Intermediate lifting was the hardest thing for me to learn. I've only recently wrapped my head around how to transition to intermediate level lifting. I spent years slaving away at beginner type workouts thinking they were the be-all-end-all way to train. I spent years stalled out with small increases to my strength/size past the beginners gains.
So guys, let's put together a list of ideas to help fellow lifters as they transition into intermediate status. I'm not talking about routines [like Texas Method], I'm talking about the ideas behind the routines.
I'll start off...
Changing exercises is important.
To start off, when you are a beginner, it is imortant to slave away at the basics while adding a little weight to the bar every time. This is important to get good at the exercise.
Once you reach a point where you are stalling and the beginner gains are used up (intermediate), it may be necissary to change the exercise. A change can get things moving again. But, the change needs to be to something similar. Like switching from regular grip Bench Press to a wide grip Bench Press. The lift is similar, but different enough to give you a different training response.
Hmm... that's my current situation. I'm switching to intermediate training now and wondering about this too. From what I know, looks like things should be this way:
Beginner - linear progression. You can add weights almost every workout.
Intermediate - you need periodization. You could even probably use the same workout (assuming it's TBT consisting of mostly compounds) as you did as Beginner but just change the intensity of workouts - Heavy day/Light day/Medium day. Light day is essentially a rest day but you workout with small weights. If you think about progress you think about week, not one workout. And you don't really need to add more days to your workouts. You take longer to recover from workouts already. So if you were on 3 day TBT, stay there.
For those who needs more (needs, not wants like every newbie who just want to workout every day), one can add Medium intensity day.
Just my 2 cents, looking forward to what more experienced guys have to say!
First, let me say that an intermediate does NOT need periodization. Periodization is for very very advanced lifters.
Working from the definition of a novice and intermediate the most basic way an intermediate can advance is week to week rather than workout to workout. The simplest way to do this is to plan on weekly increases. Since loading and total tonage moved is the factor we are dealing with I think the best way to start out advancing on the intermediate level is to attempt to advance on two fronts, rather than one. Advance on rep effort and maximal effort. I think it can be loaded like TM or backward, in which you have ME on monday and RE on Friday. Bill Starrs 5x5 is very similar to TM but has a few bells and whistles making it a bit more complex.
Breaking plateaus in this is only limited to creativity. This is how Ive kept from a plateau on TM (each section is getting heavier from the previous section)
Squat 5x5 and 5RMs til plateau, then deload
Squat 3x5 and 5RMs (above)
Squat 5x3 and 3RMs (above)
Squat 3x3 and 3RMs (above)
I think the only other idea really worth mentioning is conjugate methods such as Westside. WS is another intermediate program and is fantastic. In this method there are two fronts again but rather than repetitions changing the WEIGHT is changing. So, there will be a ME session and a Dynamic Effort section. In DE youll do 10 sets of 2-3 reps @ 50% of ME.
I could go on and on about this and possibilities but Ill leave it at this and chime in if I think of something ground breaking.
Seriously, everything youll ever need to know about intermediate programming is covered in Practical Programming.
I opened Practical Programming now and it says:
Originally Posted by ZenMonkey
The Intermediate: Cycling Workouts, Weekly Periodization.
I guess Rip calls TM a weekly periodization. And he says it's simplest form of periodization.
From how I understand it, it goes like this:
Beginner - Linear Progression
Intermediate - Linear Periodization
Advanced - Advanced Periodization
Whatcha think Zen? :)
Periodized routines are like Russian Squat Program, not TM. Tm is linear programming wehreas periodized orutines have a goal weeks out.
Originally Posted by Gymjunkie
Hmm.. a bit confusing.
Originally Posted by ZenMonkey
I thought it's periodization still when you change intensity of workouts like in TM, it's just called linear periodization. Hopefully, reading the section about Advanced training will make this clear.
Good information being added...
Keeping with the progressive overload theme, while it is nice to do a heavy day, medium day, and a light (recovery) day, for those with a limited schedule it is also possible to keep progress going by inserting more rest days. So, if you've stalled out by squatting 3X/week, you might drop it to 2X/week. Extra recovery time could get you moving again.
Also, take special note that NOBODY has suggested to move to a bodybuilding type volume program. We are still talking about a basic abreviated routine.
To hell with volume. Abbreviated bodybuilding is better ( I'm looking forward to reading Dinosaur Training book about it). Esp. for newbies and intermediates who just want to look good and get bit stronger.
Originally Posted by Off Road
Now, as far as squats go, maybe switching from 3x a week squats to 2x a week squats and 1x Front Squats on light day would work well?
Louie Simmons in the Book of Methods and in his videos argues for Westside for *ALMOST* all levels of lifters (not all). A real clear version of this can type of program can be found in Westside Barbell for Skinny Bastards (WB4SB); it is not Simmons but made using the same principles and aimed at intermediate lifters. Version 3 is out in a nice .pdf form. If you're not interested in the theory you can just get the .pdf.
But being intermediate (having lifted 5 years but only the last 1.5 with any kind of seriousness) WB4SB and conjugate periodization has worked real well for me. Basically, if I make my own programs I often don't have the discipline to write in the stuff I know I should do but don't like: rear shoulders, lateral delts, etc. So, going with a pro's program and following it works best for me.
That brings up a good point that hasn't been covered yet. Anybody with more experience than me want to talk about using accessory lifts to help keep the main lifts moving up?
I'm sure some of the more experienced plers can add to this -
Accessory lifts are done to increase the big 3 lifts - deads, squats and bench. The EFS Basic Training Manual covers all of this in great detail. If anyone wants to learn, this is an excellent book.
You need a strong upper body for benching, not just chest, so accessory lifts would hit tris, shoulders, traps and lats.
Lower body would be to hit the hammies, glutes, quads, low back, so any forms of squats, deads, gms, sldls, etc. would be considered accessories. I just supplied some very basic exercises, there are tons more.
You don't want to forget GPP work, either.
I think using accessories to improve the big 3 is somewhat overrated. What I mean by this is that many novices and intermediated seek an answer to why they cant get their bench to lockout or cant get out of the hole. Kinesologically speaking, yea, strengthening your triceps and hamstrings would fix the problem but I find more often than not the lifter just needs to get stronger in general to move up in weight. I think the cases where one can prescribe an extra set of dips or stiff legs should only happen on a high, carefully recorded level in which progress and recovery can be tracked very closely. I think more times than not the lifter just plain needs to get stronger and sometimes bigger... and learn some patience.
I believe adding in supplemental help is a slippery slope because you can do it til youre blue in the face for every single lift (except isolation). The only time when it should be done, in my opinion, is when the trainee can put a road block somewhere on that slippery slope and say "This is where I stop. 6 weeks of tricep/lockout work and then reevaluate."
This is not to say I dont like using accessory work, because it can be invaluable, but be careful between what you call "accessory" and what is just extra BS to make you feel like youve done the requisite work to get you there quicker. I find that when you organize things to move "quicker" injuries are far more likely to occur as well. I also find that when I find a lift stalling I can generally make sure to advance the other lifts which helps remedy the problem. For example, if you are on SS and are finding it hard to get the bar off of your chest in the BP. When this happens I think you should be able to look back at your routine (if it is a good one) and say... "I really need to make sure to focus energy on pullups next session" and go from there. The answer is not to add in additional chest exercises but to get the most out of every movement in the routine. Incidentally, when I began trimming my split volume down to give more focus to the major compounds my numbers grew at a much quicker and consistent rate and I stopped needing additional accessory work.
RBTrout brings up a very good point about GPP. It should be considered, when building or selecting a routine, that getting stronger in various rep schemes can also be an accessory. Ive had great luck when on SS by just simply changing rep schemes. Try 3x8 for 6 weeks or 3x3 or a set of 20. There is certainly not a 1:1 correlation but it isnt a bad thing to try to help move past sticking points. Moreover GPP used to improve conditioning is also a great accessory. That is, having the conditioning to complete a WO as strong as you began it.
And I know this is what I say all the time but the most successful accessory I have ever done is monitoring my recovery and prescribing work/recovery as necessitated.
I'm gonna check that one out. Thanx Rb :thumbup:
Originally Posted by rbtrout
I agree 100% with this and the bolded word at the bottom. I'd say im just about to the intermediate phase and still believe that it just takes time and dedication to the lift not adding more exercises.
Originally Posted by ZenMonkey
Great points by Zen and Trout about conditioning. It helps you push harder during your workout and also helps you recover faster after your workout.
Props to OffRoad for getting this discussion going. We should do this more often.
It just takes a bunch of knowledgable guys that are willing to share. This place has a lot of them.
Awesome thread. We have a new newsletter going out this week and it will include highlights of the good discussions on the forums. This still be in it.
I got some stuff to add and will later today!
Honestly, if I could go back in time to when I was first transitioning into the intermediate phase, I would have slapped myself in the face for jumping routines so often. With my gains tapering and slowing down, I was changing routines in an attempt to find a solution. The answer ended up being me sticking to a good routine, and having patience. Who would have thought it?
Here are a few things that I think are important when you enter an intermidiate stage of training
You need to pay closer attention to diet. In the beginning it's easy to get stronger and put on some weight quite quickly, but then it becomes much harder to maintain that rate of growth and you need to really get switched on with your diet
A bit of variation is good. I personally like to switch up routines every 4-6 weeks now. Before I used to train the same for a year because I was scared doing something different would mean I would not progress on anything
Worry less about bodypart recovery. I use to be so worried about training chest and then even doing anything that could mess with my chest recovery. Now I don't even train with a split and often do chest related exercises each workout. As long as you are eating well and aren;t doing crazy volume, it'll be fine.
Focus on mobility. If you don't it'll come back to bite you later down the rd
Consistency is key. You can get away without it when you first start, but when you get some time under your belt, consistency is everything - both in training and diet
by saying focus on mobility do you mean stretching reguarly and foam rolling, or are you refering to other ways of doing it?
Originally Posted by Daniel Clough
Good one...Switching causes you to have a short break-in period, which can act as a de-load besides giving some variety. Regular de-loading becomes more important for an intermediate because they can push things a little harder than a beginner.
Originally Posted by Daniel Clough
Porbably stretching and foam rolling. Things like hip circles, shoulder dislocates etc... are good too.
Originally Posted by geordie1986
I think an obvious point that may have been overlooked is to really focus on one new goal.
Example: When you start lifting, you read WBB, do starting strength and learn to eat properly. Your goal is to "get stronger, improve fitness, gain muscular weight to lose the skinny-look."
You achieve this with a general strength training program. Once you've achieved this, you need a new (intermediate) goal. This should be something a lot more definite like Squat 150Kg, 2x BW Deadlift, 3x10 pull-ups, or even something completely different like run a 5k, or do a triathlon.
This gives you something new to focus on, study and work towards. It can make a big mental benefit.