There are many ways for us to progress in the weight room. To do so, we typically demand progress in one parameter (load, sets, reps, rest periods, etc.) while keeping all other parameters the same.
The most common parameter to alter is load (usually in the form of adding weight to the bar), and for good reason; it works extremely well! However, what happens when progress stalls, we hit one of those brutal plateaus, and we just simply can’t move more weight? Fortunately, we have many tools in our training toolbox to keep the improvements coming. Better yet, these different methodologies can help keep training fun, refreshing, and challenging; all undervalued bonuses!
Density training is a form of training in which a trainee aims to increase how much work (in physics, work= force x displacement) they perform in a certain period of time. To accomplish this, a window of time is chosen within which all work sets of an exercise will be completed. Second, the amount of reps per set and load used are selected. Finally, the athlete simply has to keep track of how many sets they complete in the given time period per workout. Progress is made by completing more sets in subsequent weeks within the same amount of time. Benefits of this type of training include improved work capacity, increased relative strength, and possibly hypertrophy given the gradual increase in volume.
By executing more sets week-to-week in the same window of time, one must, by necessity, be both reducing rest periods and increasing volume (via completing more sets). Adjusting one parameter is usually enough to spur progress on, but by altering two parameters we are significantly ramping up the training effect.
Progress hinges vitally on remembering how many sets were performed in a given week, so you can know many sets you need to do to “beat” yourself the following week. If you aren’t using a training log yet, I would highly recommend you start using one now. If you don’t, there is a decent chance you are either grossly overestimating your ability to remember the details of your training sessions OR you seem to not care about making progress. The former fixable, the latter… well, that’s another article entirely. Either way, a training log is a tool worth far more than its weight in gold for the vast majority of lifters.
For the next 10 weeks, we will be implementing this approach in our programming for our primary strength lifts. Since we recently took a break from those lifts, we will be returning to the foundational forms of the deadlift, bench press, back squat, and barbell press. However, other forms of the primary lifts can be used instead.
The first four weeks, called the Accumulation Phase, will be completed using sets of 6 at 70% 1RM within 15 minutes. For some of these lifts, that may be an easier task than others. All that means is that you are better at certain lifts than others, which is a fairly obvious issue everyone under the bar faces! However, we can still use that info to help us elevate your weaker lifts by selecting more specific and appropriate supplementary lifts to better improve the primary movements.
Speaking of, the supplementary/complementary movements we will be using in the first four weeks will be chin-ups (to complement barbell presses), weighted walking lunges (to supplement back squats), Bulgarian rows (to complement the bench press), and rack pulls (to supplement deadlifts). The days for each movement will be:
Monday: deadlift and chin-ups
Tuesday: bench press and weighted walking lunges
Wednesday: gymnastic skill/tech
Thursday: back squat and Bulgarian row
Friday: barbell press and rack pulls
What About Wednesdays?
For the next month, we will be using Wednesday as a day to move away from barbell work and instead focus on the gymnastic progressions of the front lever, pistol squat, bar/ring dip, and handstand. These days will be structured, essentially, as 20 minute AMRAPs. However, the intent is not to rush through each set to see how many haphazard reps you can do. The idea is to approach each set of each movement with the intent to take each set to technical failure- the point at which one’s form deteriorates. At that point, stop the movement and move on to the next.
The final versions of each of the gymnastic movements are complex and difficult, each with lengthy progressions to help build up to them. Consult with your coaches to help find the appropriate point in the progressions at which to start and work from there. No barbell Olympic lifting will be done this month.
We Haven’t Forgotten You, Beginners!
Beginning classes, on the other hand, will follow a five exercise circuit for a 20 minute AMRAP. Three of those movements will be strength movements, while two will focus on mobility. Some of these movements will remain throughout the month with the intent of increasing loading on them, while others will be rotated out to keep some variation in the programming.
The second month, called the Intensification Phase, will use sets of 3 at 80% 1RM. Finally, weeks 9 & 10 will use waves of 3/2/1 reps at 80/85/90% 1 RM. Further details about secondary lifts for those months will be released in the coming weeks. We will max two lifts the week of December 10th and two more the week of December 17th to find our final maxes of 2018!
That’s it for now, so feel free to send any questions to [email protected] and see you in the gym!