Twelve Week Challenge – Old School Style

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Ashley Jones

Crusaders Head Strength Coach – Super RugbyI was chatting with a power lifting mate of mine, Steve Thompson, of GetStrength, and he re-opened my eyes to an old school competition preparation plan that I am sure you have used or read about. It is an increasing intensity decreasing volume plan to have you ready for a competition in 12 weeks. With the range of new programs out there many of us may have moved away from the grass roots, to trial other programs, but every once in a while I think it is a good idea to revisit and refresh with some wisdom from the pioneers.

With this in mind I have tweaked a few elements, and have a plan to get you big and strong in the 12 week time frame. There is quite a lot of volume initially in the program so I would recommend that you warm up for each training session with some appropriate prehab/rehab exercises for the area that you will be targeting on that specific day. Say some rotator cuff, shoulder/scapula stabilisation when you are on an upper body pushing workout.

The basis of the program is as follows:

 Number of Training Days Number of Exercises per AreaSets x Reps
 Rest Period Between Sets Number of Weeks
 5 days per week 5 exercises 5 x 5 1 minute 5 weeks
 4 days per week 4 exercises 4 x 4 2 minute 4 weeks
 3 days per week 3 exercises 3 x 3 3 minute 3 weeks

Simple hard work done regularly, still the best advice given to me by my mentors so many years ago.

Now to the finer points, firstly select your 5 exercises for each major movement pattern or specific area, list them in order of importance could be by loading or by necessity of improvement because the top three will be with you all through the 12 week challenge. Again the wisdom of the ages tells us to keep to the solid basic exercises that require large numbers of muscles to be involved, so keep them compound, we are building size and strength in this program.

Let me outline the program that I am currently following to provide an example of how to proceed. The groupings I am using and the selected 5 exercises for each group are as follows:

1. Upper Body Horizontal and Vertical Pushing
– Bench Press, Incline Bench Press, Military Press, Dips, DB Shoulder Press

2. Upper Body Horizontal and Vertical Pulling
– Chins, Bentover Row, Upright Row, Pulldown to Chest, One Arm Supported DB Row

3. Squatting
– Back Squat, Front Squat, Overhead Squat, Step Ups, Walking Lunge

4. Olympic
– Power Clean, Power Snatch, Clean Pulls, DB Hang Clean, One Arm DB Snatch

5. Hamstring and Lower Back
– Deadlift, Good Morning, Glute Ham Raise, Romanian Deadlift, 45 degree Back Extension

So for the first 5 weeks, you stay with all 5 of your choices, after a warm up stay with a constant load for all 5 sets of 5 reps when you achieve increase the weight for the next week. After the fifth week drop the 5th exercise and proceed with your top 4, then after 4 weeks drop of your 4th exercise and work to a peak with your top 3.

Feel free to organize your week as you see fit but if you are like me who wants there weekends free for other activities and you want to space out your bigger sessions, I would recommend the following split.

Monday TuesdayWednesday Thursday Friday
 Olympic UpperBody Pulling Squatting Upper Body Pushing Hamstring and Lower Back

I can not promise you cash prizes and a new car at the end of the 12 week challenge but I think you will achieve some impressive increases in muscular size and strength and realize that old school can be good school.

Ashley Jones 

Ashley Jones

Ashley Jones specialist in the physical preparation of rugby athletes. He has worked with professional sports teams that include Sydney Kings, Newcastle Knights, Parramatta Eels, Northern Eagles, Crusaders, New Zealand All Blacks, and Australian Wallabies. Irish by Ancestry, Australian by Birth, Japanese by Accident and a Kiwi by Choice.

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