A common theme of some of the most effective strength training programs is the concept of variation. In novice athletes, extremely basic progressive overload programs will work very well. 1-3 sets of 5 on the basic barbell movements with 2.5-5lbs added each session can work for several months before a plateau is seen. It would be unnecessary and inadvisable to use intermediate level programming for this population. No need to introduce novel stimuli at this point with these athletes.
At the intermediate level where strength gains are harder to come by, some more variation in training will be required. Manipulation of training intensity and volume is an easy and effective way to stimulate further strength gains. Undulating periodization, be it weekly or daily, are some great options to consider. Daily undulation involves manipulating volume and or intensity on a day to day basis within a microcycle. A perfect example would be from University of Minnesota head strength coach, Cal Dietz’ “Tri-Phasic” approach. This program works particularly well for training 3 times per week with full body workouts. A hypothetical set up for the main barbell movements is displayed in the following table.
Table 1. Example of daily undulating programming for strength
|Week 1||Week 2||Week 3|
The weekly undulating approach varies training from microcycle to microcycle as opposed to from workout to workout. A good example of this is Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 program or Dr./Coach Dan Barker’s in-season wave-loading cycles. Examples of each are displayed in tables 2 and 3, respectively.
Table 2. Example of Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 weekly undulating program
Table 3. Example of Dan Baker’s Wave loading cycle.
There are infinite ways to adjust training and volume to stimulate further progress in strength for intermediate level athletes. These systematic approaches have proven to be effective over and over again in a wide variety of athletes. Progressive increases in total training volume (volume = sets*reps*weight) with proper variation in training are the keys to long term strength progress.