CT, with regards to progress on the layer system (for the power look specifically), it is my understanding that you prefer to stick to a certain number of lifts (incline, decline, scrape the rack, high pull, dead-squat) and that you periodize set and rep structures to ensure progress. Another piece of the puzzle to avoid stagnation seems to be small tweaks to the exercises, i.e. chinese high pulls, low pulls, close grip declines, presses with bands, dead-squats from platforms etc.
I have 2 questions about this:
do you have any other recommended tweaks to exercises to change things up? Would changing hand with and/or bar height on the presses and box height on the high pulls be useful? Adding weeks of regular lifts in place of dead starts? None of these? Something completely different?
should this stuff be periodized or more or less completely random?
You are right. I always prefered to use very few exercise variations and become super efficient at them. I believe that frequent variation is overrated.
(A) It is used to give the illusion of progress… the first few weeks you do a lift, you improve mostly via an increase in inter, then intra muscular coordination. (1) you improve your timing/technique in the lift (2)you improve motor unit recruitment in the lift (3) you build new muscle tissue. People often change lift when rapid progress stops… but it is when this rapid (neural adaptations) progress stops that you begin to rely mostly on building muscle mass as the main adaptation.
(B) Frequent changes is often used by personal trainers to (1) give the illusion that they are good (see point A), (2) force their clients to buy more frequent programs, (3) make them look like they know a lot of stuff.
That having been said, I do not focus only on changing volume and intensity to introduce variation.
- Changes in sets
- Changes in reps per set
- Changes in training method (e.g. clusters, extended sets, 54321, double contraction, etc.)
- Slight change in technique (grip with, feet width, range of motion, etc.)
- Apparatus (fat bar, normal bar, dead-squat bar, safety squat bar, etc.)
- Force curve (bands, chains, reverse bands, weight releasers, etc.)
Is it “periodized”? Well, anything that includes periodic changes in loading methods is technically “periodisation”. But to answer your question, the changes/variations are planned in advance, not random. However sometimes a method will be selected to solve a weaknesswhen you discover it (so it cannot be planned before you find the weakness).