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Sequencing of workouts and some program design

Here is a really great question about sequencing of workouts and some program design concepts.

As I get older my body can't take the heavy loading with squats and deadlifts like I used to so I need to incorporate more plyos and speed work into my programs so I can never have to play in the over 30 soccer and basketball leagues.

I hear ya on the getting older part!

As far as not being able to take the heavy loading of squats and deadlifts, I think a lot of this is rooted in the fact that you probably need to structure your training a little better interms of how you are setting up your phases. You need to make sure that you back off at times and then push at times. You are still playing sports, which is great! You just need to get your training to complement your athletics a little more.

First, before we talk about breaking things down into phases, lets talk a little bit about rep ranges (or rep zones as I like to say). If we are looking at them there are really three main rep zones (and a 4th one which I will talk about in a second). The main three are power, strength and hypertrophy. Or as some like to call dynamic effort (power), max effort (strength) and repetitive effort (hypertrophy).

In a nut shell, power is our explosive stuff. It is defined as work/time. So, how quickly can we move a weight or perform a task. This is where your plyometrics will fall into. Also, if you use olympic lifts and their variations, you can place them into this catergory as well. The actual percentage of weight that you would use varies depending on the task. Plyo's can be done with body weight and depending on what you are doing you can change the intensity. For med balls, people can use anywhere 3-10% of their body weight and sometimes more depending on how quickly they can actually move. Power cleans might be around the 70-80% range. Basically....move fast! Real fast!

Strength is your heavy stuff. I will say anything 5 reps or less. For myself I generally stay in the 3-5 rep range. Maybe once in an 8 week training cycle I will move up to actual singles. But typically I stay in that rep range or I use my 3RM and perform many 1 rep sets with it.

Hypertrophy, or repetitive effort, is just that. Reps, reps, reps. Somewhere in the 6-12 rep range works well for most. This is your "bodybuilder" training.

The fourth rep zone that I referred to is your recovery rep zone, or endurance reps. That would be in the 12-20 rep range. Light weight. This can be used for recovery workouts if you haven't recovered properly from your last training session. For example, if you go in on a strength day and it isn't happening, you can drop back and do some recovery work and get out. Also, I use this rep range after coming off a long training cycle were I really beat myself up. Take 7-10 days a day a few easy workouts to give my body and my joints a break.

Okay, now that we have that defined, lets look at how to really set things up. I know a few entries back I had talked about linear periodization. It is great for beginners and for most that need to prepare for one single event. Since I already talked about that, lets explore something else. What if, we took the general idea or linear periodization and set up 3 training phases:

1) Structural (hypertrophy)
2) strength
3) power

But, instead of just totally disimissing the other qualities while we train only one, lets try and use those in each phase but, have them make up only a small amount of our training. This is what Siff and Zatsiorsky had defined as the "conjugate method" of training. Basically, you traing to emphasize one quality (hypertrophy for example) while the other qualities (strength and power) are trained with lower volume to help retain their ability so all is not lost.

So, how would this work?

Lets say our athlete trains 3 days a week, total body workouts. In the first phase, our days would look like this:

day 1- hypertrophy
day 2- power/strength
day 3- hypertrophy

In the second phase:

day1- strength
day2- power/hypertrophy
say3- strength

And the third:

day1- power
day2- strength/hypertrophy
day3- power

Now, the sequencing of plyometrics in all of this. First, plyo's are always done at the start of the workout. You don't want to try and do them at the end when you are fatigued, as that will take away from their purpose.....You can't fatigue your nervous system and then expect it to optimally perform.

In phase one, the structural phase, I have the plyo's and one olympic lift on day 2. I do this to give my body a break during this phase. Also, I am assuming that you will be doing sprints and conditioning work on other days of the week. In this first phase, I stick with single response plyos (basically jumps and stick the landing). I like Ice Skater stick the landing for the lateral stuff and box jumps stick the landing or squat jump stick the landing for the vertical stuff. You can use low hurdle hops with a stick the landing as well in this phase. The olympic lift i typically go with some ligther loads and work in the 3-5 rep range and just work on being fast and having good technique (or, I don't do the lift at all and only do pulls in this phase). I also like to use the agillity ladder at the end of the warm up on all three of the workout days as this just helps to excite the nervous system. For the hypertrophy work, I use tempo restrictions on the eccentric portion of the lift. For the strength work, I use some isometric stuff as well.

In phase two, we move to working on our strength, as it takes over a greater amount of our training. In this phase, I will take my olympic lifts and move them into a 2-3 rep range and place one lift on day 1 and one on day 3 to start my workouts. On day 2 I do my plyo work and follow it up with hypertrophy work. The plyo work can start to move into more dynamic stuff, less stick the landing work (as you should already now have a good ability to decelerate). Things like multiple jump squats, single leg jump squats, single leg box jumps, ice skaters, etc.

In phase three, we have power being the main quality trained and the plyo's are going to get a little more intense. Olympic lifts will be trained after the plyo's are done. I typically use a bunch of sets of 1 rep for the olympic lifts in the phase or we do a wave loading thing over 6 sets like this: 3/2/1/3/2/1. The plyo's are things like depth jumps, or depth landings. I also like iso-explosive work here. For example, holding in a split squat position for 5sec with heavy DBs, then dropping the DBs and performing 5 split jumps, etc....

Phases can last anywhere from 3-5 weeks before moving on. If you have 10 weeks to get ready for your season, you might spend 3 weeks in each phase and then week 10 you do some recovery training and get ready to go.

That is just one way I have tried to break the stuff up over a training cycle. There are other ways to do it. Simple is always best. Maybe I will talk about another way to do it in a future entry.

Hope that answered your question.


Good to see you have a blog now. I think we talk about this awhile back in the Iron Magazine forum. I have read some of your articles and wow. I am going to palce a link on my blog to yours if that is OK.

Nate (AKA Leever)

where is the link to your blog?

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