New Strength Programming for 2016

That is a very exciting title, yes?  For those who like to think about and plan this stuff in advance, we’ve made some tweaks to our existing strength program, which is based on Jim Wendler’s 531 program.  Recently Jim himself (or should I call him Wendler? or maybe JW?) has made some changes in the way he programs for his lifters, and I have piggybacked off his template for something that I think will work quite well for us, with a few tweaks and controls in place.

With regard to strength work, I would say the two questions I hear the most are: “what should I do with/can I raise my training max?” and “is this a deload week?”  We’ve talked a lot about the training max being a tool rather than a referendum, and our belief that a lighter TM is generally much better than a heavier one, but it’d be nice to have a better step set for raising and lowering the TM.  This program gives it to you and pushes out the deload week by one in order to add a joint-friendly and sweat-inducing week of higher reps.

So, here it is (big #s are % of your training max)
Week 1, 50, 60, 70 X 8, 50 x 8-12
Week 2, 70, 80, 90 x 3, 70 x 5-8
Week 3, 65, 75, 85 x 5, 65 x 8-10
Week 4 75, 85, 95 x 5/3/1+
Week 5 deload, all sets of 5 at 50%
Week 6 80, 90 x 5, TM x 5 (hopefully)

If you hit 5+ reps on your TM in week 6, you raise it by 5-10 lbs for lower body and 2-5 lbs for upper body (use lower # if set of 5 was very hard, higher # if it was easier)
If you hit 3-4 reps, you keep the TM the same for the next cycle
If you hit less than 3 reps, you reset your TM by dropping it 10%

We’ve added in a drop set in weeks 1-3 to provide a little extra volume work for form and joint health and we’ve waved the .

A few bullet points, with the first being the most important:
1) I’ve done a lot of reflection and looked at our numbers, our movement, and our injury rate.  Here is my strong recommendation for folks who have been with us for a while, folks who are masters athletes, or folks that do not have competitive aspirations: pick one lower body lift each cycle to do at maintenance level, and hit every third upper body cycle at maintenance level.  Maintenance is simple: 5×5 at about 60-65% of your TM.  You will not lose progress on that lift by deloading it for 6 weeks, I promise you.   But you will feel better and you will keep your joints healthier.  Again, this is a very, very, very strong recommendation.  There’s also no reason why you couldn’t do this for all of your lifts if you wanted to push conditioning during a cycle, or simply to give yourself a month to work on form, or simply to be here lifting relatively heavy weights well for health.

2) If odd #s drive you crazy and eat up platform time, round up to the nearest 5 or 10 on any of your warmup sets–that’s really not a huge deal.  Keep your last heavy set the exact weight the % dictates, however, so that we can keep the ebb and flow of the heavy sets the way they’re programmed.  In any case, twenty seconds at the whiteboard or in front of your computer with a calculator and you have your day’s entire workload written out in front of you.  Bing bang boom.

3) We will pick one movement pattern to focus on each six week cycle.  To begin 2016, we will be working on the squat.  I’m not sure why I made this a bullet point, actually.  But I luv 2 squat so I guess that’s reason enough.  Yay squats.

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