This one is inspired by powerlifter Vashon Perryman, who created the following video on his YouTube channel.
He just gives it as a quick tip that you should periodize your training into blocks of several weeks and prioritize each block to improve a certain quality. Because I have started to do something similar with my own training recently, I thought I would share some more details that I personally believe are important in making this work for you.
What you try to do when you periodize your training in the manner touched on by Vashon is called block periodization and a great way for intermediate and beyond lifters to structure their training in order to improve one quality (i.e. maximal strength, explosiveness or endurance) at a time.
Traditional block periodization is broken up into three basic blocks.
1. An accumulation phase, where you basically build a foundation with more general work. The exercises performed won’t be specific to your competition lifts, intensity will tend to be moderate and volume fairly high.
2. A transmutation phase where intensity rises, volume lowers and more specific movements to your competition lifts are included.
3. A realization phase is where mostly competition lifts are used at high intensity. Volume and frequency are reduced. General work tends to only be used to aid recovery.
Then you can toss in some transitional blocks which may focus on explosiveness or serve as a deload. It just depends on what you need to be successful.
The Purpose of Training Blocks
The thought behind this is that when you try to improve all athletic qualities you need for your sport at the same time, it will only work until you’ve reached a certain level. You eventually become too advanced for this training to work and end up with a plateau. A great real world example would be Crossfit athletes. They train many different qualities at once (usually in the same week and often in the same training session), so they might become good at a lot of things but never excellent to their full potential at one specific thing. This isn’t always bad, but it is bad if you participate in a sport like powerlifting, which is very specific. Only a few qualities matter in that scenario and you’re trying to develop them all at once.
Are All Other Training Programs Bad?
Most popular strength training programs like 5/3/1, The Cube Method, etc. are not bad and can be utilized to make great progress for a long time, but usually training will become more efficient for more advanced lifters once they periodize their training. An easy way to get started with it is with Mike Tuchscherer’s Reactive Training Manual (linked below in the ‘Further Reading’ section), because he simplifies block periodization into just two blocks (he calls them volume and intensity blocks) to start with, introduces the idea of targeted exercise variety and also (in my opinion most importantly) the idea of auto-regulating your training instead of hitting certain percentages.
It is my opinion that you should always keep your training as simple as possible… and by ‘possible’ I mean what gets you optimal progress without making your training program more complicated. So… if training everything at once is still working for you, then keep doing that until it stops working. By then, you should have had some time to get comfortable with the idea of block periodization and be able to begin applying some of the ideas to your training.
Change Training Variables Gradually
Once you notice yourself stalling out a bit on your lifts while training maximal strength, explosiveness, endurance, etc. all in the same training cycle, begin experimenting with some small changes. I.e. use slight variations of your primary lifts to make your training more general and focus on a couple qualities instead of everything at once. This might help give you a boost and also give you a break from always hammering the exact same motor patterns. It would also be very easy to have 2-6 week blocks of strength focus, explosiveness focus and hypertrophy focus for example. These are just some very general ideas and all I’m trying to get across is that it doesn’t have to be extremely complicated while still benefiting you.
By no means will I even come close to explaining block periodization fully in this article. I’m only giving you a very quick primer on the topic, but the following books are much more in depth on the topic.
Block Periodization by Vladimir Issurin and Michael Yessis
This book covers what block periodization is and explains everything in detail for you. The principles of block periodization are covered, but it isn’t applied to lifting… so you’ll still have to do some thinking of your own to apply it.
Reactive Training Manual by Michael Tuchscherer of Reactive Training Systems
This book is specifically for intermediate powerlifters looking to advance to the next level with the help of block periodization. The beginning stages of this long term program have volume and intensity blocks with simple auto-regulation, but it gets more advanced quickly and eventually turns into true block periodization with advanced auto-regulation techniques.
It builds a terrific foundation of knowledge on how to customize a program that works best for you. Adjustments will be made regularly as you get to know yourself better and evolve. I believe it’s a great approach to gradually change training variables over time and properly analyze them to tailor your program to something that works best for you.
A large portion of the book also deals with auto-regulating your training instead of using percentages of your 1 repetition maximum. Again, it starts off simple and gets more advanced over time.
If you haven’t heard of Mike Tuchscherer, check out his YouTube channel. That is probably enough to convince you that he has some idea of what he’s talking about.
A Practical Guide for Implementing Block Periodization for Powerlifting by Gabriel Naspinski is another solid article to read, if you want a really simple example of how to implement block periodization principles into your training.
And that wraps this one up. I wanted to keep this article simple and to the point. If you have further questions, leave them in the comments.