Tuesday, November 29, 2016

A periodized strength program for the new year

Last year we started including a progressive strength program as part of every class. It was a huge success. Not only did everyone get stronger, everyone looked pretty doing it. By frequently revisiting our fundamental lifts, you get enough practice and you learn great form. I'm always proud to hear that when a member is traveling and visits another gym that they get great feedback on their form.

Starting in December we're going to modify our strength program to add a little bit of periodization to it. Last year's program was designed around a very simple linear progression, which was perfect since most of you were new to the lifts and simply increasing weight each time was the best way to get strong. Now that everyone has a good strength base, we thought a little bit of periodization would help your progression.

Don't worry if you're just joining and are new to the lifts. This is just a tweak on our basic program and it will work fine for everyone - I just didn't want to be too fancy the first time. There are only two minor tweaks to the program: an adjusted rep scheme and a slight change of focus.

Rather than simply doing a 3 sets of 5 reps and adding weight each time, we are going to to approach our strength work in a periodized fashion. We'll cycle through 8s, 5s 3s and sometimes 2s and 1s. The cycles will be aligned to take advantage of the seasons so that you'll try to get strong during the winter. Most people do something active in the summer, and it's very likely that that summer activity would be considered endurance work, which is antagonistic to getting strong. So we'll focus the heavier strength work in the winter with some lighter cycles in the summer.

Additionally, the workouts will focus more on the big muscles and give your shoulders a break. A while ago, I wrote about the revelation I had that most of the S&C literature I read is for 18-year-old football players and that most of the folks I train are older and less power-centric in their activities. So I need to bias the movements we do toward the bigger muscles (to get the better hormonal response) and away from the shoulders (because many of you have a shoulder injury of some kind). The pool of exercises that we choose from in our new strength program will be weighted more towards squats and pulls with just enough necessary pressing to keep you strong but not aggravate anything.

Pay attention to the rep scheme that we prescribe every day. It won't simply be a 3x5 like it has been in the past.  It will be written something more like this


In our notation, sets separated by dashes mean to go up in weight, and ones written as sets x reps mean stay at the same weight.  So the above notation means that you do two warm-up sets of 8, going up at each dash, followed by 3 work sets of 8 at the same weight.  I noticed in the old program where I didn't specify warm up sets, some of you were only doing 1 set (not enough) and others were doing 5 (too much), so for the new program we'll prescribe your warm-ups too. For example, if this were squats and my working weight was 225, I'd do one set of 8 with the bar, one set of 8 with 135, and then 3 sets of 8 at 225.  Pay attention because different movements will have different rep patterns.

Our old program was evenly distributed among squatting, pulling, and pressing movements. I noticed over the course of the last year that the overhead work came up too frequently to get enough recovery. So the new program will have more than 40% squatting and more than 40% pulling with the remaining less than 20% pressing movements. By focusing on the big muscles and hitting them often, we'll start a good hormone cascade that will promote whole-body strength.


squat 3x5
2 TGUs between sets


3 rounds for sense of urgency:
7 KB snatch plus push press left arm
7 KB snatch plus push press right arm
7 pull-ups

Endurance Option

accumulate 15 squats at 5RM
2 TGUs between sets


3 rounds below AeroMAX:
7 KB snatch plus push press left arm
7 KB snatch plus push press right arm
7 pull-ups

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