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Variation in the Training Program Must Be Systematic: Part 3


 

This article series began with Variation in the Training Program Must Be Systematic: Part I discussing the fundamental questions, “What is variation?” and “Why can’t we just use the same training program all the time?”

Variation in the Training Program Must Be Systematic: Part 2  revealed specific science-based examples of how to apply variation to the goals of each block template (characterized by specific target training adaptations); the volume and intensity of training; exercise selection; training frequency and workout structure. The article demonstrated how the training program can be designed gradually through multiple drafts.

As the final part of this series, this article will reveal how the goal of the training program can be optimally supported through variations in the use of progressive overload.

Training Methods

There are four fundamental strength training methods and three fundamental energy systems training methods (Jensen, 2010).  

1.    The Repeated Effort Method (long duration)

2.    The Aerobic Method

3.    The Repeated Effort Method (short duration)

4.    The Anaerobic Lactic Method

5.    The Maximal Effort Method

6.    The Dynamic Effort Method

7.    The Anaerobic Alactic Method.

Variations of the above methods are characterized as "a given combination of acute program variablesand referred to as method variations (or training methods) (Jensen, 2010). Each method variation should have a well-defined goal of developing a particular bio-motor ability (physical capacity), potentially with secondary or even tertiary effects.

The Goal of the method variation dictates the Target Training Adaptation; including structural, neural, metabolic and cardio-respiratory adaptations. The primary training adaptation dictates the Outcome Variable, the acute program variable that the program aims to take beyond previous levels. Other variables may show an improvement as well, but this is not the primary focus.

The Outcome Variable dictates the Independent and Dependent Program Variables, as well as how progressive overload is applied (Jensen, 2010).

In Table 1 (below): maximal strength, muscle mass (structural strength) and muscle endurance are listed as the primary goals.

Day

1

2

3

Primary Goal

Maximal Strength

Muscle mass

Muscle endurance

Exercise

Deep barbell Back Squat

 Lat Pull Down

 Incline DB Bench Press

Flat Barbell Bench Press

 Deep Barbell Front Squat

 Zercher Backward Lunge

Row Ergometer

Arm Cycle

Row Ergometer

Hamstring Curl

Biceps Curl

Back Extension

Table 1: Variation in goals of each block template + volume and intensity of training + exercise selection + training frequency of each exercise + variation in workout structure (See Variation In The Training Program Must Be Systematic: Part 2).

While both types of muscle endurance (performance-oriented muscle endurance and stabilizer endurance) could be included in an exercise program, the following discussion focuses on stabilizer endurance; which can be defined as the ability of tonic stabilizer muscles to maintain a certain force output over several minutes in duration.

Table 2 (below) shows the relationship among the primary goals (maximal strength, muscle mass, and stabilizer endurance) and the target training adaptations, outcome variables and fundamental training methods used (Jensen, 2010).

Primary Goal

Maximal Strength

Muscle mass

Stabilizer Endurance

Target training adaptation

Neural activation

Structural, metabolic

Metabolic, structural, coordination.

Outcome variable

Maximal load used

# of sets/workout/week with high intensity

# of long sets/workout/week

Fundamental Training Method used

Maximal Effort Method

Repeated-Effort Method Short Duration

Repeated-Effort Method Long duration

We can now look at three specific examples of how the outcome variable dictates the independent and dependent program variables, as well as how progressive overload is applied. Pay careful attention to the specific differences in how progressive overload is applied in the three different method variations.

Goal = Maximal Strength

The maximal load is the outcome variable - the key variable that the program aims to increase. The way of applying progressive overload is tweaked to facilitate an increase in the maximal load used (Jensen, 2010):

The following method variation shows how the above guidelines are applied in a specific situation. This method variation includes three days per week emphasizing maximal strength, but any of the 3 days can be used for the maximal strength day (See Table 1).

Day 1: Load x 6-3 reps                        Day 2: Load x 4-1 reps                    Day 3: Load x 8-5 reps

  1. Determine through testing three different loads that allow the athlete/client to perform 6 respectively 4, respectively 8 (day 1/day 2/day 3) repetitions with the chosen exercise variation. The RPE (rate of perceived exertion) should be 4 out of 5.
  2. In each set of all workouts, the athlete/client aims to perform 6/4/8 repetitions (day 1/day 2/day 3) with proper form.
  3. In every workout, the load is increased with 5-2,5(1) kg compared to the previous workout with the same repetition bracket.
  4. As the load increases, accept a gradual decrease in the repetitions performed in each set. This acceptable decrease in repetitions over the course of the cycle is indicated by writing 6-3 repetitions instead of 3-6 reps.

The guideline of independently increasing the intensity is applied in Step 3 by increasing the load “in every workout” independently of the progress of the athlete or client.

The guideline of dependently decreasing the volume is applied in Step 4, by accepting a reduction in the number of repetitions per set dependent on the progress of the athlete or fitness client.

The total number of sets are selected based on the athlete's or client's training capacity and can be gradually reduced over time (reducing the total training volume).

Goal = Muscle Mass 

The # of sets per workout per week with high intensity is the outcome variable - the key variable that the program aims to increase. Increase in “the # of sets per workout per week with high intensity” is accomplished through the following guidelines (Jensen, 2010):

This method variation incorporates the challenging feature of simultaneously increasing the volume and the intensity of training. The following example demonstrates how the above guidelines can be applied in a specific situation. This method variation is created for a so-called combination exercise.

An example of a combination exercise applied in the program above (Table 1) would be Lat Pull Down with a pronated grip followed by (combined with) Lat Pull Down with a supinated grip.

Week 1: Load x 4 + 4 reps   Week 2: Load x 3 + 5 reps    Week 3: Load x 2 + 6 reps (8 repetitions total (per set) each week)  

  1. Select a two-stage combination exercise.
  2. Determine an intitial load through testing that can be completed for 4 repetitions (at a RPE 4 out of 5) for the first stage of the combination exercise.
  3. The athlete/client should perform 4/3/2 + 4/5/6 (week 1/2/3) repetitions for a total of 8 repetitions per set in all weeks. In ALL workouts, the first stage (e.g., lat pull down with pronated grip) of the combination exercise is performed for the first half of the total number of repetitions and the second stage (e.g., lat pull down with supinated grip) for the last half of the total repetitions.
  4. The second part of each set, the 4/5/6 repetitions are performed in a rest-pause fashion. After completing the first part of each set (the 4/3/2 repetitions), the athlete/client continuously evaluates RPE. If RPE is 3-4: the athlete/client should continue. If RPE is 4-5: the athlete/client should decrease load + take a 10-15 seconds complete rest. (Keep the process of changing the load + the rest as short as possible).
  5. Increase the load each week.
  6. Add 1 or more sets each week.

Step 5 shows that the intensity should be increased each week independent of the athlete's or client's progress. This independent increase in intensity becomes possible by allowing the first “rest-pause” earlier in the set each week – after 4 repetitions in week 1, after 3 repetitions in week 2 and after 2 repetitions in week 3. Additionally, the feature of reducing the load later in the set as needed allows for an increase in the initial load each week.

Because the total volume is important to develop muscle mass, the number of sets are independently increased each week. (This volume increase is in contrast to the method variation to develop maximal strength that is facilitated by a gradual reduction in volume).

After three weeks the program can be repeated - beginning with a new start load.

Goal = Stabilizer Endurance

The # of long sets (2-5 minutes) per workout per week is the outcome variable - the key variable that the program aims to increase.

An increase in the # of long sets per workout per week is accomplished through the following guidelines (Jensen, 2010):

The following method variation demonstrates how the above guidelines can be applied in a specific situation:

This method variation is created for a three-stage combination exercise. A three-stage combination exercise is used to create a set of long duration. An example of a combination exercise applied in the program above (Table 1) would be Incline DB Bench Press with the bench at three different settings, for example:

Setting # 1: One setting above 45 degrees.

Setting # 2: 45 degrees

Setting # 3: One setting below 45 degrees.

Load x 12 + 12 + 12 repetitions

  1. Determine through testing an initial load that allows the athlete/client to perform 10 repetitions of the first segment with an RPE of 4 out of 5.
  2. Use rest pauses of 10-15 seconds per exercise to complete 12+12+12 repetitions.
  3. Add 1 set per workout per week to a maximum of 3 sets.
  4. Increase the load when 12+12+12 repetitions can be performed in a continuous fashion.

Note: With this particular combination exercise, “performed in a continuous fashion” would mean that the athlete/client only takes breaks to change the setting of the bench.

An important factor in developing stabilizer endurance is performing the long sets. Therefore – and in contrast to the previous method variations – the intensity is increased dependent on the ability to perform 12 + 12 + 12 repetitions. Volume is an important component of stabilizer endurance and the total volume is increased independently each week.

Summary

There are 4 fundamental strength training methods. This article discussed how variations of these methods are characterized by a particular goal, target training adaptations, outcome variable and, in turn, the specific use of independent and dependent program variables. Additionally, specific examples of method variations to improve maximal strength, muscle mass and stabilizer endurance were discussed.

References:

Jensen, K. The Flexible Periodization Method Integrates 7 fundamental methods of physical development. The Flexible Periodization Method. Chapter 1.5, p 32. The Write Fit. 2010

Jensen, K. Method Variations. The Flexible Periodization Method. Appendix 6, p 366. The Write Fit. 2010

Jensen K. Bio-Motor Abilities: The Most Comprehensive List Available Today. http://www.ytsmembersarea.com/bio-motor-abilities.html

Jensen K. Block # 3: Skill And Strength In Primal Patterns. The Flexible Periodization Method. Chapter 2.3, p 198. The Write Fit. 2010

Jensen K. Block # 2: Structure – Isolation – Stability. The SIS block. The Flexible Periodization Method. Chapter 2.2, p 166. The Write Fit. 2010

Jensen K. Block # 1: Isolation - Structure – Stability. The ISS block. The Flexible Periodization Method. Chapter 2.1, p 134. The Write Fit. 2010