THE PROGRESSION BUILDER
Exercise program design is a process that involves manipulation of multiple strength training variables. The successful achievement of a specific training outcome such as hypertrophy, strength, power, muscular endurance, will be largely determined by proper manipulation of the various training variables, done by Program Designers in the Calendar- and Progression builder.
«If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!»
In the previous step in the Calendar Builder, the Program Designer finds exercises, creates workouts, allocates the workouts to the desired days on the calendar and sets the length of the program. This is also where Frequency Progressive Overload strategies are implemented.
The next step is the Progression Builder where every program designer can implement volume- and intensity progressive overload strategies.
1. CHOOSE TYPE OF WEEK: in the margin on the left-hand side for each week, we have three types of week:
- Test & training week: the first and last week of the program is pre-selected to “Test & training weeks”.
- Training week: these are the weeks in between the first and last week. This is where progressive overload strategies are implemented.
- Deload week:Usually the week before the last Test & Training week. This week is to help to reduce fatigue and facilitate recovery and adaption to occur.
2. MARK YOUR TEST EXERCISES (“TESTABLE”) using method “Test AMRAP set” for the selected test session in the first week.
In all training programs there will be one or several test sets in the first and last week of the program. Each test set is marked “Test (AMRAP) set.” AMRAP means as many reps as possible. For example, if a strength athlete can bench press 100 kg with 5 repetitions, we can calculate the athlete’s one repetition maximum (1 RM) using the formula: weight * (1 + reps/30), which in his instance becomes: 100 * (1 + 5/30) = 117 kg. If the Strength Athlete weighs 95 kg, we can see from the Strength Standard table for the bench press that the strength athlete’s level for bench press is “Intermediate”, because 117 kg is within the limit for level Intermediate (103 kg). i.e. above the Intermediate level but below the limit for Advanced level (135 kg).
The sets prior to the Test AMRAP set should be warm-up sets with a gradually increasing load. By comparing the test AMRAP sets in the first week with the last week, we can calculate the progression, in the form of a percentage increase in the test exercise(s): (1 RM in the last week – 1 RM in the first week)/1 RM in the first week * 100.
3. CREATE YOUR VOLUME AND/OR INTENSITY PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD STRATEGIES
Build a progressive overload strategy for all or each selected body part(s).
You can use the blue summary table to compare the changes in total volume and average intensity per body part, from session to session.
Total volume is the total number of repetitions per body part per training session. For example, here total volume for Upper Arms (body part) is 90 (total number of repetitions).
Average intensity is adding up the intensity for all the sets in the training session for a specific body part, for example Upper arms, and dividing by the number of sets. For example: (68+68+68+68+68+68+68+68)/8 = 68.
We have three types of progressive overload strategy:
- INTENSITY (% of 1 RM)
The intensity of load is the weight you lift (a percentage of 1 repetition maximum), and the intensity of effort is how close you are to failure (Reps to failure), e.g., if your one repetition maximum (1 RM) for the bench press is 100 kg, then this has an intensity of 100%. An intensity of 80% is 80 kg, and so on. The percentage of 1 RM is determined by the combination of reps and RTF:
- If you only increase the reps, the load (% of 1 RM) is reduced.
- If you only decrease the reps, the load (% of 1 RM) increases.
- If you only increase the RTF, the load (% of 1 RM) is reduced.
- If you only decrease the RTF, the load (% of 1 RM) increases.
Here you can see an example that starts at 8 reps in week 2, 10 reps in week 3 and 12 reps in week 4. Gradually increasing the number of reps will result in a gradual decrease in the load (% of 1 RM):
Below you can see an example which starts at 5 RTF in week 2, 3 RTF in week 3 and 0 RTF in week 4.
Gradually decreasing the RTF will correspondingly increase the load (% of 1 RM).
Volume is the same as reps x sets and can be measured by total reps per body part per week. Volume can also be calculated as reps x sets x load, which is called volume load.
- If you only increase the reps, then the intensity goes down (and volume load increases).
- If you only decrease the reps, then the intensity goes up (and volume load decreases).
- If you only increase the sets, then the volume load increases.
- If you only decrease the sets, then the volume load decreases.
Below you can see an example which starts with 2 sets in week 2, 3 sets in week 3 and 4 sets in week 4.
Gradually increasing the sets will correspondingly increase the total volume and total volume load.
Frequency is basically how you spread out volume and intensity over the week. Frequency can be measured by training sessions per body part per week.
- If you only increase the frequency, the volume per workout will decrease.
- If you only decrease the frequency, then the volume per workout will increase.
- If you only increase the frequency, then intensity per workout can be reduced.
- If you only decrease the frequency, then intensity per workout can be increased.
As an example: Let’s say you have a trainingprogram where you train 8 chest sets (body part) three-times per week. This equals 24 sets per week for the chest. If you increase the number of sessions to four per week, then you can reduce the number of sets to 6 per session, and still have 24 per week. Then you also may reduce the inensity because now you have shorter recovery time between the chest sessions.
The first image below is an example of how to increase the frequency (number of sessions per body part per week) with only one workout.
The second image is an example of how to decrease the frequency with two workouts.
If we take a closer look at the left-hand image, the increase in frequency from Week 2 to Week 3, we see that when the frequency increases from 2 to 3 session per body part (chest), the volume per workout decreased from 4 sets to 3. The total volume load in week 2 is therefore calculated as 5656, and 6363 for week 3.
There is an increase in the total volume load per week for chest exercises, although it decreased in each individual session in week 3. This program has both a frequency- and a volume-progressive overload strategy.
A weight training session gives the muscles or a specific body group the necessary stimulus, which, when combined with sufficient time to recover and adapt, an increase in performance should be the natural outcome. If you do one set of bench presses every second week, there is a chance that the stimulus will be insufficient and the recovery time too long. If you train with using bench press with multiple sets and high intensity five-times a week, there is a strong chance that the stimulus will be too great, and as it will occur too frequently, the time for recovery will be too short. In addition, remember that compound barbell exercises present the greatest overload. However, if you use frequency progressive overload strategies correctly, barbells can be very effective.
4. COMPLETE THE PROGRAM DESIGN TABLE
The table retrieves information from your program and displays its design. The only thing you have to do is insert the chosen progression model for each body part:
- Or combinations of the above.
5. SAVE OR PUBLISH YOUR PROGRAM
Press “Save program” if you want to edit the program in the Progression Builder later on, or press “Publish program” if you are finished and want to make it available for strength athletes.
Note: You can-not make any further changes to the program once you have published it. If you save the program in the Progression Builder you will no longer be able to edit the program in the Calendar Builder.
Periodization is a powerful tool for avoiding a plateaux and ensuring long-term progression. It can be very impactful in increasing 1RM for e.g., compound barbell exercises and it simplifies the concept of progressive overload. Periodization is the planned manipulation in training variables, mainly volume, intensity and frequency, but it can also include rest periods, exercise selection, tempo, method, etc.
1. LINEAR PERIODIZATION
Linear Periodization, or classic periodization, is the most straightforward form of periodization. It occurs when you increase intensity and decrease volume over a period of time. You can go from higher repetitions with a lighter load to lower repetitions with a heavier load, which can be done on a daily or weekly basis. Linear periodization is great for beginners who make rapid progress. For these beginners, it may be wise not to use up the more advanced tools until they have reached higher levels where the more advanced periodization models are more useful and appropriate.
Reverse periodization is the opposite of linear periodization, where you increase the volume and decrease the intensity over time.
2. UNDULATING PERIODIZATION
Undulating periodization, or non-linear periodization, involves varying the stimulus over the course of the program. Instead of focusing on increasing one variable over time, you can increase several variables such as volume, intensity and types of exercise. You can focus on more than one strength training category or adaption. For example, on day 1 you focus on strength, day 2 on hypertrophy and on day 3 you focus on power.
The target group are intermediate and advanced lifters. Often as you get stronger, it becomes harder to recover from the large increments seen in linear periodization models. An intermediate lifter may use Daily Undulating Periodization (DUP) to progress weekly, and an advanced lifter may use Weekly Undulating Periodization (WUP) to make a monthly progression.
3. BLOCK PERIODIZATION
Block periodization involves organizing training into periods or “blocks” of two to four weeks with, for example, increasing intensity and decreasing volume as progress is made through the three distinct phases. The phases are divided into an accumulation, transmutation, or realization phase. Each block will involve training for a specific skill, such as hypertrophy, strength, or power.
For a power lifter, block periodization may look like this:
- Accumulation phase (Block 1): hypertrophy.
- Transmutation phase (Block 2): increasing strength.
- Realization phase (Block 3): peak in power.
4. CONJUGATE PERIODIZATION
Conjugate periodization is similar to daily undulating periodization in that the focus of training changes from one goal to another on a weekly basis, this includes volume, intensity, and exercise selection. It also involves layering strength, muscle mass and power training into one solid week of hard training, which is then repeated for a longer time period, e.g., for 12 – 16 weeks.
Conjugate periodization allows for the development of different traits and approaching multiple goals simultaneously. These goals may be hypertrophy, strength, power, or specific movement skills. For example, developing hypertrophy and maximum strength in the same week will be mutually beneficial because they are synergic. It is important to remember that some training objectives are not compatible, such as training for muscular endurance and maximal strength.
Conjugate periodization can be broken down into:
- Maximal Effort: typically heavy training, high percentages, lower volume
- Dynamic Effort: typically speed training, lower percentages, higher volume.
The upper and lower body can be trained once a week through adoption of the maximal effort method (session 1 and 2), and once through adoption of the dynamic method (session 3 and 4).
STRENGTH TRAINING PRINCIPLES
Progressive overload is perhaps the most important principle in strength training. In simple terms, you must do more training over time to ensure further stimulus, adaption and strength development. The most common progression strategies are intensity, volume and frequency progression. The adjustment of these variables over time can be achieved in differing ways, e.g., by lifting the same load for more reps, lifting the same load and volume with less time in between sets, lifting heavier loads, lifting a load with greater speed and acceleration, lifting the same load and volume more frequently, lifting the same load and volume and adding forced reps, drop sets, pre-exhaust sets, etc.
The principle of specificity:
The principle of specificity of strength training states that the way the body responds to strength training is very specific to the strength training itself. Maximum strength is perhaps optimally achieved with a high load, low reps and long rest periods. Muscle develops with higher reps, lower load and shorter rest periods, and so on.
The principle of diminishing returns:
The principle of diminishing returns refers to the decrease in progression or exercise adaptations as an athlete becomes more experienced and becomes stronger or bigger. An experienced lifter will make slower progress than a beginner and they are more likely to hit a plateau, where progress can stop altogether. Advanced lifters can benefit from a more complex program design and progression strategies. Strength athletes can be categorized into five levels: untrained, novice, intermediate, advanced, and elite.