T Nation

Cycles, loads and volume

I am curious about peoples overall routines. How did each of you come about establishing a routine? Self experimentation, read it somewhere and follow it to the letter…Also about progression. How is it you determine when to change the load used? Again, predetermined performance guidelines, someone wrote it somewhere, etc.

It will always come down to trial and error. Over time experience provides you for a feel for your total work capacity, assuming you’re drug free. You learn how often you need to change your program, whether weekly, fortnightly or other, and how drastic those changes need to be. Do you need to totally overhaul your current regimen, altering exercises, rest periods, intensity (weight lifted), TUT and rest intervals. Or is a minor change only in order, i.e. keeping all other variables the same but increasing from sets of 3reps to sets of 5.
You know when it is time to change when your poundages stagnate. Then it is time to move from minor changes to sweeping ones. But really everyone is different. The programs in a can, that are of offered on tmag, can provide useful options for variation, but they do not have to be followed to the letter. If one specifies 10 sets and you know from past experience that what is optimal for your body is 6, then you adapt the program to that. Similarly if a program specifies sticking to a set, rep scheme for a predetermined period of time, but you know that you need to change your program much sooner due to the rapid rate at which your body adapts, then you would be a fool to stick to general recommendations when you know what best works for you.
Broadly for myself I have found lower reps to be effective. I particularly enjoy training with multiple RM sets. About 5 sets on large muscle groups and 3 to 4 on the smaller. When adaptation to this takes place, usually 4 to 6 weeks, I switch to lower intensities, but stay in the same rep bracket of 5 or less, this time maintaining a fixed weight for all sets, and slightly increasing the volume by adding one or two sets. Another option here is to slowly decrease intervals while maintaining all other variables. That’s just the basics to give you and idea. Exercise selection of course plays a big part and we all have our favourite movements. And I am as guilty as most of sticking to them and rarely changing them. Even though I know the benefits of regular change.

JP: I have never done anything really fancy in the past, and I made my greatest progress by sticking to the basics and lifting heavy.

However, now that I’ve established a decent base, I would really like to give some of the more detailed programs here on T-Mag a good go-around.

The major point that I wanted to hit on was load progression. This is a real good question and I think it differs from person to person just as much as any other parameter.

To me, I need to make progress from one workout to the next. I need to increase the weight that I’m using or the number of repetitions that I’m performing for a given exercise, relative to my most recent performance. As soon as I hit the desired number of reps for each set of an exercise, I’ll bump the weight.

After years of trying different things to see what works and what doesn’t, I finally decided to follow a laid out program written by someone who knows what he’s doing. I’ve gotten my best results with Renegade Training, so that’s what I do now and have been doing for more than four months.

The first time I tried Renegade Training (about a year and a half ago), I made incredible gains. I lost fat, I was fit, and increased my speed and overall health. I decided to take a break and try a few other things with “so-so” results. So I decided to stick what has worked best for me.

I’ve tried many things from Poliquin’s bodybuilding ideas, some of Staley’s recommendations and EDT, 5x5, Olympic lifting, GVT, Ian King’s programs, and a few others. My best results have been from 5x5 for strength and Renegade Training for overall health and fitness.