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Posted in: Articles by ProSource, Featured Content, Training Articles
By Todd Bumgardner, MS, CSCS | Jul 31, 2012



Restructuring Training Week for Faster Gains


Shock to image If you're like me, you've spent a lot of time thinking about what training truly is. You've broken it down 100 ways--twisted each variable, and thought of each variable from a multitude of perspectives. Is it sets, reps and rest? Is it exercise selection? Is it the desired outcome? Questions like these consume a lot of time and, in reality, are inconsequential.

You see, it's not how you or I define training that matters. Sure, we have to develop our philosophies so our training makes sense. But it's how our bodies recognize, and respond, to training that's most important.

Your body only recognizes training as stress--a disruption in homeostasis. To get the most out of this self-inflicted stress, you must distribute it intelligently throughout the week. Otherwise, homeostasis won't be restored and hard work in the gym may be all for naught.

Breaking it down

Even though it's easiest to think in linear progressions, most things in life undulate--or move in waves. It's true for our hormone levels and our adaptations to training. From macro-cycle to meso-cycle, our training plan must reflect our natural inclination for undulation. Before worrying about the large units of training, meso-cycles and macro-cycles, let's start by demystifying the smallest units of the training plan--the training day and the training week. Simplifying the training day and the training week will give us a head start on developing a sound undulating training plan.

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The Week in Waves

Distributing training stress by waving training intensities throughout the week isn't as complicated as it sounds. Some lifters do it intuitively. But it's often that trainees disregard training intensities and volumes from day to day--loading the body beyond optimal recovery capacity by placing training days indiscriminately throughout the week. Training at high intensities, and with high volumes, day in and day out may serve the beginner well--for a little while--but eventually the stress is too much and the body can't adapt. For the intermediate to advanced lifter, unstructured weeks wreak havoc on progress.

To make things simple, and create an effective visual, let's use three labels to categorize our training days:
  1. High Volume/High Intensity
  2. Medium Volume/Medium Intensity
  3. Recovery
Each training day throughout the week will fit into one of these three categories. The goal is to distribute the stress optimally throughout the training week to promote recovery and adaptation.

Distributing the Stress

Now that we have training stress categorized, let's learn how to distribute it wisely throughout the training week. To do that, we'll employ three more simple planning principles:
  1. No High Intensity/High Volume days back to back
  2. One recovery focused day between High Intensity/High Volume days
  3. Medium Intensity/Medium Volume days can be placed back to back
The approach is straight forward, but the result is powerful. These three simple principles create the undulating training week that promotes optimal recovery and adaptation. Below I've offered a few examples of how to put these principles into action based on a six day training schedule.

EXAMPLE 1

Monday High Intensity/High Volume
Tuesday Recovery (cardio or mobility)
Wednesday High Intensity/High Volume
Thursday Recovery (cardio or mobility)
Friday Medium Intensity/Medium Volume
Saturday Medium Intensity/Medium Volume
Sunday Recovery (off)

EXAMPLE 2

Monday High Intensity/High Volume
Tuesday Recovery (cardio or mobility)
Wednesday Medium Intensity/Medium Volume
Thursday Medium Intensity/Medium Volume
Friday Recovery (cardio or mobility)
Saturday High Intensity/High Volume
Sunday Recovery (off)

EXAMPLE 3

Monday High Intensity/High Volume
Tuesday Recovery (cardio or mobility)
Wednesday Medium Intensity/Medium Volume
Thursday Recovery (off)
Friday High Intensity/High Volume
Saturday Recovery (cardio or mobility)
Sunday Medium Intensity/Medium Volume

Example one is the training schedule that I employ most often, but all three of the examples are effective. These are only three examples--there is a multitude of ways to wave the training week successfully. Follow the three simple principles of planning and you can't go wrong.

Split Examples

Being the powerlifter/strongman/athlete type--I don't train in body part splits. I use either full-body or upper-body/lower body splits. But that's not to say that a wave schedule can't be effectively used for bodybuilding body part splits. Below are examples of upper-body/lower-body splits for my powerlifting and strongman brethren, as well as a body part split for you massive body builders.

Upper-body/Lower-body Split (Westside Barbell Style)

Monday Max Effort Lower
Tuesday Foam Rolling and Mobility
Wednesday Max Effort Upper
Thursday Sled Dragging/GPP Work
Friday Dynamic Effort Lower
Saturday Dynamic Effort Upper
Sunday Complete Rest

Upper-body/Lower-body Split (Volume Training)

Monday Upper-body Medium Volume
Tuesday Foam Rolling and Mobility
Wednesday Lower-body High Volume
Thursday Sled Dragging/GPP Work
Friday Upper-body High Volume
Saturday Complete Rest
Sunday Lower-body Medium Volume

Body Part Split

Monday Squat and Quads
Tuesday Foam Rolling and Mobility
Wednesday Bench and Pecs
Thursday Sled Dragging/GPP Work
Friday Deadlift, Back and Hamstrings
Saturday Complete Rest
Sunday Shoulders and Triceps

Conclusion


While we may never be able to aptly describe training by using a few concise words, we can narrow it down to what it means for most of us--progress. It is measurable gains in strength, hypertrophy gains that build confidence and the peace of mind that we've improved after each session. To keep progress at a premium, plan your training week in waves of volume and intensity.

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Disclaimer: The articles featured herein are for informational purposes only and should not be construed as medical advice. Specific medical advice should only be obtained from a licensed health care professional. No liability is assumed by ProSource for any information herein.





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