Hello CT - was reading your pendulum reboot and the whole body articles recently and thought of a 2A centric (and hopefully effective) training setup…do you think this would work well?
Alternate on a weekly basis a “base” strength/progression program (hepburn layer, strength circuit, CT’s powerbuiding etc.) with an “intensification” or “bodybuilidng” (i.e. bodybuilding weeks from your full body program or the infamous 6 day Layers).
Looking back at blitz programs like layers (the original 6 day format) which gave incredible results but for most people becmae too much after a few weeks…
Could we build a progression ramp (over more weeks/months) by interspersing it within a base program.
How long do you find that you can stick with something?
I find my itch to change things varies when it’ll strike me. Sometimes two weeks is my limit until I start looking for shiny things. Sometimes it’s three. Rarely is it ever four.
When it’s two weeks, I find that I can make a cohesive accumulation block four weeks long by choosing two accumulation methods to do before entering an intensification phase. The Undulating Periodization Strength and Size program is an example of that.
If I can focus for three weeks, I tend to want to change “style”, so I could go from a bodybuilding split in the accumulation block to a full-body OCTS style in the intensification block.
Or, train as a 2B until I no longer want to and then train as a 1A or a 1B until I no longer want to. Rinse. Repeat.
Yes actually this weekly alternating style is what can keep me sticking to a longer term progression.
For the longest time I just did some sort of ramp (to 3RM/ 5RM / 8RM) and back off - which probably works great. But now I’m looking to really push some numbers (let’s say powerlifting/powerbuilding) and try to stick with a more objective (poundage) based system to get my big lifts up.
So I’ve been doing this powerbuilding program which was basically full body week 1, then upper/lower week 2. And it’s been great so far. But got me thinking about layers and CT’s blitz kind of programs… so there will be lots of overlap on lifts (bench / front squat / trap bar / sghp) but the different style (5x5’s, 8x3’s etc. vs. cluster/rest pause) on an alternate weekly basis.
I have two articles coming up in which I explain that variation in methods might actually be the key to long term progression.
Yes the loading parameters can play a role, but what has the greatest impact is likely the way each rep (or set) is performed. Essentially, the more foreign a way of using your muscles is, the more effective te stimulus is, without having to turn up things like volume and intensity to make the stimulus strong enough.
Bascially, volume, intensiveness and loads need to be increased only when the body becomes accustomed to a type of stimulus and you need to make the stimulus stronger to be effective.
When you frequently rotate methods, and the more drastic the changes are, the less you need volume and even intentiveness to make the stimulus maximally effective.
That’s in part why the first 2-3 weeks you try something completely new, you have rapid changes in body composition, but it doesn’t last.
That’s what happened when I tried Crossfit, rings and every time I switch to olympic lifting.
I also believe that there is no need to “stay with a type of training for long enough for it to work”. That’s not the way to body works… you put a stress on your body during the workout and in the following 30-36h it adapts. Afterwards any new workout is seen by your body as a new event. It doesn’t “remember” what it did before. HOWEVER it is better adapted to the type of stress you placed on it and if you repeat the same type of stress, it is very slightly less effective (unless you increase volume, load or intensiveness… and that has its limitation).
I think I always instinctively knew this because:
I always defined myself as a methods guy and I rotated as many methods as I could.
I have often used the approach described in the “pendulum” series in which every week uses a different type of training
All of my most effective approaches are all designed to be used over a short term
Recently I was reminded of a training block I created when another strength coach posted about it on Instagram, saying how it was the most effective training block he ever used with his athletes, and that everybody else knew when his athletes were using it because they made rapid visual changes.
Essentially it was:
Week 1: 6 sets of 6 reps with an isometric hold on each rep (rep 1 = 6 sec, rep 2 = 5 sec, rep 3 = 4 sec, rep 4 = 3 sec, rep 5 = 2 sec, rep 6 = 1 sec)
Very interesting. In contrast to the “stick with a program for 6 months” and milk all strength gains etc. philsophy that’s “common wisdom”
I like this idea of tissue responding to some unique stimulus for the next day/or two and theres not some magical “memory” / [other than CNS/strength skill] that requires trainees to not “mix it up” too much
I do have one question though about correctly implementing the advice you give:
If you already vary your training intensities (alternating between acc. and int. phases (each phase lasts 3 weeks)) and you use advanced rep schemes (see absolute strength and hypertrophy example), how much extra variation can you allow in your training sessions without going overboard?
Structural balance example:
acc1: 3 x 10-12
int 1: 4 x 6-8
acc2: 4 x 8-10
int2: 5 x 4-6
Absolute strength example:
acc1: 4 x 7-9
int 2: 5,4,3,5,4,3
I guess there’s more leeway in the training sessions of the structural balance macrocycle, but I find it pretty hard to decide when/where you can or cannot use more variations in an advanced macrocycle. Especially when it comes down to using training methods. I feel like I need to use them sparingly on training sessions with advanced rep schemes in the A series as to not overtax my body.
Does it depend on the muscle(s) you’re trying to develop? The training effect you wish to achieve with each exercise? The training split used? For hypertrophy, I like to vary between body part split (acc phases) and upper/lower (int phases). For strength, it’s almost always an upper/lower split. For fat loss, I use a whole body approach (muscle fiber fatigue focus in acc phases, lactate/growth factor stimulating training methods instead of load in int phases (much like your intensity methods in beat the apocalypse BW program).
I naturally tend to keep exercises (that I respond well to) the same, but love to vary training tempo, training methods and range of motion.
Stephane Cazeault’s approach to program design and (undulating) periodization looks pretty legit because all the training variables are very structured and well organised. However, he’s really focused on improving athletic performance and strength output (which is great but perhaps not the best approach for hypertrophy).
My apologies for the long message, I wanted to be specific about the subject.
Do you think running something intense like a Layers on alternate weeks is a good idea? Going for higher lift #'s/performance (so like a base building/powerlifting full body strength on week 1, then layers on week2).
Too much interference / wrong signals or maybe effective? Definitely satisfies the 2A cravings (switching things up biweekly)…
First, Steph is a friend of mine and we actually worked together in the past. So do not see what I’m writing here as an attack or anything like that. I also know him well personally, which helps me understand where his approach comes from.
Steph is super structured and is a numbers guy. Both when it comes to relying only on data to program and when it comes to training objectives (chasing numbers). He is the prototypical 1A / 3 mix (which is actually very common) in my neurotyping system.
This also makes him VERY set in his ways. SEVERAL times in the past, I have exposed the complete science as to why some of his methods were not optimal, but despite acknowledging that I was right, he did not change his structure accordingly.
Which is fine, and it can actually be a good thing if what you are doing works.
And what he does works, no doubt about that. Heck, focusing on getting stronger on the basic movement patterns rarely doesn’t work. But I don’t see it as ideal.
But that is a matter of opinion.
I actually like the accumulation / intensification rotation. In fact I mention in my latest article that it is the best way to vary the stimulus.
I also like the tempo variation. Which Steph eventually uses (he stick to a 4010 tempo) for the first 6-12 months of training, which I don’t agree with.
Steph also rotate exercises in and out, which is also a form of variation, albeit a more limited one in its effectiveness.
Where he is lacking, IMHO, is that even between accumultation and intensification phases, the differences in intensity zones are not big. And probably not large enough to prevent training habituation in the most advanced individuals.
I would also like to see more variations in tempo and in how the reps are performed (stato-dynamic, eccentric emphasis, 1 1/2 reps, partial movements, etc.). In all fairness he does use rep style variation more than certain coaches, but not enough IMHO. Poliquin was closer to what I believe to be optimal.
He also tend to stick with the same rep number for an exercise for the duration of a phase. I prefer to either change the reps slightly or change how they are performed from week to week. But that’s just how I work.
But besides that, I don’t have real issues with his programming. I actually admire how structured he is, I could never be like that.
Also, and this is not to start a war. But even though Steph is all about strength, I have gotten people a lot stronger than he has.
First for it to have interference the training signals have to require opposite adaptations or at least be very far from one another in demands. Layers are still strength training. Even the lower weight layers would not be different enough to interfere with one another.
Now if you were doing layers (or powerlifting type training) then endurance training, there could be some interference. BUT we must also consider the second element:
For it to have interference the two (or more) training modes must be close enough to interfere with the adaptation process.
When it comes to strength training this includes the training sessions and the 36 hours post-workout, where the adaptions occur.
If a different stimulus is imposed on the body outside of that 36h window, it will not interfere with the adaptations from the previous workout.
By changing the type of training every week, you will thus note have any interference.
Do you think so? He does make bigger intensity jumps from phase to phase based on the training age of the lifter. For example a lifter who has been training seriously for 4+ years, gets 12-15% differences between acc and int phases and 6-8% from block to block. Seems pretty big to me. Any bigger than that and the training effect of the previous phase might get lost doesn’t it?
This is exactly the thing I wanted to have your opinion about. Let’s say you do stick with the same big movements (squats, deads, bench) and reps for the entire phase but you change the tempo, rep execution (ecc, iso holds, concentric), training methods and range of motion from phase to phase, where would you in your experience place them so they are complementary and not overpowering?
For example in phase 1 if I do squats 4 x 7-9 reps with a 5010 tempo in the A series, can I use a training method like rest-pause on seated leg curls in the B series and use partials on leg extensions in the C series?
Steph also uses double station work (except in the A series on lower body days) mostly in order to save time. So building on the example you would have something like:
A Squat 4 x 7-9 5-0-1-0 180-240
B1 Split Squat or Lunge 3-4x 6-8 2-0-1-0 60-90
B2 Seated leg curl 3-4x 6-8 3-0-1-0 60-90 rest-pause
C1 Leg extension 2-3 x 10-12 2-0-1-0 30-60 partials on last set
C2 45° back extension 2-3x 10-12 3-0-1-1 30-60
Is this overkill or is it just dependent on the intensity zone you’re using? For example higher intensity zone means less training methods but more variation in rep tempo/execution. Lower intensity zone means more training methods (when volume is not too high) and variation in rep tempo/execution etc.
I’m just trying to understand how to use these variations effectively so they can co-exist with the other training variables if that makes sense.
Think only difference there was 3 work sets versus 6
Would you program these as full body (e.g. Jacked athlete plan, 3x a week 3-5 major movements + a 4th gap workout day etc) or mix match more bodypart / momvement days [push / pull / legs or squat/OHP + BP/DL as example…)
It’s a loading scheme progression, so it can be used with any training split. I personally prefer a whole body 3x a week + 1 gap workout (exercises in the gap workout would use a different scheme) or an upper/lower split or push+ quads / pull+hams.
When I use this progression with the athletes I work with, we normally don’t use it for more than 2-3 exercises in a session.
Hello Coach do you have any recommendations on “priming” performance for these full body style training…
On movement days (or one lift a day) ->we could feel the activation through the ramp (2rm-5rm) and lots of “practice” extends sets of 3 reps going up.
Do you recommend a sequencing or some kind of activation (partials / heavy yielding isometric for each movement) on full body days?
Example - do trap bar / squat first. Then bench (more prime). Or maybe do a mini 1Rm-3RM to a top set (activation/warmup) then back off and do the 6x6 etc.
Trying to replicate those “full” pump feelings from more movement / one lift specific training style and also less shell shock of CNS (i.e. bench feels heavier after two heavy low body movements and vice versa…)…