Author Ashley Jones
When training younger training aged athletes the best methods are also the simplest. By this I mean the progression you would use in training over a block of training. If you have read any of Poliquin’s or Simmons’ work you will notice that they advise a change in some element of the training every week.
This is for the more advanced training aged athlete who is aware of their body and the effects of training on it. The younger athlete needs to develop this over time and allow a stimulus to be applied with increasing pressure on the athlete allowing the adaptations you seek. Exercises need only be changed every 6 – 12 weeks, although obviously individuals will be using a changing load and specific methods will change with whatever plan you put in place. Remember that long term pressure to the right type of coal produces diamonds and this is what we are trying to produce in our weight room.
When you attempt to design such a program there are a plethora of training methods to wade through, such as the following, from my great friend and colleague, Damian Marsh, which has come out of countless hours of reading and talking about what works and what does not necessarily work as well:
Loading Methods and Examples
3 x 10 @ 70%
1 x 10 @ 60%, 1 x 10 @ 65%, 1 x 10 @ 70%
1 x 10 @ 70%, 1 x 8 @ 75%, 1 x 6 @ 80%, 1 x 8 @ 75%, 1 x 10 @ 70%
1 x 6 @ 80%, 1 x 8 @ 75%, 1 x 10 @ 70%, 1 x 8 @ 75%, 1 x 6 @ 80%
Ascending Half Pyramid – Light to Heavy
1 x 10 @ 70%, 1 x 8 @ 75%, 1 x 6 @ 80%
Descending Half Pyramid – Heavy to Light
1 x 6 @ 80%, 1 x 8 @ 75%, 1 x 10 @ 70%
Ascending Rep Pyramid
1 x 4 @ 70%, 1 x 5 @ 70%, 1 x 6 @ 70%, 1 x 7 @ 70%, 1 x 8 @ 70%
Descending Rep Pyramid
1 x 10 @ 70%, 1 x 9 @ 70%, 1 x 8 @ 70%, 1 x 7 @ 70%, 1 x 6 @ 70%
Standard Set Wave
1 x 10 @ 60%, 1 x 10 @ 67.5%, 1 x 10 @ 65%, 1 x 10 @ 72.5%
Ascending Half Pyramid Wave – Light to Heavy
1st Wave: 1 x 10 @ 70%, 1 x 8 @ 75%, 1 x 6 @ 80%
2nd Wave: 1 x 10 @ 72.5%, 1 x 8 @ 77.5%, 1 x 6 @ 82.5%
Descending Half Pyramid Wave – Heavy to Light
1st Wave: 1 x 6 @ 80%, 1 x 8 @ 75%, 1 x 10 @ 70%
2nd Wave: 1 x 6 @ 82.5%, 1 x 8 @ 77.5%, 1 x 10 @ 72.5%
Alternating Light to Heavy
1 x 8 @ 70%, 1 x 6 @ 77.5%, 1 x 8 @ 76%, 1 x 6 @ 82.5% OR 1 x 6 @ 75%, 1 x 1 @ 90%, 1 x 6 @ 82.5%, 1 x 1 @ 97.5%
Alternating Heavy to Light
1 x 6 @ 77.5%, 1 x 8 @ 70%, 1 x 6 @ 82.5%, 1 x 8 @ 75% OR 1x 1 @ 90%, 1 x 6 @ 75%, 1 x 1 @ 97.5%, 1 x 6 @ 82.5%
4 –5 x 5 x 1 @ 3RM load with 15 seconds rest in between each rep
3 x 3 – 5 @ 125+%1RM, 6 – 10 seconds eccentric
Back Squat 2 – 5 reps @ 85+%1RM + Jump Squat 6 – 10 reps @ 45%1RM + Repeat Vertical Jumps with Body weight
50 chins in as few sets as possible with 1-minute rest in between each set
Static – Dynamic
Hold at specific position for 3 – 5 seconds then explode concentric
Band training almost a free fall eccentric then perform the concentric as quickly as possible without a bounce
Bands, Chains, Weight Releasers
Decreasing range of motion with increasing loading with successive exercises e.g.; Power Snatch, Power Clean, Clean Pull, Clean Grip Dead lift
Of course these are not all applicable to the younger training aged athlete, but you can see the mine field that you have to wade through in order to determine what to you and for how long to produce the results you want.
Also when training athletes I feel that you often require and different set and rep structure for the upper and lower body. The rationale behind this is since the lower body is trained with a lot of additional volume via conditioning and speed related sessions then there is a large chance of injury if a greater rep load is used in the weight room. The other point is that in training the lower body the focus should be on the development of the fast twitch fibres and specifically the development of strength and power first over size of all fibres. Train for strength and size will follow is the motto I follow in this regard, whereas in training the upper body I believe you can use sets with a higher number of reps in them.
So to this end I recommend the following progressions in the use of straight sets methods with younger training aged athletes to ensure they are starting on a life long journey to improvements in there physical performance.
I would utilize a basic 4 or 5 exercise protocol, training on three non-alternate days each week, a classic Monday – Wednesday – Friday weekly plan, also I would use either an alternating A and B exercise plan or three different workouts based around the same principles. There are more exercises to learn with three programs than with two but with three you are providing a greater range of movements and targeting muscle groups from different positions. When I first started training in 1976, the man in charge of American Health Spa, or as we preferred to call it Vince’s Gym after the owner Vince Basile and former Mr. Canada, I was given a 3 day a week course of the basics:
Squat/Deadlift/Bench Press/Bent Over Row/Standing Shoulder Press
This program would still be very hard to beat as it stresses the basics, but with the athlete’s of today you may have to utilize a few different programs to maintain their focus. To this end, I draw you to the basic planning template of:
1 x Olympic (optional)
1 x Squat
1 x Hamstring/Lower Back
1 x Upper Body Push
1 x Upper Body Pull
In this template you have all the major muscles of the body catered for and is a great starting point from which to design specific routines for all athletes irrespective of training age. Strangely enough Vince’s program for me those 31 years ago stand the test of time.
It does not matter initially whether you choose two or three programs to use each week, what matters is ensuring that you are using the exercises in good technique and not pushing the weight up each week and disregarding the form you are using, so let the form dictate the weight you use not the other way around.
The following set and rep plan allows for progressions over a 5 week period then I would recommend a change in exercises and start the plan again at week one. Also, initially it is not a true rep to per cent load plan, by that I mean 6 reps does not necessarily equate to 80% of 1RM as it will in time, so err on the light side of the rep/load continuum and progress at a pace that is appropriate for you.
Weeks Upper Body Lower Body
1 4 x 6 4 x 6
2 6 x 6 5 x 5
3 5 x 8 6 x 4
4 4 x 6 4 x 6
5 5 x 5 2 x 5, 3 x 3
6 6 x 4 5,4,3,2,1
A few six week cycles of this style of program progressions and then you maybe ready to tackle some of the other loading methods listed above or which will be featured in another article for this web site.
My thanks to the number of great people out there that have asked questions which has stimulated this article to be born, I hope this solves a few answers and stimulates a few more questions, also thanks to Damian Marsh for allowing me to use this list of training methods, put all your ideas into the pot and take and share as you will, we are all better for the experience of sharing.