Designing Training Programs - AnabolicMinds.com
    • Designing Training Programs


      by Christopher Smith T-Nation

      Long-term planning isn't exactly something that meatheads are known for. Most lifters don't plot out their training much beyond the weekly training split, and perhaps what exercises to do after four variations of the bench press.

      Maybe the average lifter doesn't feel that it's something he needs to do, or maybe he just doesn't know how to do it. Whatever the reason, it's usually neglected.

      I can understand why. Programming isn't exactly sexy. When reading about a pro lifter's training, the first question that comes to mind isn't usually, "I wonder how he manipulates volume over the mesocycle?"

      But that's really the heart and soul of programming, and it's extremely important to understand for long-term progress. Our body eventually adapts to whatever we do. That means you stop getting stronger or building muscle. And nobody wants that.


      Building Blocks


      The good news is you don't need an advanced degree in exercise science to do some basic, effective programming. The block system is fairly simple, very effective, and allows you to develop or maintain a select few strength qualities simultaneously. Since most people only have a few goals – like get bigger and stronger – this method works great.

      Basically, a block is a structured, pre-planned training segment that strategically manipulates volume and intensity depending on the training goal.

      During a block you'll emphasize a specific training quality (or qualities) while others fall into a maintenance role. This is an improvement over typical single goal-oriented training because you never completely neglect a specific quality – and therefore never allow one trait to detrain. Blocks usually last about 4 weeks but can be modified to range anywhere from 2 to 8 weeks.

      Noncompetitive lifters will cycle through two blocks:

      The first is an accumulation block. Here the focus is on using higher training volumes and eliciting structural improvements. This block places greater emphasis on hypertrophy methods while maintaining maximum strength and, if desirable, explosiveness.

      The second block is an intensification block. This is the time to lift heavy things and focus on developing maximum strength. The training methods here are more neural-intensive, as max strength and speed are dependent on neuromuscular development. Here, hypertrophy-style training takes a backseat but is still in the mix to help hold on to that hard earned muscle.

      Both types of blocks feed off of one another. The accumulation block builds muscle mass and sets the foundation for the heavier lifting to come. It conditions the muscles, joints, and connective tissue for max strength training and provides a respite from the neurologically taxing training of an intensification block.

      Not to mention that a larger muscle has the potential to be a stronger muscle with the right kind of training. Bigger muscles have a larger cross-sectional area and exhibit better leverage for lifting.

      The intensification block builds off the foundation that was laid with the higher training volumes of the accumulation period. Focusing on higher intensity teaches your body to recruit more muscle fibers. And since you're developing maximum strength, you'll be able to use heavier weights during the next accumulation cycle – which means more muscle.

      A slight aside here: most people focus on "slow" strength lifts during an intensification cycle and leave explosive lifting out, rationalizing that they don't need explosiveness. I disagree. Even if your major focus is just getting bigger, explosive lifting can help.

      Explosive lifts, like the Olympic lifts, bypass the lower threshold muscle fibers and selectively recruit the high threshold, or Type II, fibers that have the greatest hypertrophy potential.

      Moral of the story is, learn the explosive lifts and their variations and put them to use!


      Weekly Planning

      Beyond the basics of each block, a good program has weekly fluctuations in volume and intensity. This helps prevent excessive fatigue and overuse injuries while strategically stimulating results by exposing the system to structured stimuli. In other words, you make sure that your body gets enough of a stimulus, but not too much or too little.

      A well laid out block usually consists of four different training weeks, and the block begins with a foundation week. Here, volume and intensity are low to moderate. The purpose is to establish a foundation, introduce the lifter to any new movements being used, and determine strength levels.

      The second week sees an increase in volume but not necessarily intensity. This stimulates growth and increases work capacity. This week will normally see the highest volumes of the entire block.

      The third week in the block lowers volume but increases the intensity. This is a drastic change from the second week and serves as a further stimulus to the system. The heavier weights used will make up for the relatively low volume.

      The final week of the block is a deload week. During this time volume drops sharply but intensity should be kept at a moderate to high level. The goal is to allow the lifter to recover from the demands of the previous weeks but with enough of a stimulus to prevent a reversal of the elicited results.

      Keep in mind that these four stages apply to both the accumulation and intensification blocks.


      Putting It Into Action



      As stated above, the block system allows you to easily train multiple abilities at the same time, like strength and hypertrophy. The easiest way to do this is to create balance by manipulating primary movements and assistance work.

      Primary movements are the core lifts that will be used for strength and power development like squats and presses.

      Assistance work gives you the hypertrophy stimulus while allowing you to cycle in different movements for variety. These also serve to strengthen weaknesses and will make up the bulk of your high volume work.

      Almost any movement that can be used as a primary exercise can be used as an assistance movement but not necessarily the opposite. Don't be that guy trying to use alternating dumbbell bench presses as your core lift for the day.


      8-Weeks to Dominate

      Below is your 8-week blueprint to domination. The program begins with a higher volume accumulation block. During this phase the volume of all movements is relatively high, including the primary movements. However, there's still an emphasis on strength work.

      The second phase is an intensification block. This block sees lower overall volumes and higher intensities, especially with the primary movements. Also note that a few explosive lifts are included here.

      The program follows a 4 day-per-week upper/lower split to allow for optimal usage of time, volume distribution, and recovery.


      Accumulation Phase


      Day 1

      Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Rest
      A Back Squat 3 x 6 4 x 6 4 x 5 2 x 5 120 sec.
      B1 Romanian Deadlift 3 x 8 3 x 10 3 x 8 2 x 8 45 sec.
      B2 Walking Lunge 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 10 2 x 10 60 sec.
      C1 Reverse Crunch 3 x 15 4 x 15 3 x 15 2 x 15 30 sec.
      C2 Glute Ham Raise 3 x 10 4 x 10 3 x 10 2 x 10 45 sec.
      Day 2

      Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Rest
      A Bench Press 3 x 6 4 x 6 4 x 5 2 x 5 120 sec.
      B1 Wide Grip Row 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 8-10 2 x 10 45 sec.
      B2 DB Incline Press 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 8-10 2 x 10 60 sec.
      C1 JM Press 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 8-10 2 x 10 30 sec.
      C2 Hammer Curl 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 8-10 2 x 10 45 sec.
      Day 3

      Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Rest
      A Deadlift 3 x 6 4 x 6 4 x 4 Work up to easy 4 120 sec.
      B1 Bulgarian Split Squat 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 10 2 x 10 45 sec.
      B2 Good Morning 3 x 10 4 x 10 3 x 8 2 x 8 60 sec.
      C1 Windmill 3 x 10 4 x 10 3 x 10 2 x 10 30 sec.
      C2 Leg Extension 3 x 10 4 x 12 3 x 8 2 x 10 45 sec.
      Day 4

      Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Rest
      A1 Barbell Press 3 x 6 4 x 6 4 x 5 2 x 5 60 sec.
      A2 Pull-up 3 x 6 4 x 6 4 x 5 2 x 10 120 sec.
      B1 Close Grip Bench Press 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 8-10 2 x 10 30 sec.
      B2 EZ Curl 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 8-10 2 x 10 60 sec.
      C Front/Lateral Raise Superset 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 10 2 x 10 45 sec.

      Intensification Phase


      Day 1

      Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Rest
      A Clean Pull 3 x 6 4 x 6 4 x 5 3 x 6 120 sec.
      B Back Squat 4 x 4 5 x 4 4 x 3 3 x 3 120 sec.
      C1 Snatch Grip Romanian Deadlift 3 x 10 4 x 10 4 x 8 3 x 8 60 sec.
      C2 Ab Rollout 3 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 12 3 x 12 60 sec.
      Day 2

      Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Rest
      A Bench Press 4 x 4 5 x 4 4 x 3 3 x 3 120 sec.
      B1 Barbell Row 3 x 10 4 x 10 4 x 8 3 x 8 60 sec.
      B2 Z-Press 3 x 10 4 x 10 4 x 8 3 x 8 90 sec.
      C1 Skull Crusher 3 x 12 4 x 12 4 x 10 3 x 10 45 sec.
      C2 Reverse Curl 3 x 12 4 x 12 4 x 10 3 x 10 60 sec.
      Day 3

      Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Rest
      A Hang Power Snatch 5 x 3 6 x 3 5 x 2 3 x 3 120 sec.
      B Front Squat 4 x 4 5 x 4 4 x 3 3 x 3 120 sec.
      C1 Barbell Hip Thrust 3 x 10 4 x 10 4 x 6 3 x 8 45 sec.
      C2 Half-Kneeling Pallof Press 3 x 10 4 x 10 4 x 10 3 x 10 60 sec.
      Day 4

      Exercise Week 1 Week 2 Week 3 Week 4 Rest
      A1 Push Press 4 x 4 5 x 4 4 x 3 3 x 3 90 sec.
      A2 Pull-up 4 x 4 5 x 4 4 x 3 3 x 10 90 sec.
      B1 Incline Bench Press 3 x 8 4 x 8 4 x 6 3 x 6 60 sec.
      B2 Face Pull 3 x 12 4 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 12 90 sec.
      C Barbell Curl 3 x 12 4 x 12 4 x 12 3 x 12 60 sec.
      You'll notice that there are more assistance movements during the accumulation phase compared to the intensification phase. The reason for this is simple: when you're lifting the heavier loads in the intensification phase, you just plain won't have the energy to hit lots of assistance work. Also, the rest periods during the accumulation phase are shorter since the primary focus of that phase is hypertrophy.


      Wrap Up

      The goal of this article wasn't just to give out a ready-to-use program, but to teach you how to design your own effective programs. Many factors go into effective program design and it can be a formidable task for even experienced strength coaches. The block system, however, can help make this at times Herculean task a little less daunting.

      Choose your exercises wisely and make sure you're leading yourself towards your goal. When in doubt, stick to the basics, lift heavy, eat a lot, rest, and repeat.

      Now go dominate.

      Source: http://www.t-nation.com/readArticle.do?id=5331482