Dave Tate knows strength. Dave's been assisting and training under Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame for over 10 years and has consulted thousands of athletes throughout the world. Dave is quick to point out that he's not a bodybuilder and therefore doesn't train bodybuilders. He's a powerlifter and a specialist in developing maximal strength. Despite this powerlifting emphasis, the average guy under his tutelage puts on 30 to 40 pounds in the first year.
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Dave Tate knows strength. Dave's been assisting and training under Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell fame for over 10 years and has consulted thousands of athletes throughout the world. Dave is quick to point out that he's not a bodybuilder and therefore doesn't train bodybuilders. He's a powerlifter and a specialist in developing maximal strength. Despite this powerlifting emphasis, the average guy under his tutelage puts on 30 to 40 pounds in the first year. In this article and the one to follow, Dave will tell you everything you've ever wanted to know about periodization.
When it comes to setting up a strength-training program, I feel it's important to understand all aspects of the program, including how it all fits together. The organization of training can be defined as periodization. There are several periodization models being used today for the development of strength. This article will explore some of the basic definitions of the concept as well as the Western or linear method of periodization. The Western method of periodization is one of the most popular methods for strength development.
It's the same method I used for the first 12 years of my competitive career. Did it work? Sure, up to a certain point, but then I hit a plateau. This was when the injuries started and my strength began to digress. After we get the basics out of the way, I'll explore why this happened and why so many coaches and athletes still use the program today.
Periodization is the organization of training into basic workable units. These units are defined as the training session, the micro cycle, the meso cycle, the macro cycle and the quadrennial. Let's define and explore each of these just to make sure we're all on the same page.
The Training Session: The training session consists of one workout designed to fulfill a specific purpose. These training sessions can be once per day or up to six per day depending on the goals of the program.
The most import aspect of the training session is that it should have some type of meaning. There should be a definite training goal in mind. Your goal for that session may be to perform one more repetition than last time, or to lift five more pounds. Your goal could also involve fulfilling some type of restorative or recovery purpose.
The problem is that many training sessions today don't have a specific purpose that will lead to the short or long term goals of the athlete. The athlete or coach just goes in the gym and wings it, but each session must build on the others to fulfill a desired purpose. For example, if you want a bigger bench, then each training session for that lift must have the development of the bench press in mind. If your exercise selection doesn't complement this, you'll just be spinning your wheels.
All exercises chosen should fulfill a purpose related to the development of strength, stability, confidence, muscle balance, technique, or bringing up weak points. If one or more of these variables isn't being met with the chosen movement, then dump that exercise!
The micro cycle is the recruitment of a number of different training sessions. There should be at least two training sessions per micro cycle that consist of different types of workouts. The micro cycle also should have specific meaning and purpose.
There are many different types of micro cycles including the introduction, restorative, competitive and the shock micro cycle. The average micro cycle will range five to ten days with the average being seven days. The Introduction Micro: This cycle can and should be used for a number of introduction purposes. It can be used for educational purposes to teach the clients or athletes about the training program and all its variables. This is a very important aspect of training that many coaches and trainers overlook.
I believe that the client or athlete must know how the program was designed and why it was designed that way. Better yet, they should be a part of the program design. Whenever I design a strength-training program, the client is a very large part of the process. Who knows better than the trainee what works and what doesn't work for him?
The client has more experience training themselves than anyone, so why not use this knowledge to better the program? The trainee must know where they're going and how and why this program will help them get there. A second type of introduction micro cycle may be used to introduce the trainee to the exercises he'll be performing over the next few cycles.
This gives him a chance to have a "walk through" of the different exercises and get used to the correct form and technique that'll be needed for the higher intensities later on. Exercise technique is another overlooked aspect of most training programs today. When I walk into any gym or health club I'm impressed with the lack of technique being practiced. You'd think with the number of trainers and coaches around today that this problem would be getting better, but in many ways it's worse.
Now you have trainers who have no idea what they're doing showing a client how to perform an exercise! Not all trainers are bad, of course. There are many excellent trainers I've spoken with across the world and I've learned a great deal from many of them. These trainers are usually very expensive and hard to find so it would be best for most people to buy a book on exercise technique or attend one of the many seminars offered by today's top strength coaches.
The Restorative Micro: This cycle is designed to aid in the recovery process. It can involve anything from taking a week off to implementing some restorative techniques such as contrast showers, steams, saunas, massage, active rest or "feeder" workouts. Active rest involves those workouts that implement a type of training other than what the athlete normally does. For a weightlifter this can include walking, or for a football player, playing basketball. The "feeder" type workouts are those intended to better prepare the muscle for an upcoming training session.
When these workouts make up the majority of the training micro cycle it then becomes a restorative cycle. Active rest and feeder workouts will be discussed in a future article because of the importance they have in the total development of a strength training program.
After all, if you're not recovering, then you're not making gains! The Competitive Micro: This is the cycle leading up to the competition or event.
For a powerlifter this would consists of the five to seven days right before the competition. During this time they should lower the training volume and intensity.
The week before can make or break the outcome of the competition. Too much work and the lifter will go into the meet overtrained and tired. Too little work and he'll go in under prepared. For the football player this can be the last three to six days before the game. It becomes a tight balancing act during the season to ensure the optimum amount of training with the right amount of recovery and restoration.
The Shock Micro: This micro cycle is designed around shocking the body into new growth and adaptation. This shock can come in many forms and can range from taking a week off to a high volume training cycle. This cycle is made up of many micro cycles designed around one specific purpose. Most programs use this cycle to develop one component of fitness such as strength, power, endurance or some other physical ability. These cycles range from one to four months. There are many types of meso cycles including introduction, base, competitive, restoration, strength and power cycles.
The Introduction Meso: This cycle is designed to introduce a person to fitness or strength training. Like the introduction micro cycle, most of the time is spent on the teaching of the movements and training program.
The Base Meso: It's been said many times that you can't build a house on a weak foundation. The base meso cycle is usually designed to build a strong and fundamental base of fitness a solid foundation. An example of the effectiveness of a base-building meso cycle would be my wife, Traci.
When she first came to train with us a Westside, her back was so weak and sore that she had a hard time picking up an empty barbell. Most of her training during the first few months consisted of building up her abdominal, lower back, glutes, hips and hamstrings.
She performed endless sets of reverse hypers, glute-ham raises, and abdominal pulldowns. When her base was built up, heavier training was introduced and within the first year she'd totaled her fist "Elite" with a squat, bench, and deadlift in the pound class.
Not bad for not being able to pick up a barbell without pain 12 months earlier. Without taking the time to develop a solid foundation, her gains wouldn't have been possible. Other Meso Cycles: The strength and power meso cycle is designed around building strength, while the competitive meso cycle is that cycle leading up to the competition or test date the day you attempt a new PR.
These meso cycles can be designed a number of different ways and all are intended to bring out the highest level of competitive strength. Competitive strength is different than maximal strength because it utilizes the elements of the competition to bring out the highest strength levels. With competitive strength, many times there's a break from training right before the competition to help the body restore and prepare for peak performance.
There's also the element of the spectators and a "psyche up" to help bring out higher strength levels. Maximal strength is the max level of strength that can be displayed in the gym.
This is why many times we don't recommend training with a psyche-up in the gym. Psyching up during training can actually be detrimental to strength performance because of the increased demand on the central nervous system. The Western or linear method of periodization is the most practiced yet most misunderstood form of periodization used by lifters and coaches today. This method consists of a hypertrophy phase, basic strength phase, power phase, peak phase and a transition phase.
Many times other terms will be used but the parameters are basically the same. The Hypertrophy Phase: This phase is intended to condition and build muscle mass.
The Periodization Bible
You wanna get strong? You wanna lift so much weight that your gym has to order more plates? You wanna be able to grab a few girls, stack'em on top of each other and hoist them high into the air using only your pinky finger while you peer furtively up their skirts? Sure, who doesn't?
Periodization Bible On 5/3/1
I gotta ask, even if it's a stupid question. After the 4 week cycle, is it you go back to your normal routine or you recalculate your 1RM and then go from there all over again? Just trying to figure out how I assess whether my strength has been increasing or not, if I am not changing my 1 rep max after the cycle is over. You add 5 or 10 pounds to your max depending on if it's an upper body or lower body lift and start over. You will know if you are getting stronger when you get the same amount of reps or more with more weight than you got your previous cycle. When you do assistance work using your boring but big method.