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Programming Improv Block Training Thread

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
I was having conversations about this with @Pete L, and @LoneRider and @fabskl have asked me about it, so I thought I might as well start a general thread on it and open the conversation.

I have been fascinated by the idea of block training for a long time.

In ROTK and Easy Strength there are recommendations for two week blocks, based on research from Issurin & Lustig on Residual Training Effects.

In recent years Pavel has mostly pushed 6-12 week blocks (as in Q&D), stating that this would stabilize adaptations. And in the FAQ of ETK he mentions that this might be easier for inexperienced trainees.

However, I like the idea of pure two week blocks without maintenance volume.

I have asked Fabio Zonin about it, because he praised the benefits of block training on this podcast episode (and during Programming Improv). He was kind enough to answer:
Fabio Zonin said:
Yes, generally a training plan induces adaptations for the first two weeks, and the following 2-4 stabilize the latter.
This means that if you carry on a plan for, let's say, 6 weeks, the adaptations will last longer than if you carry it on for 2 weeks only.

That said, block training usually works very well alternating blocks of 2-4 weeks.
With 2 weeks, as it is on ROTK, it is true that you don't have extra weeks for stabilization, but it's also true that after 2 weeks you are back to the plan.
With 4 weeks, you have 2 weeks for stabilization, but you will come back to the plan later.
I will share some more details later, but for today, suffice it to say that I am alternating ROP and KBSF Plan A/B in two week blocks. Seems like an A+A single bell version of ROTK to me.

First two months are in the books and I like it.
 

LoneRider

Level 6 Valued Member
Relooking my KBSF and RoP plan I’m thinking of doing it in 4 week blocks when I finish some Army Reserve stuff where I have a lot of barbell access. A planned year to come would be 40 weeks of KBSF/RoP then 12 weeks of quick and the dead to end said year.
 

Sam Goldner

Level 5 Valued Member
Taking a break from overhead pressing so my plan for block periodization is alternating King-Sized Killer (snatch) with a doubles version of Long Cycle of Death; the two programs are exactly the same just DLCCJ instead of snatching. Should come out to 3-4 week blocks of each.

I was considering various options for the LCCJ portion, including KBSF, but the simplicity of keeping the blocks mirroring each other regarding template appealed to me. I’ll let the variety in stimulus come from the different movements, speeds, and loading.

I just finished an introductory block of really light snatching to get my technique dialed in, and performed one session of KSK at what will be my current working weight to make sure it feels good. I should be starting Double LCOD next week for three weeks.

Thanks,
Sam Goldner, DPT
 
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Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
my plan for block periodization is alternating King-Sized Killer (snatch) with a doubles version of Long Cycle of Death; the two programs are exactly the same just DLCCJ instead of snatching. Should come out to 3-4 week blocks of each.
@JamesPTA has been alternating phases of KSK (with some Bent Presses on the side) and The Giant and it seems to work fine. He followed an idea from Geoff Neupert (alternating phases/cycles in 3-4 week blocks).
I started alternating 14 day Blocks of Pttp/Bent&Sinister.
Sounds great! @piratebum was happy with alteranting PTTP/S&S - so that should work well.
Relooking my KBSF and RoP plan I’m thinking of doing it in 4 week blocks when I finish some Army Reserve stuff where I have a lot of barbell access. A planned year to come would be 40 weeks of KBSF/RoP then 12 weeks of quick and the dead to end said year.
I would be happy to hear about experiences with 4-week blocks with and without maintenance volume.
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
As promised, here is my current setup, inspired by ROTK:

Basic idea: Alternating Clean & Press with Clean & Jerk, both single bell, every two weeks. First week of both a bit easier, second week finishing "heavy", as per ROTK. Ideally, both lifts support each other, focusing on different qualities of overhead work.

STRENGTH BLOCK
  • 3 sessions per week
  • ROP 2.0 (experimental plan), C&P with a 20 kg bell (4-5RM)
  • About 10 minutes of low volume A+A work with Swings or Snatches before C&P (30-60 reps, medium to heavy bells)
  • Some high tension presses and overloads sprinkled in during lower rungs
  • Some easy to medium squats during the warmup (Split Squats)
  • 1-3x easy aerobic training per week on off-days (running or cycling + additional cycling during daily commutes etc.)
POWER BLOCK
  • 3 sessions per week
  • KBSF Plan A and Plan B, single bell LCCJ (or seperate Cleans + Jerks) with a 20 kg bell (10RM)
  • MHM-HMH structure. Heavy days are "to stop signs". Medium days are 60-80% of max. duration OR deload days (-4 to -8 kg)
  • 3x3-5 Goblet Squats and 1-3 TGUs during the warmup (both with medium weights)
  • 1-3x easy aerobic training per week on off-days (running or cycling + additional cycling during daily commutes etc.)
So far I feel that my body adapts more strongly to each block, as promised. The first one or two sessions of each block feel a bit heavyish and rusty, but I hope to get used to switching exercises over time. And so far, it helps to get my priotities straight and focus on the C&P during my strength block, as I get plenty of power and conditioning work during power blocks.

Next week I will start my third C&P block and am curious if I will continue to progress faster than usual. I guess I am progressing a bit more slowly with the LCCJ as my clean tetchnique needs some cleaning up.
 

LoneRider

Level 6 Valued Member
@JamesPTA has been alternating phases of KSK (with some Bent Presses on the side) and The Giant and it seems to work fine. He followed an idea from Geoff Neupert (alternating phases/cycles in 3-4 week blocks).

Sounds great! @piratebum was happy with alteranting PTTP/S&S - so that should work well.

I would be happy to hear about experiences with 4-week blocks with and without maintenance volume.
Might be a bit of a wait since my current cycle is barbells for the vast majority of next year, then finish with a Quick and the Dead cycle but I'll be happy to oblige.
 

Mark Limbaga

Level 8 Valued Member
Elite Certified Instructor
Excellent insights gentlemen...

Would be interesting to see which would be better for maintaining and making progress..

Using alternating 2 or 4 week blocks since the objective of the 2 week ROTK style block is to let the reminisce effect help keep progress of each block and letting it accumulate.. also another reason in my guess as to why ROTK is ideally done for 12-24 weeks
 

Xcal

Level 5 Valued Member
nice thread! I am also exploring 2or3 week blocks at the moment. I'm wrapping up the Block A this weekend and starting Block B on Monday. I may end up rotating 2 weeks of Block A and 1 week of Block B, let's see how it goes.

My plan:
Block A - Kettlebells:
- Swings, snatches, clean and press, TGU, +other tricks = 3x week, double KB's where possible (16+12kg unbalanced loads)
- easy jog, fast walk 1/week
- 1 long easy jog/walk (+2hour on sundays)

Block B- running
- intervals x 1/week (short intervals with sufficient recovery between reps)
- long easy jog (90min) x1
- 5km "sprint" x1 ("sprint", lol. I don't sprint!!!!)
- easy KB tricks x1
- long easy jog/walk (+2hour on sundays)
 

LoneRider

Level 6 Valued Member
nice thread! I am also exploring 2or3 week blocks at the moment. I'm wrapping up the Block A this weekend and starting Block B on Monday. I may end up rotating 2 weeks of Block A and 1 week of Block B, let's see how it goes.

My plan:
Block A - Kettlebells:
- Swings, snatches, clean and press, TGU, +other tricks = 3x week, double KB's where possible (16+12kg unbalanced loads)
- easy jog, fast walk 1/week
- 1 long easy jog/walk (+2hour on sundays)

Block B- running
- intervals x 1/week (short intervals with sufficient recovery between reps)
- long easy jog (90min) x1
- 5km "sprint" x1 ("sprint", lol. I don't sprint!!!!)
- easy KB tricks x1
- long easy jog/walk (+2hour on sundays)
That also looks interesting. Two weeks of roadwork and two works of kettlebell work a la Simple and Sinister or KBSF (GPP vs SPP1 type) and using progressive calisthenics for easy volume between both.
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
What are advantages and disadvantages of Block training ?
Pavel discusses this in ROTK.

Here is a snippet:
First, you cannot get good at many things at once. Your body and mind have limited adaptation resources at any one time. You may spread them thin over many goals or focus on one or two. Second, you make the greatest gains when you start something new, or at least something you have not done for a while. Then your rate of improvement quickly drops off. Third, once you stop training, you will get out of shape. Use it, or lose it.
And personally, it allows me to practice a different lift and try some different programming.
 

LarryB

Level 6 Valued Member
As promised, here is my current setup, inspired by ROTK:

Basic idea: Alternating Clean & Press with Clean & Jerk, both single bell, every two weeks. First week of both a bit easier, second week finishing "heavy", as per ROTK. Ideally, both lifts support each other, focusing on different qualities of overhead work.

STRENGTH BLOCK
  • 3 sessions per week
  • ROP 2.0 (experimental plan), C&P with a 20 kg bell (4-5RM)
  • About 10 minutes of low volume A+A work with Swings or Snatches before C&P (30-60 reps, medium to heavy bells)
  • Some high tension presses and overloads sprinkled in during lower rungs
  • Some easy to medium squats during the warmup (Split Squats)
  • 1-3x easy aerobic training per week on off-days (running or cycling + additional cycling during daily commutes etc.)
POWER BLOCK
  • 3 sessions per week
  • KBSF Plan A and Plan B, single bell LCCJ (or seperate Cleans + Jerks) with a 20 kg bell (10RM)
  • MHM-HMH structure. Heavy days are "to stop signs". Medium days are 60-80% of max. duration OR deload days (-4 to -8 kg)
  • 3x3-5 Goblet Squats and 1-3 TGUs during the warmup (both with medium weights)
  • 1-3x easy aerobic training per week on off-days (running or cycling + additional cycling during daily commutes etc.)
So far I feel that my body adapts more strongly to each block, as promised. The first one or two sessions of each block feel a bit heavyish and rusty, but I hope to get used to switching exercises over time. And so far, it helps to get my priotities straight and focus on the C&P during my strength block, as I get plenty of power and conditioning work during power blocks.

Next week I will start my third C&P block and am curious if I will continue to progress faster than usual. I guess I am progressing a bit more slowly with the LCCJ as my clean tetchnique needs some cleaning up.
Love this idea and may follow it myself. How do you progress in the ladders, do you pick right back up where you left off?
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
Love this idea and may follow it myself. How do you progress in the ladders, do you pick right back up where you left off?
Yes, the general idea is to continue the cycle. In ROTK you will stay at 5x3, 5x4 and 5x5 for a while, compressing rest periods, but that is more for hypertrophy reasons than block training reasons, I believe.

The version I am running is a bit different, starting heavier than classic ROP, with more heavy days and only progressing when you can add something "with confidence".

Anyway, you would start with a medium and light session based on your last heavy day, and that should already help you to gain momentum until you get to the first heavy day.
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
nice thread! I am also exploring 2or3 week blocks at the moment. I'm wrapping up the Block A this weekend and starting Block B on Monday. I may end up rotating 2 weeks of Block A and 1 week of Block B, let's see how it goes.

My plan:
Block A - Kettlebells:
- Swings, snatches, clean and press, TGU, +other tricks = 3x week, double KB's where possible (16+12kg unbalanced loads)
- easy jog, fast walk 1/week
- 1 long easy jog/walk (+2hour on sundays)

Block B- running
- intervals x 1/week (short intervals with sufficient recovery between reps)
- long easy jog (90min) x1
- 5km "sprint" x1 ("sprint", lol. I don't sprint!!!!)
- easy KB tricks x1
- long easy jog/walk (+2hour on sundays)
Looks a bit like a short block training version of Tactical Barbell Conditioning - taking dedicated time for more intense running.
 

rwleonard

Level 7 Valued Member
I am considering blocks of:
A+A (Snatches or LCC&J)
alternated with...
TGU Left, TGU Right, TDLx2 in a slow (OT2M) Circuit
 

guardian7

Level 7 Valued Member
I was just thinking about this today. Whenever I concentrate on one or two lifts (PTTP, Giant, S&S) I always get better results.

There are a few factors I wonder about.

A. How hard should the two week block be?

1. Pavel in the Joe Rogan interview mentioned this but if I remember he said two weeks of HARD training, not training in general. I wonder what the criteria are for two weeks.
2. One factor would be recovery time. For example, many people including myself can get results with deadlift only once a week, but if you are training core, forearms, calves etc. or doing bodyweight exercises then the two week guideline may be less relevant. The key questions here would be to what extent can the body recover and adapt.
3. It would seem that the focus should be on strength. This is StrongFirst, but I would think that at least a few times a year all attributes should get focus. Strength, power, hypertrophy, conditioning (including high volume ballistics KB). We can see with Strong Endurance and Build Strong, SF moving in this direction already. Geoff Neupert stresses focusing on high twitch fibres.

B. Should we block modalities as well optimally? And are there certain sequences that are optimal, for example strength before power; power before conditioning.

Only barbell work might break one down longterm, but including barbell, KB, and bodyweight (compatible favored by Aleks Salkin). This is what I am getting back to now based on the TSC, which represents overall strength of different types, which should be the GPP ideal.

Of course, these overlap, but I am just thinking of the main focus. One might eat more for a hypertrophy focus or reduce calories for a weightloss but keep a similar program as Geoff Neupert has explained. Rep ranges and weight and rest periods for ballistics would vary for goal. Viking conditioning vs A+A heavier lower rep sets with longer rest periods for example.

Example sequence: KB Strong, Giant, Build Strong-hypertrophy and assistance focus, A+A snatches. Rinse and repeat but repeat the strength and power blocks more often depending on goals.

C. Are there seasonal or practical factors that should determine blocks (weather, high stress periods at work etc.)

Many already do this. I have a low stress early winter so this is deadlift focus and a good time to eat. I want to get outside in the summer but it is too humid for KB ballistics, so bodyweight, walking, summer activities, training flexible etc. Hypertrophy around thanksgiving! (Aleks Salkin wrote a program for this :)

D. Are there ideal block pairings? Geoff Neupert's programs usually have blocks, which he calls phases meaning one block prepares for the next one and they may have a strength or power or conditioning focus. Blocks focusing on mobility and motor control such as One leg deadlift, Cossack, reverse lunge could be paired with the main blocks. Alek Salkin releases programs based on a particular one month challenge that can be run alongside a main program (core, grip, calves etc.), which has been effective for me.

E. What about maintenance blocks as a secondary paired block?

F. Based on this science, is it really optimal to do a program like S&S all year or would it be better to do it say every second block for example?

G. Movement patterns. Since there are many movement patterns and planes and ways of categorizing them, we should evaluate our program blocks over the course of a year to see if we are neglecting rows or diagonal or side to side movement for example as Dan John suggests.

H. Block length. Certain blocks such as powerlifting blocks might benefit from longer blocks while during that block other assistive blocks could be rotated in. Assistance work like calve or grip training might cycle better in 3-4 week blocks.

I. Transition blocks. Short blocks to regain form or prepare for hard blocks. For example, to practice snatch technique at a lower volume with some conditioning before a snatch program or do a couple weeks of swings before starting a deadlift cycle.

Interesting thread idea. I look forward to the replies.
 
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guardian7

Level 7 Valued Member
It may also be better to define workouts instead of weeks. I remember reading in Deadlift Dynamite and PTTP that a minimum cycle was 8 weeks. Building in a bit of flexibility, this would make the case for three week blocks assuming three times a week or even a couple of months for once a week deadlifting, which is related to my point B. in the post above. This is minimum, so a more optimal cycle would be 10-12 weeks. Consolidation is a factor as @Mark Limbaga noted.
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
remember reading in Deadlift Dynamite and PTTP that a minimum cycle was 8 weeks.
Pretty sure, it is 8-16 sessions per cycle (however, in Deadlift Dynamite that would mean 8-16 weeks).

@guardian7 : Interesting thoughts.
First of all, I think most of your thoughts refer to something that I would call seasonal block training over the course of a year or so. In this case, I think Pavel favours 6-12 week blocks that don't need to be alternated, but could be. Examples would be
- Endurance base building as in Tactical Barbell Conditioning
- Strength training in off-season and pre-season for team sports
- A hypertrophy cycle after a powerlifting meet (as Kono did)
- The speed skating world record preparation by Nils van der Poel (base building with bike, anerobic capacity building on bike, peaking on ice, etc.)
- Two Q&D cycles of 6-12 weeks per year, while focusing on A+A the rest of the year (focusing on different mitochondrial adaptations of power training)

All of those are based on the idea of having a specific focus, because training everything at once creates conflicting adaptation demands. "Mixed training gets mixed results" is the somewhat oversimplified idea.
They all work in the way that there is a residual training effect and that maintenance needs much less volume than building a quality.

And then there is the conjugate method, where you train your favoured qualities within the same week. In the Westside Barbell versions of it, the qualities are still seperated, but by sessions and not by cycles. Each session is then designed to create a strong adaptation response. However, to make it work, they recommend to change exercise variations (at least for the max effort day) very quickly, like every 1-3 weeks, to avoid plateaus and to make use of the novelty effect. (Btw, Pavel also recommends to change DL styles every cycle in PTTP).

The alternating blocks idea is then something distinct that sort of combines ideas from both approaches: Strong focus on one lift or at a time, making use of the residual training effect, and making use of the novelty effect (using contrast for stronger reactions). To make it work, you need to keep alternating for at least six months or so. Otherwise, you abandon your adaptations too quickly to solidify them. The continuity of the training process needs to be assured.

PS: In the first approach athletes usually come back to their first block, too, like in the next off-season. Probably weaker than during the last cycle , but stronger than before the last off-season, if that makes sense.
 
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Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
@guardian7
Recovery and intensity:
I believe the four week rhythm of 1-2 harder weeks and 1-2 easier weeks still applies. In my example, the first week of each two week block is supposed to be a bit easier.

Pairings:
I think that depends and the qualities you want or need to build - and that might have conflicting adaptation demands.
Some ideas for effective pairings:
  • Power and Strength - ROTK (LCCJ + Press) // S&S + PTTP // King Size Killer (Snatch) + the Giant (C&P)
  • Strength and hypertrophy
  • Different pressing grooves: 1A Pushup + C&P
  • Endurance + Strength/Power
When the qualities are similar enough, you might not need maintenance volume. Snatches and C&P might maintain each other for a while for some people.

However, in all other cases you might need some maintenance volume for blocks that are longer than 2 weeks. The side dish should have less volume and/or less intensity. Fabio Zonin discusses this in the podcast that I linked to above.
 
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