscle building, regardless of whether it's myofibrillar hypertrophy (building up muscle fibers) or sarcoplasmic hypertrophy (building up the muscle's fuel stores). Both are fine. One of the Biomarkers of long lifespan is more muscle - so I aim to put some on with the workout as a complement to strength.

Some Cardio - Something to get the heart rate up, in order to improve the cardiovascular system and energy reserves. Time depending, this may be a circuit or complex, HICT, or steady-state cardio.

Some Ab Work - I always put a little bit of direct ab work into my routines. Usually this is anti-rotation exercises such as the Pallof Press, but it might vary depending on what else is in the routine. There is always a little bit included.

Some rehab - Injuries and weaknesses are always present, so I like to address them where I can. A little bit can go a long way, but I try to stick at least one movement in that addresses some kind of weak point or previous injury. External rotations, band pull aparts, hip band walks, single-leg bridges, extra mobility drills, etc. are all included in here. What actually gets used depends on the weak points or injuries of the trainee.

Some fun - A workout shouldn't suck, so I include something that's fun to do. This can either be extra (some curls at the end, say, or a grip challenge, or whatever), or it can overlap with something else (choosing ball slams for cardio if you like ball slams, or the Thomas Finisher for people who like a challenge). Something in the workout should make you happy to do it. It doesn't need to be merely fun. It should have a benefit and no detriment - but if nothing in the workout is fun or interesting to do it's harder to get motivated to train your hardest.


Now, this is in every routine, not on every workout every day. A routine might include a light cardio day, or a circuit training day with no heavy strength workouts, or a pure strength day with no endurance training or bodybuilding. But overall, over the course of a week's planned workouts, I want to include all of that.
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