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Dave’s Gym Method. 4 week conditioning phase. Week 1. Day 1.

 That’s not an empty bar I’m struggling with – it has a chained rhino attached to it. Honest.

Q: What’s the difference between a professional athlete in almost any sport and your average gym rat? Don’t worry, this is not a trick question or the start of a bad joke, but a genuine enquiry.

A: The main difference is that athletes train to perform and not to merely look good.

The thing is that by training for performance they all end up in fantastic shape.

Do you think that anyone of these 2012 Olympic athletes gave a single solitary fuck about the size of their arms/arse/shoulders or do you think that they were more preoccupied in trying to jump higher, run faster, lift heavier or whatever?

My guess would be the latter.

So will jacking in your gym membership (please don’t) and taking up volleyball  get you in the best shape of your life?

No.

Although doing whatever sport they do contributes to an athlete’s shape, where those bodies are forged, molded and constructed is in the training for their sport. And that, my little blogranauts, means the gym.

Make no mistake, every professional sportsperson trains in the gym and lifts weights. Every. Single. One.

Some like marathon runners will probably only do 1 or 2 gym sessions and the focus on those sessions will be strength and injury prevention. Others like shot-putters will spend 80% of their training time in the gym and only 20% actually chucking cannonballs down a field.

So if doing volleyball alone won’t get you in to sick shape will doing volleyball and your regular gym sessions transform you into an Olympic God?

No.

The secret (not a very secret secret) of an athletes consistent progression is twofold.

  1. They have a coach, and they listen to what the coach is telling them, and then they follow the advice of the coach as if their professional career depends on it. Which of course it does. Your average gym goer hardly ever gets a proper program from a trainer and if they do it’s treated  more like a series vague suggestions. One of the problems is the Internet and the ease of which you can get buried under vast amounts of contradicting views and opinions. There is good stuff out there but it’s like looking for nuggets of gold in a mountain of shit.
  2. They all follow, almost without exception, periodised programs and don’t endlessly slog away at the same, boring gym routine. As the mighty Dan John says “Everything works . . . for 4-6 weeks.” 

What is a periodised program?

Well, here’s the Wikipedia explanation –
Periodization is the systematic planning of athletic or physical training.[1] It involves progressive cycling of various aspects of a training program during a specific period. It is a way of alternating training to its peak during season. The aim of periodization is to introduce new movements as one progresses through the macrocycle to specify one’s training right up until the start of the season

But put in simple terms – Change the focus of your training from time to time.

Let’s say you want to be stronger. One of the best way to train for strength (I’m going to be very, very general about this.) is to establish your 1 rep max on the big four lifts (Bench, Squat, Deadlift, Press) and do 5 sets of 3-5 reps with 85%, or more, of your 1RM. Try to add some weight to the bar over the course of the next 6 weeks or so and then re-test your 1RM. Providing you’ve trained hard, eaten well and had lots of rest you should be stronger.

Simple.

Except it’s not quite that easy. This might work reasonably well for a beginner or for a more seasoned trainer that has not done specific strength training for a looooong time. The problem is that strength is not linear and is, sadly, finite. So you can’t keep adding a bit more weight to the bar, ad infinitum, and hope that your body will continue to adapt.

The smart trainer would keep the strength training going for  6-12 weeks and then change to a different tack. For example hypertrophy for 4-8 weeks, which is all about making your muscles bigger. If your muscles are bigger, then you’ll be heavier and if you’re heavier then that will help your ability to apply more force to a static object. Which, with a good strength training program, will make you stronger.

Simply alternating between 6-12 weeks of strength training and 4-8 weeks of hypertrophy will give you infinitely better results then you could possibly get with just regular gym plodding.

And that, in a nut-shell, is periodisation.

It can be simple:

Or complex:

For the past 6 weeks Rhod and I have been doing a hypertrophy program, which has gone well. Rhod has got himself up to his all time heaviest at a massive 82.5kg of throbbing muscle and I’m an ungainly, wobbling 115kg.

If we continued thrashing away at the ol’ hypertrophy then it would stop working so it’s time for a change.

Rhod has got a football tournament coming up in a month which gives us the perfect reason to head straight into 4 weeks of conditioning.

Here is the workout:

Thanks for reading,
Dave Carter,
Dave’s Gym,
Cardiff.

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