On the heels of the metabolite training block, we now embark on the strength phase. Any athlete who has been training with a high level of intensity and volume would benefit substantially from implementing this short-term change in protocol.
Steve Hall coined this block of training as a “Primer Phase,” and I think that this is a perfect way of describing it. It will literally PRIME your body for more gains in the future, where continuing to do the same thing would cause some issues. Two of these concerns are:
Psychological Impact – Metabolite training is really difficult. Completing circuits of movements with short rest, close to failure, is a painful way to train. There is mental angst associated with it, as well as a general level of “excitement” that is needed to get amped up. The Low rep strength block will allow you lengthy rest periods and lots of recovery to help balance cortisol levels and help optimize progress going forward!
Muscle-Fiber Conversion – Metabolite training is similar to lactic threshold training from the aerobic world (or CrossFit; highly glycolytic). It has been shown that the body becomes so efficient at clearing lactic acid, that the effectiveness of the protocol actually diminishes due to some conversion of fast-twitch to slow-twitch fibers. This is far from ideal for a strength sport, or those looking to build muscle. Therefore, switching to a program that is dominated by fast-twitch style strength work will help your muscle-fibers convert back to those strong muscle-building fibers that we want!
Benefits of the Strength Phase
1. Flush Fatigue – If a DELOAD is a one-week period that flushes fatigue to optimize performance, this strength phase is a deload week on steroids. The difference is that a deload week means light weights. This strength phase is composed of heavy lifting with low reps; where the intention is to deload only volume and the rep target range for a month.
2. Re-sensitizing Muscle Tissue – Volume tolerance is a real thing (adaptive resistance). It would be great if we could just keep accruing more volume forever. But sessions would get really long and fatigue would get really high. So instead we do deload weeks and strength phases to make sure that the body is PRIMED and RESPONSIVE to volume for the next cycle of training.
3. Nutrition –The amount of energy expenditure in the strength phase is low and doesn’t really require any specific fuel source aside from ample Protein. If you were bulking and would like to take a break back to maintenance or do a short cut, this would be a great time. If you have been dieting really hard and have some built up diet fatigue, you may want to consider bringing calories back up to maintenance. Personally, I will be doing the former, and going from caloric surplus into maintenance as I PRIME my body for a cutting phase down the road (try to ensure I hold onto as much muscle as possible).
More Details of the Strength Cycle
– Total length of 5 weeks
– Training 4x/week; mostly compound movements
– Generally between 2-6 Rep sets for big compounds and 5-10 Reps for smaller compounds
– Slight variations between the programs (Original Evolved vs Physique vs Globo Physique)
One of the most effective ways to implement a “strength focus” cycle is with Linear Periodization.
In this approach, the reps will decrease week to week with a coordinated increase in load.
As always, it makes sense to begin the block with easier “subjective effort,” such that you can confidently increase load and maintain movement integrity as the reps decrease week to week.
For BIG COMPOUND movements (like Back Squat or Deadlift) we may see a rep scheme such as 6-5-4-3-2, decreasing one rep each week.
For SMALLER COMPOUND movements (like Bentover Rows and Upper Body Presses) the reps will be a bit higher across the board (nobody needs to be testing a 1-RM for a Bentover Row).
Due to movement variation and intended stimulus, some exercises may use higher reps and others with lower reps, but all REPEATING MOVEMENTS will follow the decreasing reps “Linear” approach.
As stated above, we will pretty much stay below 10 reps on everything in this cycle!
What Comes Next?
This strength phase can be considered both the end of the training year and the beginning of the next training year. It is flushing the fatigue from the prior work and setting you up for a successful year progress!
That means that we now start a brand new year of training. You can expect a lot of classic Evolved programming:
The Physique programs will continue manipulating volume/intensity/frequency and periodizing in a manner that ensures progress and recovery. The Original Daily program will consist of all that same awesome Physique stuff, as well as some of that hybrid functional fitness feel that has been the staple of programming the past year.
It’s gonna be an awesome year, and I’m so glad you guys are training with me!