Are you savvy with the term 'being plastic'? This malleable substance is used to shape, bend, and form to anything that is asked of it. The goal of a a thoughtful yearly program design is to maintain plasticity throughout your meso cycles of Hypertrophy (muscle growth) as well as optimizing your Central Nervous System adaptations and recovery. To achieve the desired plasticity I have employed scientifically based formulas for building, peaking and tapering through the seasons. All focusing on intensity, load, and recovery.
I must preface this post with the acknowledgement that I am a CrossFit athlete who transitions to endurance running through the summer and fall. Because of this fact, my program design can be seen to bias this pathway through the year. More to come on that.
So What is a Meso Cycle?
A meso cycle is generally a periodized training block that consists of 3 weeks to 3 months depending on the adaptation I wish to drive. These periods are important parts to training for a given sport and something that I use extensively. The periods which I use DO revolve around the aforementioned CrossFit Games Season. Currently we are I a period of training where in I intend to drive Strength and Speed adaptations, before moving into the next. My big cycles are drawn from classic Hypertrophy theory's which involve muscle development, intensity, volume and then endurance.
They are ;
-Strength (low intensity/low to moderate volume with high Nervous System stress)
-Strength/ Speed (moderate to high volume with increased intensity)
-Speed/ Endurance (high volume and high intensity, utilizing Nervous system adaptations )
-Testing/ tapering ( these are small blocks 1-2 weeks in between each phase or before competition to promote recovery and performance)
How do you decide what to Program?
Honestly once the year has been blocked off, deciding on what movements we need to be training is the easy part. During a Strength phase for instance I love to stick to the general Powerlifting template where in our Primal movements (squat, lunge, hinge, step up, push, pull) are challenged. The adaptations are easier to quantify and measure which allows all of us to see clearly what is working and what is not.
Then out comes the gold when we move closer to competition time. There are 2 routes of action that I take when approaching competition and driving continuous adaptation.
1. Specific Movement Prep and Focus
2. Developmental Movements not necessarily associated with competition (skill work)
Specific movements speak for themselves. Ill use CrossFit as an example. Each year I have a list of exercises that I KNOW could be programmed in the Opens. Pull ups, Rowing, squats, etc. As a teacher and a coach I will use volume, intensity and load to prepare athletes for the demands of competition. You know them, you WORK on them, you get better at them.
Developmental movements are where I use my knowledge to help break us out of the mundane BS of training in a gym all the time. Remember that we train in a gym so that we can be useful OUTSIDE the gym. NEVER FORGET THAT FACT! Because I need to drive strength and Nervous System changes to make you a more well rounded athlete, there needs to be more depth to programming than 400m runs, wall ball shots and push ups. This is where my program design is unique different from many others because 1) I have a shit load of experience at being an athlete not just a gym rat 2) Im not afraid to fail. SO often that is what chokes off innovation 3) My developmental work is founded on practical, natural and primal movement patterns. Forward Rolls, ring supports, front rack holds, stones... all of these movements are rooted in the 'variance' methodology which is 'anything and everything to stimulate and grow a specific muscle group and firing structure'.
What is Testing , Tapering and Deloading do?
Each year I have floating weeks, for competition and adjustments to program design. We are not robots, we have things come up, we get hurt, we get injured, we are human. Tapering and deloading refers to the strategic volume and load reduction necessary for optimal recovery. In a general fitness athlete, stress is a huge deal. If you are coming into the gym with 10 things on your mind, I am stoked if you can muster the strength to give me 100% each session. But there are breaking points and we need to be honest about them. Tapering before your yearly marathon or the Crossfit games is vital for your health and performance . A common misconception with even pro athletes is that you need to train as hard as possible right up to competition day. Dead fucking wrong. You ned to train as hard as possible up to 2 months before your competition day to make sure you are not playing catch up at your bodies expense. Deloading allows for your CNS to recover and catch up to all the stress you have put it through for the past many months. Deloading allows for the coach/athlete conversations to happen about attacking certain weaknesses and buttoning things up.
Testing speaks for itself. If you are not keeping track of scores, load, and event feelings after sessions you are missing the boat big time. Every 3 months I retest certain workouts, to allow for the truth to come out. Consistency and progression are what we look for during testing. If you aren't interested in data, what the heck are you training for? But thats a bigger question.
What about Nutrition during the phases?
Well here is the 500# gorilla in the room. Periodizing nutrition is an important goal for the athletes in the crowd. During a strength phase for instance, monitoring how many meals, zone blocks, and foods that are making thier way into your mouth is essential. For the General Fitness athlete I would love to say that you too should be periodizing your nutrition but really it comes down to consistency throughout the year. Your off period can be when you take the yearly vacation and eat and drink like shit for a week. The rule for General Fitness athletes is to listen to your body and fuel yourself only with Whole Foods; Proteins, fats and Carbohydrates.
The coolest thing is that I have and will continue to do all the thinking for you. Skill development allows us to become the most adaptable and 'plastic' humans possible. I want there to be seamless ability under a barbell and on the trails . I want you to age gracefully with full control of your destiny (to a point). It all comes down to your dedication to the process. You give me that and Ill be here to support you 150%.
Programming Notes 5/7-5/11
Banded Good Mornings
Banded Hip Activation
Banded Trunk Rotations
Banded Pass Thru
Banded Press and Rip
Running Warm Up:
-wall drill/ high knee pull
-power skips + arm Swing
-Shuttle Run 25/50’ X 2
-Weighted Strict Pull Up
-Strict Toes To Bar
*scale weights accordingly, no kipping
A- :40 Hollow Hold
B- 10/8 Strict Ring Dips
C- 200m Sprint
10 GHD Hip Extension
10 Standing Toe Touch
10 Elbow To instep Lunges
W/ 30/15# dumbbells
-Single Leg Romanian Deadlift
-DB bent over rows X2
2 Deadlift @ 87-90%
30 KB Russian Swing 53/35
20 Front Rack Kneeling step up or Box Step Up
3 Shuttle Run (25’/50’)
Banded Hip stretches before class.
-hip flexor stretch
1 K Row
25 Walking Lunge Steps
20 Med Ball Squats
15 Med ball Toe Touches
10 Lateral Med Ball Hops
Squat Flow: Kang Squat, Internal Rotation, Hip Bridge, Ankle Roll Outs, Boot Straps, PNF, Squat W/ T Spine Rotation
*building across sets of 3
*back off 40# for the sets of 10.
Against a 15 Minute Clock,
Toes To bar
AMRAP Cal Row in remaining Time
50’ Bear Crawl
8 Burpee Pull Ups
12 Squat Therapy
12 V Ups
12 Side Plank Knee To Elbow (each Side)
12 Med Ball Chest Pass >>>
*chest pass should originate by hinging at waist, loading backside, and then powerful press to the wall in front of athlete
20 Min AMRAP
5 Handstand Push Ups
10 Pistol Squats
15 Pull Ups
*scale handstands to a dumbbell seated strict press or piked HSPU
*scale Pistols to box pistol or reverse lunge
*scale pull ups to Australian pull ups
3X W// light Dumbbells 10/5#
10 Cuban Press (scarecrow high pull/external rotation/ press/ return)
10 Front Raises
10 Bent over reverse flys
10 Push Ups
-lat band stretch
Snatch Skill Progression:
7 sets building;
3 Snatch Grip Push Press
1 Snatch Balance
3 Overhead Squat
*the weight should be limited by the amount you can successful snatch balance, don’t bite off more than you can chew on the first couple sets. Ensure that you can build all the way until the 7th set.
Snatch 15’s @ 135/95
12’s @ 165/115
9’s @ 195/135
>>>>Run 400m After each set>>>>>