View Full Version : Hard and heavy....just not all the time?

08-15-2003, 01:19 AM
What are your guys' thoughts on alternating higher rep phases for Strength and Power athletes? We are told to avoid high rep, low intensity, high volume work like the plauge, fearing that we will lose our power production, convert our coveted IIB fibers into puny endurance fibers, and that before we know it, we'll be running through the park, flailing skin and bone, wearing a T-Shirt that says something like "Greater Orlando 225K Grapefruit Extravaganza Race".

But what about seriously alternating blocks of higher rep, lower intensity, higher volume work, with intense bouts of heavy weights? Listen to what Charles Poliquin has to say about this:

As a rule of thumb, I would say that the musculature grows best when both high volume phases (known as accumulation phases) are alternated with high intensity phases (known as intensification phases). The respective length of each phase will be affected by a variety of factors such as nutrient intake, serotonin and dopamine ratios, hormonal make-up, and fiber-type make-up.

Accumulation phases are normally characterized by the following:

High number of exercises (2-4 per body part)
Higher reps (7 reps or more)
Lower sets (2-4 sets per exercise)
Higher volumes (number of total sets times total reps)
Lower intensities (below 80%)
Shorter rest intervals (30 to 90 seconds)

So, for instance, a typical accumulation phase may consist of 3 exercises of 3 sets of 12-15 reps, resting an average of 75 seconds between sets.

Intensification phases are characterized by:

Low number of exercises (1-2 per body part)
Lower reps (1-6)
Higher sets (10-12 total sets per body part)
Lower volumes (total number of sets times total number of reps,
e.g. 6 sets of 3 reps=18 reps of volume)
Higher intensities (80% and above)
Longer rest intervals (3-5 minutes)

So, for instance, a typical intensification phase may consist of 2 exercises of 5 sets of 4-6 reps, resting an average of 3-5 minutes seconds between sets.

Keep in mind there are plenty of ways to undulate the training loads, but the way given above is the one I prefer to prescribe to my clients. To put this into practice, you might try alternating intensification and accumulation phases about every 3 weeks, or every six workouts. In other words, do an accumulation phase for 6 workouts, and then switch to a intensification program for 6 workouts.

I would especially like to hear what the gurus have to say about this. Perhaps we can avoid burnout, and increase strength and power in the long haul by incorporating these accumulation and instensification phases?

Paul Stagg
08-15-2003, 07:59 AM
Who says we should avoid high rep low intensity work?

I wouldn't include it in separate long phases like that (maybe for a bodybuilder, but not for a Pler)... but I certianly include it as part of my WSB training.

08-15-2003, 08:00 AM
I believe Powerman was/is doing something similar. I think he just got done with a more higher rep/volume cycle and is moving back into the heavy stuff. There were a couple of threads about it over in the Bodybuilding/Fitness forum. I think its a good idea. Basically a form of periodization.

Maki Riddington
08-15-2003, 08:49 AM
I've been following this philosophy for about 2 years now. To me, (and I know Matt has mentioned this a bunch of times) this is the most effective way to train for gains. The body grows in bursts therefore you should train it this way.

08-15-2003, 10:37 AM
Yeah, that's the basis of my lifting lately. I've been using that method or something similar to it for over a year now (though I'll readily admit that I've only gotten a good handle of how to apply it within the last six months).

To me, there's no better method out there than sequencing phases of high volume/low intensity with phases of low/moderate volume and high intensity. You push the body into a state of intentional, short term overtraining, then allow it to rest, then allow the "supercompensation" of the body's processes to carry you to the next level.

Siff and Verkhoshansky wrote a lot about this in Supertraining; they were convinced, by the performance of Soviet athletes, that this approach was about optimal. Of course the "wave" has to be tailored to the sport and the athlete, but the general principles apply: Preparation of the body, concentration of strength loading, then development of special strength and technique during the period of supercompensation (what they called the Long term Delayed Training Effect).

The recommended interval for the concentrated loading was 3-4 weeks before an unloading week, with up to three of those phases before a longer period of restoration is needed. The concentration phase elicits an after-effect that lasts roughly as long as the period itself.

That was my reasoning in constructing the 4-week cycles I'm using now, alternating from month to month in order to continually elicit gains.

My last concentration block was high volume, but I didn't use higher reps. I focused on the NL, which is the total number of barbell lifts. I wanted to keep the reps relatively low, so I increased the sets. Not sure I'd do it that way again, as it was brutal. But then again, that's the idea.

As planned, I lost speed....the Soviets noted that during and immediately after a concentration block, speed-strength suffers dramatically. But after restoration and a lowering of volume, it increases just as sharply, above and beyond previous levels.....which is also proving to be the case so far.

The recent research on the MHC-IIx isoform's expression seems to correlate to this, in my mind. MHC IIx expression all but vanishes during high volume work; speed-strength drops sharply as well. IIx expression returns and supercompensates after a restorative period, as does speed-strength. So I'm thinking that might be a mechanism for this effect.

Well that, along with the neural and hormonal effects.

chris mason
08-15-2003, 11:48 AM
Originally posted by Maki Riddington
I've been following this philosophy for about 2 years now. To me, (and I know Matt has mentioned this a bunch of times) this is the most effective way to train for gains. The body grows in bursts therefore you should train it this way.

I have always wondered how you can structure your training to take advantage of these anabolic periods the body goes through. I don't think the anabolic periods are dictated by training (I mean the periods where the body is ready for supercompensation, or better than normal response to training), I think some bodily processes dictate these periods. In other words, you could be in a "lighter" phase of training while the body is really receptive to training, and the opposite when the body is not ready (heavy training).

08-15-2003, 12:00 PM
I'm about of the opinion now that you can force that to happen, Chris.

This is something the Soviets/Russians knew and have known for awhile....the period of high volume concentration serves as a shock to the system. When you finish, and take some time (a week or two) to recuperate, the body is going to supercompensate...not just for the last workout, but for the *whole* phase.

You're basically overtraining the body, on purpose...the stress accumulates throughout the whole block, never having time to fully repair. So when you lay off, its like snapping a rubber band...the harder you pull it, the harder it snaps.

Its something I suspected for awhile, and can now fully vouch for. After the last block of concentration I just did, I can definitely say there's an improvement (at least subjectively) in my attitude, energy levels, and err...."hormone levels." Not to mention that the weights in the gym this week have felt fresh and fast, when just two weeks ago I was moving pretty slowly.

08-15-2003, 12:25 PM
I think it's been established that these high volume training periods are necessary, but what about prolonging the training period, to say, maybe, two months of straight volume training? I know Poliquin is fond of doing "German Volume Training (10x10)" for two training blocks at a time (8 weeks) then following it up with one of his maximal strength protocols. Would their be an advantage to this? Would this be considered the Shock Mesocycle?

08-15-2003, 12:28 PM
You'd just be extending the magnitude and duration of the after-effect.....you'd have a longer period to exploit the effects for development of speed-strength.

I'd recommend an unloading week between those two phases, as well as a week totally off after the 8 weeks however.

A true shock mesocycle is a bit harsher than that, though. Not by much, but it is.