Guide To Designing A Routine

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    Guide To Designing A Routine

    So you're new to the lifting game or you're looking to make a big change in your resistance training program to spark some growth or break a plateau. Of course you are, the iron addiction has taken hold. The only way to cure it is to use more of it each session. I'm going to break down the different variables and parameters at your disposal and try to give you the tools necessary to put together something systematic, something that will prevent adaptation, something that will ultimately help you reach your goals, and something that should be a refreshing change from your standard muscle mag dribble. My biases will probably seep through a little bit here, but I hope to make this guide as comprehensive as possible nonetheless.



    Methods of Training
    - Vladimir Zatsiorsky has summed up the various forms of resistance training necessary to support maximal recruitment of motor units, and therefore muscle fibers, as the following 3 methods of training.

    Maximum Effort (ME)
    This form of training involves lifting at a very high level of intensity. Simplified, this means lifting a weight that is at 90% or greater than your 1RM.

    Dynamic Effort (DE)
    This is what is commonly referred to as speed or power work. You use sub-maximal loads and impose compensatory acceleration on the weight being moved. The parameters involved in this type of training vary widely, but generally 50-70% of your 1RM is the intensity level used. Sets are completed in a manner so that fatigue is negligible and maximum acceleration can be used on each working set.

    Repeated Effort (RE)
    This is the tool most often used by bodybuilders. The loads are considered relatively intense and performed until at or near muscular failure. The intensity level used for this type of training is generally somewhere around 65-85% of your 1RM. The state of fatigue associated with being at or near muscular failure can be achieved over the course of multiple working sets.



    The Major Variables – Although this is not a totally comprehensive list, these are the variables most often manipulated in order to continue progressing toward your goals with a resistance training program.

    Frequency
    Frequency, in the context of resistance training, is the number of workouts performed in a given period of time, which is generally a week. The frequency at which muscles are used as prime movers in resistance training is an important variable that far too many people refuse to manipulate. Bodybuilding magazines have done their damage, and now the general lifting population has some ill-conceived notion that training each body part once per week is the only way to see gains.

    Intensity
    Intensity is not how hard you workout, but the amount of weight relative to your 1 repetition max, which can be estimated with fairly good accuracy when dealing with reasonably heavy weights. It is generally expressed as a percentage (e.g. 75% of a 1RM), although sometimes it is expressed as a multiple repetition max (e.g. 5RM). This variable is rarely varied as often as it should be. Your 8-12RM is not the only viable intensity for a bodybuilder, and, in fact, is not optimal if used in isolation.

    Volume
    Volume is typically calculated as the number of sets multiplied by the number of repetitions, which is essentially just the total number of repetitions performed in a training session. However, some people may go further and take the number of repetitions and multiply it by the weight used in each set and add up the total. For the sake of simplicity, and the fact that I find that form of calculating volume unnecessary for most, I will be referring to volume as the total number of repetitions performed in a training session for the remainder of this writeup. Once again, bodybuilding rags have trashed any validity this carried as an alterable training variable by recommending 3 sets of 8-12 repetitions for every exercise under the sun.

    Rest Intervals
    This is simply the amount of rest allowed between working sets of an exercise. This variable is often manipulated unintentionally due to the fact that people simply don't time their rest intervals, and it's not implemented with any kind of consistency. Lowering rest intervals at equivalent volume and intensity is a perfectly valid form of overload, as you are performing an equivalent amount of work in a shorter period of time (Increased density).

    Exercise Selection
    Okay, this one is pretty self-explanatory. It is the exercises that you are using in your routine. Generally, this seems to be overdone or never done. People do the same exercises day in and day out for years, or they change their exercises so damned frequently that tracking progress is an impossibility.

    Tempo
    This is the speed at which the weight is moved during each phase of the lift. The notation used to describe tempo is eccentric phase in seconds-pause between phases in seconds-concentric phase in seconds-hold at peak contraction in seconds. An example would be 2-0-X-0; you lower the weight for 2 seconds, don't pause at all, complete the concentric portion of the movement as quickly as possible as denoted by the X, and then immediately go to the next repetition without holding. Typically, I think the value of this variable is overrated. In order to increase the time each muscle remains under tension, people will sometimes slow their cadence. Instead, a comparable method of doing this is to simply increase the volume. Either way, intensity must be reduced. Under most circumstances, a controlled negative and explosive positive portion of each movement is optimal, although there are certainly a number of exceptions.

    Training Split
    Honestly, this variable doesn't need to be manipulated much on its own. I generally think of it is a function of the other variables. If you are training each muscle group three times per week at a fairly low volume each session, then a full body split is probably optimal. If you are training each muscle group two times per week at a more moderate to high volume, then an upper-lower split or some such similar split is probably optimal. It goes on like that.



    Forms of Periodization – Essentially, periodization is the methodical alteration of training variables over the course of a training cycle. Training cycles are classified as microcycles, mesocycles, and macrocycles. Microcycles are most often the training week, but does not have to be limited to that exact amount of time. It is usually the smallest repeatable cycle of a training program. Mesocycles last anywhere from 4-12 weeks the majority of the time, but may extend for longer in certain cases. It is a collection of several microcycles. The macrocycle is the largest of periodization divisions; it consists of multiple mesocycles. Some macrocycles may last as long as a few years, as is often the case with Olympic athletes. This list is by no means comprehensive, but lists some of the most popular methods out there now.

    Linear Periodization
    As denoted by the name, linear periodization is the systematic increase or decrease in the value of a variable over the course of a mesocycle. Intensity is the variable most often manipulated in this manner, but it is certainly applicable to other training variables. A simple example would be the following, using intensity as an example: week 1: 60%, week 2: 70%, week 3: 75%, week 4: 80%, week 5: 85%, week 6: 90%, repeat.

    Alternating Periodization
    This form of periodization involves alternating variables each microcycle, but not necessarily in a linear manner. An example of this type of program is Power-Rep Range-Shock. During power week, intensity is between 80-85%, rest intervals are 3-5 minutes, and volume is at the lower end of the spectrum. During rep range week, intensity is between 70-80%, rest intervals are 1-2 minutes, and volume is fairly high. During shock week, intensity is between 60-80%, rest intervals are 1 minute or less, volume is moderate, and the level of effort relative to muscular failure is very high. The vanilla version of the program has you alternate between each week in order and repeat for 9-12 weeks before unloading for a week via active recovery or total abstinence from heavy resistance training.

    Undulating Periodization
    This form of periodization involves alternating variables within each microcycle or even within each individual training session. An example of this type of program would be the following: week 1 - session 1: 4 sets of 12 repetitions @ 15RM using 45sec rest intervals, week 1 – session 2: 8 sets of 3 repetitions @ 5RM using 75sec rest intervals, week 1 – session 3: 4 sets of 8 repetitions @ 10RM using 60sec rest intervals.

    Conjugate Periodization
    Conjugate periodization may incorporate other forms of periodization within itself. It is a little different in that the variables are alternated to train multiple facets of performance or health related fitness (e.g. Muscular strength, muscular size, power, cardiovascular endurance, etc.) within an individual microcycle or training session. An example of this form of periodization is evident in the popular powerlifting protocol Westside. A minimum of four sessions take place each week. Two sessions are devoted to training the bench press and two sessions are devoted to training the squat/deadlift. All of these sessions include usage of the repeated effort method of training. One of both the squat/deadlift session and bench press sessions contains maximum effort training, and one of each contains dynamic effort training. In addition to these four sessions, one who has sufficient work capacity will also perform GPP/active recovery work. GPP (General physical preparedness) work is geared toward improving or maintaining other facets of performance related fitness besides the area that is specific to your goal (SPP, specific physical preparedness) such as aerobic capacity, mobility, or muscular endurance.



    Other Things to Consider – All of this information should be helpful, but there are other things that you must consider if you want results.

    Overload
    This is all well and good, but if you don't organize your periodization scheme or routine to allow for you to continually improve, then you won't see results. If you don't make attempts to perform a higher level of volume, use a greater intensity at equivalent volume levels, increase the density of your workload by lower rest intervals, or some other form of overload, then you will not progress. You need to provide your body with the proper stimulus.

    Consistency
    It is impossible to tell if your program is at fault, your diet is at fault, or your slacking is the cause of your lack of results if you aren't being consistent with your training and diet. You can't make judgments on altered performance levels based on a routine that wasn't fully adhered too. Furthermore, you can't make judgments on a routine that is also dependent on diet if the diet was not followed to a high level of accuracy.

    Diet
    Don't neglect diet, period. I don't care if your goal is to lose weight, put on mass, get stronger, or run a marathon. Diet is of utmost importance, not to mention a big determinant in how healthy you are overall. It also has a drastic effect on recovery. A garbage diet is going to limit the level at which you can raise your work capacity and increase the frequency of your training.

    Sleep
    Good sleeping habits play an important roll in maintaining the health of your endocrine system, maintaining sanity/mental clarity, and allowing for proper recovery. Train hard, but rest accordingly.

    Duration of Each Session
    You don't need to train for 3 hours each time you hit the gym. If you follow these parameters, then you shouldn't be involved in heavy resistance training for much longer than an hour each session. It becomes counter-productive at a certain point as your endocrine system responds negatively to lengthy and stressful sessions of exercise.



    Putting it all Together – Okay great, you have all this information, but what to do with it? The following are some general guidelines to follow depending on your goals.

    Bodybuilder
    Your goal is structural adaptations. You want size, and you want it now. Conversely, you may also be seeking a leaner physique and you are simply looking to maintain your current level of lean mass or possibly add some if at all possible. Assuming proper diet, the following guidelines should help you to achieve your goals, although you are certainly not limited to these:

    Type of Training: Repeated effort method.

    Frequency: Train each muscle group or type of movement 1-3 times per week.

    Intensity: 65-85% of your 1RM is the range of intensity levels that should see the most training time.

    Volume: Each exercise should consist of 24-50 repetitions. 2-4 exercises per major body part is generally sufficient through the course of the week. Make sure to balance the training stimulus between antagonist muscle groups.

    Rest Intervals: 30-120 seconds.

    Exercise Selection: Stick primarily to compound movements, but adding isolation work is also acceptable for lagging body parts. Exercises should not need to be varied more often than needed for enjoyment of your workout or once every mesocycle.

    Tempo: A variety of tempos is acceptable. Generally, accentuating the negative portion of the movement is more beneficial than accentuating the positive portion of the movement. However, if the force curve allows for it, holding the peak contraction for longer may be beneficial on occasion. All in all, I think little attention should be paid to this variable.

    Training Split: Push-pull-legs, push&bis-pull&tris-legs, and push-quads-pull-hams are probably the most balanced low frequency training splits. Upper-lower splits are also great for a moderate frequency. Total body training splits are perfect for high frequency routines.

    Powerlifter
    I'm using the term powerlifter very broadly here. Your goal is absolute or relative strength. You want neural adaptations, and sufficient structural adaptations to allow you to reach your strength goals. The following guidelines should be followed to help you achieve your goals, although, once again, these are obviously not the only workable parameters:

    Type of Training: Maximum effort (Main lifts), dynamic effort (Main lifts), and repeated effort (Accessory work).

    Frequency: Train each type of movement 2-4 times per week.

    Intensity: ME work should be done in the 90-100% range. DE work should be performed in the 50-70% range. RE work should be performed in the 65-85% range.

    Volume: ME work should be very low in volume; 1-5 total repetitions should be plenty for each movement. DE work should be more moderate in terms of volume. Somewhere around 15-30 repetitions is generally acceptable for each movement. RE work should generally remain in the 24-50 total repetitions range, although volume will sometimes be lower at the higher end of the intensity spectrum.

    Rest Intervals: ME work should be done utilizing full recovery between new attempts, which is 3 minutes or longer. DE work will utilize low rest intervals; 30-60 seconds should be plenty. RE work is generally completed using 30-120 second rest intervals.

    Exercise Selection: ME exercises should be varied each session they are used to prevent overtraining of the central nervous system if they are used frequently; if used infrequently then variation is only necessary to target weak areas of a target lift. DE exercises require very little variation and should closely mimic target lifts. RE exercises should be varied based on weak links in your target lifts, and should generally be varied more frequently than with a bodybuilder due to the increased stress your nervous system undergoes from powerlifting routines. Compound movements should comprise the bulk of your program, but isolation work is certainly helpful in bringing up weak links in a lift without too much additional stress being imposed on the nervous system.

    Tempo: ME exercises should be performed with a controlled negative and explosive positive, although you may not achieve a very high rate of speed when working at such high intensity. DE exercises should be performed as quickly as possible without injury being an issue; sometimes a quick pause to break the eccentric-concentric chain is useful. RE exercises should generally be performed as a controlled negative and explosive positive. Accentuating the negative is not necessary unless looking to increase muscular size as well as strength.

    Training Split: Train based on target lifts. Devote one day to the squat, one day to the bench press, and one day to the deadlift; devote two days to the bench press, one day to the squats, and one day to the deadlift; devote two days to the bench press and two days to the squat/deadlift combined; upper-vertical plane, upper-horizontal plane, lower-knee/quad dominant, lower hip/ham dominant; etc.

    Beginners
    No matter what your goals are, you need to build a strong base and acclimate yourself to resistance training before you apply more advanced techniques. Your routine should be simple, comprised of almost purely compound movements, plenty of implementation of free weight exercises, and a little more streamlined overall. Periodization is probably not necessary just yet. Consider yourself a beginner for the first several months that you are resistance training properly, or as long as you see gains like this:

    Type of Training: Repeated effort method.

    Frequency: Train each type of movement or major muscle group 1-3 times per week.

    Intensity: 60-70% should be sufficient for both structural and neural adaptations for a beginner.

    Volume: 20-40 repetitions is pretty good for each exercise for a beginner. 1-3 exercises per major body part is most likely plenty.

    Rest Intervals: 60-120 seconds should be fine; there is no need to kill yourself just yet.

    Exercise Selection: Exercise selection needs to change very little if at all. Movements should be virtually all compound and free weight (Assuming you have learned proper form), although a bit of machine work and isolation work is acceptable.

    Tempo: Don't concern yourself with tempo. Just lower and raise in a controlled manner.

    Training Split: I think a full body routine 2-3 times per week is great, but a bodybuilder split or upper-lower split is perfectly acceptable as well.



    Examples

    Beginner – No Periodization

    Monday:
    Squats – 3x12 @ 65%
    Overhead Press – 3x12 @ 65%
    Pullthroughs – 3x12 @ 65%
    Pulldowns – 3x12 @ 65%


    Friday:
    Romanian Deadlifts – 3x12 @ 65%
    DB Bench Press – 3x12 @ 65%
    Split Squats – 3x12 @ 65%
    Hyperextensions - 3x12 @ 65%


    Bodybuilder – Undulating Periodization

    Monday – Upper:

    Overhead Press
    Week A: 8x3 @ 5-6RM - 75sec RI
    Week B: 3x12 @ 15RM – 30sec RI
    Week C: 4x6 @ 8RM – 60sec RI

    Chinups
    Week A: 8x3 @ 5-6RM - 75sec RI
    Week B: 3x12 @ 15RM – 30sec RI
    Week C: 4x6 @ 8RM – 60sec RI

    DB Decline Press
    Week A: 4x10 @ 12RM – 45sec RI
    Week B: 5x5 @ 7RM – 75sec RI
    Week C: 5x8 @ 10RM – 60sec RI

    Seated Cable Rows
    Week A: 4x10 @ 12RM – 45sec RI
    Week B: 5x5 @ 7RM – 75sec RI
    Week C: 5x8 @ 10RM – 60sec RI


    Wednesday – Lower:

    Squats
    Week A: 8x3 @ 5-6RM - 75sec RI
    Week B: 3x12 @ 15RM – 30sec RI
    Week C: 4x6 @ 8RM – 60sec RI

    SLDLs
    Week A: 4x10 @ 12RM – 45sec RI
    Week B: 5x5 @ 7RM – 75sec RI
    Week C: 5x8 @ 10RM – 60sec RI

    Lunges
    Week A: 4x10 @ 12RM – 45sec RI
    Week B: 5x5 @ 7RM – 75sec RI
    Week C: 5x8 @ 10RM – 60sec RI


    Friday – Upper

    Bench Press
    Week A: 8x3 @ 5-6RM - 75sec RI
    Week B: 3x12 @ 15RM – 30sec RI
    Week C: 4x6 @ 8RM – 60sec RI

    Yates' Rows
    Week A: 8x3 @ 5-6RM - 75sec RI
    Week B: 3x12 @ 15RM – 30sec RI
    Week C: 4x6 @ 8RM – 60sec RI

    Dips
    Week A: 4x10 @ 12RM – 45sec RI
    Week B: 5x5 @ 7RM – 75sec RI
    Week C: 5x8 @ 10RM – 60sec RI

    Pulldowns
    Week A: 4x10 @ 12RM – 45sec RI
    Week B: 5x5 @ 7RM – 75sec RI
    Week C: 5x8 @ 10RM – 60sec RI


    Sunday – Lower:

    Deadlifts
    Week A: 8x3 @ 5-6RM - 75sec RI
    Week B: 3x12 @ 15RM – 30sec RI
    Week C: 4x6 @ 8RM – 60sec RI

    Split Squats
    Week A: 4x10 @ 12RM – 45sec RI
    Week B: 5x5 @ 7RM – 75sec RI
    Week C: 5x8 @ 10RM – 60sec RI

    Glute Ham Raises
    Week A: 4x10 @ 12RM – 45sec RI
    Week B: 5x5 @ 7RM – 75sec RI
    Week C: 5x8 @ 10RM – 60sec RI


    Powerlifter – Linear Periodization

    Monday – Squat Day:

    Squat – RE to ME
    Week 1: 4x12 @ 65%
    Week 2: 4x10 @ 70%
    Week 3: 3x8 @ 75%
    Week 4: 3x5 @ 83%
    Week 5: 3x3 @ 88%
    Week 6: 3x2 @ 90%
    Week 7: 2x2 @ 95%
    Week 8: 1x1 @ 100%
    Week 9: 1x1 @ 105% - Attempt record

    Accessory Work


    Wednesday – Bench Press Day:

    Bench Press – RE to ME
    Week 1: 4x12 @ 65%
    Week 2: 4x10 @ 70%
    Week 3: 3x8 @ 75%
    Week 4: 3x5 @ 83%
    Week 5: 3x3 @ 88%
    Week 6: 3x2 @ 90%
    Week 7: 2x2 @ 95%
    Week 8: 1x1 @ 100%
    Week 9: 1x1 @ 105% - Attempt record

    Accessory Work


    Friday – Deadlift Day:

    Deadlift – RE to ME
    Week 1: 4x12 @ 65%
    Week 2: 4x10 @ 70%
    Week 3: 3x8 @ 75%
    Week 4: 3x5 @ 83%
    Week 5: 3x3 @ 88%
    Week 6: 3x2 @ 90%
    Week 7: 2x2 @ 95%
    Week 8: 1x1 @ 100%
    Week 9: 1x1 @ 105% - Attempt record

    Accessory Work



    The Conclusion
    Hopefully I have provided you with the tools to put yourself together a real program, and not some rag routine that will supposedly add 1 inch to your arms in 24 hours. If you didn't understand periodization before, hopefully you understand it now. Periodization is an amazing tool that lets you go beyond what you are capable of and then back off to reap the benefits. By the same token, it prevents adaptation by systematically changing the stimulus repeatedly. If you actually had enough patience to read through this, then I think you will be pleasantly surprised with the results. Now go train!
    Last edited by CowPimp; 08-24-2006 at 10:09 AM.





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    Thanks for posting that. I think I will go rub one out.
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    See also:

    full Body
    Split
    Last edited by Adamjs; 01-08-2006 at 12:16 AM. Reason: vice-versa
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adamjs
    See also:

    Split
    full Body
    I tried to make this one a little more comprehensive, but thanks for that. Hehe.





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    Quote Originally Posted by CowPimp
    I tried to make this one a little more comprehensive, but thanks for that. Hehe.
    I figured it was almost a direct, but subtle, response to shiznit going a smidgeon awol with your previous posts. But hey - they're good work. May as well keep them out there.
    ____________________________________________
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    Quote Originally Posted by Adamjs
    I figured it was almost a direct, but subtle, response to shiznit going a smidgeon awol with your previous posts. But hey - they're good work. May as well keep them out there.
    Nah, I've been meaning to do this for a while. I happened to take a nap today, and I couldn't go back to sleep. I figured it was a good time. Plus, it will save more time than it spent to write it up the rate that I post on here. Heh.





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    Quote Originally Posted by CowPimp
    Nah, I've been meaning to do this for a while. I happened to take a nap today, and I couldn't go back to sleep. I figured it was a good time. Plus, it will save more time than it spent to write it up the rate that I post on here. Heh.
    True. Can just keep refering to it. Now all we need to do is backlink to it from the others and we can go around in perpetual circles.
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    that was retardedly detailed...good job

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    nice job bro!

    i gotta bookmark these, i keep having to search em out all the time
    "The greatest obstacle to knowledge is not ignorance but the illusion of knowledge." -Barry Marshall, Nobel Laureate

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    Great post
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    damn you, cp - next time make them shorter, so it doesn't take that long to read. ha, im joking. awesome post.
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    Thumbs up should be a sticky...

    Well done.

    Lots of great/useful/important/quality information in there!

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    thanka cowpimp,you really helped me out here...
    If you even dream about beating me- you better wake up come to me and apologise.

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    I see that they do 8x3 on one exercise but 4x10 on another within the same week, for simplicity's sake could you just do 8x3 or just high set low rep throughout the week and keep good effectiveness?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Tier
    I see that they do 8x3 on one exercise but 4x10 on another within the same week, for simplicity's sake could you just do 8x3 or just high set low rep throughout the week and keep good effectiveness?

    who is they?

    what do you mean 8x3 for one exercise and 4x10 for another. Do you mean like:

    monday- squat- 8x3
    wed- overhead press- 4x10

    ????

    Maybe I am misunderstanding you??





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