In this article I will go through the many forms of programming and how to correctly program for any sport and athlete. This will look at linear, block methods of programming, psychology of programming looking at goal setting and motivational behaviors. Finally points to remember when doing the programming e.g. listening to your body.
Ever since I became the founder and head coach of my own powerlifting club (Teesside Barbarians Powerlifting Club) the common question which everyone asks is what training method should I run? What training program is he/she on? Etc. Now these aren’t bad questions or questions I am fed up hearing. No, far from that, it is good people are curious as to why the lifters are getting stronger.
First we will indulge in some basic terminology so we all know what we are talking about.
Training Session: What you are training on the day. Today’s training is quads and glutes orientated and will cover back squats, front squats, GHR etc.
Microcycle:A microcycle is typically a week because of the difficulty in developing a training plan that does not align itself with the weekly calendar. Each microcycle is planned based on where it is in the overall macrocycle.
A micro-cycle is also defined as a number of training sessions, built around a given combination of acute program variables, which include progression as well as alternating effort (heavy vs. light days)..
Mesocycle:A mesocycle represents a phase of training with a duration of between 2 – 6 weeks or microcycles, but this can depend on the sporting discipline. A mesocycle can also be defined as a number of continuous weeks where the training program emphasize the same type of physical adaptations, for example muscle mass and anaerobic capacity. The goal of the planner is to fit the mesocycles into the overall plan timeline-wise to make each mesocycle end on one of the phases and then to determine the workload and type of work of each cycle based on where in the overall plan the given mesocycle falls.
Macrocycle:A macrocycle refers to an annual plan that works towards peaking for the goal competition of the year. There are three phases in the macrocycle: preparation, competitive, and transition.
– Preparatory Phase: This phase consists of the general preparation and specific preparation. Usually the general preparation is the longer of the two phases. And the specific preparation is the shortest.
– Competitive Phase: This phase may contain a few main competitions each containing a pre-competitive and a main competition. Within the main competition, an uploading phase and a special preparatory phase may be included.
– Transition Phase: This phase is used to facilitate psychological rest, relaxation and biological regeneration as well as to maintain an acceptable level of general physical preparation. This phase lasts between 3 – 4 weeks (maybe longer) but should not exceed 5 weeks under normal conditions and may be sports specific. It allows the body to fully regenerate so that it is prepared for the next discipline.
In the club itself I have always shared my knowledge and information about training for free as I want to see them progress and they should have access to the information without hassle. I encourage all the members to choose a program that suits them. The number of training programs specifically for powerlifters that have been ran or currently being run are as follows;
– Smolov Jnr
– Starting Strength
– Texas Method
– Cube Method
These programs follow some sort of progression either being a western linear (periodization approach), block approach, waved approach (not in these programs a conjugate/Westside style approach). Now very few people in the club know what these terms mean and I know of seasoned lifters who do not as well.
There are 3 groups of Periodization Methods
1/ Sequential Method (Their Variations): Long Linear Method, Short Linear Method, Long Undulating Method, Short Undulating Method
2/ Concurrent Method (Their Variations): Ordinary Concurrent Method, Emphasized Concurrent Method.
3/ Conjugate Sequence System (Their Variations): Short Conjugate Sequence System, Long Conjugate Sequence System.
That’s a lot of methods ill make it easy to understand. I am not however going to go into what and how each method works, pro and cons etc. I am just doing a brief overview on each on.
Sequential refers to using specific time intervals to develop only one training goal at time. Perfect for beginners as it’s very simple especially to someone whom as just started their strength training journey. Concurrent method looks at developing all abilities in a given time period mostly one microcycle (week) instead on the sequential one goal at a time. Conjugate is the most advanced method of periodization. Based on the pros and cons of the previous two methods. It is based upon the premise that the elite lifter is unable to optimally adapt and recover from large numbers of stimuli (abilities) at the same time. Elite athletes need to concentrate on loading a particular ability. But, this method will lead to decreases in other underdeveloped necessary abilities. The solution is to develop one ability while maintaining all others with minimal volume.
Then after understanding these forms of programming the following question comes up;
What Program should I Use? What style of Training should I use? Linear/Block/Wave/Conjuate. Should I run a smolov for my bench, 5X5 for my deadlifts and cube for my squats???
Take a breath and go back a few steps
Why are you training? For my sport
What sport? Powerlifting
Okay, what are your goals? To become stronger
Need more than that, target weights, weight class changes, going equipped? Beat my previous PB’s on squat, bench press and deadlift.
Why are you changing program? I wasn’t progressing off my last one. (If they say they are still making progress don’t change the program keep them on it. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it).
Good call, what areas of the lifts where you failing? Lockout on bench press, lockout deadlift and bottom of the squat.
See what happened there? I just made some think why they are training and how to approach their programming planning better.
Then to take it to the next level as Dave Tate put it from his LTT8 Seminar “you are doing x,y and z assistance exercises to improve the bench press, what exercises are going to improve them? BOOM!! Mind blown I have never thought like that. It makes total sense to train the exercises that will get the most bang for your buck. Those exercises trained will then add kilos to your main lifts. Dave goes on to say you can train in two ways
1/Train the movement
2/ Train the muscle
Take the bench press:
1/ Training the movement you can do a kroc row as it follows the same movement patter but in reverse
2/ Doing dumbbell rows will train the lats.
So by training both you will not only have the physiological hypertrophic/strength gains by working the muscle out, you will also develop a very effective motor recruitment for their particular movement pattern.
As coaches for a particular sport or many sports when need to ask ourselves before writing the program the following questions.
What is the sport?
Is it strength based, endurance based?
What is the style of play? Fast and intense or long and slow
What are the needs of the position? Prop needs to be very strong carry lots of weight fast over 5-10m. Full back needs to be agile, quick on the feet and explosive so he/she can react quickly to change in plays.
Movement analysis: Is it one movement like a squat or does the movement change such as hurdles or running to avoid a rugby tackle
Physiological analysis: Length of the event? 10 seconds, 10 minutes or 10 hours. Is it spread out over intervals or does it all play out in one go?
Common sites for injury and their causative factors: is it a contact sport if so where are the common injuries? Shoulders and knees? Is it running then look at preventing shin splints and poor posture problems form poor technique.
Assessment of the athlete: Does he/she have any previous injuries that might affect their participation in the sport? Are they are visual or verbal learner or prefer to lean by touch? These need to be addressed as people learn in many different ways. Some may not like reading a program or doing it themselves and rather be told to do something by the coach.
Consider your own experiences in the sport and implement them into the program. You are coaching as you love the sport and want to help others by sharing them your own experiences and knowledge. More knowledge you can give an athlete the better. When selecting a program of your choice you must live by the program with the following rules/laws/commands!!!
The Ten Programming Commandments By Elite FTS Roundtable on Programming
Consistency in your training. Don’t miss training sessions
Not missing lifts regularly in your training. It’s okay to miss a lift in training if attempting a new max but if you can’t do the 5 reps you programed to do then you have screwed up and are lifting way to too much especially if it’s the first week.
Finding out what works for you through trial and error. If an exercise works keep it in the program if not throw it out. SIMPLE!!
Straining with a heavy lift. Straining and grinding with a lift. Learn to handle with the weights. It will be slow and hard with a new max weight. It’s not going to fly up.
Avoiding program hopping. Give yourself enough time to figure out whether a program is working for you. Max out all gains from that program before hopping to the next one.
Form and technique are more important than programming. If your form and technique are 100% efficient regardless of the program or programs you will prevent injury and keep improving.
Find a good coach and crew to teach you and to provide honest critique. Don’t train with people who will pass lifts in training that will get you red lighted in competition. Get a coach who isn’t afraid to say that’s a fail do it again.
Build the program around planned deloads (once you are strong enough to need them). The training cycles should be based off these deload weeks after a competition and then work backwards from that programming the high intense phase, volume phase etc.
Learn to regulate your volume and assess how much circa-max training to include. This is aimed at drug free lifters as they cannot handle the volume of a lifter on PED’s. Listen to your body and watch the volume you lift in training as too much can lead to fatigue and or injury.
Give it everything you got 110% and more!!! Don’t be halfhearted to a training program. If your goals don’t excite you then why are you even bothering?? Put your soul into it and you will reap the rewards.
The simple picture below illustrates how any training program should look like. You have the planned deload after the comp as shown from the reduction in the intensity (not always the volume is reduced after a comp). Then working backwards 1-2 weeks before the event the intensity is reduced this allows for the athlete to recover so he/she can perform at their best on the day. Another 2-3 weeks back the volume is starting to reduce as the event becomes closer, the intensity increases and so too does the performance.
At the end of the day no matter what program you use you will get strong.
Some programs you will gain more strength than others as that’s down to everyone’s individuality, previous injuries, physiological make up, ratio of fast twitch to slow twitch muscle fibres, hormonal reactions to foods. You get the picture too many variables.
About the Author
Andrew Richardson is the current Head Coach and Chairman of Teesside Barbarians Powerlifting Club at Teesside University. Anadrew is currently a member of Team Ireland.