We’re sure you’ve noticed the outwardly counter-intuitive volume and intensity waves in our programming. What the hell is up with Week 3? The volume drops and the intensity jumps.
In typical wave programming Week 3 is the overreach week. Volume soars to crushing levels, leaving no choice for Week 4 other than recovery.
We see things differently.
Why?—the answer lies in the influence of two accomplished strength coaches and, more importantly, results.
Joe Kenn and His Tier System
Joe Kenn, Carolina Panthers Strength Coach, is a smart man. In his 2013 NSCA talk, “Micros, Mesos, and Macros,” about his system, he talks about how he saw stress actually accumulate and what made sense with loading waves through a monthly training cycle. He also talks about planning variations in power, strength and accessory training based on his athletes’ needs.
You can check his talk out here. Micros, Mesos, and Macros (⇐this talk is about 1.5 hours, so you may want to come back to it- but it’s awesome).
While we didn’t delve into the depths of his loading, his monthly plan made sense—so we started playing with it. What we noticed was that people started hitting PRs on Week 3, and felt way better than reaching with volume before going to PRs. Winning.
Here’s how our programs are laid out….
A program’s inaugural week serves two purposes in our system: it provides the opportunity to experiment with weight selection and acts as a de facto deload.
Think back to all of your previous training Week 1’s. What did they look like? Usually they involve a change in movement variation, volume and loading. New movements require loading experimentation. You’re not quite sure what weight feels appropriate for the lift. Consider that same concept for your clients. Week 1 is usually a three-way dialogue between you, them and the exercise. At the end you find a training weight that works.
Experimentation means loading stress is low. We’re not hammering the training weights because, well, we don’t know what they are yet. As such, Week 1 doesn’t introduce a great deal of body morphing stress. Although the movements may be new, the stress reduction allows the body to accommodate the stress accumulated during the last training phase. Ipso facto, your ass just deloaded. You’re not going to introduce a ton of adaptation driving stress during Week 1, so there’s no sense in playing pretend. This doesn’t mean go easy, but you’re going to get after it a lot more as the month progresses.
Ok—you’ve figured out your weights, now it’s time to use them. Week 2 is train week—it introduces stress to the body using the new movements and loading parameters. Adaptation starts during Week 2.
Wonder who the second coach is? Folks, it’s Dan John. He’s influenced our training thought process more than any other coach on the planet.
By the end of Week 2 we’ve grown accustomed to the movements and we’ve established challengingly attainable training weights. Week 3 is victory week. We add weight to the bar, PR and Go Home feeling good.
It’s an emotional boost that puts your psyche in a strong frame to finish the program. Physiologically it makes best use of the adaptation chain that’s started before compiling more stress and waiting for supercompensation to work its fruitful magic.
Now that we’ve learned movements, trained and set PRs, it’s time to take all that accumulated physical knowledge and slather it with volume.
Here’s a goal: try to use the weights you used during Week 3 during your Week 4 reach. The confidence boost from achieving new levels of strength and power is often enough to drive you beyond what you considered your potential.
Quick reality bite—it may not happen. If you get to Week 4 and can’t use Week 3’s weights, don’t sweat it. Just get the volume in. Remember, Week 1 soon brings you sweet reprieve.
Putting It Together
Think about this set-up as you approach your Strength Faction training. Think also about how you can add this to your clients’ training. Could you get them to PR more often if you make this simple flip flop?
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