My general observation is that people in the gym either train hard all the time or never train hard enough. For years I trained very hard with very few planned deload training periods. Recreational endurance athletes tend to be much smarter about varying the intensity of their training sessions than recreational strength athletes.
We don’t want to simply workout hard. We want to train, so we get better. Any coach or trainer can create a challenging workout, but if the training isn’t designed to improve your performance than it isn’t effective training.
An effective training program varies the volume, intensity, and difficulty of each workout to produce an improvement in performance. Mark Rippetoe, famous strength coach and the author of the very popular Starting Strength and Practical Programming for Strength Training, had a falling out with the founders of cross fit when he didn’t agree with the randomness of the workouts. He has applauded cross fit for making hard barbell training popular but has not been bashful of his criticism of the lack of structure to the training.
I too applaud cross fit for making barbell training popular, particularly for women, but I would caution anyone to examine the credentials of any coach and evaluate the workout regimen to ensure it was designed intelligently. In my opinion, a well-designed strength training program should vary the loads, exercises performed, skills developed, volume (number of total repetitions performed or sets), and difficulty (level of exertion based on load and repetitions completed).
Endurance athletes measure the intensity of their workouts based on the percentage of their maximum heart rate, while strength athletes measure their intensity based on the percentage of their one repetition max (1RM). I have created two spreadsheets to help you determine and record your approximate 1 RM for a variety of lifts, including exercises that use your bodyweight. Unless you are a competitive strength athlete like a powerlifter, I don’t recommend you perform a maximum lift, but you will better approximate your 1RM with heavy lifts, that represent your 4-6 repetition max. After you have determined your 1RM for each lift, the workout program provided will prescribe the loads to use.
Strength Cycle Training Program Overview:
This program is geared toward achieving a new six repetition maximum over seven weeks. The intensity of each workout will build-up gradually the first three weeks of the program. The difficulty of your workouts will be reduced during the fourth week, before ramping up again. During week seven your goal is to set a new six repetition maximum. The final week of the program is a deload week. Your goal is to dissipate the cumulative fatigue of the training cycle. If you still don’t feel fully rested, you can perform an additional de-load week. After you are fully recovered, you can recalculate your one repetition maximum and begin the cycle again.
Use the accompanying spreadsheets to determine the correct load for each week. You can use Fractional Plates to add as little as 1-pound to the bar, or you can round your weights. Most gyms don’t have fractional plates, but my gym does. That is because I purchased them. I didn’t want to carry the plates to and from the gym, so I decided to risk the $39 I paid for the plates and leave them at the gym.
Good Luck! I would much appreciate it if you could share your results!
Best wishes and best health!
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