T Nation

Periodization for the Bodybuilder

Most everyone agrees that you can’t do the same set/rep combination all the time. Powerlifters and olympic lifters and even strength athletes often have every pound their going to lift for an entire 6 weeks planned out before they start a training cycle. Many bodybuilder I have talked to seem to have no concrete system at all regarding how to change intensity or volume while ensuring progression.

This is ironic to me because these are often the same folks who have every calorie and macronutrient planned out for weeks at a time. So here is my question:What approach do you use to vary training stimulus and ensure progress? this question is for those training for asthetics/larger muscles. Here is an example of how I have been doing it.
cycle 1: 2x12
cycle 2: 3x8
cycle 3: 4x6
Next time through I have been trying to add 2 reps with the same weight, then after those three rep ranges, I reset to the original set/reps and try to add some weight. Muscles trained 2-3 times a week depending on work schedule. Cycle refers to one time through an entire bodypart split. Does not include warmup set.

So you do 4 reps the next time you go to Cycle 1?

I’m sorry but I would never want to do 14 reps of squats or bench …soooooo

[quote]Ethan7X wrote:
So you do 4 reps the next time you go to Cycle 1?

I’m sorry but I would never want to do 14 reps of squats or bench …soooooo[/quote]

Why? Idk about the bench press but high rep squats are brutal and blow your Legs up
I bet the same could be said about the bench press if someone tried

My main chest move is the DB Bench press, and I have had a lot of success developing strength in the higher rep ranges. Like the above poster noted one of the most tried and true programs of all time is the 20 rep squat program. Yeah it is hard on your ego to lift lighter weights, but you are lifting heavier 2/3 of the time.

What are some alternatives for varying rep ranges, volumes, and intensities that have worked for others?

example:
cycle 1: 100lbs x 12 reps, then the next you get back to cycle 1
cycle 1: 100lbs x 14 reps, then the next time
Cycle 1: 110lbs x 12 reps, then the next time
cycle 1: 110lbs x 14 reps etc…

Well not a bad idea. Its a short linear cycle you propose with tension overload be the driving force. Same like 531 wendler or HST from the generell idea.

Whats your plan if this linear cycling stalls out?

Thats the reason for my question, not sure where to go when linear stalls out. So far it has not, and the hope is it will work longer than something like 5x5 where you are supposed to add weight every cycle.

[quote]MiJuggernaut wrote:
Most everyone agrees that you can’t do the same set/rep combination all the time. Powerlifters and olympic lifters and even strength athletes often have every pound their going to lift for an entire 6 weeks planned out before they start a training cycle. Many bodybuilder I have talked to seem to have no concrete system at all regarding how to change intensity or volume while ensuring progression.

This is ironic to me because these are often the same folks who have every calorie and macronutrient planned out for weeks at a time. So here is my question:What approach do you use to vary training stimulus and ensure progress? this question is for those training for asthetics/larger muscles. Here is an example of how I have been doing it.
cycle 1: 2x12
cycle 2: 3x8
cycle 3: 4x6
Next time through I have been trying to add 2 reps with the same weight, then after those three rep ranges, I reset to the original set/reps and try to add some weight. Muscles trained 2-3 times a week depending on work schedule. Cycle refers to one time through an entire bodypart split. Does not include warmup set.
[/quote]

I don’t know… agree that for performance periodization is a necessity but I can’t help but wonder if its really necessary if training merely for aesthetics?

Personally I cover many of the rep ranges you mention in a single workout… For chest I would for instance start with a heavy exercise - say incline BB and ramp up to a heavy set of 4-6 reps… drop weight and do one more set, then I would do a somewhat lighter exercise - say, DB presses with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps focusing more TUT, range and contraction… and finish off with 3-4 sets of a isolation exercise in the 10-14 rep range - peck-deck or fly’s.

The programs that only use weight increases as means of progression while effective to a point usually leaves me with painful joints after just a month or two (I’m 39) and there are so many other intensity/progression methods - rest/pause, slow negatives, drop sets, mechanical drop sets and so on at your disposal when training “simply” for muscle growth that I just don’t see periodization being something to worry about.

[quote]MiJuggernaut wrote:
Thats the reason for my question, not sure where to go when linear stalls out. So far it has not, and the hope is it will work longer than something like 5x5 where you are supposed to add weight every cycle.[/quote]

5/3/1

This: http://tnation.T-Nation.com/free_online_forum/sports_body_training_performance_bodybuilding_strength/matt_rhodes_531_hybrid

Juggernaut method

[quote]winkel wrote:

[quote]MiJuggernaut wrote:
Most everyone agrees that you can’t do the same set/rep combination all the time. Powerlifters and olympic lifters and even strength athletes often have every pound their going to lift for an entire 6 weeks planned out before they start a training cycle. Many bodybuilder I have talked to seem to have no concrete system at all regarding how to change intensity or volume while ensuring progression.

This is ironic to me because these are often the same folks who have every calorie and macronutrient planned out for weeks at a time. So here is my question:What approach do you use to vary training stimulus and ensure progress? this question is for those training for asthetics/larger muscles. Here is an example of how I have been doing it.
cycle 1: 2x12
cycle 2: 3x8
cycle 3: 4x6
Next time through I have been trying to add 2 reps with the same weight, then after those three rep ranges, I reset to the original set/reps and try to add some weight. Muscles trained 2-3 times a week depending on work schedule. Cycle refers to one time through an entire bodypart split. Does not include warmup set.
[/quote]

I don’t know… agree that for performance periodization is a necessity but I can’t help but wonder if its really necessary if training merely for aesthetics?

Personally I cover many of the rep ranges you mention in a single workout… For chest I would for instance start with a heavy exercise - say incline BB and ramp up to a heavy set of 4-6 reps… drop weight and do one more set, then I would do a somewhat lighter exercise - say, DB presses with 2-3 sets of 8-12 reps focusing more TUT, range and contraction… and finish off with 3-4 sets of a isolation exercise in the 10-14 rep range - peck-deck or fly’s.

The programs that only use weight increases as means of progression while effective to a point usually leaves me with painful joints after just a month or two (I’m 39) and there are so many other intensity/progression methods - rest/pause, slow negatives, drop sets, mechanical drop sets and so on at your disposal when training “simply” for muscle growth that I just don’t see periodization being something to worry about.

[/quote]

Well I made the experience when mixing rep schemes in one workout up too much, that I stalled out. But thats just me-perhaps the stimuli are too diverse to let adaption occur.
I always suceeded via HLM on seperate days.
You can als periodize with drop sets and other techniques.

[quote]science wrote:

Well I made the experience when mixing rep schemes in one workout up too much, that I stalled out. But thats just me-perhaps the stimuli are too diverse to let adaption occur.
I always suceeded via HLM on seperate days.
You can als periodize with drop sets and other techniques.[/quote]

I should probably clarify that when I said I cover most of the rep ranges in one workout its incidental - I didn’t set it up that way as part of some elaborate periodization scheme. I just chose exercises that lends themselves better to heavy (incline BB), stretch, ROM (DB press) and stretch/pump (fly’s or peck-deck). My point was that periodization might be overkill when training for aesthetics.

An example for back following that principle:

BB or DB rows (heavy)
Pull downs (stretch/ROM)
Pullovers (pump and ROM, if using the Nautilus machine at least)

and of course dead lift or rack pulls because… well, they are just plain awesome

[quote]winkel wrote:

[quote]science wrote:

Well I made the experience when mixing rep schemes in one workout up too much, that I stalled out. But thats just me-perhaps the stimuli are too diverse to let adaption occur.
I always suceeded via HLM on seperate days.
You can als periodize with drop sets and other techniques.[/quote]

I should probably clarify that when I said I cover most of the rep ranges in one workout its incidental - I didn’t set it up that way as part of some elaborate periodization scheme. I just chose exercises that lends themselves better to heavy (incline BB), stretch, ROM (DB press) and stretch/pump (fly’s or peck-deck). My point was that periodization might be overkill when training for aesthetics.

An example for back following that principle:

BB or DB rows (heavy)
Pull downs (stretch/ROM)
Pullovers (pump and ROM, if using the Nautilus machine at least)

and of course dead lift or rack pulls because… well, they are just plain awesome

[/quote]
It may be true that periodization for asthetic is unneccessary to make progress, and most of the time I have not used any scientific form of it, but I kept getting burned out and hitting walls using that old standby method of a heavy power move, a moderate TUT move and then a finishing pumping exercise. Each workout was the same as the last, it was unclear whether I was making progress and I felt the urge to change my program every few weeks. Since I have been using this system my strength has been increasing faster than even at the beginning of my training. Also I think stressing the muscle a different way each time allows for more recovery and frequency than demolishing it every time in every way.
Bottom line: You can make progress without any system of periodization, but can you make optimal progress that way?

[quote]MiJuggernaut wrote:

It may be true that periodization for asthetic is unneccessary to make progress, and most of the time I have not used any scientific form of it, but I kept getting burned out and hitting walls using that old standby method of a heavy power move, a moderate TUT move and then a finishing pumping exercise. Each workout was the same as the last, it was unclear whether I was making progress and I felt the urge to change my program every few weeks. Since I have been using this system my strength has been increasing faster than even at the beginning of my training. Also I think stressing the muscle a different way each time allows for more recovery and frequency than demolishing it every time in every way.
Bottom line: You can make progress without any system of periodization, but can you make optimal progress that way?[/quote]

Well, you look like you are doing something right so who am I to argue :slight_smile:

For me, the fact that I have three different rep ranges in one workout does that I have yet to stall… if I can’t add weight or reps to the heavy one, I always seem to be able to on one of the other exercises (or even add an extra set) - extra stimuli is extra stimuli, also if its not on the heavy exercise.

That said, If I still cant progress on the heavy one in the next session, I switch the exercise like you would when training DC for instance.

[quote]winkel wrote:

[quote]MiJuggernaut wrote:

It may be true that periodization for asthetic is unneccessary to make progress, and most of the time I have not used any scientific form of it, but I kept getting burned out and hitting walls using that old standby method of a heavy power move, a moderate TUT move and then a finishing pumping exercise. Each workout was the same as the last, it was unclear whether I was making progress and I felt the urge to change my program every few weeks. Since I have been using this system my strength has been increasing faster than even at the beginning of my training. Also I think stressing the muscle a different way each time allows for more recovery and frequency than demolishing it every time in every way.
Bottom line: You can make progress without any system of periodization, but can you make optimal progress that way?[/quote]

Well, you look like you are doing something right so who am I to argue :slight_smile:

For me, the fact that I have three different rep ranges in one workout does that I have yet to stall… if I can’t add weight or reps to the heavy one, I always seem to be able to on one of the other exercises (or even add an extra set) - extra stimuli is extra stimuli, also if its not on the heavy exercise.

That said, If I still cant progress on the heavy one in the next session, I switch the exercise like you would when training DC for instance.[/quote]
I think if we looked at all bodybuilders we would find most have no organized periodization and many of the biggest on this site have gotten that way without it. On the other hand I believe mountain dog has a form of periodization with three phases, and I have read many article from the 1980’s where bodybuilders talk about cycle heavy light and moderate days. MODOK from this site cycles his rep ranges when last I saw him post…so I guess stay with what works, but the OCD part of me likes having a relatively scientific system.
Does anyone understand thehow the mountain dog training system works?

If you’re interested in a more scientific approach to training I?d recommend getting Mike Tuchscherer?s Reactive Training Manual.

He makes a compelling argument against complex training (which is training multiple abilities at the same time) for more advanced trainees. Although it’s aimed at powerlifters the concepts are very applicable to bodybuilding.

Basically he argues that complex training works fine for beginners but as people advance they require more and more volume training a specific ability to make gains.

Initially this should just involve splitting training into separate cycles of higher volume / lower intensity and higher intensity / lower volume training.

Then as a trainee gets more advanced they should add in stuff like specialization cycles concentrating on specific weak points (muscle groups in relation to bodybuilding) while maintaining everything else.

He also discusses increasing work capacity over time by alternating cycles of short high frequency workouts and longer lower frequency workouts. This is also very applicable to bodybuilders.

[quote]Karl Hungus wrote:
If you’re interested in a more scientific approach to training I?d recommend getting Mike Tuchscherer?s Reactive Training Manual.

He makes a compelling argument against complex training (which is training multiple abilities at the same time) for more advanced trainees. Although it’s aimed at powerlifters the concepts are very applicable to bodybuilding.

Basically he argues that complex training works fine for beginners but as people advance they require more and more volume training a specific ability to make gains.

Initially this should just involve splitting training into separate cycles of higher volume / lower intensity and higher intensity / lower volume training.

Then as a trainee gets more advanced they should add in stuff like specialization cycles concentrating on specific weak points (muscle groups in relation to bodybuilding) while maintaining everything else.

He also discusses increasing work capacity over time by alternating cycles of short high frequency workouts and longer lower frequency workouts. This is also very applicable to bodybuilders.[/quote]

Great advice, never seen training broken down so systematically, yet even on his website I did not see how to put together a bodybuilding program. He does an excellent job quantifying volume, intensity, and fatigue. I only found one article on bodybuilding training which was very vague, have you found anywhere where he lays out non-power-lifting template?

Have a look for the thread “RTS for bodybuilding” on the second page of his forum.