(Part 3)

For the final part of this series, I wanted to give a few examples of how certain principles of loading can fit into a framework. I'll also cover why lifters using a similar framework of planning may have sessions that look somewhat different. While the methods of satisfying each part of the framework may be different, they accomplish the goals that are defined. I'll use myself as well as a few of my training partners from Tampa Barbell as examples. All the lifters in this article have similar frameworks based on the principles of block periodization. However, each has different individual needs and uses slightly different loading parameters as well as exercise selections to satisfy the principles of the framework.

Revisiting the principles behind a block system

To keep this short, here are a few simple guidelines for each block. It doesn’t necessarily matter which author’s terminology you use (e.g. Verkhoshansky, Issurin, Bondarchuk), as all of them have similar principles:

Accumulation/A Block

  • Lower intensity, higher volume
  • Goals include increasing work capacity, inducing hypertrophy, focusing on weaknesses in movements and muscles, and performing prehabilitation/rehabilitation where applicable
  • Larger complex of exercises—higher volumes of general and specialized variants may be used with lower relative volumes of competitive exercises

Transmutation/B Block

  • Intensity rises, volume drops relatively but is still kept moderate
  • Goals include focusing on concentrated loading of strength building and stressing training movements as opposed to muscles
    • Transition to higher volume of competitive exercise and lower volume of general exercise; specialized exercise volume can vary
  • Induced fatigue will be noticeable

Realization/C Block

  • High intensities, low volumes
  • Exercise selection starts to include competitive exercises with low volumes of general exercises or specialized exercises; intensity of competitive exercise is high but volume of all exercise is low
  • Recovery between sessions should be near complete; as contest nears, intensity should also be scaled back to allow recovery

For the purpose of this article, we'll focus mainly on the accumulation/A block and transmutation/B block, as this will be where there can be more variation in programming between lifters. While different methods of tapering may exist during the realization/C block, the focus here is to apply certain principles to the first two blocks, as this is where most interest lies with lifters.

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Three lifters and the individualities of each…

For this article, the lifters used in the examples of implementing a block framework have varying levels of qualification. The lifters are as follows:

David Siciliano

  • 198-pound raw lifter
  • About two years of serious powerlifting training
  • Fairly green to training; has no true weaknesses but just needs work everywhere
  • Needs to focus on both work capacity as well as increasing muscle cross-sectional area
  • While system is set in “blocks,” it resembles more of an emphasis approach with certain blocks blending together and more qualities being focused on in each block
  • Usually trains three days a week

Brent Alapa

  • Anywhere from 198- to 242-pound weight class, depending on how many Red Sox games are televised and the ratio of Miller High Life to Healthy Choice Steamers in his nutritional protocol
  • Competes in gear, both single ply and multi-ply
  • Veteran lifter with an elite total; has competed at both APF Nationals and WPC Worlds
  • Focus is on work capacity early on in blocks and some programming is contingent on weight class
  • Favors an approach with a base setup similar to Korte’s 3 X 3; will rotate exercises, volumes, and intensities depending on place in training; volumes are kept conservative but will work up to goal weights
  • Usually trains three days a week

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Gabriel Naspinski

  • 242-pound geared lifter, both single and multi-ply
  • Has elite total
  • Focus is on work capacity in early blocks as hypertrophy isn't a primary goal
  • Favors to accumulate volume and frequency while keeping intensities submaximal
  • Induces fatigue through volume as opposed to working up
  • Uses varying approaches but trains lifts with moderate to high frequency depending on current point in training cycle
  • Usually trains four days a week

Looking at the three lifters above, while they're all implementing a framework based off the same principles, they're all using different methods of accumulation and concentration. Even exercise selection may vary as well as the amount of days per week that movements are performed or the duration of each block along with how long certain exercises are kept and when others are rotated in.

For example, in the case of David, his blocks may not look overly different as he progresses. The loading of the competitive exercise may become more intensive, but certain general and preparatory exercises may be maintained throughout the duration of both his A and B blocks with only differences in intensity, volume, frequency, or tempo. David doesn't overcomplicate things because he is still relatively new to the sport and can keep progressing through similar measures. His approach is more similar to a complex approach, but as time progresses, his blocks  emphasize certain qualities and he may decrease the loading on accessory type movements as he peaks for a meet.

In the case of Brent and myself, we are what could be considered intermediate lifters. We are beyond the point of needing to use only rudimentary loading in the competitive exercises and general movements but aren’t advanced to the level where everything but the competitive exercise and very closely specialized variants are general. We have a very large toolbox because we can use a large amount of exercises to accomplish certain goals, but we have to carefully choose how to implement these to reach a transfer to the platform. For both of us, we are at the point where we get more out of training movements as opposed to any general muscular training. While we both do this, here's how we differ.

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Brent usually trains three days most weeks, but sometimes he only trains twice a week. He usually performs total body sessions using the big three movements in some capacity but not always as a competitive exercise. He may choose to use specialized developmental or specialized preparatory variations instead. While he emphasizes volume early in his training, as he progresses to his transmutation/B block, he chooses to work up to a goal number on certain days and perform a few down sets based off of this. For Brent, this works well because he doesn’t have technical issues as he increases intensity and stays constant.

Contrast this with my training. I train four days a week, and I don’t always perform all three movements in each session but usually have some element of them in a competitive or specialized variation along with some general exercises. As I progress in any block, I usually designate an intensity or zone of intensities that I choose for any given exercise. Then I accumulate volume in this range and will increase loading week to week while performing more sets or reps in this zone. I prefer to do this because my form and technique stay constant, and I work my groove on each movement. In the past, when I've attempted intensity-based loading, I never got in enough volume and my form would take a hit when chasing numbers for a session.

Looking at the three examples above, it's easy to see that there is a fair amount of variation between the different lifters. This brings up the concept of using different training templates during each block.

Considerations of different programs…

When we look at the ideas behind a framework such as a block model, it only matters that the goal of each block is met. With a lifter whose goals are to increase work capacity during an accumulation/A block, he could perform numerous sets between 60 and 70 percent, focus on technique, and work with the competitive exercise. This isn't unlike certain principles of systems similar to Sheiko and other volume-based systems. Even when concentrating loading and using higher intensities, the lifter may choose to never exceed certain intensities (possibly 70–85 percent) but may instead decide to increase the amount of work being performed in this zone from week to week. This can be done by adding sets in a workout, adding reps in each set, or performing the lift more frequently during the week. This would be a way to induce fatigue and increase the total amount of work.bench aichs naspinski  032414

In contrast with this, some lifters may choose to use an intensity-based approach. The lifter could work up to training maximums or top sets such as working up to a max for that day, working up to a max without any technical breaks, or using a goal weight that was predetermined prior to the session. From there, the lifter can choose to perform a few down sets or pack it in for the day. This is similar to systems such as the Bulgarian approaches popularized by Abadjiev, John Broz, and Spassov or maximal effort work popularized by Westside. Another way to do this is to use repetition maximums and try to hit either a certain predetermined goal number at a certain percentage of the maximum or a personal record of repetitions at a certain weight. This is similar to using something like 5/3/1. Whether using volume, intensity, or both to concentrate and intensify loading, it's easy to see that the principles of many programs can be included within a framework of block periodization.


When designing programs, it's important to consider all individualities of a lifter and not follow any blind allegiance to a certain template. Sets, reps, exercises, and percentages are nothing but numbers and letters on paper. Without context, they have no real meaning and may or may not work for a certain individual at that point in time.

Within any program, use the needs of the lifter, the big picture framework, and chronological planning to designate periods of training. This can help prioritize and set a basis of principles to abide by. Within this set of principles, logical choices can be made to reach both small and large scale goals by using a variety of progressions and programming styles.