progression in strength training
Every cycle of strength training must be structured with a progression in the training, in which the load (volume-intensity synthesis) increases almost in each training session. This means that during the first weeks each of them reaches a greater volume than the previous one.
In this series of articles we deal with some of the most important concepts of strength training, collecting notes from the recently published book Strength, Speed and Physical and Sports Performance written by renowned researchers Juan José González Badillo and Juan Ribas Serna.
- During the first two years of training, a slight progression of the loads is programmed, such as 45 to 55% of the RM for the entire cycle (PIE).
- This progression in absolute intensities, although the relative intensity is maintained, is enough to produce a significant improvement in strength.
- Two sessions per week is a sufficient load for almost all sports specialties, three sessions is a necessary frequency in some cases, when experience and strength needs are high.
- Each session could be made up of 2-3 fundamental exercises plus another 2-3 complementary ones.
- Speed control serves as a proper benchmark for determining relative intensity because each percentage has its own speed.
The number of weeks that this progression can be maintained is different depending on the circumstances or others, which are briefly explained in this entry.
The first years of training
In the first and perhaps in the second year of training, the most appropriate programming model would be an approximation to that of stable intensity (PIE). In this case, it is not a question of programming a single intensity value for the entire cycle, but rather a slight progression of the loads, for example, from 45 to 55% of the RM for the entire cycle.
In the first and perhaps in the second year of training, the most appropriate programming model would be an approximation to that of stable intensities (PIE).
Given that, in most cases, from the first sessions there will be an improvement in strength performance when, as programmed, the value of the relative intensity higher, for example, from 45 to 47.5%, the absolute load calculated on the initial MRI will no longer be the programmed 47.5%, but somewhat less, so that it will again be close to 45%. In this way, the subject continues to train with a practically stable relative intensity, but with a higher absolute intensity.
This progression in absolute intensities, although the relative intensity is maintained, is enough to produce a significant improvement in strength. In these cases, the circumstance will arise that those athletes who improve the most will be those who have trained with lower relative loads, that is, they will have trained less than the others.
In some subjects, there will even have been a tendency to train with an increasingly lower relative intensity, in such a way that the maximum training intensity of the cycle will have been done in the first training sessions.
In successive years, progressive loads continue to be programmed, but since the improvement in strength will be less per unit of training session, the relative intensity will tend to increase, even though the subject improves his performance.
In these stages it can be thought that within the cycle a week of recovery can be programmed every 3-4 weeks of load progression: Even when the loads are reaching the maximum values expected for the specialty, a reduction of load during the final two-three weeks of the cycle. This reduction is produced especially by the decrease in volume and to a lesser extent by intensity, which could remain stable or even increase.
The progression in absolute intensities, even if the relative intensity is maintained, is sufficient for a significant improvement in strength to occur.
In the most advanced athletes, and if they train at least three times a week, the following possibilities can be chosen:
At the beginning of the cycle you could go up to a progression of four weeks in a row and then one of recovery. This would be done in the following cases:
- If you start the cycle with very light loads in the first and second week, although in progression.
- If the athlete starts the cycle with very little work capacity: this circumstance occurs when a long time has elapsed since the last strength training.
- When the cycle is very long and we want to delay the acquisition of the form.
If none of these circumstances occurs, we will do two or three weeks in progression, followed by a download. If only two weeks are done, it must be because the volume has increased or it must increase quickly, otherwise it would not make sense. and we should continue with one more week of progression. The most accelerated dynamics would occur when these situations occur:
The usual thing is to plan two or three weeks in progression, followed by one of unloading.
- The athlete starts with a high level of performance and work capacity
- It is necessary to provoke a rapid adaptation, provided that the athlete is able to support it.
- It would not be advisable to do more than twice a dynamic of three progressive weeks and one of recovery at the beginning of the cycle. With two we would have covered the first First Phase (8 weeks) of a long cycle, and we would have had the opportunity to do a large volume of work. This dynamic is not being considered as ideal, but simply presented as a possibility, if a lot of volume is necessary, although this should only be exceptional.
- The dynamics in the second and third phases are characterized by the use of one or two weeks between medium and high, followed by one of volume reduction. As the cycle progresses, the maximum volumes that are reached per week will be less
- The last phase could be continued at low volume for a few more weeks as a maintenance phase.
Until now, the dynamics of the volume (as a component of the load) have been discussed, but nothing has been said about its magnitude. No figures, not even indicative, can be given on high, medium or low volume values in strength training that could serve as a basis for everyone.
In each specialty, the ideal load margins for the specialty must be observed and analyzed, as each coach must adjust these margins to the needs of their athletes. However, there are certain training variables that determine the volume and on which some guidelines can be given that will limit the volume variability margins, on which you can work.
In this case we would talk about the frequency of training, the number of repetitions per series (defined by the loss of speed in the series as the best procedure) and series per exercise, the type of exercise used and the intensity (percentage). or the minimum CE from which the volume is counted.
The type of exercise is a factor that can greatly vary the load: the load of a full squat or a power clean has nothing to do with that of a biceps brachii exercise, although both groups have done the same repetitions (volume).
In this situation, one might think that if we took into account the tonnage (number of repetitions for the average weight lifted), the differences between these exercises would be seen, and therefore, this would be the solution. But behind the tonnage, so much information is hidden and lost, that it is in no way worth taking it into account.
behind the tonnage so much information is hidden and lost, that it is in no way worth taking it into account.
Some exercises are not even part of the training volume, that is to say, they do not influence the dynamics described above, as for example occurs with abdominal exercises: these exercises, although they are very important for some specialties, such as artistic gymnastics or pole vaulting, would be done in a significant amount, but it would never mean a load of strength to take into account such that a week has been of high or low load.
The same goes for those that have a localized effect and are performed as a supplement and not as part of the training.
The intensity or degree of effort from which we consider that an improvement in performance can be achieved also plays an important role in assessing the level that we are using. In this regard, it is very important to take into account that two training sessions with the same number of real repetitions and the same exercises appear as two very different apparent loads if in one case the repetitions are counted from 50% and in the other from 80%. .
In fact, it would be two training sessions with the same load, although the resulting value was different due to the way of quantifying it.
The frequency of strength training per week is an indicator related to the overall workload, although the increase in frequency does not mean an increase in the overall load. As a general rule, and except for sports whose specific training is training with loads, as obviously corresponds to weightlifting, it should be considered that one session per week is a low or very low load, two sessions per week is a sufficient load to In almost all sports specialties, three sessions is a necessary frequency in some cases, when experience and strength needs are high. Each session could be made up of 2-3 fundamental exercises plus another 2-3 complementary ones.
two sessions per week is a sufficient load for almost all sports specialties
The number of exercises per training and in the total for the week is the necessary complement that should be added to the training frequency in order to have a better global idea of the load. The number of exercises is so important that the frequency of training could be considered above, because it is possible that every day, or even twice a day, we do strength training in short sessions, of one or two exercises per session.
In this case, the training frequency could be much higher, although it does not correspond to a higher load. The distribution of the volume in small units produces better benefits in terms of strength and activity of the nervous system. This means that, with a greater number of sessions, within certain margins, it would not necessarily produce a greater load, but probably, the contract, and with greater benefits.
In any case, we must always bear in mind that the greater or lesser actual duration of the effort (volume) must take physiological conditions as a reference; in which the subject is during training and the biomechanical indicators that determine the quality of the movements or exercises (speed, above all) that are performed in each session.
The maximum load expressed as character of the effort (CE) has been until now the most appropriate way that has been proposed to express the dynamics of the effort programmed through a training cycle. But now we have taken a step forward and the speed of execution has been incorporated as the most precise and useful way of expressing, dosing and controlling the intensity of the training.
The distribution of the volume in small units produces better benefits in terms of strength and activity of the nervous system.
The programming of a strength training consists, fundamentally, of establishing a sequence of maximum efforts for each temporary unit of training: week, day or session, in each of the fundamental exercises with which one works.
These efforts, as we have indicated, must be represented by the CE (number of repetitions achievable and number of repetitions performed in the series) and, especially by the speed of execution and the loss of speed in the series, although, as a guide you could add the percentage of 1RM that would correspond to it, although the best way to control the effort is through speed.
Once everything related to the needs or basic strength requirements of a specialty is known, programming can begin, but previously you must have at least the following information:
- Competition date.
- Training weeks available.
- Physical-technical starting point of the athlete or team: current state of fitness, experience in strength training, age and knowledge of the technique of some exercises.
- Characteristics and dates of the last strength cycle performed.
- Individual strength needs.
Depending on the preceding data, the evolution of the maximum work intensity throughout the cycle will be different.
To program the intensity, two aspects must be determined:
- The maximum daily and weekly intensity.
- The frequency of each peak intensity per week.
The maximum weekly intensity is the maximum intensity that we plan to achieve during the week in a specific exercise. Although this does not mean that every time you exercise you reach that maximum intensity. For this reason, it is also necessary to determine the weekly frequency with which this maximum intensity and other minor ones are used.
The maximum weekly intensity is the maximum intensity that we plan to achieve during the week in a specific exercise.
Of course, if an exercise is done only once a week, all of the above will go away, and if it is done twice, the problem is greatly simplified. Although, for example, if an exercise is performed three times a week, and the expected maximum weekly intensity is an effort equivalent to 85%, it could happen that said maximum intensity will be used every day, but also that only one will be used and in the other two, it will reach 75% or 80% of real effort.
We believe that the intensity should be programmed like this because it is the best way to reflect the effort that we want the subject to make. To the programmed intensities it would be necessary to add the series and repetitions per series that must be done with each one.
Although the expression of the programmed effort through the percentages (relative maximum intensity) presents some advantages at the time of training planning, if we intend to permanently adapt the load to the real possibilities of the subject each day, we would have to resort to the programming through the CE and, especially, through the speed of execution.
Speed control serves as a good benchmark for determining relative intensity because each percentage has its own speed, and each degree of execution speed has a distinct effect on performance. The proposal is justified because it is based on the assumption that although the value of 1RM may change between the different days, the speed at which each percentage is performed is very stable.
Therefore, the speed control informs with more precision about what percentage or what effort is being made at each moment. To this should be added the control of the loss of speed in the series, which would allow to have the most precise information about the degree of effort made.