This is part of II discussing my periodization strategies to develop athletes to reduce injuries and optimize performance. If you haven’t read part I yet, you can check it out here. If you remember from part I, the following image provides the order that I tend to set my blocks up and in part I we talk about what I typically do in the work capacity block.
Now we will move on to our next block, the Hypertrophy/Basic Strength block. The reason I have it as either “Hypertrophy” or “Basic Strength” is because it depends on the goals of the athlete and whether they need to develop more muscle mass. If I think an athlete needs to develop more muscle mass so they can produce and absorb more force, I will use a hypertrophy block that includes high volumes of training to stimulate muscle growth. If I am working with an athlete that has reached the optimum muscle mass needed, I’ll use a Basic Strength block that has lower volume of training and is more strength focused to minimize any unneeded weight gain and work our way towards the main strength block.
- Stimulate muscle growth to provide opportunity for the body to produce and absorb more force
- Measured by athletes’ weight being taken (if possible, measure body fat %) weekly
- If an athlete has reached desired muscle mass, switch to a “Basic Strength” phase, which has lower total volume of training per session to focus on improving force development and absorption with the muscle they currently possess.
- Train athletes to handle high fatigue and be able to increase time till fatigue sets in
- Measured by changes in MAS score and total volume of reps throughout the training block.
- Ensure athletes are eating in a calorie surplus along with eating 1.6-2.2 grams per kilogram of bodyweight per day, if added muscle mass is desired, and sleeping 7-8hrs to promote muscle growth and recovery.
- Measured by surveys from athletes daily or weekly.
Exercise variance/Specificity to sport: Moderate High Variance/ Moderate Low Specificity
Type of workout examples:
- Autoregulatory Progressive Resistance Exercise (APRE) program by Dr. Bryan Mann
- 3-6 sets of 8-12 reps @ 50-75% of 1RM using multi-joint exercises + 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps of single joint exercises
- M.A.S. Training (120% Eurofit Method)
This program design was created by Dr. Bryan Mann. I consider him one of the best minds in the strength and conditioning field and the APRE is secondary compared to what he’s actually known for, velocity-based training or VBT (foreshadowing!). The APRE program is perfect for athletes looking to obtain more muscle mass because it contains a high volume of training which is needed to stimulate muscle growth, which I find to be more of a factor than intensity (weight on the bar) alone. You can lift heavy weights all you want, but if you’re total volume of training from an exercise is less than 24 reps, you will struggle to gain any muscle. Another reason I like this program is because its autoregulated, meaning the program adjusts daily/weekly to ensure you are getting the most of your workout. Some days you will be lacking in sleep or nutrition or be in high amounts of stress, which will affect your training negatively. With this program, it can account for that and help you adjust your weight accordingly. This also works when you have been sleeping great and eating well, along with having low stress, because then the program will increase your weight to push you harder! Here is a visual of what the program is and how it works:
To be clear, this is designed for the Barbell Bench Press, Back Squat, and Deadlift. Do not use this for your accessory exercises! As you can see in Table 10.1, There are 3 phases of this program: APRE10, APRE6, and APRE3. In short you have 2 warm-up sets then your 3rd set is your first test set, which you will perform reps until failure and how many reps you perform (with good technique) will determine whether you increase, decrease, or keep the same weight for your 4th set. Table 10.2 shows you your reps performed on your 3rd set and how to adjust your weight in the 4th set. For example, let’s say I’m using APRE 10. I start with a warm-up set doing 12 reps at 50% of my 10RM (~38% of 1RM) followed by another warm-up set using 10 reps at 75% of 10RM (~56% of 1RM), then I perform my first test set on set 3 doing reps until failure at 10RM (~75% of 1RM) and I performed 12 reps on that 3rd set. Under table 10.2 in the APRE10 section, under repetitions, you’ll see “12-16”, which is the rep range I performed my 3rd set in. This means that, on my fourth set, I can increase my weight by 5-10lbs and perform reps until failure again. This program does create lots of fatigue, hence why I would use it early in the off-season. After completion you can perform your accessory exercises using 3-5 sets of 10-15 reps that focus on your weakness or areas you need muscle development in. In addition, you can use your 4th set to determine whether to increase, decrease, or stay the same for your sets the following week using both the tables again. What I do is let the 4th determine how to adjust my 1RM on the Squat, Bench, and Deadlift and keep the percentages the same. If we use the earlier example and I performed another 12 reps on that forth set, I will increase my 1RM by 5-10lbs and use that number for my percentages the following week. It’ll look something like this:
|Week 1: Back Squat 1RM=335lbs||Week 2: Back Squat 1RM=345lbs|
|Set 1 x 12 reps @ 38% (125lbs)||Set 1 x 12 reps @ 38% (130lbs)|
|Set 2 x 10 reps @ 56% (190lbs)||Set 2 x 10 reps @ 56% (195lbs)|
|Set 3 x till failure (12 reps) @ 75% (250lbs)||Set 3 x till failure (10 reps) @ 75% (260lbs)|
|Set 4 x till failure (12 reps) @ +5-10lbs (260lbs)||Set 4 x till failure (9 reps) @ same weight (260lbs)|
|New Back Squat 1RM= 345lbs||New Back Squat 1RM=345lbs|
From these examples you can see the program adjusting day to day and week to week. That’s what makes this program better than just templates you find online because the program is adjusting for you all the time! Final note: If I’m working with an athlete that doesn’t need to gain any more muscle, I’ll skip APRE10 and go straight into APRE6 then to APRE3 to avoid too high volume of training and focus more on strength, hence the “Basic Strength” phase. You can do each phase (APRE10-APRE3) anywhere from 2-8 weeks, however, make sure you add a de-load week every 4-8 weeks to avoid burn out. If you want more details about APRE you can purchase the book here: https://www.elitefts.com/the-apre-ebook.html
I typically use this program for 4-8 weeks depending how many weeks I have before the athlete’s season starts. The other main thing to remember is that the athlete is also responsible in trying to gain muscle through eating in a calorie surplus with 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight per day and getting 7-8hrs of sleep a night. A really easy way to know if they are doing their part is set up a 3-question survey before every session:
1. “Did you eat in a calorie surplus with 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight yesterday?”
2. “Did you get 7-8hrs of deep sleep last night?”
3. “If you didn’t accomplish 1 or 2, why not?”
It’s simple and helps hold the athletes accountable. If you use the APRE system and keep the athletes accountable with their nutrition and sleep, you shouldn’t have too much trouble seeing the scale go up every week. I would recommend this program to intermediate to advanced athletes that have good technique and experience in the weight room. If you or your athletes are a beginner, I do not recommend this program as it will be too much, too fast, and too complicated. As I mentioned before, use the right tools for the job! I hope this was helpful to you and next time we’ll talk about the Strength Block!
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