Wave Goodbye to Strength Plateaus By Ashley Jones
Firstly let me start this article with a statement of philosophy, I believe we try and include way too many exercises in our training programs, I have been as guilty as the next trainer in doing this and believe we need to pull back but also increase the stimulus by increasing the overall number of sets that the organism is exposed to, hence the value of wave loading in the strength & power training of athletes and anyone for that matter.
Now there is nothing new in what I am about to say and there are many ways to program but if you would give the following a good six week block of training I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised with the results that you will get.
The first sequences of wave loading patterns I believe are best applied to large muscle group compound exercises, irrespective of the speed elements, attempt to always move the concentric phase of the exercise as quickly as you can and perform a controlled eccentric to set you up for the next explosive concentric movement. Also the sets outlined in the sample week plans apply only to work sets, perform a couple of warm up sets to get up to the starting work weights. These sets are important but remember that they are warm up sets and not wear out sets, they are more neural in nature and are basically to re-establish a movement pathway and to get familiar with the load before embarking on the work waves.
In strength training I never go above 6 – 8 reps, also I believe that big is a by-product of STRONG, so exposing the athlete to loads less than 80% of maximum in my book do very little to develop strength, hence my standard 3 week wave for the development of strength looks like this, for an off season plan:
Week 1: 2 x (6,5,4)
Week 2: 2 x (5,4,3)
Week 3: 2 x (4,3,2)
With a small increase for the second have through does not have to be a percentage of maximum increase, and this is where I highly recommend you purchase some fractional plates, even if you only put another 0.5kg on either end of the bar this is an increase and over time will result in large gains on the amount of weight moved in a session.
Another way to do the load is a ladder load where the first wave is a descending rep scheme as per the example above but instead of repeating this you go back up the ladder, with a small increase in load for the second wave to increase the intensity of effort on each set, like this:
Week 1: 6,5,4,4,5,6
Week 2: 5,4,3,3,4,5
Week 3: 4,3,2,2,3,4
Another method where you do not increase the load on the second wave is to attempt to increase a rep on each set with the same load as the first wave, this maybe more beneficial for less mature trainees, like this:
Week 1: 6,5,4 5,6,7,
Week 2: 5,4,3 4,5,6
Week 3: 4,3,2 3,4,5
To prepare for the intensity increase that this method of strength training brings I suggest you do a block of preparatory training prior to getting into the wave loading style, it will also assist in establishing a 1RM to adjust loads from when you start to catch the wave, like this:
Week 1: 4 x 6 (my baseline workout), can be a progressive step load or a plateau
Week 2: 2 x 5, 3 x 3 (progressive load)Week 3: 5,3,1 (this popular Wendler set sequence, is also a popular wave load but we will save that for a future session, in this workout we are just attempting to establish a solid 1RM)
Also do not think that the wave method is only for strength training I have had individuals make good gains with using a modified wave loading pattern for more isolated muscle groups and exercises, like this:
Week 1: 2 x (15, 12, 10)
Week 2: 2 x (12, 10, 8)
Week 3: 2 x (10, 8, 6)
All the very best to you in your training, and I will leave you with a thought are you good enough or best you can be, your choice.
Wallabies Strength & Conditioning Coach