Last Update On January 23, 2012
Training Cycles Made Easy
Programs like Stronglifts and Starting Strength are based on linear progression and they work only for beginners. Why? It's simple. If I start deadlifting 95 pounds and add 10 pounds to my deadlift every week after a year I will be lifting 575 and after another year my deadlift will be 1055 pounds.
It doesn't work that way at all. At the beginning linear progression will cut it but if you keep using it when the weights get demanding you will either hurt yourself, stop training or pay a lot of money to your therapist. This is where training periodization comes into play.
The worst thing about periodization is that it can be made so complicated that people fail to effectively follow their training cycles. In this article I will try to present you the simplest possible way to effectively use a training cycle to boost your lifts.
Let's say that your front squat has stalled at 200 lbs x3/2 (two sets) for whatever the reason. In order for a cycle to be effective you have to start with a less challenging weight otherwise you will stall quickly. In our case we have 200x3 . Let's start our cycle with 75-85% of that weight. So we have around 160 lbs as a start.
In the following cycle the front squat will be trained twice a week for two working sets of three reps with three days in between - Monday/Friday....Tuesday/Saturday...etc.
Note: Warm-ups are not included and since the front squat is a lower body lift at the beginning of the cycle we will use bigger jumps - 10 pounds. Needless to say that if you are doing a cycle for your bench press or overhead press 10 pounds will be an overkill. Use common sense and listen when your body is talking to you.
Day 1: 160 x 3/2; Day 2: 170 x 3/2;
Day 1: 180 x 3/2; Day 2: 190 x 3/2;
(10 pounds jumps are getting harder. We switch to 5 pounds)
Day 1: 195 x 3/2; Day 2: 200 x 3/2;
Day 1: 205 x 3/2 - PR; Day 2: 210 x 3/1 missed the second set;
This is where you start another cycle but you use slightly higher starting weight. In our case 170 pounds.
Day 1: 170 x 3/2 Day 2: 180 x 3/2
(10 pounds are getting tough again. We switch to 5 pounds)
Day 1: 185 x 3/2 Day 2: 190 x 3/2
Day 1: 195 x 3/2 Day 2: 200x3/2
Day 1: 205 x 3/2 Day 2: 210 x 3/2 - PR
Day 1: 215 x 3/1 - missed the second set. Time to build up again. Start another cycle with 175 pounds and build up again.
There is no need to make cycles complicated. You start with a light weight and build up to a small PR then you start another cycle and you build up to another small PR....repeat and get a bigger PR.
Benefits of cycling
The main benefit of cycling is that you are giving enough rest to your nervous system and your body to recover during the beginning of each cycle so that you are able to hit a PR later. If you are constantly training at 100% as some point it becomes counter-productive and that's where a simple linear cycle like the one I've just presented to you comes into play.
"Hm....bro....but Mark Rippetoe says that linear progression works best? You mad?"
Look dummy !!! Linear progression works best for beginners. It will only work for a few months though. Later you are looking at more “sophisticated” periodization and this is where simple cycles with frequent resets come into play.
"Hm...bro...how long should a cycle last?"
I depends if you train the lift only once a week which may not be enough you may extend it to 2-3 months. If you are training the lift twice a week four weeks will cut it. Long cycles are too taxing at the end. 3-10 weeks cycles seem to be about right in most cases.
Good luck. Have fun.
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