Monthly Archives: July 2019
How much thought do you give to your programming?
Like honestly, how much?
Being someone who’s no longer shiny new in this industry I’ve given quite some extensive time and thought to programming over the years.
In doing so I’ve seen some rather interesting patterns.
Today I’d like to touch on a few of them.
All of which I’d seen in literally one of the first books I read.
I know right, it took almost 2 decades before all the pieces began to click in to place and these random (not really random) numbers made sense.
Up until this point most of the programs I’d done were largely copies of what successful protocols cropped up.
While the numbers I’d give people made sense, if I was truly asked why I could probably give at least 60% of the full answer, however the rest was still a little ambiguous.
Anyway, hopefully this info will help you learn faster than I did.
That is if you’re will to learn.
– Total Volume (weekly/monthly % of total lifts)
– Waviness of Loads
– Same yet Different (exercise transference)
We shall start with the last point as it’s the easiest to grasp.
You pick movements that are similar enough to allow progress yet different enough to avoid overuse injury.
I know, very simple and once you base your training programs on movement patterns (needs) you’ll never be stuck on exercise selection.
If you only program based on exercise then you’ll be stuck in the realm of frustration.
Example: Front Squat > Squat > SBBS > Hack Squat
^^ All the same yet different that allow you to progress, working these in 2-3 week blocks is good. You can do more if you choose however that will differ based on the goal/needs of the client.
Next up Waviness of Loads, also called loading variability or periodisation.
Put simply you use different % of your max to avoid overuse/stagnation. That said there is more to it.
You could keep the load the same and play with the effort of the set based on the RM (repetition max) or vary the relative intensity (% of RM compared to 1RM)
Example: Set effort with static RM.
Say your 10RM is 100kg, meaning that is 100% effort and you’d only be able to do one set at that weight with that amount of reps for the day.
You can take 3 rep ranges and translate these to Heavy-Light-Medium days, like this:
H: 7-9reps, w/10RM loading
L: 1-3reps, w/10RM loading
M: 4-6reps, w/10RM loading
The load stays static, you can plan days with higher effort/intensity levels which might have lower total sets/volume and others that have low reps and all the sets.
While the load is the same the result/stimulus you’d get would be different, yet similar (one you can focus on form and acceleration with low fatigue, the other TUT and mental toughness).
This is one methods of playing with the programs loading, or at least how it feels and how often you can repeat effort with heavier loads.
Second option –
Example: Using 85% of your 5RM (which is 85% 1RM)
Relative intensity ^^ that is what this is.
Most see 5x5x85% 1RM written and this is actually not quite right because if 85% of your 1RM is the weight you can do for 5 reps (5RM) once then you’ll have no chance of doing it for 5 sets.
Instead we take 85% of our 5RM and start there.
If your 5RM, 85% 1RM is 100kg, then you’d take 85% of that which would be 85kg which is about 70% of our fictional 1RM.
This will give you room to progress eat week by adding load, as one option of progress.
In your programs you can use the above to vary the loading in a logical fashion.
(If you like numbers then relative intensity is for you, if not then playing with the effort % of a set in the H-L-M format will be better).
Right, now for the tricky one – Total Volume & weekly/monthly % of total lifts.
This is the real tricky one to grasp.
There are 4 numbers to remember for breaking down your total monthly volume in to weekly needs: 15/22/28/35.
These numbers are % of total volume based on each week.
If we have say 200 total reps you wish to achieve in a specific lift for that month, say the squat, here is how it would look:
* On week 15% of 200 = 30
* On week 2 28% of 200 = 56
* On week 3 35% of 200 = 70
* On week 4 22% of 200 = 44
^^ So now you know how many reps to do each week.
Up next is how many sessions per week – 3 is good.
You breakdown your total weekly volume in to each session like this:
Week 1 % of weekly volume –
* Day #1 is say 33%
* Day #2 can be 25%
* Day #3 on the last day you put the remaining 42%
Week 1 reps per session –
* Day #1 – 10 reps
* Day #2 – 7 reps
* Day #3 – 13 reps
^^ add them up and you get your 30 total reps.
(This is without planning sets/reps/loads, which you can use the above info for your required lift)
After month one you may want to increase the total volume as that might be your focus of progress while keeping the lads the same (say 10RM example from above), if so add 10-20% total volume – it means you need to reestablish the monthly/weekly numbers and also sets/reps etc however that’s programming folks.
There you have it, programming in a rather tough nutshell.
I know, it’s quite a lot to consider and this doesn’t even take in to account accessory work, recovery needs, CV or a great many other things you need to be mindful of.
This is where you’ll find a good program takes time to write, especially if it’s truly a personalised one.
You might have seen I pop up generic programs/protocols for free rather often and while they all work they’ll only really be good for beginners, if you wanted one to consider the above you’d be paying a hefty fee, lol.
Anyway, there you have it, how programming actually works.
If you have a trainer you’d hope that they know the above.
If you are the trainer then I hope you know the above.
Fee free to pop any questions below.
100 push ups, 100 squat, 100 sit-ups & a 10k run, everyday for 3 years.
^^ That is what Saitama did to become the worlds strongest man, if only it was that easy in real life.
In most anime shows you’ll find that training is consistent, with purpose and drive.
Now training daily is something you can indeed do, either by picking one movement per day or setting up some sort of rotating split, all are viable however I’m going to give you a challenge and only the most committed and willing will be able to do it.
You’ll have 7 main movements to practice daily (pick one or two of them).
You will never do them to fatigue, the aim is to get better with every set, stronger with every rep and then once ever 10th session of the given movement you go all out and either hit a new max effort, top end weight, total about of reps or time under tension.
There is then the additional option of doing a sport, martial art or some form of fun hobby/endeavour with the rest of your time.
1 – Hand Balancing (2 hands, single hand etc)
2 – Rope Climbing
3 – Sprinting
4 – Deadlift
5 – Pistol Squats
6 – Movement Flows (crawling, climbing, loaded carries, jump sequences etc)
7 – Explosively Throwing
You’d simply pick one or two of the above to practice each day (two is my choice).
Okay, now for the interesting bit, how to program it all, you will have three options.
1 – Do 30-90min once per day – vary the reps/time/distance etc every set
2 – Multiple 10min sessions during the day (minimum of 3)
3 – Perform one set of say no more than 2-3reps for 2-3sets (or 2-3 sets of 10-30 seconds for balances/carries/flows etc) every hour you’re awake.
Easy enough to do, however the trick is to be consistent, patient and see each day/movement as practice, plus just have some fun with it.
Try it for 100 days if you feel that being anime strong is a title you’d not mind having.
– Training until momentary muscular failure
– Leaving 1-2 reps in the tank and doing more sets
– Not going anywhere near failure staying at <% set efforts
*Progress typically being strength, hypertrophy, performance related for the context of this post and those who asked.
In truth they’re all viable, in fact you’d probably do well to cycle through phases of doing each in a periodised fashion or you could link them all together in a holistic approach.
Honestly at the stage of lifting most people are at they just need to get their reps in for the most part.
Also before you say it might be dangerous that is only if form is bad, if for is good there’s no real issue.
Let us look at each of the above and see who we can optimally use them.
– Training until momentary muscular failure –
A lot of solid research has been conducted based on the idea that it’s the last few reps (we’ll say the last 2-5) that really give you that much needed hit of adaptive stimulus to grow and every prior rep was just there.
^^ This is relevant for each method in this post.
Now some people would then be lead to think that doing lower rep set would bypass this and go straight to the stimulus.
Fair enough, however it doesn’t work like that.
The above is based on the accumulation of fatigue in the formative reps (depletion of energy system reserves etc) and depending on the rep ranges you use will then link in to the gains you get.
6-20 being said as optimal for hypertrophy.
^^ You can use compound movements however I’d say stick with lifts that have a lower potential for injury until you’re what the books consider an experienced lifter (2 years of solid lifting 3+ times per week).
It’s easier to get close to that momentary failure being meaningful with reps at 8+ I’ve found, less while personally I enjoy is just not viable for people who are not experienced lifters.
While finding the right weight and reps can be a bit of a tricky element (downside), the massive benefit is that you’ll only need a few sets per movement (upside).
Next time you train try this: 3-4 x fail on accessory lifts.
– Leaving 1-2 reps in the tank (RPE work) –
Favoured by many a lifter and great for all movement be those compound, supplementary or isolation.
In short yo’d be going to the point where you feel a bit of a grind beginning to happen. It is at this point over time you’ll learn that you’ve only got 1-2 reps left.
One problem with this though is that people will stop short.
They think they’ve got 1-2 reps left when in reality it’s more like 6-10.
Yes I’m being serious.
The danger here is that people will be leaving gains on the table because for lack of a better term they’re being a little bit soft.
As such this is where in the beginner days having them utilise the ‘going until failure’ is useful (provided they have good form) because they won’t be lifting that heavy so it will be more viable.
Once they’ve learned their limits using more weight and stopping short of failure becomes useful because it then allows more total volume as going to failure with heavier loads causes more overall damage and need more recovery time.
I’m not sorry to say that heavy isn’t relative, heavy is heavy.
Regardless of if you personally feel you lifting say 70kg x5 is the same as someone lifting 250kg x5 it’s not, apples & oranges as they say.
Leaving 1-2 reps in the tank is a great way for the more experience and stronger people to progress because they can add more total volume and build up fatigue over multiple sets.
It means that say 4 of your 6 sets might be the ones that are just there and the last two sets that have reps that are money makers.
^^ All of this is linked in to RPE (rate of perceived exertion), so the next time you train after each set write down on a scale of 1-10 how hard the set was, most of yours will want to be 8/9 on the scale (look up Reactive Training Systems – Mike Tuscherer).
That bring us to the last one.
-Not going anywhere near failure staying at <% set efforts-
A Russian weightlifting favourite because I do love the Russians.
This is a great method however it requires people to have been hitting some solid progress for a few years as it will be largely based on low reps and endless sets.
So what is set effort precisely?
Put simply, say your 6RM (rep max) is 100kg meaning you can do 1 set of 6 at 100kg and no more, yet you want to, how can this be done?
Easy, 6RM is 100% set effort, so if you work at 50% efforts you’d be doing sets of 3 reps.
This means you might be able to do 3,4,5,6, or perhaps 20 sets of 3 with your 6RM as opposed to just one set of 6 with your 6RM.
An epic way to train that will leave you feeling fresh at the end of most if not all of your sessions and that’s the dangerous part.
People chase fatigue so as valuable as this method is it doesn’t hit their emotional/cognitive bias and as such they’d end up doing more and burning out.
You’d also have to be well versed in what is known as CAT (compensatory acceleration training) – you lift each rep with everything you’ve got, basically.
*Using CAT on your sets of 3 you’d go until you feel speed of reps is lost, which could be as mentioned above, 3 sets or 23 sets. When speed is lost it means you’ve hit your stills for the day, even if you don’t feel fatigued you are, trust me.
It is this that would provide the stimulus we’ve touched on above.
^^ Fred Hatfield is the man to look up for CAT.
So, which is best?
Based on how long you’ve been lifting:
<2 years: Training until momentary muscular failure
2-4 years: Leaving 1-2 reps in the tank and doing more sets
4 years +: Not going anywhere near failure staying at <% set efforts
Not everyone will like this answer and while for some rare exceptions it’s the right answer for the average person.
If like me you’re just an average person then don’t fear doing the simple things.
These days we live in an age where everyone is trying to keep up with everyone else and unless you’re doing HIIT, or some sort of ‘Ultra-Mega-Oblivion Set’ you’re some kind of lesser human.
Yea that’s complete bollocks.
It’s only the highly insecure that feel the need to make their training look more complicated or fancier than is it.