Tuesday, November 09, 2010

More on my training regimen

Last time, I outlined the different workouts that are part of the Madcow program I've been on.  I'll talk a bit more about the setup, as well as the progression.  There are a number of set/rep schemes you can use for lifting, depending on your goals (or the goals of the program).  This program, for the most part, has you ramping up to a single set at the heaviest weight.  This is best for maximal strength, but not as good for bulk and endurance.  One of the changes I'm making for myself attempts to address this a  little bit, but first, I want to give the standard setup and progression.

To repeat from the previous post, there are 3 core lifts per day, the rest being assistance, or supplementary, work.  I'm going to start off talking about the core lifts.  The core lifts are the same on days A and C (Monday and Friday, if your schedule is Monday/Wednesday/Friday). 

Let's start with day A.  That scheme is simplest for the core exercises, simply 5 sets, and each set is 5 reps.  You calculate the weight starting from the heaviest set (let's say it's 100 pounds).  Each set leading up to the heaviest set should be about 12.5% lighter.  In other words, if the 5th set is 100, set 4 would be 87.5, set 3 would be 75, set 2 would be 62.5, and set 1 would be 50.  This does not have to be precise, but the ramp should be pretty close to linear.  The smaller the gaps, the more volume you'll do in terms of total pounds moved, but you run a higher risk of stalling.  Usually, you're not going to be able to lift 87.5 pounds or some weird number, so I just round it.  Some people drop to the next even 5 pound increment (assuming they have 2.5 pound plates).  Some people will actually microload, which as the name implies, means figuring out a way to get a very small increment of weight on the bar.  This is ideal.  It's also a pain, especially in a commercial gym, so I don't bother.

That's it for day A.  On day C (Friday for me), the first 4 sets are the same as day A, for each core exercise.  [I made a mistake on this last post, I said you only did 3 sets of 5, but you do 4 sets of 5.]  If you were successful on day A for the 5th set, then on day C, you increase the weight by 2.5% for the 5th set.  But, you only do 3 reps to compensate for that. To finish off each core exercise on day C, you actually do a 6th set for 8 reps, using the same weight you used for set 3.

If you successfully complete the heaviest set of 3 on day C, then the next time you lift (day A scheme), you bump up the weight for the 5th set.  It's interesting to note that you should always be able to lift 102.5% of a 5-rep weight for only 3 reps.  That is, if you can lift 200 pounds for 5 reps, it's theoretically easier to lift 205 pounds for 3 reps.  That does seem to be true in my experience, but it did surprise me.

So, that's how you move up the weights on day A and day C.  Day B (Wednesday) stands by itself.  First, for squats, the idea is that it's really a recovery day; you are not trying to push it.  So, your first 3 sets are the same as the first 3 sets on day A.  Essentially a couple pretty light warmups, then a little heavier warmup.  Then you do a 4th set with the same weight as the 3rd set.  You don't push yourself with squats at all on day B.

For the other two, if you complete all reps, you bump the weight by 2.5%.  And that takes care of the core lifts.  There's no real guidance given for the assistance lifts, other than they shouldn't get in the way.  The point of this program is to get your squat, bench, row, and deadlift increased.  The assistance stuff should assist in that, but it's not a big deal to the program if they don't increase.

I still haven't gotten around to the changes that I've made to the program for me, but this post is already tl;dr.

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