Being that it is near the end of the year, I wanted to compile some thoughts on programming concerning a variety of subjects. These are things I have picked up over the years—things I have learned from my experiences in training, coaching, and reading. Some of these things are additions, changes, or reconsiderations of things I have previously written; however, some are completely random.

In reference to block periodization…

While I have written a few articles about this in the past, there are a few things I didn't really write about or address directly in either article. The fact is, I wasn't really talking about a few important aspects. One major thing I left out in both articles was the fact that the purpose of using this system is to utilize concentrated loading and to take advantage of delayed and residual training effects. This may have been briefly mentioned in my other writings, but it wasn't directly addressed in either article about the system. Basically, the reason for setting up this training in blocks is to concentrate loading toward a small amount of directed and desired training effects. This, in turn, will cause an initial decrease in these areas. Yet, after ceasing the concentrated loading, there will be a super-compensation, and the delayed training effect will begin to be realized. If you look at the bigger picture, the residual training effect (or how long a certain training effect can last) needs to be considered because if the timing is off, the gains that were realized may have diminished by the time they are of use. This is what sets this system apart from standard linear periodization. Linear periodization doesn't necessarily take into account how long these effects last. It also doesn't aim to use concentrated loads in short, condensed blocks in order to take advantage of the coupling effect. Instead, there is a long, gradual transition from point A to point B. This is why the area/muscles trained in the first part of a standard linear program may no longer be realized by the time the competition has come.

Other things I did not cover in regards to this system are 1) the focuses of each block and 2) what to build on. Now, it doesn't really matter which terminology you are following since the principles are all (more or less) the same. The first block will focus on building a base of something, and this in turn will lead to a focus for the second block. This second block will then be directed by the final block before a competition. A lot of the literature from authors like Verkhoshansky discuss track and field events that first need a base of maximal strength, followed by explosive strength, and then reactive ability since this is what was needed in these disciplines.

However, when applying this to powerlifting, some considerations must be made. While the sport has one directive—to display maximal strength against a significant external resistance, there are other things that need our focus in order to make this possible. Often, when people try to apply this system, they are taking linear periodization concepts and viewing/applying it like how each block should be designed. For example, most people will think that they should focus on hypertrophy in an accumulation or A block. This is usually done because the literature talks about “morphological changes,” and for whatever reason this gets people thinking that it is time to break out the Y-backs and Zubaz. The other side of the argument will be those who are concerned with their weight class and who think that “morphological changes” should be avoided. The reality, however, is that this can be any number of things. It can be changes in fiber type, tendon and connective tissues, energy systems, etc. While hypertrophy can be focused on here, it doesn’t have to be the sole focus. In reality, this block is to provide a base, and this can involve a lot of things. Also, even if hypertrophy is a goal, this would involve a caloric surplus.

Another thing I have written in the past but would change now concerns including the competitive exercise during the blocks. Even if this is done using low volume, it should be used to practice the movement. So, while the early stages of a powerlifting training cycle may include more volume, this may be shifted to either specialized or general exercises. I would also include the competitive exercise in some capacity to maintain form.

Also, I did not previously list the difference between preparatory and competitive phases. The second article I wrote about block periodization really wasn't about the system as much as it was about frequency and specificity. Looking back, I wouldn't necessarily use that style of programming year-round since a larger variety of exercises may need to be used at times. The second article mostly focused on outlining what would be useful in a short-term, competitive phase of training. During preparatory periods, a larger complex of exercises may be needed to focus on weak areas or raise GPP.

In reference to concurrent training…

Concurrent training is something that some people may think I do not advocate because the first few articles I wrote discussed block periodization. However, this is not even close to being true. I think that it has a lot of positive aspects. Also, before going any further with this discussion, concurrent styles of training are almost a necessity for some sports because there are too many things to focus on to train in a block-style. With most team sports that have multiple qualities, concurrent training is something that is always done on some level. The consideration to be made is that there will be focal points during certain parts of the year. Take football, for instance. In the off-season, many qualities need to be addressed, such as energy systems (alactic and aerobic), maximal strength, explosive strength, reactive ability, mobility, etc. Early on, this may require your athletes to focus on using tempo work in order to teach both correct running/movement skills and to address the aerobic base. After tempo work, you may want to transition to alactic work—periods where different types of strength are a priority (which will vary depending on each position). With each phase, there will be something that should take priority (and a certain amount of volume should be used) while other aspects, on the other hand, are waved down. As the season approaches, all of this becomes secondary to performance on the field and is used to support the main goal. The problem here is that some coaches will still try to focus on certain things (such as maximal strength) during in-season periods with too high of an intensity. In fact, a Division-I strength coach earlier this season was bragging about how he trained maximally year-round, and how he had numerous players PR in-season. Unfortunately, this particular university has also had an unusually high number of injuries this year. Therefore, this shows a lack of focus on the number one priority—on-field performance. These CNS-intensive stressors can’t be prioritized at the same time.

As far as concurrent training in a sport like powerlifting, it works well for many lifters and is a great system to use due to the many factors that need focus. However, attention should still be paid to the technical performance of the competitive lifts. While accessory work and specialized exercises have their place, this still goes back to the one consideration I made earlier. For some lifters, complete exclusion of the movements is a bad idea, especially if they are not technically proficient or new to lifting. The other sentiment echoes my thoughts in regards to concurrent training for a sport like football. While many qualities are being trained at once, there should be prioritization and an adjustment to the volume or intensity of certain qualities as the meet gets closer. This is a mistake many lifters make since they either do movements for the sake of doing them, or they train too many exercises with either too much volume or too much intensity too close to a contest.

In reference to exercise selection, volume, and intensity…

For this last point, I’ll use an analogy. Imagine the training process as a dish being prepared by a chef (which would be the coach or the athlete as some are self-coached). The exercises selected are the actual ingredients, the volume is their quantity, and the intensity is the heat/temperature at which this should all be prepared. The ingredients are what will actually make up the dish. It is pretty difficult to make a meal if you have no idea what ingredients are needed. In turn, the "chef" must adhere to the quantity/measurements of the recipe because too much or too little of a certain ingredient may leave the dish tasting like shit or seem incomplete. This also applies to the heat/temperature of the oven—too little will mean that it isn't fully cooked...but too much and it might burn to ruin.

Now, take this back to training. Without knowing which exercises to use, it is hard to have a set plan. In turn, it is nearly impossible to logically sequence the movements of a training session (or training cycle on the larger scale). This isn't necessarily the actual movement but the tempo and conditions at which each exercise might be performed. Without an idea of volume, there is no idea of how much to use in order to get a desired training effect. In turn, if your intensity is too high, you can burn an athlete out, yet not enough may not provide enough stimulus.

Now, let's take a look at the chef example again, and let's compare that to what happens all too often with team sports. Let's say a group of chefs are working on a dish. One chef has a certain recipe in mind, and he already knows what ingredients, measurements, and temperature at which his dish should be prepared. However, one of the other chefs thinks that the amount of a certain ingredient is too low, so he dumps a couple extra cups of this in. The third chef then thinks that they are both being too conservative in regards to the baking temperature, so he consequently puts the dish in the oven at 100 degrees higher than what was specified. The dish, unfortunately, comes out looking like shit. It's burnt and looks like it would taste like shit too.

This happens a lot with sports, especially at the high school level where kids are impressionable and coaches don’t have an understanding of the training process. Let’s say the first chef from the above example is in charge of the physical preparation of his team. However, one of the positional coaches decides that whatever exercise is being done isn’t enough, or he likes a different exercise better. Therefore, he adds this on top of the athlete's current training. Now let’s say that another positional coach decides that none of this is “hard” enough, so he decides to have an athlete add maximal effort work or intensive conditioning on top of his current training program. Our athlete is now being pulled in numerous different directions at high volumes and intensities, and he will end up performing like shit.