Saturday, November 18, 2017

Excerpt From "The Art of Lifting" by Greg Nuckols and Omar Isuf (2015)

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Chapter 17: Results

The book of Matthew has some of the best advice for life and lifting disputes -
"Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."

As the old saying goes, "You can't argue with success."

One of my pet peeves is seeing someone comment on an 800-pound deadlifter's video, "He's doing his reps touch and go. That doesn't build strength," or comment on a pro bodybuilder's video, "He's doing half reps. That doesn't build size."

Excuse me.

The results are directly in front of you. Unless you're saying they're magicians performing illusions, the results are undeniable.

Using these examples, maybe resetting every rep of the deadlift might be better for most people, and maybe full range of motion exercises tend to produce more hypertrophy than partial range of motion exercises. But to see success directly in front of you and then say the means someone used to attain it don't work is to deny reality.

Maybe something could work better, or maybe something works for reasons that the proponent doesn't understand (low-carb diets usually fall into this category; when people cut out all their carbs, they usually end up eating fewer calories, but it's the reduced calories that caused the weight loss, not the lack of carbs), but those are entirely different scenarios from flatly saying it doesn't work.

An example I like to use for this is DAILY MAX SQUATTING. It was popularized by the Bulgarian weightlifting coach Ivan Abadjiev in the 1980s and produced some of the strongest weightlifters of all time. It is exactly what it sounds like - working up to a near-max squat every day or almost every day of the week.

The whole bit earlier in this book about the general volume and intensity ranges that tend to be most beneficial? Yeah, that's out the window (at least how most people apply it. If you've downloaded the Bulgarian Manual, you know that to make this style of training even more effective, you end up training in a manner that is much more "kosher." But I digress.

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Daily max training defies a lot of the basics of modern periodization theory except for the SAID principle. But it works - if your body can handle it. For me personally, as a drug-free lifter, I added almost 100 pounds to my squat in 10 weeks by walking into a gym, working up to the heaviest set of squats I could manage with good form and no psychological arousal, wrapping up my squat training for the day, and repeating the process 6 to 7 days per week. Volume was "too low," intensity was "too high," frequency was WAY "too high: . . . and none of that mattered, because it worked. 

Again, that's not to say it's the universal best approach for all people at all times, and it's not saying that perhaps something else couldn't have worked better for me at that time. But, however you look at it, IT DID WORK.

Identifying trends of things that usually produce results or that should produce results is worthwhile, but keep an open mind and don't automatically write off something that is counter-intuitive conceptually but that's getting people the desired outcomes in practice. 

Chapter 21: Contentment and Quality of Life

This is the last thing I want to leave you with in our Stuff That Matters discussion.

Picking things up and putting them down is a hobby.

There are things that REALLY matter in life. Close friends and loved ones, cultivating empathy, providing for yourself and your dependents financialy, etc. 

Unless your ability to pick up heavy things or your ability to pose on stage or in front of a camera is contributing to those things and putting food on your table, it's a hobby.

That's not to say hobbies are unimportant. They give us a sense of release from the grind of day-to-day life, they help us keep our sanity, they give us personal depth, they give us a sense of fulfillment via mastering skills, and a host of other things. Heck, the gym may even be your "third place," which many consider essential for the cohesiveness of human communities. 

However, never forget context. 

Does lifting give you more confidence, help you be a better spouse/parent/friend, alleviate stress, and help contribute to a sense of enjoyment of life, self-worth, and achievement? Great! You're doing it 100% right. If you never gain another pound of muscle, or never hit another PR, but working out continues to fulfill those other purposes to contribute to the really important things in life, you're doing it right.  

Does lifting stress you out, distract you from the people and interactions around you, make you feel like you'll never be good enough, and detract from the more meaningful aspects of life? If so, it's irrelevant what you achieve in the gym or in a sport. It if builds your body up while tearing the rest of your life down, you're doing it wrong, your physique or PRs be damned. 

Because, keep in mind - this is a hobby. Pursuing gains isn't a reasonable excuse for missing work, skipping family gatherings, neglecting time with your friends, or feeling bad about yourself.

It should be fun, it should be challenging, and it should enhance the rest of your life, not consume it.

Forearms - Bradley Steiner (1979)


Chuck Sipes

Casey Viator

Frank McGrath 

Massive Forearms Can Be Yours
by Bradley Steiner (1979)

There's certainly no denying that large upper arm muscles rate high in popularity among bodybuilders. This has always been the case, as far back as I can remember, and, judging from some of the routines being urged today as "guaranteed to build 20"-plus biceps," huge upper arms STILL promise to rank high on the lift of "must have" items on the agenda of the bodybuilder of the 21st century! 

Still, even considering the importance attached to the biceps and triceps, it is impossible to overlook the enormously impressive appearance that powerful, large FOREARMS impart to their possessor! I am, I admit frankly, more impressed by a pair of rugged looking forearms and thick wrists than I am by over-bloated biceps. 

Forearm muscles are PRACTICAL muscles. And I don't mean "practical" for impressing some idiot who gasps when he shakes a strong man's hand. I mean that well-developed forearms are - OF ALL THE MUSCLES IN THE ARM ASSEMBLY - the singularly most useful for practical, everyday needs. On the job, good forearm development makes work easier, and delays fatigue brought about by working with one's hands. At play, strong forearms often permit us to play a better game of tennis, maintain a better control in golf, etc. And, in an emergency, a hefty pair of strong forearms can be a formidable aid in self-defense. In climbing a rope, ladder, or scaling an obstacle, the forearms are brought more heavily into play than any of the arms' muscle groups. And tell truth: Don't you envy the guy who, in normal street attire, rolls up his sleeves nonchalantly and reveals massively bulging sinewy forearm development? 

The Bone Structure Question

To start off I want to make it clear that your inherent bone structure will determine, to a degree, how much forearm and wrist development you can obtain. The most massively-impressive forearms can be attained, obviously, by those who start with the most favorable natural potential - the endomorphs and mesomorphs (big-boned and medium-boned people, respectively). Small-boned people (like myself) have the disadvantage of not being able to develop size that is actually "huge," yet still, these small-boned trainees can often LOOK huge, because even an slight, slight size increase shows up tremendously anywhere on the slender natural frame. 

So, nobody can be a loser in this quest for forearm development. Only a few exceptional people can build forearms like clubs, but all of us can guild a good pair of forearms - with effort! 

How the Forearms Work

The forearm muscles work when:
a) The wrists bend or turn
b) The fingers clench
c) The hands hold onto something
d) The arms support and lift.

Quite obviously, from the list above, you can see that the forearms come into play OFTEN, even when we are engaged in activities far removed from training.

The key to organizing an effective forearm specialization course is to duplicate an intense form of workload that forces the forearms to exert themselves in a manner conducive to their growth.

One particular myth that has build up around forearm development (and that I'd just as soon clear out of the way now) is the notion that forearms are an especially "troublesome" part of the body to develop, or are, in many cases, "the most difficult" body muscle to build. Nonsense. Forearm training, put simply, is TOUGH and PAINFUL. But if you do it, you'll build big forearms, and it will only be a short time until you do! 

I am going to introduce you to a rather special piece of training equipment. It is easily made up from an ordinary dumbbell bar, and is called a "leverage bar" or "leverage bell." All this is is a dumbbell loaded with a moderate weight AT ONE END ONLY. When the free end is grasped and held, the weighted exerts a force of leverage against the grip retaining the bar, and thus the name "leverage" bar. There is probably no finer device in existence for developing all-round forearm size and power. And here I am taking into consideration the "wrist roller" device when I say this.

To make up a leverage bar simply remove the sleeve from one of your dumbbell bars and use two collars to lock a small (say 2.5 to 5 lb.) plate at one end. That's all you need to do! This leverage bar can, incidentally, be improvised by using a 15 inch length of strong broomstick and cementing a cement-filled tin can on one end. You'll never need a heavy weight in the exercise I'm going to teach you, so a homemade, improvised leverage bell of fixed-weight is just fine.

Here is a book chapter by David Willoughby on Leverage Bell Forearm Training: 

Stand erect and hold the leverage bar at your side, arm straight down. Slowly raise the bar until it points directly forward. Hold it, feeling the force of gravity all the time. Now lift the bar to a position where it is pointing upward, all the time keeping your arm at your side, and using wrist and forearm strength alone. Lower the bar deliberately to the side, then repeat the sequence. I would suggest that this be done in the following set/rep scheme, every-other-day: 

3 sets of 12 complete reps, each arm. The important thing, I caution you, is FORM. It matters not a bit how little weight is on the bar. In fact, for many new pupils, the bar alone might be enough, with even 1.25 lb. plates being too much resistance!

This is a leverage-resistance movement, please remember. That means that it HAS TO FEEL AWKWARD. That very "awkwardness" is what's making the exercise productive. It is imposing an unusual stress on the forearm muscles - one they'd not normally get. 

One other excellent exercise: 

Stand as you did before, holding the bar at one side. Now move the weighted end in a complete and deliberate circle using the strength of the supporting hand and forearm ONLY, until one full repetition - one way - is completed. Reverse the circle, and do a full movement in the opposite direction. Repeat. I suggest 3 sets of 12 circles (6 each way) per arm. 

The wrist roller is a good forearm developer, but I don't think everyone can gain well from using it. Personally, I find it effective, but I recall instances where I placed people on a wrist roller schedule and the results were, to put it politely, marginal.

I suggest that, if you're interested in developing your forearms, you TRY the wrist roller, to see how well you respond to its use. You needn't buy one (though they're very inexpensive). You can make one from any short, thick, rounded length of wood by drilling a half-inch diameter hole through the center. Pass a two-foot length strong cord through the hole, knot one end, and presto . . . you've got a wrist roller! Tie a weight to the free end of the cord and you're ready to stand on a block or a bench and "roll" the weight up on the wooded support by turning both ends of the piece. When the weight reaches the top, "unroll" it, and roll it again when the rope is fully unwound. Again, some people gain on this and others don't. It's worth a try- that's for sure! I recommend the following as a good wrist roller routine: 

Wind and unwind steadily for 10 minutes without a rest, using a moderate weight, and forcing the wrists and forearms to do all the real work. Do this every other day. NOT in conjunction with the leverage bar exercises. 

Finally, WRIST CURLING with a light barbell rates very high as an excellent forearm builder. This exercise has not, to my knowledge, been known to fail in helping anyone who used it correctly, to build great forearms.  

Hold a light barbell in your hands - palms up, as for curls - and sit down on a bench or stool, permitting the forearms to rest on the thighs, hands extended with the bar in their grasp. Permitting only the wrists to bend, lower the hands and raise them rapidly, while maintaining a tight, TIGHT grip on the bar. Speed it up! Don't count reps! Keep going! After a while your hands and fingers will burn unbearably. This is never harmful, so don't worry. Gradually, your wrists and fingers will seem to melt and fall apart. The bar will then drop to the floor. At that point (if you push that hard - and you should) you'll notice that your forearms grew about an inch! They'll feel so congested and tight that it may worry you. Well, stop worrying. Do another set instead. Same way.

Wrist curls can be done with palms facing down as well, if that style suits your fancy. In fact, I'm going to give you this variation in your program, which is to come shortly.

Whenever doing any exercise for the forearms always keep in mind that THE TIGHTER YOUR GRIP THE BAR, THE BETTER THE RESULTS WILL BE. You can increase the value of any forearm exercise you do simply by tightening your grip on the bar.

A Forearm Specialization Routine

Up to now I discussed the major and best forearm exercises, with recommendations on how to use them in the most efficient set/rep schemes. Now, let me outline two fundamental forearm routines, the first for a relative beginner, and the second for a rather advanced fellow. Remember these basic pointers regardless of which routine you employ:

1) Train three days a week. NO MORE. 

2) Always work as STRICTLY as possible, and with as much concentration on correct movement as you can muster. 

3) Do not train slowly - try to keep a forceful, rapid pace when training forearms. 

4) Use a weight that is only as heavy as you can properly manage.

5) Keep a tight, TIGHT grip on your bar! 

A Beginner's Course

1) Seated palms-up barbell wrist curls, 1 set of 30 reps

2) Seated palms-down barbell wrist curls, 1 set of 15-20 reps, done as soon as possible after the first exercise. 

3) Leverage bar circles, 1 set of 16 reps, each arm (8 circles each way before changing sides).

An Advanced Forearm Course

1) Warm up with 5 minutes of fast wrist roller work

2)  Seated palms-up wrist curls, doing 2 sets with a moderate weight VERY FAST until the weight falls out of your hands. 

3) Seated palms-down wrist curls, doing 2 sets with a moderate weight VERY FAST until the weight falls out of your hands.

4) Leverage bar combination movement: This merely incorporates the two basic leverage bar exercises into one, and is done as a single exercise. Holding the bar in the arm-along-side starting position, do one full, regular straight raise to an "up" position. Now, from there, do a complete circle, on one direction. Do a reverse circle, ending up in the "up" position. Lower to the side and repeat the entire sequence, 1 set of 6 movements each arm. 

No one can guarantee you'll develop the proverbial blacksmith's forearms, but I'll promise you great gains if you give one of these routines an all-out effort. Follow as schedule for six weeks, then discontinue specialization or staleness with set in. By the end of six weeks you ought to have a pair of forearms that puts your present ones to shame.

Here are some final tips:

Try extra hard to literally CRUSH the bar in your hands when doing any form of arm, shoulder, chest, or back exercise, as this sort of added effort adds materially to forearm exertion. Also, remember to make the still-legged deadlift with NORMAL GRIP your back exercise, instead of standard deadlifts - since this exercise most affects your forearms strongly. If possible, try your hand at rope climbing. This activity produces and maintains fantastic grip and forearm strength.

With the thoughts and instructions I've given you in mind, you can rest assured that you now know what is necessary in order to build a great pair of forearms. Only one thing is needed beyond the knowledge, and that is the doing . . .   


Powerful Arms - Chapter Six - David Willoughby

Leverage Dumbbell - Wrist Abduction 

 Wrist Twister

 Left - Press With Leverage Dumbbell
Right - Leverage Bar Curl, contraction

 Left - Leverage Bar Curl, extension
Right - Zottman Exercise

Chapter Six
Exercises for the Forearms

Two groups of muscles importantly concerned with the size, strength and appearance of the forearm are the groups that act to flex and to extend the wrist. The flexor group of muscles bends the wrist so that the hand, or closed fist, is brought closer to the forearm on the palm side. The extensor group of muscles bends the wrist in the opposite direction, so that the back of the hand is brought closer to the forearm on that side. Two combinations of these flexor and extensor muscles bend the wrist sidewise also, so as to bring the hand toward either the little finger side or the thumb side.

It is the action of these forearm muscles on the hand that determines the strength of the “wrist”. The wrist itself is merely a joint, formed by the juncture of the forearms bones with the bones in the base of the hand. Like all other joints it has no motivating power in itself, but merely provides a flexible connection whereby the muscles on one side of the joint may, through their attachments, move the bones on the other side.

Since the forearm muscles with which we are here concerned act to move the hand in different directions in relation to the forearm, the exercises required to bring about development of these muscles are those commonly regarded as tests of “wrist” strength. What such exercises really are, however, are tests of the forearm muscles operating through the wrist-joint.

The regular two-arm curl and the reverse curl barbell exercises, in addition to developing the flexor muscles in the upper arm, have also a strong effect on the forearm. The curl with palms turned develops the flexors of the wrist; the curl with the backs of the hands turned upward develops the extensors of the wrist. The curling of a dumbell, or a pair of dumbells, with the handle of the bell kept pointing fore-and-aft, develops the abductors of the wrist, those forearm muscles that bend or sustain the hand sidewise toward the thumb side. 

A single exercise for the flexor muscles that act on the wrist is to curl a barbell with the hands alone while is a sitting position, the backs of the forearms resting on the thighs and the hands extending beyond the knees. First pick up the barbell using the under-grip (palms uppermost), then take a sitting position with the forearms supported on the thighs as stated. The exercise consists in raising and lowering the hands while maintaining a tight grip on the bar, making the hand movement as complete as possible without moving the forearms. A greater bending of the wrists is made possible if the bar is grasped with the hands rather wide apart. This exercise can also be performed with one arm at a time, using a single dumbbell. This allows the wrist to be flexed a little further toward the little finger side, with added benefit to the inside forearm muscles.

The muscles on the backs of the forearm which extend the wrist, may be similarly exercised by performing the foregoing movement using the over-grip, that is with the backs of the hands uppermost. As the wrist extensors are considerably less strong than the wrist flexors, a much lighter barbell or dumbbell should be used here than in the regular wrist curl with palms upward.

A splendid exercise that acts on the forearm muscles in a somewhat similar manner to the wrist-curling exercise just described, yet which requires only a few pounds of weight for resistance, is the exercise called the wind-up or wrist-roller. Secure a thick wooden dowel, about 1 ½ inches in diameter and about 2 feet in length. Midway between the two ends, bore a hole straight through from side to side. Run a piece of strong cord or light rope through the hole, and tie several knots on the end so that it cannot slip through. If it is inconvenient to bore a hole of the proper size, the end of the cord or rope may be tied to a screw-eye which is screwed into the wooden bar half-way between the ends. In either case, a barbell plate is tied to the other end of the cord. The cord should be of such length that after one end is fixed to the roller as described, and the other end tied to the weight, about 4 feet of cord remains between the roller and the weight.

Grasp the roller with the over-grip, near the ends, and hold it straight in front of you at the level of the shoulders, with the cord unwound to its full length. Wind the weight up to the roller by twisting the top of the roller away from you, twisting first with one hand, then the other hand. Each time you twist the rod, the wrists will bend exactly in the opposite direction. After the weight has been wound all the way up, hold the bar in a loose grip with the right hand, rest the other end of the bar on your left forearm, and let the weight unwind itself. Again take the proper grip on the bar, and wind the weight up again, but this time twist the top of the roller toward you. Repeat once more the forward rolling-up of the weight, once more the backward rolling-up, and at least once more the forward wind-up.

Twisting the top of the roller away from you develops the flexor muscles on the inside and inside-front of the forearm. Twisting the top of the roller toward you develops the extensor muscles on the outside and outside-back of the forearm. Since, as previously mentioned, the wrist flexors are much stronger than the wrist extensors, you will find that you can continue to repeat the winding up of the weight away from you after the muscles on the backs of your forearms are too tired to wind the weight up towards you.

Throughout this exercise the body must be kept erect, the hands near the ends of the roller, the roller horizontal, and the arms straight at the elbows. The object should be to wind the weight up in the fewest possible number of turns, thereby bending the wrist to their fullest extent and bringing the forearm muscles into complete contraction. As a matter of fact, one seldom sees this exercise being performed correctly, with the elbows straight and all the twisting confined to the wrists

Perhaps one difficulty lies in the holding of the bar at horizontal arms’ length. The strain on the deltoids, for many exercisers, is sufficient to divide attention, destroy concentration on the forearms, render the exercise unnecessarily irksome, and lead to sloppy methods of performance. 

Another variation which seems to be the best for concentrating on the forearms and performing the exercise correctly, is with the elbows at the sides and the arms bent at right angles. Remember, the roller must be kept horizontal, the wrists must be bent to their fullest extent each way, and the elbows must be kept in one position at the side. In this variation, it is necessary to stand on a chair or bench, in order to wind-up the full length of the cord.

An interesting form of exercise for developing the forearm muscles consists of leverage movements. Leverage movements are those in which great resistance is furnished without using much actual weight. The principle is that the lifting of an object, when the center of balance is at considerable distance from the joint, throws as much stress on that joint as the lifting of a heavier object that is held closer

Leverage exercises for the forearm and wrist can be performed very effectively with the ordinary adjustable dumbbell, by loading only one end and grasping the other end. The abductors of the wrist may be exercised by levering the dumbbell up and down as shown in illustrations. Continue the movement until the forearm muscles tire. The adductors of the wrist may be exercised by grasping the dumbbell handle with the thumb side of the hand nearest the end, and levering the bell up and down, the weighted end of the bell now being behind the body. A heavier weight can be used in this variation than in the former movement. Be sure to keep the arm stiff at the elbow in these two exercises; all the movement is done at the wrist alone.

The muscles that pronate the hand may be exercised by what might be called the wrist-twister. Grasping the leverage dumbbell, assume a sitting position with the right forearm resting on the thigh, the palm of the right hand being upward. Without removing the forearm from the thigh, slowly twist the wrist until the palm of the hand is downward (in other words, pronate the hand). Then slowly twist the wrist in the opposite direction until the palm is upward (that is, supinate the hand). This exercise should always be performed slowly and with the weight in full control; if you let the weighted end of the bell fall swiftly of its own weight, after it reaches the vertical position the wrist may be strained. Be sure to resist with your muscles during the downward movement of the weighted end, as well as during the upward movement. Exercise the left arm in the same way, making at least 10 or 15 repetitions.

Another use of the leverage dumbbell is to press it while holding one end. Standing erect, hold the bell as shown in the illustration. From this position press the dumbbell slowly to arms’ length overhead, keeping the handle of the bell in vertical position. This is a very effective exercise for most of the forearm muscles.

At this point, we might mention an interesting supplementary exercise for the upper arms, using a leverage barbell. Load the bell at one end only, and grasp the unloaded end with your left hand, using the over-grip. Grasp the bar with your right hand,
using the under-grip, as shown in the illustration. Now curl the weight with your right hand, bringing your right hand over to your left breast. Keep the left arm straight, and press downward with your left hand so as to make the fulcrum for this leverage movement. This exercise helps to develop the brachialis anticus, which is important in adding bulk to the upper arm. To exercise the left arm, reverse the position of the hands, also shifting the loaded end of the bell to the other side of the body.

A good supplementary exercise for the forearms as a whole is the combination movement known as the Zottman exercise. Stand erect with a dumbbell in each hand. Curl the right-hand bell, with the palm up and the wrist bent strongly upward. When the bell reaches the shoulder, pronate the hand (turn the palm downward) and lower the bell, keeping the wrist bent strongly upward as in the reverse curl. But as you lower the right hand bell, you simultaneously curl the left-hand bell, with the palm of the left hand up. And when the right arm is fully straightened, the left arm should be fully flexed. You then pronate the left hand and lower the bell, at the same time supinating the right hand and curling the bell in that hand. Both the arms work at the same time, one hand coming up as the other hand is going down, the upward movement being always a regular curl, and the downward movement always a reverse curl. The illustration shows the right hand coming up and the left hand going down. 

It is now opportune to mention an exercise of a different nature. This is to perform the floor dip while supporting the body on the tips of the fingers and thumbs instead of on flat hands as usual. This is excellent for developing great strength and toughness in the fingers and thumbs. Besides, it tends to offset the usual clutching movements of the fingers, and thus to make them more shapely and straight. The closer together the fingers and thumbs of each hand are placed on the floor, the more difficult and effective becomes the exercise. As your ability improves, the exercise should be varied by raising one or more fingers on each hand, pressing with the thumb and only one, two, or three fingers. Eventually, you should become able to perform the dipping movement while using only the two thumbs. Finally, see if you can develop the ability to dip while supporting your weight on your two index fingers. This latter feat denotes extraordinary finger strength, but it has been accomplished.

So far, we have presented the exercises that develop the flexor and extensor muscles of the upper arm and forearm; and the forearm muscles that flex, extend, abduct, pronate, and supinate the hand. Consequently, there remains to be considered those forearm muscles that account for the power of one’s grip – the “grasping” muscles of the fingers and thumb.

It should be borne in mind that in following a program of general body building with a barbell, the hands, wrists, and arms incidentally receive considerable developing work. That is, the grasping and manipulating of the barbell in each and every exercise compels a certain degree of development in the fingers and wrist, no matter which part of the body the exercise is particularly intended for. In some exercises, the grip is developed, and in others, where a fairly heavy weight is held on top of the palm, the strength of the wrist is improved. Thus, all this incidental work for the wrists and grip contributes to the development of the forearm and hand.

Exercises especially adapted for the development of unusual strength in the hand and fingers are largely of the nature of tests, stunts, or the specialties of noted strongmen. For this reason, such exercises will be presented in our book on The Kings of Arm Strength rather than dealt with here as regular body building exercises.


Thursday, November 16, 2017

Excerpt From Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Non-Linear Periodization Workouts - William Kraemer and Steven Fleck (2007)

Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts explains how nonlinear periodization works and then demonstrates how to create nonlinear periodization training programs, including programs for special populations. Readers will learn that by creating different workouts for each day, they can emphasize exclusive training styles in every workout to maximize adaptation as well as ensure adequate recovery from the rigors of training. Fitness professionals and coaches will discover that this unique training style reduces the boredom encountered when using similar workout protocols for two to four weeks at a time and therefore lends itself to creating a more satisfied client base.

Using practical and user-friendly terms, the authors provide the knowledge required for understanding nonlinear periodization and training principles, selecting acute program variables, and discerning the practical considerations of nonlinear periodization before undertaking training. They also provide sample workouts using nonlinear periodization methods and discuss critical assessment techniques for evaluating the effectiveness of a program and determining training readiness. Fifty case studies at the end of the text serve as an exceptional feature for grasping a realistic approach of how nonlinear periodization meets physiological and scheduling demands while achieving optimal training goals.

No other book on the market teaches how to design, implement, and assess a nonlinear workout program. With knowledge gained through Optimizing Strength Training: Designing Nonlinear Periodization Workouts, professionals, coaches, fitness enthusiasts, and students will find themselves on the cutting edge of resistance training, able to employ this unique method of training that leads to superior performance.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1. Periodization of Resistance Training

  • Eastern European Influence on Periodization Training
  • Classic Strength and Power Periodization
  • Efficacy of Classic Strength and Power Periodization
  • Nonlinear Periodization
  • Efficacy of Nonlinear Periodization
  • Efficacy of Session by Session Variation
  • Impetus for the Flexible Nonlinear Approach to Periodization
  • Summary

Chapter 2. Training Principles
  • Specificity
  • Progressive Overload
  • Training Frequency
  • Summary

Chapter 3. Acute Program Variables

  • Exercise Choice
  • Exercise Order
  • Number of Sets
  • Training Intensity
  • Length of Rest Periods
  • Summary

Chapter 4. Practical Considerations

  • Comparison of Periodization Models
  • Physiology of Nonlinear Periodization Workouts
  • Optimal Program Sequencing
  • Master Schedules
  • Individualization
  • Readiness to Train
  • Summary

Chapter 5. Workout Design

  • Base Program Phase
  • Exercise Stimuli
  • Standard Workouts
  • Active and Total Rest Days
  • Summary

Chapter 6. Assessment
  • Preexercise Assessments
  • Alternative Workouts
  • Evaluating Training Progress
  • Summary

Chapter 7. Training Tips and Tools
  • Training Logs
  • Choice of Exercise
  • Muscles Exercised
  • Muscle Soreness, Tissue Damage and Recovery
  • Aging Considerations
  • Youth Considerations
  • Sex Consideration
  • Summary

Chapter 8. Case Studies

Excerpt One:
Nonlinear Periodization

The exact origin of nonlinear periodization, also termed UNDULATING PERIODIZATION, is unclear, but it is a more recent development than the classic strength and periodization model. Nonlinear programs may have originated in the late 1980s with 2-week training periods using various training zones to meet the needs of athletes. Likewise nonlinear programs may have originated in the late 1970s and early 1980s with strength coaches designing programs to meet the needs of America football players. 

In these training plans, two very different types of training days were developed. The different training days were termed hypertrophy and functional strength days. On the functional strength days, multi-joint exercises (e.g., power clean, squat) were performed using lower numbers of repetitions (4-6 per set), while on the hypertrophy days more single-joint exercises (arm curls, knee curls) were performed using higher numbers of repetitions (8-12 per set). Additionally, it was noted that when more mesocycles (e.g., 2 to 6 weeks)  were used in a macrocycle (e.g., year long cycle), better results were achieved. Essentially that meant that the different patterns of loading had a greater frequency of exposure as microcycles shifted from 4 weeks to 2 weeks; some now use 1-week microcycle changes.      

Although many variations of the nonlinear training model can be developed to meet the needs and goals of a trainee, the following is a representative model. If weight training is performed 3 days per week, three different RM (Repetition Maximum) training intensities, or zones, will be used on each of the 3 training days. On the first, second, and third training day of each week, training zones of 4-6, 12-15, and 8-10 repetitions per set using RM resistances will be performed, respectively. Other training zones, such as a very heavy 1-3 RM) zone, can be included in the training program's design if they meet the needs and goals of the trainee. In addition, percentages of the 1RM can be used for certain lifts addressing the same types of loading ranges. 

Care must be taken because the percentage of 1RM and the RM vary depending on the muscle mass involved in an exercise and for machines versus free weights (e.g., 80% of 1RM in a squat may result in only 8-10 repetitions, whereas in the leg press 15-20 repetitions may be possible at the same percentage of 1RM.

Note that the training zones are not necessarily performed sequentially such that training volume and intensity follow a consistent pattern of increasing or decreasing over time. For example, during 1 week of training, the zones might be performed in the sequence of 4 to 6 reps, 12 to 15, and 8 to 10 per set. During the next week of training, the sequence of zones might be 8 to 10, 4 to 6, and 12 to 15 per set. With nonlinear training, long periods (weeks) using the same training intensity and volume are not performed. Thus the need for a high training volume phase (hypertrophy phase), as used in the classic strength and power model, is avoided. 

Another advantage of the nonlinear model is ease of administration. Once training zones have been chosen that meet the goals of the training program, they are simply alternated on a session-by-session basis. So continuing with the current example, if, during the course of a season during one week only two weight training sessions can be performed because of a competition, the first training session of the next week might use the training zone that was not used during the previous week and the sequence of training zones begins with that training zone. 

There are other possible ways to make the decision concerning which training zone to use, such as if there is lingering fatigue resulting from the weekend competition, which minimizes the ability to develop maximal power. In that case if a power training zone is part of the training program, it might be advisable to use a different training zone for the first training session of the week after the competition.

However, once training zones have been decided, it does not mean that over time different training zones cannot be incorporated into the training program. For example, during the early preseason, a very heavy or a power training zone might not be used. But, during the late preseason, a very heavy or power training zone might be used. 

Thus the choice of training zones to use at a particular point in the training program can be changed to meet the goals and needs of the trainee as training progresses. Similar to the classic strength and power training model, planned light training periods or rest periods can also be incorporated into nonlinear training programs. Typically these recovery periods are scheduled approximately every 12 weeks of training.

Nonlinear periodization offers advantages over classic strength and power periodization in some training situations. A major goal of the strength and power periodization model is to reach a peak in strength and power at a particular time. For many sports with long seasons, such as basketball, volleyball, tennis, ice hockey, and baseball, success is dependent on physical fitness and performance throughout the season. When resistance training for general fitness, peaking maximal strength and power at a certain point may not be important, but continued gains in strength and power are important training outcomes. Training goals for many sports and for general fitness need in part to focus on development and maintenance of physical fitness throughout the season or throughout the year. For sports with long seasons, peaking maximal strength and power at the end of the season in preparation for major competitions, such as conference tournaments or other major tournaments, is important.

However, using the classic strength and power periodization model for those sports presents some difficulties. If a classic strength and power model is used as a program approach in the off-season and preseason, the peaking phase will occur at the start of the competitive season. This may ensure the best possible performance at the start of the competitive season; however, strength and fitness must be maintained throughout the season. If the peaking phase occurs at the end of the competitive season in preparation for major competitions or tournaments, then high-volume resistance training must be performed during the beginning of the competitive season. That may result in less-than-optimal performance at the beginning of the season because of fatigue and could result in losses in early competitions. If those early games are lost, qualification for tournaments at the end of the season may be jeopardized. Thus the application of the classic strength and power periodization model for many sports and activities presents some difficulties in the training program's design.

Nonlinear periodization is more flexible in how and when a peak in performance is created, depending on the goals of a particular mesocycle. It also allows for more frequent exposure to different loading stimuli (e.g., moderate, power) within a particular weekly workout profile. It does not progress in a planned linear increase in intensity with a reduction in volume as seen in the linear model, but it varies training volume and intensity in such a way that consistent fitness gains occur over long training periods. Note: by now you should likely be starting to see the uses of non-linear periodization for the average trainee.

Excerpt Two: 
Optimal Program Sequencing

Optimal program sequencing is a matter of making proper choices based on evaluation of the training load over the various training cycles. Optimal sequencing is dependent on the recovery of the body's musculature from the stress of resistance exercise, practice, physical labor, or mental state that occurs prior to the workout. 

The stress of resistance exercise can be depicted in a pyramid of volumes and intensities that lead to higher and higher levels of physical stress. Each of the acute program variables can be combined to create exercise stimuli that span a continuum of stress from low to high. Volume and intensity are only two noteworthy variables, but others can be interfaced with them (e.g., going from long to short rest periods between sets and exercises). The higher the stress of the workout, the greater the recruitment of a muscle's major motor units, the greater the potential tissue damage, and the longer recovery may take after a given workout. Optimal sequencing is really a coaching or clinical art of assessment and understanding the science behind the design of a workout and its ramifications.

Pyramid of Physical Intensity for Resistance Workout Stresses Related to the Muscle Tissue Activation, From High (1)  to Low (4): 

1. High Volume / High Intensity
    High Volume / Moderate Intensity

2. Moderate Volume / High Intensity
    Moderate Volume / Moderate Intensity
    Moderate Volume / Low Intensity

3. Low Volume / High Intensity
    Low Volume / Moderate Intensity
    High Volume / Low Intensity
    Moderate Volume / Low Intensity
    Low Volume / Low Intensity

4. High Volume / Very Low Intensity
    Moderate Volume / Very Low Intensity
    Low Volume / Very Low Intensity
    Active Rest

In general, workouts from a resistance loading perspective can go from very light to very heavy. We use this in our subsequent examples of workouts. This essentially addresses the variation that can be achieved from using the perspective of size principle. With this type of loading sequence, a trainee keeps some of the other program variables in line with optimizing this particular feature. 

Exercise order is chosen to support the appropriate exercises - from large-group to small-group exercises. The number of sets is consistent with the necessary decreases in volume to accommodate increases in load. 

Finally, lengths of rest periods are positioned to allow for the necessary force production or augment the endurance aspects of lighter loads. Thus, the programs are created with a loading variable as the primary feature to be varied over the workout sequence. 

Other acute program variables can be set as a focus of the workout sequences as well. For example, if there were a need for the trainee to develop the ability to buffer high acidic conditions and perform under these demanding physiological conditions (e.g., wrestler, 800-meter sprinter), rest periods could be the primary acute program variable in a mesocycle. Therefore the exercise sequences would all be related to a reduction in length of rest periods. In this case the rest periods would be progressively lowered even when using the heavier RM loads despite the resulting use of lower resistances caused by fatigue. With training, the resistances used with the shorter rest periods would increase, representing the adaptation for this type of priority in the workout sequence.

Each of the acute program variables can therefore be used in some type of prioritization of the workout sequences. Even order of exercises may be the priority because of a complex training design. Whatever the goal, the interaction of the various effects caused by the variety of combinations of the acute program variables is evident and needs to be considered.

In a Scheduled Nonlinear Sequence Program, a trainee simply rotates through the various workout protocols (varied training volumes and intensities) in a pre-planned format. This has been termed a Planned Daily Rotation of workouts. For example, the training sessions rotate through the following sequence of training sessions: 

1.) Light intensity and High volume (12-15 RM)
2.) Moderate intensity and High volume (8-10 RM)
3.) High intensity and Moderate volume (4-6 RM) 
4.) Very High intensity and Low volume (1-3 RM)
5.) Power day (1-6 RM with power exercises)
6.) Very Low intensity and Very Low volume (20-23 RM for 1 set)
7.) Active Rest microcycle.

The primary core exercises are typically periodized, but a trainee can also use a protocol of 2  training sessions to vary the small-muscle-group exercises. For example, in the hamstring curl, the trainee could rotate between the moderate (8-10 RM) and the heavy (4-6RM) cycle intensities. This would provide the hypertrophy needed for isolated muscles of a joint and also provide the strength needed to support heavier resistances of the large-muscle-group or multi-joint exercises. The key in any nonlinear workout day is to keep the stimuli to the muscle unique for that training day by using various types of training sessions.      

Practically speaking, if a trainee misses a workout on Monday, she could perform it on Wednesday and continue the rotation or even skip it and make it up later in the rotation of sessions. Specifically, if the light 12-15 RM workout was scheduled for Monday and the trainee missed it, she would just perform it on Wednesday and continue on with the rotation sequence. In this way no workout stimulus is missed in the training program. A mesocycle can be set for a given number of weeks or when a certain number of workouts is completed. 

Master Schedules

It is important to develop a master schedule for the macrocycle even when using either a scheduled or flexible nonlinear program. With the flexible nonlinear approach, a trainee checks off a workout when it is completed. Schedules can be created for any number of workouts per week. Three or four weight training days a week are typical for most athletes, especially considering other conditioning demands. It is also important after each mesocycle to have a period of 1 to 2 weeks of active rest. On a given weight training day, an active rest may be required even if it is not planned for, especially within the context of various sports during the in-season (see Tables 4.1 to 4.4 below).

Ultimately, it is important to have a master plan for each mesocycle and determine the priorities for the workout that must be performed. In a planned nonlinear program, a trainer of trainee can intentionally place the workout sequence on the calendar.

Table 4.1 - Sample Mesocycle With Emphasis on Power

Note: An active rest day can be used for any workout needed.

Week 1:
Day 1 - H (heavy intensity workout)
Day 2 - P (power workout)
Day 3 - VH (very heavy intensity workout)

Week 2:
Day 1 -L
2 - P
3 - P

Week 3:

Week 4:

Week 5:
VL (very light intensity workout)

Week 6:

Week 7:

Week 8:

Week 9:

Week 10:

Week 11:

Week 12:

Table 4.2 - Sample Mesocycle With Emphasis on Strength

Week 1: H/L/VH
Week 2: L/VH/M (moderate intensity workout)
Week 3: H/M/M
Week 4: H/P/H
Week 5: L/H/VL
Week 6: P/VH/L
Week 7: P/H/VL
Week 8: L/VH/H
Week 9: H/H/L
Week 10: H/H/L
Week 11: L/H/P
Week 12: H/L/VH

Table 4.3 - Sample Mesocycle With Emphasis on Hypertrophy and Strength

Week 1: H/M/M
Week 2: L/M/H
Week 3: M/H/L
Week 4: M/H/L
Week 5: M/H/VH
Week 6: L/M/H
Week 7: H/M/VL
Week 8: L/L/M
Week 9: H/L/VH
Week 10: M/M/H
Week 11: L/M/VH
Week 12: M/M/L

Table 4.4 - Sample Mesocycle With Emphasis on Endurance and General Preparation

Week 1: L/M/L
Week 2: L/VL/H
Week 3: M/H/L
Week 4: VL/H/L
Week 5: M/M/L
Week 6: L/M/H
Week 7: VL/M/L
Week 8: H/VL/M
Week 9: L/L/VH
Week 10: M/M/VL
Week 11: L/M/VL
Week 12: VL/H/L

In the flexible nonlinear periodization model, the athlete has to have a plan. But the days on which specific sessions will take place are only tentative; each type of session is dependent on the ability of the athlete to do the workout. The flexible nonlinear periodization is more dynamic and may be more effective in getting the best out of the trainee during a given training session. Again, each mesocycle will have a priority element that may dominate the workout (e.g., power workouts), or in fitness sequences the trainee may balance the workouts among all of the training elements (e.g., strength, local muscular endurance). Trainers and athletes must consider what acute program variables are to be periodized over a mesocycle and macrocycle and then use microcycles to define them.

A master plan functions as a guide for the goals of the training cycle. With the scheduled nonlinear program, the type of session to be performed on a given training day is predetermined. However, with the flexible nonlinear program, the type of workout to be performed is decided on the day of the training session. Thus, the concept of flexible nonlinear periodization really refers to waiting until the day of the workout to make the decision about the type of training session to perform.

Flexible nonlinear periodization does not mean there is no overall training plan or goals of the training cycle. It actually means having a training plan for a given microcycle in order to understand if an athlete is able to meet the demands for adaptation needed. For example, if, because of other circumstances, an athlete cannot perform two power training sessions a week that emphasize power development, it is doubtful that the athlete will be able to make any progress on power development. So, in the subsequent microcycles, the athlete would have to compensate for the decrease in power development over the mesocycle by picking up those missed power sessions later in the mesocycle because the athlete must train a muscle group with a particular stimulus at least twice a week over a 12-week mesocycle. Thus, extenuating circumstances can affect a well-planned program despite good intentions.

The decision about when to administer the workouts is the key factor in the flexible nonlinear program. There needs to be some level of confidence that the quality of the workout will be adequate to produce a training effect. Using both the art and science of conditioning helps in the challenge of making such decisions. For the strength and conditioning coach, personal trainer, and trainee, this requires some preliminary assessment and information immediately before the workout. During the workout the trainer and trainee can observe how the session is performed. And, using the workout log, they can determine how the performance progresses compared to prior workouts in the training cycle for a given workout type. If a decrease in performance or quality of the training session is seen, rest or an alternative workout is indicated.



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