Strength Intensification – Phase 2 (2016)

Hammer_Athletic_09Commensurate with our year-round approach to client periodisation here at Hammer Athletic, we are about to embark on our Strength Intensification phase; meaning that we will partake in a program that increases strength capacity. By approaching the year in two halves, we have periodised our first macrocycle/season with a model called Conjugated Sequencing, with the inclusion of some complex training structures.

That all sounds terrific, but what the hell does this mean?

It’s no good throwing “Yeah! Science!” at you without an explanation, so the following will attempt (I can only try) to simplify this jargon and explain  the reason  behind what we are doing and why we are doing it now.

The Hammer Athletic Approach to Periodisation

This phase, is a component of our overall Conjugated Sequencing model, which is a little more complex than the traditional model of periodisation. This type of planning is a far more successful way of thinking because it allows us to target specific performance outcomes.

My earlier blogs explained that our Off -Season and GVT programs were designed for our first season/macrocycle (first 6 months of the year) and will culminate in, with other phases in-between, our annual Athlete Development Program (ADP) that will be held in May/June (read our website for what this program entails).  Our ADP clinic is a 6 week clinic based around increasing speed, agility and power, the essential elements of an athlete during a season of play. Adapting the Conjugated Sequencing model allows us to achieve specific training outcomes prior to the ADP clinic, providing our participants a great platform to challenge themselves and achieve their potential during the ADP clinic.

So, we started the year with a major strength/endurance program, utilising the existing and well known resistance protocol – German Volume; as some may have experienced, this is a high volume (reps)/moderate intensity (amount of weight lifted) program. Currently, we are now on a strength intensification or transmutation phase, where the volume (amount of reps) is reduced but the intensity is dramatically increased. After the strength base is achieved, we move to strength/power development to achieve peak strength and power which ultimately culminates in the AD Program, our last phase of the macrocycle which focuses on technical speed and agility work.

Still with me? Good. While the above seems convoluted, our overall plan (Conjugated Sequencing Model) can be seen in the diagram below – we move from strength endurance combined with anaerobic conditioning (namely, our EST and Rip in like Rambo (HIIT) classes) which were programmed in conjunction with the GVT program. Following this, we move into concentrated strength intensification (to which still has high anaerobic conditioning elements, so get your classes or conditioning sessions in!), through to strength/power development and ultimately, the ‘competition phase’ or ‘peaking phase’ (AD Program). The conditioning sessions will become more targeted and specific as we get closer to the AD program.

haff graph

Strength Intensification

So what does Strength Intensification entail? Well, this month’s program is split into two separate blocks: the first 2 week block is based around obtaining a high force element through the use of eccentric, isometric and concentric contractions and the second two week block has its foundations in high intensity, conventional lifting techniques.

Breaking it down further, this means that the first 2 weeks we perform lifts that require a slow lowering phase, a pause and then a lifting phase. Using the squat as an example, we lower for 5 seconds (eccentric), pause at the bottom for 2 seconds (isometric) and then push it back up (using however long it takes us to lift the bloody thing). This is done at 80-85% our 1RMs.  Performing the lift in this way (using oft neglected muscle activations as the focus of the lift) produces the highest possible exertion of force. When the muscle undergoes a lowering phase, our muscles are required to lengthen and contract simultaneously, producing massive force and moreover, causing high muscular damage (which despite the connotation, is ‘good’ damage). This encourages the body to adapt in order to be stronger (resulting in the production of higher force) and more muscular (through the increase in muscular proliferation as a result from the muscular damage). The combination of these two elements fosters the perfect environment for an increase in strength capacity.

After the initial two week phase, we progress to conventional, controlled lifting, limiting the eccentric and isometric contractions to those normally encountered throughout a lift; that is to say, we perform normal squats, bench press, chin ups, deadlifts and the like without any specific ‘time under tension’ conditions. However, by contrast to the previous two weeks, we increase our 1RM percentages closer to the 87.5-90% range and reduce the rep range to 3. Overall, the assimilation of both processes should provide for a marked increase in strength adaptations and ultimately, all things considered, produce yearly strength highs (that is to say, 1RM increases).

Hopefully you are as excited as I am at the prospect of achieving (or exceeding) our performance goals at the next testing phase at the end of the program – after all, stats don’t lie.

One glaring issue not covered in this phase is “it’s all well good to be more agile, stronger and faster but I want to be leaner”. You need to know that this type of training stimulates fat loss better than any other modes of training. Increasing strength increases muscle mass which subsequently reduces fat percentage. Working on anaerobic conditioning (our classes) have the highest effect on your metabolism vs any other mode of conditioning. Sprinting and agility work requires more muscle mass to produce high forces quickly which means less likely of catabolism (muscle wastage) and a better environment for anabolism (muscle growth).

This means that every single thing we are targeting increases the body’s capacity to lose fat. The leaner we are, the better performance is, so it is in our best interest to get each and every client leaner in order to increase on these other performance characteristics. With a few exceptions (like heavy weight lifters and hammer throwers) you don’t see many fat athletes, and if you do I bet you they aren’t finishing first.

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