1/26/10, Two Exercises, and the Feathering of Two Distinct Waves

Farmer’s Walks again today to get things kicked-off and get the blood flowing; 105 lb DBs for 300 yds.  Ass-to-grass goblet squat/thrusters (x 5-ish) with a 105 lb DB, ballistic push-ups, ballistic pull-ups, DB pull-throughs (x 5-ish, 105 lb DB) interspersed throughout.  Hit some heavy dynamic stretching, especially of the hamstring and calf area.  Grip gave out in the final 50 or so yards, and so I had to resort to straps to finish up.  Nothing like heavy Farmer’s Walks done barefooted or in Vibrams; I’m actually thinking of doing all of my upcoming moving shod in my funky “foot gloves”.  Why not, right?

So what I did today was to feather two different exercises together, with each exercise done in a wave format.  Now your basic wave format is set up so as to positively manipulate the post-activation potentiation phenomena in one single exercise (i.e., no super-setting, as in what I did today), and is generally used in conjunction with a straight-up strength or power-oriented movement and modality. Charles Poliquin waxes poetic on the wave, here (via the T-Muscle site), and gives a couple of examples of a properly prescribed wave protocol for a single exercise:

(Note: though differences do exist, for our purposes, post-activation potentiation and post-tetanic facilitation can be thought of as the same thing).

“…[T]his system was shown to me by former Canadian national weightlifting coach Pierre Roy who was, undoubtedly, one of the brightest men I’ve met in the field of strength development. Wave loading is based on the principal of post-tetanic facilitation. Athletes will find that the hardest wave is the first one, while the succeeding ones are easier to perform.”

The following 3-2-1 wave-loading program (exceptional for athletes seeking greater relative strength) sample is for an individual who can do a 300-pound front squat:

Wave 1

1) Three reps at 270 pounds
2) Four-minute rest
3) Two reps at 285 pounds
4) Four-minute rest
5) One rep at 300 pounds

Wave 2

6) Four-minute rest
7) Three reps at 272.5 pounds
8) Four-minute rest
9) Two reps at 287.5 pounds
10) Four-minute rest
11) One rep at 302.5 pounds

If successful, proceed to the third wave.

Wave 3

12) Four-minute rest
13) Three reps at 275 pounds
14) Four-minute rest
15) Two reps at 290 pounds
16) Four-minute rest
17) One rep at 305 pounds

If successful, proceed to the fourth wave.

Wave 4

18) Four-minute rest
19) Three reps at 277.5 pounds
20) Four-minute rest
21) Two reps at 292.5 pounds
22) Four-minute rest
23) One rep at 307.5 pounds

Note: Most people will do two waves — maybe a third one on an exceptional day — but it takes athletes truly gifted for strength development four waves to reach their maximal load for the day.

The following 7-5-3 wave-loading program (suited for athletes in combative sports interested in moving up in weight class) sample is for an individual who can do a 350-pound incline press:

Wave 1

1) Seven reps at 280 pounds
2) Four-minute rest
3) Five reps at 295 pounds
4) Four-minute rest
5) Three reps at 315 pounds

Wave 2

6) Four-minute rest
7) Seven reps at 282.5 pounds
8) Four-minute rest
9) Five reps at 297.5 pounds
10) Four-minute rest
11) Three reps at 317.5 pounds

Note: Regardless of the strength profile of the athlete, two waves will suffice at this intensity zone.

So there are many ways to manipulate the post-activation potentiation (or post-tetanic facilitation) phenomena.  One could even alternate back and forth between an extremely heavy single (or even a static hold), and a set for reps (say, 3 to 7) for example.  5 rounds of something like that will dust you up pretty well.

Today I alternated between weighted dips and GHRs, with each exercise being loading in a wave format.  The rest was minimal between each exercise and between each round.  Here’s how it shook out:

Dips Glute-Ham Raise
Wave 1
Wave 2
Wave 1
Wave 2
45 x 5 90 x5 35 x 5 50 x 4
70 x 4 100 x 4 45 x 5 55 x 3
80 x 3 105 x 3 50 x 3 60 x 2
90 x 2 120 x 2 55 x 2 60 x 2
100 x 1 60 x 1

So this is yet another wrinkle to the old wave standby, another way to manipulate the PAP or (PST, if you prefer) phenomena.  Remember, there are no set rules to this game – there is only the best choice of among innumerable options given the trainee’s goals, circumstance, and available time.  This workout took approximately 30 minutes (post warm-up) to complete.  I squeezed a little more volume in today; I felt great this morning and I know I’ll be out of the gym for a good spell, so I decided to red-line things a bit.

10 responses to “1/26/10, Two Exercises, and the Feathering of Two Distinct Waves

  1. Great post Keith. It’s easy to get dizzy considering all of the great protocols out there, and to scratch your head and think “ok, but which one works the best?”

    I guess if there was a simple answer to that, geeks like us would have nothing to talk about.

    How long do you plan on continuing your wave-loading training? I’d be interested to see what quantifiable results you net from this experimentation.


    • Once I get re-settled and back into the gym I’ll probably phase in a 2-week block of dedicated single-limb work, followed by another few-week block of strength/power work (using a lot of wave-like protocols) leading into (hopefully) some warmer weather and some sprint-intensive work (both running, and on the bike). Of course, ask me the same question tomorrow, and I’m likely to have at least a slightly different answer 🙂

  2. Thanks for the interesting stuff Keith. I did a wave loading workout the other day for the first time after reading your blog post about them. I did three waves with dead lifts and I felt good at the end so I decided to see if I could beat my old dead lift pr from about a month age; and I did, by about 15 pounds. I felt like I could have gone another 5 to 10 pounds heavier, no problem. I was surprised by that. Is that a normal phenomenon with wave loading? Do you think it might have had to do with some type of priming effect from the preceding waves?

    • The way it usually works is that the heavy single sets-up the following “rep sets”, i.e., allows one to squeeze more reps than would normally be the case with a given weight. But yes, on a good day you might get some cary-over into the single itself and set a new PR. One thing you can do prior to attempting a new pr is to do some form of static hold or partial of the movement you’re attempting to PR on. For example, say you want to break 300 in the front squat. After you’ve done a proper warm-up/build-up to that weight, throw, say 415 on the bar. Unrack that weight and hold it statically for 10 or 15 seconds, let your body really feel what that weight feels like. If you’re feeling froggy, maybe hit a couple of quarter squats. Rerack the weight, wait approximately 4 or 5 minutes, and let it rip with your new attempted PR. PAP/PTF is no parlor trick, it is a real phenomena.

  3. Keith,

    As you know, this sort of training is not really my cup of tea. However, I experimented with something called “anamnestic training” (in reference to booster shots causing an anamnestic or exagerrated second wave of antibody production). You can read the article at http://www.ultimate-exercise.com.

    The thing I wanted to suggest you might try is this. Do wave 1 and 2 and then shut it down for the day. The next day do waves 3 and 4. I think you may be pleasantly surprised. A good technique if you want to break some PR’s.

    Doug McGuff

    • This is along the same line of thinking (I believe) as is employed in the “Bulgarian” system of performing many micro-sessions throughout the training day, and with numerous training days strung together. Of course, the “graveyard survivors” thrive on such a program; mere mortals eventually crash and burn (as you point out). I think we can find a middle ground, though, for the “more gifted, but not God-like” trainee – maybe anamnestic training is a doable solution for that segment of the trainee population? Interesting notion.

  4. Shouldn’t you be doing concentration curls to add a peak to your bicep? ;);)

    GHR…I kind of want to write a love song to the exercise.


    • Yes – supersetted with DB kickbacks, for the swole horseshoe and bi peak, brah!

      GHRs – the most underrated “athletic” movement in existence (IMHO, of course).

      • I’m tempted to get my hands on Sorinex’s Poor Man’s GHR, if only because a bodyweight leg curl is pretty bad ass.

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