Cycle breakdown

7.17 Focusing on the single-progression scheme—fixed target reps for each exercise, though not necessarily the same rep target for each exercise—here is a breakdown of a cycle. ^e breakdown applies to the double-progression scheme, too, but instead of frequently adding a little weight you add larger amounts much less frequently. In the weeks between the poundage increments in the double-progression method, you build up your reps from the low end of your rep range to the upper end.

a. Preparation, and form consolidation

7.18 ^e first stage of a training cycle, following a layoff for 7-10 days in order to get fully rested and recovered from your previous cycle, has you using weights 10-15% lighter than your most recent best working poundages. ^is gives you a running start. With the stress at this stage not being on squeezing out all possible reps, you can focus on developing (or consolidating, if your form is already good) perfect exercise technique and rep grooves, and excellent concentration. In addition, your mind and body get a break from full-bore training.

7.19 One of the many snags of jumping straight into full-bore work for a new program is that exercise form is not well learned or consolidated, and it quickly breaks down to some degree, inviting injury. ^is especially applies to people who train without hands-on expert coaching—i.e., nearly all trainees.

7.20 Your training volume, unless you are a rank beginner, may be at its greatest during the first few weeks of a cycle, though still modest relative to the norms of conventional training. As the severity of training increases over the course of the cycle, the volume of work may be reduced in terms of the number of work sets you do for each exercise, the number of exercises you perform, and perhaps the frequency of training.

b. Second stage

7.21 Over the first stage of a cycle the poundages are quite quickly built back to about 95% of your previous best working weights. ^en during the next stage you take a few weeks to creep back to your previous best working poundages. Taking your time like this, using little discs, enables you to return to your best weights without feeling that you are at the limit of your abilities. ^is sets the scene for many weeks of venturing into new poundage territory.

7.22 As always, your barometer of progress is poundage progression. If the poundage gains are not coming, then cut back your training volume by reducing total sets and/or exercises, and perhaps by training less frequently. Less work but harder work, and less total demand upon your recuperative abilities, will usually get the poundage progression back on track.

7.23 During the early stage of a cycle you may find that one exercise (or more than one) is (or are) out of step with what you had planned. If so, reduce the weight on the exercise(s) that is (or are) too difficult for that part of the cycle, to get all your exercises moving along at a similar degree of difficulty.

c. Growth stage

7.24 ^is is the most important stage of each cycle, and what you have been preparing for during the other stages. Prepare well, and then give your absolute all to ensure that you extend the growth stage for as long as possible and milk it dry of gains. ^e preparatory first and second stages are easy relative to the rigors of the growth stage.

7.25 Each training program has its core exercises. Here are five sets of examples, one with just two core exercises, and the rest with three:

a. Trap Bar (bent-legged) deadlift and parallel bar dip b. Trap Bar (bent-legged) deadlift, incline press and pullup c. squat, bench press and partial deadlift d. squat, prone row and parallel bar dip e. squat, incline press and pullup

7.26 If you are gaining in your core exercises for a given cycle, you will be gaining in size and strength generally. ^e core movements are what you need to focus on as the cycle gets ever more heavier and demanding, and closes in on its end.

7.27 ^e secondary exercises should not restrict progress in the core movements when you are focusing on building mass. Ideally you will progress in a cycle at the same relative rate in all your exercises, until progress ceases across the board. But in practice, to maximize gains on your core exercises, you may need to phase out some of the secondary movements as you approach the end of a cycle, or reduce their training frequency. Ideally you should not phase out any exercises unless you have made some gains on them relative to your pre-cycle bests. But phasing out of secondary exercises could be done earlier if progress in the primary exercises is being hurt by the secondary movements. If, however, you are an extreme hard gainer you may not, at least temporarily, be using any secondary movements even at the start of a cycle.

7.28 One core exercise may peak before the others. Do not stop a cycle because you have come to a halt in only one core exercise. But do not risk terminating progress everywhere by banging your head against the wall in the stuck exercise. Do maintenance work in the stuck core exercise, drop it, or substitute it, and then get a few weeks of additional gains out of the other core movement(s). ^en stop the cycle.

^e fastest possible rate of progress can be made by having the longest possible stretch of consecutive full-bore workouts, the greatest possible frequency of training, and the largest possible poundage increments. But in practice the "fastest possible" is usually very slow.

b 24

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