I wanted to have this episode be about 2021 reflection and 2022 planning but I use the Elegant excellence goals journal to do that and their shipping is delayed. So, we shall wait for that and not rush it. I am very much for reflection and planning. I’ve done it on large scale yearly basis and small scale weekly basis very religiously since the start of 2019. I am very much for reflection and planning. I’ve done it on large scale yearly basis and small scale weekly basis very religiously since the start of 2019. Thus, you will get that episode, but for today, we talk about fancy training
As I create this Pure PROgramming course, I am reminded of just how wildly basic my approach to training and program design is.
BUT, today we discuss the fancier side to the basics. I will not be telling you to use bosu balls or confuse your muscles. These fancy friends are simply more advanced basics. They’re fun and also, often require more access to equipment you may or may not have.
If you’ve been doing the same 15-20 exercises for years, within a pretty set range of sets and reps, you might feel the urge to spice it up in your training.
Rather than completely changing programs or modalities for training, I want you to entertain the following methods.
And even if you are not trying to be the fastest, or strongest, most agile or powerful, these methods can be a fun way to stick with familiar movement patterns, while having a bit more fun.
Most of these are full additions or “extras” to tack on to your normal programming. Though the first two are actual programming.
In undulating programming – and I say programming because it can be a programming method as well as a periodization – you’ll perform the big lifts multiple times per week, with varying stimulus via sets and reps.
This is very popular in powerlifting for the big three lifts. Squat, bench and deadlift. But it can be applied to more big lifts with the addition of the overhead press. Which is my personal use of the method.
With three lifts you only need three days of training – in which you’d squat, bench and deadlift all three days.
One day might be 5×2
One day might be 4×5
One day might be 3-5×10
A power or max strength day, a mid strength day and a hypertrophy or capacity day.
Where in traditional programming you’d likely be working on ONE of these per PHASE – meaning one month, with undulating the stimulus alters, in this case daily.
If you add in a fourth lift it takes a bit more planning. The goal is still to hit all four big lifts 2-3 times per week with varying intensities.
Another approach I personally like is to use undulating programming for 1 is 2 lifts that you really want to push, or maybe NEED to push.
I’ve mentioned this before, but a squat bias undulating program was a part of my 12 week back rehab process after my herniation.
It was a normal 4-5 day upper lower split but I squatted 3 days per week.
The same could be done with bench press, or pull ups, or hip thrusts.
Fun way to push yourself, or push one skill/pattern.
The next one is also a program and then we get into add on methods.
Take a season to try out an old great and put on as much muscle as possible.
Is GVT needed to put on mass? Negative. But it’s a challenge, and can ease up the mental load of lifting heavy if you’re finding you feel a bit burnt out.
4-6 sets of 10 reps on 3 exercises per day on a 188.8.131.52 tempo is a different kind of adversity. And it is highly effective. I think it’s a fun experience in a painful kind of way.
With the sheer amount of time under tension one can expect and prepare for more than usual DOMS.
Again, I am not encouraging everyone to do this or even anyone to do this. Maybe you don’t NEED this much volume. But that is the literal basis, stimulus and driving factor of this training method.
And yes this can be used with large compound movements but I would choose movements that will elicit the best growth where you want it.
For instance where I’d normally do deadlifts in a program, I would substitute 4-6×10 hip thrusts and RDL’s. That, for me, makes the best use of my dreaded time under tension. Where as squats, overhead press and bench really do still work, along with other patterns like cyclist squats, lateral raises, pull ups, and rows.
You are free of course to add needed accessory at lesser volume. I would still include overall joint health work like some Y raises, Copenhagens, as well as pillar or core work.
Now, let’s move on to the extra, add ons and fun stuff that can just bring a bit of life back into your training.
If you have access to one of these, I like bands over chains.
Chains and bands do the same thing – add weight and tension at the top, while letting off weight and tension in the bottom.
Take the squat, bench or hip thrust. In squat and bench the bands or chains are on the ends of a loaded barbell. Chains hanging, bands secured to the rack. In the hip thrust the band is secured the rack and goes over your hips.
Can we see how at the bottom of all these positions, there is slack in the bands and chains? And with every centimeter or inch, weight is added to the movement until the top. That increases tension at the top, certainly for bench and hip thrust.
You’d use lighter weight than usual. For the chains, you have to take into consideration the actual weight of the chain, and subtract from there. But with either, I would start very conservative. You can always add.
Another use of bands is in push ups, or Romanian deadlifts.
In a push up, the band goes under your hands and over and around your upper back. Same idea as bench. Less tension at the bottom but progressively harder to push up.
For the RDL we have two options.
Band around the center of the bar – as if the bar is being pulled away from you. This would very much so target the lats and upper back.
And a band pulling you around your hips to the back, again, increasing tension at the top. Yay glutes.
This can be used in many ways and it functions kind of like a drop set or cluster training.
Let’s use pull ups or rows.
You’d do the same number of reps of each back to back:
Wide grip, normal grip, neutral grip, chin up
That’s a set.
For rows, wide, neural, narrow, supinated
Are we seeing the drop settedness of this?
In a drop set, you do say 8 curls at 25, then 20, 15, 10 etc. like a ladder without rest. As the weight drops, it feels just as hard as the last set due to muscle fatigue.
Same is true with this only you’re not changing load, rather mechanical positioning. Make sense?
Wide pull ups are the hardest, then standard pull up, then p grip (or neutral grip), then chin up.
It’s a fun tactic if you see a place to apply it within your training.
Next we have…
These are not related other than the fact that they add time under tension and volume to program that already exists.
Pre fatigue is exactly what it sounds like. Before a squat day you would do quad extensions or maybe b-stance goblet squats to pre-exhaust the prime movers that you’re going to be using that day.
I honestly haven’t read much research on pre-fatigue but I did and I totally use it when I was attempting to put on size back in the day. And I can’t attribute it directly to pre-fatigue, but I will say I was successful.
On a shoulder focus day this might be doing lateral and frontal raises. You get the idea. I see this working for hypertrophy more than strength. I would not suggest pre-exhausting muscles that you are going to need for strength.
As for back off sets. These are a great way to fatigue and muscle group after the strength sets have been completed.
So you perform all of your main sets and then you drop the weight and perform higher rep sets or a single set. These could be for asset volume or an Amrap (until 1-2 reps in the tank).
Work on a new skill – learn a pistol squat or sumo stance work, or a pull up, or a mobility drill.
New stimulation via a skill can be fun in many ways.
What do you think of these “fancy” training methods? Will you be trying any out? If so, let me know in the comments below!
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I'm an adventurous introvert from Vancouver, Washington who lives on sleep + "me time." I'm a lover of lifting weights, dinosaurs, real talk and traveling with my husband. I am here to help you move better, lift more, bust the myths of the fitness industry, and inspire you to love the process.
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