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.

1/25/10, An Abbreviated Push-Press Wave

First off, note the big decrease in volume today.  This is by design, due to the way my week looks to be shaping up.  As always, my modus operandi is to plan ahead as best as possible, with the information I have available at the moment – then shrug and continue on in a new path when when my new “current reality” inevitably renders all that careful prior planning useless.  Such is life; complicated, unpredictable.  I just roll with it and go on.

Anyway, the current short-range “plan” is to squeeze-in a short-burst workout on both Monday AM and Tuesday AM, ahead of the packing/moving frenzy that will kick into high-gear beginning (new revision to plans 🙂  on Wednesday morning.  I don’t expect to be back into the gym, on my fixie or sprinting in Vibrams again until the middle of next week (if that), so these two workouts are as much for psychological health as anything else.

I like to begin my warm-up routines with either sprint-starts or farmer’s walks (and sometimes both), working-in some full-body ballistic movements and dynamic stretching along the way.  Today I kicked things off with approximately 300 yds worth of farmer’s walks with 85 lb DBs.  About every 50 yards or so I hit ass-to-grass goblet squat thrusters (x 7-ish) with one of the 85 lb BDs, then immediately resumed my FWs.  This gets the blood flowing nicely.  Some bodyweight ballistics (push-ups, muscle-ups, Russian lunges) followed, with a late-in-the-warmup phase-in of some more Oly lift oriented warm-up work (ala, an abbreviated, push-press/jerk specific, Bergner warm-up).

Then on to the abbreviated push-press wave.  Pull-up bar muscle-ups x 3 (at bw) to begin and end the session, and in between each set.

Wave 1
135 x 5
165 x 4
185 x 3
205 x 2
215 x 1 (grind)

Wave 2
195 x 3
210 x 2

Here’s an example of the effectiveness of post-activation potentiation: 215 x 1 had to be ground-out for the last half of the movement to lockout, while each rep of 210 x 2 snapped right up.  The self control I exhibited by cutting short this workout surprised even me, because I felt as if I could have really piled on the weight today.  I definitely left a lot in the tank.

Maybe I am getting a little wiser with age  🙂

Deconstructing the Rep

“Well I’d drive down Sunset Boulevard

My hair blowin’ in the wind

I’d stop at fancy places

And they’d finally let me in…”

Charlie Robison, Sunset Boulevard

nice tripple extension /  photo: jontunn

nice tripple extension / photo: jontunn

In previous posts, I’ve touched on the importance of rep speed (here and here are just a couple of examples) and auto-regulation (here) as they pertain, or should pertain, to one’s overall training plan. And now, in one of the better articles that TMuscle has run, Christian Thibaudeau dishes on his version of rep speed manipulation, auto-regulation and “activation ramp” (or what I refer to as simply CNS priming).  It’s good stuff, and if you’re serious about getting the most out of your time in the gym, I’d highly recommend finding a way to incorporate these ideas into each and every training session.  Check out Thib’s article, here, then c’mon back for a few of my additional thoughts on the subject.

For starters, I couldn’t agree more with Thib’s idea that to go into a workout with a pre-determined set/rep scheme is just flat out wrong minded.  That’s not to say, though, that you shouldn’t have a framework from which to begin.  In other words, I go into a session knowing what modality and movements I plan on working; specific sets, reps and weights, though, I feel as I go along.  It’s not that I have no idea here — I do — it’s just that my overriding goal is to improve over the long haul rather that to hit some pre-determined, daily goal.  Remember, sets, reps, TUL — these are all constructs of the mind that the body could give a rat’s narrow ass about.  Thibs puts it this way:

You have to stop looking at the wrong variables. Numbers, sets, reps, and rest periods are only tools. The real question is, what is your physiology telling you?

These variables are all important signposts, yes — but the body’s only real concern is with what to do with the biological cue it’s been given.  And that “cue”, to be effective, has to fall within the narrow sweet-spot between adequate stimulus and overtraining.  In other words, I can go into the gym knowing that I want to work, say a deadlift and dip combination movement pattern in a 5 (sets) x 3 (reps) modality.  That’s my framework from which to begin.  I also have a ball park feel for the weights I’ll be handling — but I am in no way, shape or form married to matching or exceeding those weights.  Now, at the end of the workout, will my end numbers wind up looking like a linear progression from the last time I performed this workout?  9 times out of 10, no.  But if I’ve manipulated these variables with any amount of acumen, and if I’ve sufficiently squelched an ego that constantly yells for more of the tangible or “show” evidence of progress (especially weight on the bar), I can effectively hit that biological cue “sweet spot” every outing.  And what is it that makes this sweet spot a constantly moving target?  Quite simply, it’s all those variables (i.e., “stressors”) outside of the gym that one has very little control over.  Old school periodization then, and/or cookie-cutter programs will only be successful (and I use this term loosely here) insofar as one is able to adequately control these stressors.  And unless you’re an athlete who’s life revolves around training, recuperation and competition, I’d say you’re out of luck in attempting to nullify these variables.  Minimize?  Yes, quite possibly.  Sufficiently nullify so as to make a pre-written periodization schedule work?  Well, good luck with that.  I liken this to virus prevention — you can wash your hands all you want (analogous to stressor control), but if your immune system is not up to the challenge, the virus (lack of progress) will eventually hand you your ass.   I agree with Thibs when he says:

“…I choose to look at periodization for what it is: a general guideline of splitting your training into specific periods where you work on one goal…”

It’s not that periodization is wrong, it’s just that it’s a tool of limited use/value.

The Force Spectrum

Note: when I post my workouts on Twitter (which I do following every training session), what I am posting is the session’s framework.  The actual individual movement’s sets, reps, rep speed, weights used, recovery periods, etc. are not, because of time constraints for the most part, listed.  And although I keep track of this information, its usefulness to me in planing future workouts is limited.  Remember, each training session occurs in a space that is unique to that point in time, and that particular confluence of variables will not happen again.  My training session relative to a particular point in time, then, must be mailable enough to adjust to these unique variables (which can never be fully predicted), and still deliver the correct stimulus relative to that unique point in time.  This is where competence in auto-regulation and manipulating the force spectrum come into play.  Don’t worry — it’s not nearly as complicated as it seems.

First, remember our old friend, the power equation:

Power = (mass x acceleration) x distance/time

And power, in my ever-so-humble opinion, is the key not only to athleticism (obvious), but also (arguably, granted) to muscle hypertrophy.  What Thibs is describing in his 5 x 3 bench press example mirrors what I actually do in the gym.  What you’re aiming for is a perfect melding of power output in a particular movement, auto-regulated to a particular and unique set of point-in-time circumstances.  Now, how do we get the body primed for its greatest power output in a particular movement at a unique point-in-time?  (1) adequate warm-up, and (2) what Thibs calls “feel sets” and what I call “CNS priming” — differing terms for the same phenomena.

The secret to weight training is that there is no secret.  But like any art, it requires practice, diligence, intelligence, and a narrowly-defined goal.  Pick and rotate through a wide variety of basic, functional movements with these principles as a guide (from Thibs):

  • execute each rep with the aim to produce the maximum amount of power possible
  • become skillful in the art of auto-regulation
  • learn to properly manipulate the CNS to achieve the first bullet point

Strive to reach that point where, as Bruce Lee says, “…a punch is just a punch, a kick is just a kick…”

In health,