Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Next Cycle of Strongman Off-Season Done Right

If you want to be the best, you have to pay the cost to be the boss

I thought I'd lay out everything you need to know about the next 12 weeks of our off season.

First off, it's 12 weeks long. There are three important components: The deadlift progression, and how to manage your squat/press training routine volume and intensity changes over time.

Deadlift:  the Coan-Phillippi deadlift cycle is exactly 10 weeks long (sorta). 
Week one, we do no deadlifting.
Week two we start.
Week 11 we finish.
Week 12 we retest our max.
I recommend you start the program with a 'current max' about 5-10% less than where you really are, and set the target to at least 5% over where you are, but no higher than 10% greater than your all time best. 

Squats and Presses: Unless you know something I don't know, we're doing back squats and strict presses. There are two phases to this: A volume accumulation, and an intensity accumulation.

Our traditional protocol is the following:
Monday = Volume = 5x5 at 80% of 5RM
Wednesday = De-load = 2x5 at 80% of volume load (or 64% of 5RM)
Friday = Intensity = 5RM training (increasing over time hopefully)

The first 4-6 weeks of this off-season will be "Volume Accumulation" (VA). VA will look like this: 

Monday = Volume = 5x5 at ~ 75% of 5RM
Wednesday = De-load = 3x5 at 75% of Volume
Friday = Intensive Volume = 3x5 at ~85% of 5RM

The reason the intensity says "~" is because I think it's better to assign your starting loads based on not on an exact percentage, but rather where you left off with your best 5RM performance in our first 12 weeks of offseason, and where you want to get to in your 3x5 fridays before you switch over to your 1x5 fridays. Basically, if you are going to have 5 weeks of VA, you want the last one to be 5-10# less than your best ever 1x5 (approximately; I was so bad at strict presses that I worked up to 5# more than my best 5RM ever for 3 sets before I even switched to 1x5s), which you would go for in the following week as you switch to Intensity Accumulation (IA). 

Intensity Accumulation (IA):
Example: I pressed 75x5 and squatted 200x5 on my last run up, where do I start, what do I plan to do? 
Well, if I have 5 weeks to go up to about 70 for 3x5, or maybe even 73/75, then I want to start about 4-5 steps back from there. If I am making 2-3lb jumps, or using kg weights, I would start with something like 63 for 3x5, and each week go up, so 65, 68, 70, 73 for 3x5 would be my fifth and final week. Week six, I would attempt 75x5, and the following weeks I would do 78, 80, 83, 85 etc. 
The same ideas would apply to the back squat: I want to get to 190/195 for 3x5, so I set up my first week about 5 steps back, ie 175. Then I do 180, 185, 190, and 195 on week five. The following 5 weeks I would go up from 200, 205, 210, 215 and finally 220 for 1x5. 
The template for the weeks looks like this:
Monday = Volume = 5x5 at 80% of friday target
Wednesday = de load = 80% of Monday for 2x5
Friday = Intensity = 1x5 at 5RM

A suggestion: each 1-2 weeks, drop a set from volume day, ie week 1 do 5 sets, 2-3 do only 4 sets, and weeks 4-6 only 3 sets on Monday. IA should be about getting the weights up, not the tonnage. It should feel like a peak on a pyramid, the base of which was all those sets you did in the first 6 weeks of VA. 

A final note: choose no more than 2 assistance exercises per day. I think that 3-4 for the week is fine, and I think it's possible to choose only one or two that are really important to you and repeat them. Make sure they are relatively simple, single joint, bodybuilding type exercises mostly, with relatively light loads most of the time. They should not be taxing, simply helpful to bringing up your weakest points. If you are training longer than 75 minutes with any regularity, you are doing it wrong, and I want to help you fix it.