by: Kelly Baggett
1. The body does not know whether you're doing a higher-faster-sports, westside, HIT, swiss ball, kettlebell, or any other system. It only knows stimulation and recovery. Most training schemes do provide some stimulation and no routine is perfect.
1a. Exercises and routines are just "tools" to improve performance. No tool is more important then whether or not the tool gets the job done. If your car breaks down, it doesn't matter if you use a rock, a crescent wrench, bailing wire, or an entire set of snap on tools to fix it, the important thing is that it gets fixed. Raising performance is the same way.
1b. Most people probably tend to use too many "tools" per training session. Improvement in mobility means you move more freely and easily, improvement in speed work means you run faster in a straight line, improvement in agility means you get better at moving while changing direction, improvement in plyo work means you tend to get better at jumping, while improvement in strength means you get better at developinig tension typically demonstrated by an ability to lift heavier loads. It doesn't necessarily take a boatload of tools to improve those qualities. The ability for the human organism to adapt to stimulation existed prior to the invention of all the high-tech training tools we have today. Stimulation for caveman consisted of dealing with everyday life (chasing prey, running away from predators, lifting rocks to build a hut etc.) You could take a knowledgeable athlete today and put him on a deserted island, and, if he knew what he were doing and had enough food, he could stimulate performance improvements without a single tool modern day tool to work with.
1c. The ultimate goal should be to get your knowledge of "stimulation" and "recovery" down so well that you can program your body like a computer and know what happens in advance. (Example: Adjust this, adjust that, insert this, delete that, and here's what's gonna happen.)
1d. Most people do too much overanalyzing of various training minutia and not enough actual training. In in doubt, pick 3 or 4 things and get really good at them.
1e. If combining strength training, speed, agility, plyo, etc. into one workout, always do the faster stuff first. (ex. dynamic mobility followed by speed followed by plyo followed by weights)
1f. If workouts are separated into AM and PM sessions you have some leeway as to what you do first (strength and/or speed)
2. Volume of plyo, speed, and agility work should always be regulated based upon performance. As soon as performance or speed starts to decline on a main movement (assuming you're taking full rest intervals, which you should), stop the workout. (It's as simple as that).
2a. Unless you're a sprinter, you should rarely ever run distances greater than ~ 50+ yards for speed work.
2b. A set of plyo, speed, or agility work should rarely exceed 10 seconds in duration.
2c. The choice of drills chosen for plyo and agility work is not that important in the grand scheme of things. Plyo consists of unilateral and bilateral (1 and 2 leg) hops, jumps and bounds (they all do the same thing). Agility consists of moving forwards, sideways and backward and changing direction. A simple jump for height is one of the best plyo maneuvers there is. Basic change of direction drills will get the job done for agility. If you play any sort've sport as frequently as two times per week, chances are your needs for specific plyo and agility training are ZERO. Save the plyo and agility work for the offseason and preseason.
2d. With that being said, you know that speed work should consist of sprints for 0 to 50 yards, plyo work consists of hops, jumps, and bounds for less then 10 seconds, while agility work consists of moving forward, sideways, and backward with changes of direction for less then 10 seconds per set. You also know that a workout for any of those qualities should be terminated when performance declines due to fatigue. So how difficult is it really to design and implement a plyo, speed, and agility workout? Not very.
3. Monitoring volume strictly by "performance" on strength work is not such an issue, as muscle growth stimulation is often a goal and does require a certain level of fatigue, which means the load that you can lift at the end of a session may not be the same as the load you lift at the beginning of a strength session, (which is not true when targeting speed, agility and plyo improvements). Two to five sets per strength movement is the norm.
3a. An upper body strength workout would generally consist of some type of upper body push (bench press variation), some type of pull (row or pullup), along with perhaps some supplemental shoulder and "beach" (aka arm) work.
3b. A lower body strength workout would generally consist of some type of squat or deadlift (squat, deadlift, lunge, split squat), along with some type of assistance movement for the glutes and hams.
3c. For strength and power, sets of 3-5 reps are optimal. For hypertrophy, sets of 5-12 are typically optimal.
3d. For strength development heavy loads of 85%-100% for sets of 1-5 reps are optimal. For power development lighter loads of 10-60% are optimal.
3e. As a general recommendation, each strength training workout you do may consist of one core strength or power movement for sets of 1-5 reps along with 1 or 2 assistance movements for 5-12 reps, and maybe an ab movement for 2-4 sets of 10-20 reps.
3f. The need for upper body "power" work using loads of 10-60% is virtually nonexistent for any athletes other then powerlifters. With regards to upper body work, an athlete should be lifting heavy focusing on getting stronger and/or bigger.
3g. Until an athlete has a base of lower body strenght in place (1.5 to 2 x bw squat and deadlift), specific lighter lower body "power" work in the weight room using loads of 10-60% is also largely useless. These people should concentrate on core movements with progressively heavier bar weights with an emphasis on getting stronger and/or bigger.
3h. Most people will make excellent gains with two upper body workouts per week and either 1 or 2 lower body workouts per week. Beginners seem to progress fastest with 3 of each per week.
3i. Ab work might consist of weighted crunches, standing pulldown abs, kneeling pulldown abs, decline leg raises, hanging leg raises, cable wood chops, russian twists, dumbell and cable side bends, side bends lying sidways in back extension device.
4. Generally speaking, it's benefical for intermediate and advanced athletes to take a day of rest in between high intensive training elements. High intensive training elements include the aforementioned speed, plyo, agility, and strength work. For younger athletes (<16 years old), beginners (less then one year of training experience), and those who are just introducing the training of certain motor qualities into their routines (ex: a powerlifter introducing speed and agility work), high intensive elements can be done more often.
4a. With regard to strength work, it's usually beneficial to take an "unloading" week ever 3 to 6 weeks. There are many ways of implementing this. probably the simplest is to cut your volume in half and decrease the load keeping things very easy. I generally prescribe something like 3 sets of 3 reps at 80% for strength work during an unloading week.
4b. Providing you can benefit from specific "power" work, it can often be advantageous to alternate 2-4 weeks of heavy strength oriented training (heavy squats and deadlifts for 3-5 reps) with 2-4 weeks of explosive oriented training (speed box squats with 50-60%, jump squats etc.)
5. Skill work and conditioning can be done on alternate days.
6. It can often be advantageous to transition from a 4-8 week phase of higher volume and/or greater training frequency into a phase of lower/volume and/or frequency.
7. If you're training consistently yet not making consistent progress or you're regressing, chances are 10 to 1 you're doing too much. If in doubt reduce volume and simplify your programming.
Basic workout templates
Work towards basic strength goals such as: pullup, dip, 50 bodyweight squats, one perfect single leg squat, 25 full v-sits, 1 minute isometric front and side bridge hold
Training should consist of:
mobility, movement efficiency, and strength
For strength purposes 3 times per week get in the gym and focus on exercises such as:
bodyweight squats, lunge, single leg squats onto a box, stepups, supine row, partner assisted or gravitron pullups, partner assisted or gravitron dips, wall sits, plank, glute bridges, overhead broomstick squats etc.plus light form work on box squat and deadlift.
Just pick 4-8 bodyweight type movements for 2-4 sets each, use the bodyweight and go after it. It's difficult to overtrain when using bodyweight as resistance.
Hit mobility, speed, agility, etc. prior to lifting or on opposite days.
Mobility might consist of:
deep walking lunge, alternate pull heel to butt walk, leg swings front to back, leg swings side to side, deep sumo squats, cross under lunge, bird dog, arm circles
Plyo/Speed/Agility might consist of
Skips, karioka, lateral hops, agility: (ex: 5 yard backpedal into 5 yard lateral shuffle into 20 yard sprint), and sprints over distances from 10 to 100 yards.
Standard Beginner Template
This template will also work just fine for intermediate or advanced trainees. The format for mobility, speed, and plyo work would be the same as the raw beginner, but now core lifts make up the strength program on what might be a 2 to 3 times per week basis. A sample strength workout is as follows.
Clean or Snatch
*Alternate between session A & B.
Perform 2-5 sets of 2-5 reps, never to failure, using a step-type loading approach. Increase the weight for 3 consecutive workouts then decrease it for one and build back up.
session 1 100 x 2 x 3 (3 sets of 2 reps) session 2 105 x 2 x 3 session 3 110 x 2 x 2
session 1 105 x 2 x 3 session 2 110 x 2 x 3 session 3 115 x 2 x 2
session 1 110 x 2 x 3 session 2 115 x 2 x 3 session 3 120 x 2 x 2
Another option based on the same basic theme:
3 whole body workouts per week based on 5 sets of 5 reps:
mobility and movement work done prior to lifting.
Mon- Squat 5 x 5, Pullup 5 x 5, Bench 5 x 5, Glute Ham 4 x 6 (sets of 5 are done with a weight you could do 7-8 times)
Wed- Deadlift 5 x 3, Lunge 2 x 8, Row 3 x 6, DB Bench 3 x 5
Fri- Squat 5 x 5, Pullup 5 x 5, Bench 5 x 5, glute ham/leg curl 4 x 6 (sets of 5 done working up to max 5 reps)
After 4-6 weeks this phase would be alternated with phase E or F below.
Mon and Thurs- mobility, straight ahead speed, upper body strength
Tues and Fri or Tues and Sat- mobility, plyo, agility, lower body strength
Mon- mobility warmup, form running (high knees, skips, various quickfeet drills etc.), 10 yard sprints x 10, 20 yard sprints x 6-8,
Weights - heavy push (some type of bench) working upto 3rm, Heavy row or pullup same as bench, shoulder raise of some sort (front or side), beach work, crunching type ab movement (loaded swiss ball or kneeling crunch etc.)
Tues- mobility warmup, forward and lateral single leg on box jumps x 2 sets each leg lateral and forward, lateral barrier jump 4 sets x 8 reps, some type of agility drill requiring lateral movement for somewhere around 4-8 reps.
Lower body: Some type of squat or deadlift movement typcially alternate 2-4 weeks of a heavy compound movement like squats or deadlifts for 3-5 reps with 2-4 weeks of a lighter speed movement like speed box squats or jump squats for 4-6 sets of 3-8 reps. Follow that up with maybe some type of unilateral movement generally bulgarian split squats during a heavy phase and steups during a lighter phase along with some type of posterior chain assistance such as glute hams, reverse hypers, pull throughs or whatever for 3-4 sets of 6-10 reps, some type of ab movement.
thursday- Repeat the basic scheme from monday's workout but perhaps do 3-4 sets of 8-10 reps on the pressing and row.
Friday or Sat- Repeat the basic theme from Tuesday's workout, but drop the weights in the heavy compound movement or make a unilateral variation (lunge or split squat) the "core" movement. If in a power phase just repeat the entire workout.
Just do 2 full body workouts per week with speed/plyo on alternate days. Each workout attempt to drive the weights up.
Speed/Plyo (10's and 20's for 4-8 reps each)
Squat 3-5 x 5
Bench 3-5 x 5
Pullup 3-5 x 5
post. chain- 2-3 x 6-10
ab - pulldown abs- 2-3 x 15-20
Try to drive the weight up each workout.
Thurs: Speed/Plyo (20's and 40's for 4-6 reps each or stop at first sign of performance dropoff)
Repeat same basic weight training workout. As soon as you can no longer increase the weights take a week and just do 3 x 3 at 80% of your 3 rep max for each workout and come back the next week and hit it hard. An example of a more detailed lifting progression with this format can be found here
Mon- UB Pull and LB posterior chain (chinups, deadlifts)
Wed-UB- Bench, Row, Beach
Fri- UB/LB- overhead press, pullup, front squat
Basically a repeat of option A - keep the exercises the same but make the second workout 10-20% lighter
(this is one of my favorites to alternate with a higher frequency scheme)
Mon- mobility, speed, plyo, or agility and heavy upper body workout
Tues- Off (conditioning optional)
Wed- mobility, speed, plyo, or agility and heavy lower body workout
Thurs- off (skill and conditioning optional)
friday or sat - mobility, speed, plyo, or agility and hypertrophy oriented upper body workout (sets of 5-12)
mon- start over
This is another one of my favorites.
Alternating every other day setup
Mon- mobility/speed/UB (ex: warmup- 20 yard sprints (stop when time declines), Bench press variation 4 x 3, row variation 4 x 3, external rotation movement, optional beach work, ab movement)
Wed- mobility/plyo/agility LB (ex: warmup, depth jumps -(stop when height declines), shuttle drill 3-6 reps not all out, box squat - 4-6 x 3, glute ham - 4 x 5-8, Abs.)
Fri - mobility/speed/UB (ex: warmup, 40 yard sprints (stop when time declines), DB press varation - 3-4 x 8-12 reps, pullup or row variation, 3-4 x 8-12, ext. rotation movement 2 x 12-15, beach work, abs)
Sun- plyo/agility LB (ex: warmup - depth jumps 4 x 3, shuttle drill (stop when time declines), light box or jump squat - 4-6 x 3-5, glute ham, 4 x 5-8, abs)
Tues- Start over with Mon.
Another variant of option A above, but instead of doing movement work both on upper and lower body days, combine it all together and do it on lower body days, prior to your lower body lifting.
An example of how to use that schedule alternating strength and power work can be found here
Bulk up and get strong - This is for the intermediate to advanced level guy or gal who needs strength and size pronto. This template plus a no holds barred attitude at the dinner table and the mindset of doing whatever it takes to get that scale weight up will get the job done. Movement work is optional. The template is:
Mon: Lower body (quad dominant)
Tues: Upper Body (chest dominant)
Thurs: Lower body (hip and hamstring dominant)
Fri or Sat: Upper Body (shoulder dominant)
A precise example of this template can be found here: Designer Athletes