As an athlete, the goal of your training should almost always be to create the maximum impact on your strength and power. That’s because these two qualities are crucial to improving your performance in sports.
You’ll increase the likelihood of gaining strength and power when you work out if you use a systematic plan with the right loading strategies.
What’s a loading strategy?
A loading strategy dictates the amount of stimulus (i.e. weight or resistance) you use. In combination with the number of repetitions you perform.
Together, they define your volume load. You can measure this using a single exercise, workout, or over a block of time (days and weeks).
Why is your loading strategy important?
This variable has a big influence on how your body develops as you train.
Too often, athletes lose track of their strategy and where they’re at within it. Or they fail to plan altogether. So they get stuck using the same general zones of intensity and volume, that I’ll explain in this article.
This monotony leads to stagnation that diminishes your strength and power potential. And it can increase your risk for injury.
If you don’t vary your load, your other supportive fitness qualities will diminish. For example, loading to build muscle (hypertrophy) and to improve the ability to recover are often missed in training. Or it’s the other way around where strength and power get left out of the equation.
Being an athlete involves some expression of almost all the fitness qualities. Any deficiency in one will have a negative impact in the performance of the others.
If this scenario sounds like it might be you, then read on to help refresh and vary your loading plan.
The first thing to be aware of is what your loading parameters are. Here is a chart with a breakdown.
|Volume||Describes the total number of lifts completed in a training session (Ex. 4 lifts x 4 sets x 5 reps = 80 lifts)|
|Intensity||Describes the quality of each lift and is measured in power (w), repetition maximum (1RM) or percentage of 1RM (% 1RM)|
|Volume Load||Describes the total training stimulus and is the recommended variable for tracking loading status (Ex. 4 sets x 5 reps x 135 lbs = 2700 lbs.)|
|Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE)||Describes the subjective impact the intensity of each lift/session has on an individual (Each lift/session is rated 1-5 or ↑ RPE or ↓ RPE)|
Second, it will be helpful for you to understand that each fitness quality requires a specific loading zone (intensity) to progress.
Here is a chart with an example that shows the variations that influence each fitness quality based on your one repetition max (1RM).
|> 85% 1RM||High Effect||Very High Effect||Minimal or No Effect||Minimal or No Effect|
|75-85% 1RM||High Effect||High Effect||Moderate Effect||Minimal or No Effect|
|70-75% 1RM||High Effect||Moderate Effect||High Effect||High Effect|
|< 70% 1RM||Moderate Effect||Minimal or No Effect||Very High Effect||Very High Effect|
The third key point to understand is that you need an adequate amount of time for your progress to become significant. If you don’t give yourself that, then your results won’t have measurable impact on your goal.
The challenge is that you can’t build all of the qualities at once, regardless of how much you’d like to. You can only emphasize one at a time to achieve maximal potential to adapt and improve.
When you have a singular focus, you still need to maintain the other qualities.
To be a complete athlete, you need to vary your emphasis throughout the year. So you can build and preserve all other qualities.
That’s also a key component of becoming an Athlete For Life.
Success is most likely to happen when you put in place a variety of time-blocks. Each dedicated to stimulating one quality at a time.
Each quality’s loading zone, found in the chart above, is the basis for methods that you can strategize around.
Your methods will vary based on your individual needs such as your:
- Sport’s skill demands
- Sport’s season / schedule
- History with each exercise
- Health status (any injuries?)
- Level of physical conditioning
- Training environment (resources)
And your methods need to feed your goals.
To make sure that you keep heading in the right direction, I want to present you with a proven method. And it will help you better manipulate this essential element of your program. To your advantage, instead of to your detriment.
I should preface that there is no one-size-fits-all method, version or amount of time to get results. So it will take a good amount of self-experimentation to figure out what works best for you.
Undulating Progression Method
With this method, your training volume and intensity can vary between:
This is allows for a constant change to the stress on your body.
But this should not be random.
Your plan needs to have a structure of change. And it should revolve around a concurrent development of your most important qualities.
This creates a wave of loading zones for building strength, power, and hypertrophy (muscle building). So your body will get recovery, and won’t fully adapt to a single stress. And the risk of hitting a plateau or overtraining is almost eliminated.
A traditional undulating plan will have a reciprocal pattern of volume and intensity. So when volume increases, intensity decreases, and vice versa.
Since your body is dynamic in its adaptation, you must have a patterned plan to match.
Your challenge with your own plan is to be able to disconnect the loading variables to have an ebb-and-flow effect. So your training cycle needs to have firm limits on the time-period you spend in each.
You need to do this in a way that maximizes recovery to generate a performance effect to match your goals. As well as reducing your risk of overtraining.
With this information, now is your opportunity to map out the weeks ahead with a structured plan.
Start by using blocks of time (from 2-to-6 weeks) that undulate strength, power, and hypertrophy. While being in conjunction with your individual needs and goals.
There is a lot here and it’s all important. If you have any questions, shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As always, stay athletic.