Monday, December 27, 2021

More on Strength Cycling Programs - Dennis Du Breuil (1976)

Reg Park Photos Courtesy of Jarett Hulse.

Recently I wrote and article for Iron Man that was intended to stir up some controversy about accepted ideas of cycling as used in weightlifting programs.

July 1975. Individuals Require Different Training Methods
September 1975. Strength and Cycling.
January 1976. How to Be an Easy Gainer.
Several months have passed and I have found that the article did promote the controversy that I expected, but did not generate much understanding of the ideas that were presented. 

Basically, the article was intended as a recommendation of high intensity training. It will be helpful to agree on a meaning of maximum effort in order to do so, and at that same time, I would like to clear up another misconception. 

Many people interpreted the article as meaning that nothing less than an all-out effort should ever be done in training. This is untrue. In the days when we still did the Olympic press, I have seen men fight a press for as long as 10 seconds. After one attempt like this, the man was exhausted. Clearly, this is not always what we mean by a maximum attempt in training, since this kind of effort will make any further training very difficult.

Usually we mean maximum effort in training to be a set in which all the reps possible were done, keeping good form, and then perhaps a couple more were cheated out. Or perhaps a single that did not allow a second rep to be performed with the same weight in good form.

Iron Man author Arthur Jones has said a great deal in print about working to a point of failure. 

I believe Arthur Jones has been working in moviemaking long enough to understand the value of overstatement in getting his point across. You don't just say,  "I have invented a machine that might be somewhat helpful to body builders,| you say instead, "I have invented the greatest machine in the history of exercise." The people are interested enough that you can show them what you have, and Jones has some very useful ideas, indeed. 

In the same way Jones has been in the lifting field long enough to know that if he told lifters and body builders they would have to work very hear, so all the reps in good form they were able to, and then cheat out a couple more, people would reply that they were already working hard enough. So Jones talked about working to a point of absolute failure, working until the weight fell out of your hands, and working until you fell on the floor, and sure enough, weight men everywhere accepted the idea that many others had said, but were not gifted in their skill with words as Jones. Weightlifters and body builders have indeed, seemed to begin working a little harder in their training. 

By exaggerating his point slightly, Jones was able to communicate his intended idea. This is, of course, my own interpretation of Jones' intention, and should be regarded as such.

We should be able to agree by now that the term "maximum effort" can mean either the kind of effort we make in an emergency, a clutch lift in a contest, or a training lift that simply taxes the available strength of the lifter. 

Virtually every lifter cycles his training to some extent. Some use an intricate method of calculation, it is true. Some of us work up to a point on a lift where progress seems to stop, and then we drop the poundage back, tighten up our form, and try to work back up over our former best. This is virtually every form of cycling.  

Some lifters have certain days when they do high reps and some when they do lower reps with heavier weights. Others do as much as their bodies seem to indicate they need on the particular training day, and this generates results that can be compared in cycling.

One reason we cannot avoid cycling even if we tried is something that has come to be known as bio-rhythm. Suppose that every other day you were taken to a machine that measures force, called a dynamometer. You press on the machine as hard as possible, but you are unable to see the results on the dial, perhaps being blindfolded for the test.

You press on the machine every other day for three months, always in the same position, the same distance away from the machine, and all other variables eliminated as much as possible. What would be the results at the end of three months? 

You would probably be stronger in the position you used on the machine, but you might be surprised at the results if the force you had expended each "workout" was put on a graph. Rather than rising in a simple manner, you would find that the amount of force you were able to produce each time would vary. Sometimes it would be more and sometimes less, but with the long  range trend going up. 

There is a well known theory that the physical body goes in 23-day cycles. This does not mean that your results make a neat wave on the chart every 23 days, because there is also a 28-day emotional cycle that is frequently out of phase with the physical one. This can reinforce the physical cycle if they are both high, or detract from the results if the emotional is low. This theory is made more complicated by the fact that these are not the only cycles known, there being longer and shorter ones as well. This means that it is probably almost impossible to make a simple, steady increase every workout. You simply are stronger sometimes than others. So EVEN IF YOU MADE A MAXIMUM EFFORT EVERY WORKOUT, THE FORCE WOULD STILL VARY UP AND DOWN FROM WORKOUT TO WORKOUT. 

At this point it should be very obvious that we cannot really avoid cycling of some kind, but we certainly can choose between a high intensity training method, and a low intensity program. We simply must train in a manner that taxes our available strength, or we cannot expect to get stronger. 

There is one exception to this approach. Sometimes athletes have reported muscular gains that can only be due to increasing the flow of blood through the muscle, even though the muscle is not taxed by exercise. Runners have sometimes reported strength gains in the arms, simply because of the increase in the supply of blood.

It may turn out that increasing the supply of blood to a muscle will automatically cause an increase in growth or strength, with a certain level of exercise, or even with no formal exercise. This is a basis for the belief that doing some light pump work in between your heavy training sessions will result in faster growth, because of the increase in blood flow.

Of course, Olympic lifters who train 6 days a week cannot work the same muscles heavy every day, without overtraining. There must either be some light days, of the lifter will have to concentrate on different muscle groups at different sessions.

Many authorities point to the training methods of the Russians when recommending a training method. The Russians have some worthwhile ideas, and some fine lifters, but it must be admitted that having a large field of lifters to pick from enables the Russians to simply pick the most gifted lifters. The Bulgarians have much smaller numbers to pick from so their training has to be very good to compete with the Russians. It is well known that the Bulgarians use a very high intensity approach to training, and I think that we must too, if we are ever able to regain a prominent position in international weightlifting.

Certainly light reps will enable a lifter to build technique, and in the last article, it was mentioned that cycling lifts, while doing heavy assistance exercises, would enable a lifter to build both strength and technique at the same time. It is a point worth mentioning that if a medium heavy barbell is pulled as hard and fast as a lifter can, then that is a form of maximum effort, even though the weight is less than the lifter can actually lift. 

The point of the two articles is that we must adapt high-intensity training methods, and work out closer to the limits of what we are capable. Take-it-easy methods must be replaced. We will have to work out even harder than we are, if we are once again to lead the field of lifting. 

Enjoy Your Lifting!   


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