Bringing Back Common Sense on Training Frequency

Look at any of the well established lifting schemes and you will notice a common factor. Most train only three days a week. Doggcrapp training (dc training), 5×5, Wendler’s 5/3/1, Westside Barbell, German Volume Training generally all train three days a week. Even my own program I created for myself, Trinity Method, is built on three days a week.  Certainly there are other training styles but I am thinking of the well known and established methods of working out that really I do believe have stood the test of time for effectiveness. Heck, even that football coach from high school who pulled his coaching shorts up WAYYYYY to high would have you lift Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Remember?

Doggcrapp Training uses its base template in 2 sessions plugged into three days.
Session A: chest, shoulders, triceps, back width, back thickness Session B: biceps, forearms, calves, hamstrings, quads
Monday A
Tuesday off
Wednesday B
Thursday off
Friday A
Saturday off
Sunday off
Monday B
Tuesday off
Wednesday A
Thursday off
Friday B
Saturday off
Sunday off

So during this time you are working each session for 3 times in the 2 week span. Eventually
Doggcrapp trainees will have to take some time off. Why? Even though the training days are limited they are training to failure every session. The goal is always to increase the weight or the reps. Your body can only take so much with intensity levels before you start to over-train.

The micro-trauma caused by training leads to an inflammatory response. If the body is not allowed adequate recovery time between workouts, chronic inflammation results, and cytokines involved in inflammation start to act on the CNS causing the various symptoms associated with over-training. These cytokines can also affect the hypothalamus, causing increased cortisol levels. So training programs must be intense enough to improve fitness and skill, yet provide enough rest to ensure adequate recovery.

Wendler’s 5/3/1 scheme is 4 sessions plugged into 3 training days. It is a % based scheme that does not generally warrant training to failure. Wendler suggests that you underestimate your loading percentages by subtracting 10% from your 1RM when calculating weights. He also suggests that on the last set you can do an “all out rep max” lifting that weight as many times as possible. The goal is to get at least the specified number of reps with that weight and anything beyond that can be considered the dividends that your efforts have payed out. Only attempt extra reps on the final heavy set.

One mesocycle lasts 16 workouts, or a little over 5 weeks.
Each mesocycle has 4 microcycles or “waves”.
Wave 1. Warmup, 75%x5, 80%x5, 85%x5
Wave 2. Warmup, 80%x3, 85%x3, 90%x3
Wave 3. Warmup, 75%x5, 85%x3, 95%x1
Wave 4. (deload) – 60%x5, 65%x5, 70%x5

Each wave has 4 workouts: A. Squat + assistance B. Bench press + assistance C. Deadlift + assistance D. Military press + assistance Wendler recommends 3 workouts per week.
Week 1: A1, B1, C1
Week 2: D1, A2, B2
Week 3: C2, D2, A3
Week 4: B3, C3, D3
Week 5: A4, B4, C4
Week 6: D4, etc. …

Optionally there is a second, less intensive, loading parameter:
Wave 1. Warmup, 65%x5, 75%x5, 85%x5
Wave 2. Warmup, 70%x3, 80%x3, 90%x3
Wave 3. Warmup, 75%x5, 85%x3, 95%x1
Wave 4 (Deload) – 60%x5, 65%x5, 70%x5

The main lifts can be substituted with variations (typically in subsequent mesocycles): Squat – box squat, squat with bands, front squat, etc. Bench press – board press, floor press, incline, etc. Deadlift – rack pulls, deficit DL, etc. Military press – push press, incline press, etc.

Westside Barbell is a scheme that can easily over-train someone because it happens very subtly. The idea is to make the lifter ready for a meet at all times using maximum effort training days along with practicing in lifting gear although not essential for being successful.

As you might guess, Westside Barbell uses 4 sessions but for many in 4 training days. I recommend using the idea like Wendler’s 5/3/1 where you use 4 sessions in 3 training days. This will help the joints in particular which can get very inflamed and sore while limiting over-training.

A. Max Effort Squat + assistance
B. Max Bench press + assistance
C. Speed Day Squat + assistance
D. Speed Day Bench Press + assistance

Week 1: A1, B1, C1
Week 2: D1, A2, B2
Week 3: C2, D2, A3
Week 4: B3, C3, D3
Week 5: A4, B4, C4
Week 6: D4, etc. …

Max effort bench press includes a variety of exercises, but the most are the floor press, 2 board press, 3 board press, incline press and close grip bench press. On max effort bench press day, you pick one of these exercises and work to a 1RM. Most will switch to a different exercise every 1-2 weeks and simply try to break their record. On this day, based on your 1RM for THAT day, you will try to do 3 lifts at or above 90%. You can take as much rest as you want, but I would probably say around 3-5 minutes between your heaviest sets.

Max Effort Squat and Deadlift is similar to the max effort bench press, one exercise is used per week and worked up to a 1RM.

Dynamic bench press is performed in 8 sets of 3 repetitions; all sets done are done with 55% of raw 1RM. Rest periods are approximately 60 seconds, but have never really seen the purpose of this, personally. The whole goal of speed day is to move the bar quickly on the concentric. If you need to take an extra minute to accomplish the goal of the day, then by all means, do so. Also, don’t get too hung up on changing your grips. The only reason why I changed my grip on this day was to keep track of the number of sets I was doing. Again, remember why you are doing what you are doing.
Dynamic Squat are all sets done on a parallel box. A three week wave is used using the following sets and reps. Once the 3 weeks cycle is finished, start over.

Week 1 – 10×2 @ 50% Week 2 – 10×2 @ 55% Week 3 – 10×2 @ 60%

5×5 training has become very popular over the past few years. Weight training is a quirky thing as many of the popular methods have actually been around for a long time. Originally developed by Reg Park, the 5×5 method involves doing 5 sets of 5 reps, using the same resistance. That’s the goal. However, if you’ve chosen the proper weight, you won’t be able to do 5 sets of 5, at least not right away. Now the problem though is you will over-train very quickly like this if you are doing too many sets of assistance exercises.

Your training sessions again can be a Monday, Wednesday, Friday or Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday.
Session 1: Squat Session 2: Bench Press Session 3: Deadlift
Note: You may use other exercises for similar movements. Instead of squats, front squats could be substituted.

Typically, if you’ve chosen the correct weight, the workout might look like this:
Set 1: 5×100
Set 2: 4×100
Set 3: 3×100
Set 4: 3×100
Set 5: 2×100

Remember, the goal of doing 5 sets of 5 reps is a hypothetical goal. If you can do 5 sets of 5 right off the bat, the weight you’ve chosen is too light. The important thing is to be focusing on progression while using 5×5 training. Most likely you can hit the first and possible second set for 5 reps. Also feel free to rest 3 minutes between sets.

This 5 x 5 variation is built for lifters that have good, or above average recovery and can be disciplined with their weight progression and know how to pick weights without going too high and inadvertently training to failure. They also need to be precise when calculating their weight increases that are based off percentages. This 5 x 5 succeeds where other fail.

Note, all these routines are written as “non failure routines” in other words none of the sets are to be taken to positive failure. For the repetition accessory work here is how performance is to be done. I will use an example of triceps push downs for 3 x 10.

After your warm-ups you’re going to pick a weight, and use that same way for all three sets. If it is done perfect here is how it will occur. It would do a set of 10 repetitions. Then rest. Rest periods between sets can be 90 seconds, 2, 3 or 4 minutes. For strength based routines use at least 2 minutes rest on smaller lifts and 3-4 on the big lifts.

You MUST use a stop watch and be consistent with your rest periods. After your rest, using the same weight, you will do another set, this set will be harder then the first but NOT to failure, if you can do more than 10 reps with it DO NOT, we are looking to do the first two sets to add volume, the last set is the only one that will be taken close to failure. Let’s say that on the last set, you get to exactly rep 10 and you know that if you tried another rep you would fail or your form would break down to get the rep, if that is the case it was done perfectly.

Let’s look at what happens if the weight is too heavy. Let’s say you get 10 reps for the first set, 10 for the second. And only 8 for the third. That means the weight was a bit too heavy, no problem you will have still stimulated growth. Do not make your form breakdown or get a spot from your buddy, To make the 10 reps, we are looking to take the last set to one rep short of failure. You should never miss a rep. Now let’s look at what happens if the wait was too light. Let’s say you got 1 x 10, 1 x 10, and then on the last set you get to rep 10 and it is obvious you can do more reps, go ahead and get the additional reps. But once again take the last repetition only to the point where you get all the reps in good form. DO NOT ATTEMPT A REP THAT YOU WILL NOT GET BY EITHER FAILING ON THE REP, OR HAVING FORM BREAK DOWN TO GET IT.

Again, on these routines you will fail if you take all your work sets to failure. On multiple set lifts you should use the same weight for all sets. As an example if you are doing rows for three sets of eight, the first should be relatively easy, the second should be a pretty hard set and a third should be almost a failure but not quite. When you know you going to fail on the last rap don’t attempt it.

Day 1: Chin-Ups – 10 x 3 Incline Dumbbell Curl – 3 x 8 Deadlift – 5 x 5 (After warmups start at 75,80,85,95,100%) Lat-Pulley Ab Crunch – 3 x 10 Leg Press Calf Raise – 3 x 20
Day 2: Rest Day
Day 3: Bench Press – 5 x 5 (After warmups start at 75,80,85,95,100%) Board Bench Press – 2 x 3 Dumbbell Skull Crushers – 3 x 10 Lateral Raise – 5 x 10
Day 4: Rest Day
Day 5: Bent Row – 5 x 5 (using a static weight, Use 85% of a weight you could get ALL 5 sets of 5 with, and add 5% a week until you are going all out) Squat – 5 x 5 (using a static weight, Use 85% of a weight you could get ALL 5 sets of 5 with, and add 5% a week until you are going all out) Weighted Abs – 3 x 10 Standing Calf Raise – 4 x 15
Day 6: Rest Day
Day 7: Bench Press – 5 x 5 (using a static weight, Use 85% of a weight you could get ALL 5 sets of 5 with, and add 5% a week until you are going all out) Dips – 4 x 5 Military Press – 5 x 10 Lateral Raise – 2 x 10
Day 8: Rest Day
Day 9: Rest Day

Finally we German Volume Training or the infamous 10×10 training. If ALL you want is 10 lbs of muscle this routine will work, but the size will be transient and likely lost when you discontinue the training. Also indicated for advanced and intermediates. This is a classic routine that was used by weightlifters to bring their body weight up to the next class during the off-season. Charles Poliquin brought it to the bodybuilding world where it has been an unqualified success. This routine is done picking a weight that you can do 20 reps with for 10 reps, using 60-90 second rest periods between
antagonistic body parts. Again, this routine is performed 3 days a week.

Day 1: Hammer Strength Bench Press -10 x 10 Assisted Pull-Up machine – 10 x 10 Incline Dumbbell Fly – 3 x 10 Hammer ISO Row – 3 x 8
Day 2: Rest Day
Day 3: Squat – 10 x 10 Glute/Ham Raise – 3 x 10 Standing Calf Raise – 3 x 15
Day 4: Rest Day
Day 5: Dips – 10 x 10 Hammer Curls – 10 x 10 Upright Row – 10 x 10 Hanging Leg Raises – 3 x 10
Day 6: Rest Day
Day 7: Rest Day

Doggcrapp training (dc training), 5×5, Wendler’s 5/3/1, Westside Barbell, German Volume Training generally all train three days a week. Hopefully, you can accept that more is not always better. You really don’t have to live in the gym. Many of the creators also encourage taking time off as needed as well. Clearly even 3 days a week over time can be too much. Finally, remember these models are templates so make the principles work for your goals, strengths and weaknesses.

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