Monday, July 20, 2015

Ptolemaic Programming Part I

Designing smart block-periodized programming is non-trivial. If everyone who comes in the door has the same goals and is at the same point in their training, I can do something simple like the strength program that starts Monday. Or I can go the randomized-pick-a-workout-out-of-the-hopper with no rationale and claim that it sets you up for anything. But it's not that simple.

We want you to sample lots of movements, but we need to focus only on a few at a time so that you can progress. We want to hit all of the metabolic pathways, but we can't contradict biochemistry and try to do two things at once. Above all, we are firm believers that strength is the most important test of fitness, so we want to make sure you're constantly getting stronger.

How do we do that? I like to call it Ptolemaic Programming after the Ptolemaic Model of the universe which was built on layers of epicycles. We have many dimensions to use when designing a workout, but primarily we modify volume, intensity, and density (much more on that in a later post).

Let's look at one of those dimensions, intensity. In the plot at the top of this post, you'll see the power spectrum of intensity over the course of a year of Barbell Strategy's S&C class programming. If you're not used thinking in Fourier transforms, the simple picture is that the peaks in that plot are at the length of the periods of our epicycles. The way to read that is that your daily workout is the result of the convergence of many cycles, one that's 2 days long, one that's 3 days, 1 week, 6 weeks, 2 months, 3 months, 4 months, 6 months, and 1 year.

More on what those cycles are in a later post, but to get a feel for how we put things together, look at two workouts last week:

5 rounds:
10 heavy KB swings
5 tall box jumps
200 m medball run
rest 2:00
5 rounds:
25 light KB swings
10 box step-ups
400 m run
rest 1:00

I purposely chose the same structure for those two, but you can see that Monday's was set up for power with lots of rest so that you could be working near your max the whole workout, but Friday's was set up for volume (lots of reps) and a constant level of work - that's the 1-week cycle that shows up with everything else held constant.

tl;dr We really care about programming. We put particular effort into block-periodized progressions that follow the seasons to maximize your results. This is what separates Barbell Strategy from other gyms: we think deeply about the workouts you get.
5 min long cycle KB C&J test
rest 15 min
5 min KB snatch test