Thursday, May 24, 2012

Traditional and Unique Approaches to Strength Training Programs - Jay Duval


Traditional and Unique Approaches to Strength Training Programs
Jay Duval (1998)

Many approaches are used in the design of strength training programs when sport-specific goals and objectives are targeted as the outcome. Strength and conditioning professionals have found they get the best results when applying scientifically based research. While sometimes implementing unique methods to achieve their results, most experienced coaches have developed a solid philosophy in their strategy.

This article presents some general concepts behind the design of various approaches to set/repetition schemes associated with basic core exercises. It also highlights some traditional approaches in the design of weekly regimens.

Set/Rep Schemes

Linear Progression 
For linear progression, repetitions remain relatively constant throughout the exercise. Generally the workload percentage increases from set to set, although during hypertrophy and preparatory phases the workload and intensity may remain constant. These rep schemes are often used with higher to moderate repetitions; however, this is not the rule. They may also be used in the strength/power phases, as the number of repetitions decreases to save energy for higher sets in the routine. Linear progressions are easily tracked.

15 x 55%, 15 x 60%, 15 x 63%
10 x 57%, 10 x 65%, 10 x 70%, 10 x 72%
8 x 52%, 6 x 65%, 6 x 75%, 6 x 78%, 6 x 80%, 6 x 83%
5 x 65%, 3 x 75%, 3 x 82%, 3 x 87%, 3 x 89%, 3 x 91%

Pyramid - Descending Sets (light to heavy)
The pyramid is one of the most common set/rep schemes. It provides an adequate warmup in the beginning, followed by a sequential progression from light to heavy workloads. It is usually applied with the large, multi-joint movements, and can be used throughout the training cycle from hypertrophy to strength/power without greatly modifying the initial sets. Athletes tend to become very comfortable with this progression as it evolves to heavier workload intensity from week to week.

10 x 50%, 8 x 60%, 6 x 76%, 5 x 83%, 4 x 88%
10 x 50%, 8 x 62%, 6 x 78%, 4 x 86%, 2 x 90%

Double Pyramid or Skewed Variation (light to heavy to light)
The double pyramid typically progresses in intensity and workload from light to heavy, then returns to light/moderate loads to complete the routine. A sequential progression in workload intensity is used, similar to the pyramid structure, with workloads then being reduced for several more sets. This method enhances technique, muscular endurance and hypertrophy, as well as being a simple way to increase overall workload.

10 x 60%, 7 x 74%, 4 x 86%, 2 x 90%, 5 x 78%, 10 x 65%
8 x 65%, 5 x 78%, 3 x 88%  1 x 94%, 5 x 80%, 8 x 67%

Ascending Reps
Ascending reps are sometimes applied through the power phase, ordinarily with Olympic-style movements in order to stimulate power production in the final sets of the exercise. They can be effective in stimulating the work ethic in the early training phases as well.

4 x 65%, 4 x 70%, 5 x 75%, 8 x 78%
3 x 72%, 3 x 77%, 4 x 80%, 6 x 83%

A positive aspect of this loading and unloading scheme would be enhanced neuromuscular stimulation. Alternating the loads from set to set improves force production and promotes the recruitment of fast twitch fibers. The lifter follows a heavier set with a lighter set. Lighter loads are performed dynamically with great speed. 

8 x 65%, 6 x 78%, 4 x 85%, 3 x 88%, 6 x 80%, 3 x 90%, 4 x 80%
6 x 67%, 4 x 80%, 4 x 88%, 3 x 82%, 2 x 92%, 4 x 82%

Single Set to Exhaustion
This is sometimes used with 2 or 3 sets. It is not often used as a method for strength training. Leading sport scientists have conducted valid testing and evaluation studies and presented evidence of the questionable results obtained for sport-specific applications. 

60-78% of 1-RM performed to muscular failure.


4-day/week Split Routine Variation Examples
1.) Upper body movements, Days 1 & 3
     Lower body movements, Days 2 & 4 

     Heavy, Days 1 & 2; Light, Days 3 & 4

2.) Pushing movements, Days 1 & 3
     Pulling movements, Days 2 & 4

     Heavy, Days 1 & 2; Light, Days 3 & 4

3.) Upper body pushing, Days 1 & 3
     Lower body and pulling movements, Days 2 & 4

     Heavy, Days 1 & 2; Light, Days 3 & 4  

4-day/week Full Body
     Heavy, Days 1 & 2; Light/moderate, Days 3 & 4
Note: Usually designed with Olympic-style movements and variations as daily core exercises. Power is emphasized as the ultimate objective in training.

2-day/week Full Body
     Heavy, Day 1; Medium, Day 2; Light, Day 3 - 
or  Heavy, Day 1; Light, Day 2; Medium, Day 3
Note: Daily routine will often stress different planes of movement for each major muscle group from workout to workout. 

3-day/week Total Body - Alternating Weekly
Workout A: twice during Week 1, once during Week 2, e.g., A-B-A
Workout B: once during Week 1, twice during Week 2, e.g., B-A-B
Note: Promotes great recovery and recuperation. Intensity and workloads can be maintained at higher levels for longer periods vs. the traditional total-body, 3-times/week plan.


The key to good results is strategic and logical progressions in the periodic training plan. Prescribing appropriate load resistance assignments in view of the individual's current strength/power levels is one of the most important factors in reaching the desired levels of performance. This includes manipulation of sets and repetitions to conquer specific qualities of strength and power the athlete may be lacking.

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