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Programming Improv Block Training Thread

guardian7

Level 7 Valued Member
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).

Is this specialized variety in SF terms? I suspect more of us should add some variety while keeping the focus on a specific goal or lift more often. Alternating the Giant and KB Strong programs for example.

With regard to alternating blocks, yes, I am thinking of general health and fitness goals rather than competitive performance where there would be time for multiple blocks a year and an inevitable decline in performance but a stronger base to build back on for the next block/cycle. I used to do this with deadlift which was my focus for two months a year.

I could see someone continuing a martial arts "block" while working on different qualities throughout the year in alternating blocks as another example.
 

Steve Freides

Staff
Elite Certified Instructor
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.

This idea is part of the key to PlanStrong - high variability means that you will have, to simply somewhat, 4 different levels of difficulty over 4 weeks, the idea being that two will be relatively easy and two will be relatively hard. PlanStrong mixes thing up further by making the 4 levels of volume and the 4 levels of intensity vary independently of each other, so you will have almost random pairing. Sometimes you'll have something approaching the more traditional increases in intensity paired with decreases in volume, but you'll also have every other possible combination, including some weeks of low volume paired with low intensity, and some weeks of high volume paired with high intensity.

Another example of this is the classic American "linear" cycle where you do 4 weeks of 8's, 4 weeks of 5's, and 4 weeks of triples or less, all the while increasing the weight every week. In this arrangement the first of the 4 weeks of 8's is relatively easy, the next more difficult, the next harder still, and the 4th the hardest, but week #5 sees the set length drop from 8's to 5's, making it easier even though the weight is a little heavier. It's a sneaky step cycle masquerading as a linear cycle. :)

The background, as I understand it, comes from the real world where going hard for more than 2 weeks simply didn't yield positive results over the long haul. "Hard" here is in the eye of the beholder, and applies to strength training.

-S-
 

Anders

Level 6 Valued Member
Immediately I was fascinated by the whole concept of block training and how I myself could implement it. Then I asked myself if there are good reasons to implement it.

I tried to read some articles and research on this concept. It seems to be a training method for elite athletes. This seems to also be implicit in Pavel´s book Return of the kettlebell, since this is an advance program for people who have reached half bodyweight press. His more entry-level books S&S and Enter the Kettlebell is not suggesting block training. The problem this method tries to solve is that for elite athletes in order to improve exercise or ability X, you have to train it so often that combining it with a lot of other exercises within in the same period is not sufficient. But is this a problem for most of us ?

Nevertheless. I was training the kettlebell front squat for a while some months ago and I was progressing steadily for some months, until I stopped progressing. Maybe here is a place where it would have been wise for me to start with block training in order to improve even further. For example mixing it with heavy 2h swings.

Anyway. It will be interesting to see your progressions and if you feel that the progression you had from this way of programming the exercises is superior to the results you have gotten from other programs.
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
@guardian7
I think conjugate examples within the SF world would be
Vodka & Pickles​
2+2 PTTP & S&S​
2+2 LCCJ & Iron Cardio​
Q&D & Minimalist Deadlifts​
S&S with timed Fridays (conjugate in terms of energy systems)​
And in a way, every time we add KB ballistics to a strength plan​
Specialized variety can be used as blocks or conjugate, I think. And Pavel often uses it as another variable for a same but different approach (2H and 1H Swings, for example).
 
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Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
It seems to be a training method for elite athletes. This seems to also be implicit in Pavel´s book Return of the kettlebell, since this is an advance program for people who have reached half bodyweight press. His more entry-level books S&S and Enter the Kettlebell is not suggesting block training. The problem this method tries to solve is that for elite athletes in order to improve exercise or ability X, you have to train it so often that combining it with a lot of other exercises within in the same period is not sufficient. But is this a problem for most of us ?
Probably not.

For me this is an experiment on improving my rate of progression, and following my curiosity. I tend to stick to plans for a very long time and have a hard time abandoning my favourite exercises :) With the two week blocks, I can have some variety and experiment with more exercises and programming approaches (KBSF LCCJ) without abandoning my current main goal (C&P). And I tend to progress rather slowly and am curious, if this approach might help with that.
 

Xene

Level 5 Valued Member
@guardian7
I think conjugate examples within the SF world would be
Vodka & Pickles​
2+2 PTTP & S&S​
2+2 LCCJ & Iron Cardio​
Q&D & Minimalist Deadlifts​
S&S with timed Fridays (conjugate in terms of energy systems)​
And in a way, every time we add KB ballistics to a strength plan​
Specialized variety can be used as blocks or conjugate, I think. And Pavel often uses it as another variable for a same but different approach (2H and 1H Swings, for example).
ROP C+P plus the snatch/swings program from the 201 manual.
 

LoneRider

Level 6 Valued Member
Interestingly enough I've created a barbell based training program based heavily (pun intended) on advice from an assortment of sources ranging from Deadlift Dynamite and the Stress Free Strength Routine. Being a massive Jimmy Buffett fan I called this one the Parrothead Powerlift Cycle,

I've beta-tested the routine below (done twice a week due to my schedule during Annual Training all last month in September)

Session A: Bench 5x5 with only the top set being heavy superset with sets of pullups.
Session B: Squat 5x3, Deadlift 5x3 and pull-ups.

Now that I'm in a six week Army course that's all classroom stuff I can expand the program above, using the same principles and now training 3x/week (A-B-A one week, B-A-B the other), though I've added some Specialized Variety:

Session A:

Bench 5x5
Yates/Murderers Rows: 2x6-8
A&A Swings - 6-10x 5 at 32KG
Pullups superset between each set.

Session B:

Squat 5x3
Deadlift 5x3
Full Contact Twist 2x5

Nice, simple and clean, with roadwork and longer A&A days or time on the jiujitsu mats whenever I can get time for the latter mixed in.

For future training into next year while mobilized and with access to barbells I'll alternate six weeks of the above program and a second I sketched out during Annual Training that's a 2x2x2 split (2x days barbell work, 2x days A&A work, 2x steady state endurance work).

This particular program I nicknamed 'Marouba' after the Marouba Force (the Australian militia force that held off the Japanese Army during WWII in Kokoda) is built around a press-squat-pull and pull-squat-pull A/B split. It's got more influences from the Greyskull LP I used for several years since 2010.

The Marouba barbell work is using a load I can lift for 8-10 reps and then adds five pounds each workout:

Session A:

Bench 2x5/1x5+
Squat 2x5/1x5+
Deadlift 5,3,2 or 2x5

Session B:

Front Squat 6x1, 4x2, or 3x3 rule of '10' type lifting
Power Clean 5-6 Singles (3 or so heavy reps)
Deadlift 1x5+

So next year is planned for 6x weeks of Parrothead chased with 6x weeks of Marouba.
 

Xcal

Level 5 Valued Member
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).
hmm, this is interesting. so take a cycle of 3 weeks that I'm planning: 2 weeks of KB tricks and 1 week of running:
week 1 of KB tricks can be a strong focus on a 1or2 tricks (not ignoring others, just a strong focus)
week 2 of KB tricks can be a general KB fun week covering a wide variety of tricks with the Friday or Saturday for a hard "workout" (as Pavel says: a workout session is not a practice session)
week 3 is a running week. hard or easy.

I'm currently in week 3 running , and had a tough KB workout on Friday :)
the four week rhythm of 1-2 harder weeks and 1-2 easier weeks still applies.
yes, always factor a recovery week into the mix.
maybe week 4 is a recovery week of 50% / 50% easy KB and jogging. I'll see how I feel next monday:)
 

guardian7

Level 7 Valued Member
@guardian7
I think conjugate examples within the SF world would be
Vodka & Pickles​
2+2 PTTP & S&S​
2+2 LCCJ & Iron Cardio​
Q&D & Minimalist Deadlifts​
S&S with timed Fridays (conjugate in terms of energy systems)​
And in a way, every time we add KB ballistics to a strength plan​
Specialized variety can be used as blocks or conjugate, I think. And Pavel often uses it as another variable for a same but different approach (2H and 1H Swings, for example).

Right, so someone could do S&S all year round while working on timed SIMPLE but also alternate blocks of deadlift, hypertrophy, whatever depending on goals or focus throughout the year, especially if it were three days a week.
 

Xcal

Level 5 Valued Member
Right, so someone could do S&S all year round while working on timed SIMPLE but also alternate blocks of deadlift, hypertrophy, whatever depending on goals or focus throughout the year, especially if it were three days a week.
disclaimer: I have not read the updated S&S! The block-training approach is neither simple nor minimal. therefore I would not say it follows the S&S plan (please see disclaimer).

Here, I refer to the KB tricks and not the S&S plan. You can take any of the plans (S&S, ETK, Q&D,etc), grab the essential tricks and program a few blocks. I suspect that we all have our favourite tricks and most blocks will revolve around that. In my own case, I'm building up to 100s of snatches with the 16kg and also dbl KB swings. The block training approach allows me to focus on these or any other KB trick for 2 weeks. Then I have 1or2 running weeks. my current running mission is to acclimatize myself to running and 16kg lunges and maintain the Sunday 90-150min long easy run. My TGU is stalled at 12kg due to poor lunges, and my recent long runs are stalled due to sore lunge-muscles!

Last Friday was my tough KB workout. 32-35minutes of 15s action 30s rest. I did maybe 42 tricks with the 16kg. this week will end on a run with a similar HR-effort.
1666093014616.png
 

LarryB

Level 6 Valued Member
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.
Would there be any reason to not do a cycle of double’s with the c&j? Trying to plot my course and would like to practice the double c&j at some point.
 

jroberts1187

Level 3 Valued Member
@guardian7, that's the type of conversation I've been looking forward to. Most of the time I read on here that so and so is doing X plan and thinking about doing Y plan next, and then, the 2 week alternating blocks seems to be discussed a lot in various threads lately, but I rarely see anyone here talk about any form of planned variation or actually separating Strength/Muscles and Cardiovascular conditioning. I know that basically the whole template of SF is that your work capacity and therefore conditioning improves naturally by doing XYZ in A+A, Q+D, S+S, (insert here). Got it. Done em, love em, will continue to buy more plans.

But what I don't see is longer-term periodization in the form of any type of goal or lifestyle discussed. It's usually just I want to kit Xkg on the snatch and people get a couple of recommended snatch plans in a row, but as someone who has multi-modal fitness tests for work with a significant aerobic capacity aspect, I can tell you that working on Strength, Work Capacity, and Running while inserting other terms you have for fitness is super difficult and should absolutely be periodized IMO. Now, how it should be periodized is obviously up for debate, and even the topic of maintaining any mode of fitness fits into that. For example: as a non-runner who loves lifting, I can't take 2-3 weeks where I don't do any form of LSS cardio or at least a couple hard "cardio" sessions and expect to maintain a 40:00 5Mi. I can take a month or two off of strength focus and come back and not have lost much, but I love strength work and cardio sucks. Other people are the exact opposite of me.

For me, I've found that base-building in low-rep strength or power blocks is totally doable as well as base-building in high-rep muscular endurance blocks. I've also found that Q+D peaking type of plans in Strength and Power blocks works well as well as Q+D in base-building blocks is also totally doable. What I've had trouble with is choosing the correct type or even amount of conditioning during a hypertrophy block. I've also had trouble determining where to throw the glycolytic peaking. Should glycolytic peaking be placed in hypertrophy blocks, or is that probably too much work that would either force the block to be much shorter or limit it's effectiveness. Where would I throw in sprints, runs, or other modes of conditioning that don't involve a kettlebell day during Built Strong ( or any hypertrophy plan) to ensure that I'm still working or even maintaining the aerobic periodization in conjunction with the strength/muscular periodization? Would glycolytic peaking affect my performance too much in the strength or power blocks such that I should just leave it in the hypertrophy block?
 
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Antti

Level 9 Valued Member
@guardian7, that's the type of conversation I've been looking forward to. Most of the time I read on here that so and so is doing X plan and thinking about doing Y plan next, and then, the 2 week alternating blocks seems to be discussed a lot in various threads lately, but I rarely see anyone here talk about any form of planned variation or actually separating Strength/Muscles and Cardiovascular conditioning. I know that basically the whole template of SF is that your work capacity and therefore conditioning improves naturally by doing XYZ in A+A, Q+D, S+S, (insert here). Got it. Done em, love em, will continue to buy more plans.

But what I don't see is longer-term periodization in the form of any type of goal or lifestyle discussed. It's usually just I want to kit Xkg on the snatch and people get a couple of recommended snatch plans in a row, but as someone who has multi-modal fitness tests for work with a significant aerobic capacity aspect, I can tell you that working on Strength, Work Capacity, and Running while inserting other terms you have for fitness is super difficult and should absolutely be periodized IMO. Now, how it should be periodized is obviously up for debate, and even the topic of maintaining any mode of fitness fits into that. For example: as a non-runner who loves lifting, I can't take 2-3 weeks where I don't do any form of LSS cardio or at least a couple hard "cardio" sessions and expect to maintain a 40:00 5Mi. I can take a month or two off of strength focus and come back and not have lost much, but I love strength work and cardio sucks. Other people are the exact opposite of me.

For me, I've found that base-building in low-rep strength or power blocks is totally doable as well as base-building in high-rep muscular endurance blocks. I've also found that Q+D peaking type of plans in Strength and Power blocks works well as well as Q+D in base-building blocks is also totally doable. What I've had trouble with is choosing the correct type or even amount of conditioning during a hypertrophy block. I've also had trouble determining where to throw the glycolytic peaking. Should glycolytic peaking be placed in hypertrophy blocks, or is that probably too much work that would either force the block to be much shorter or limit it's effectiveness. Where would I throw in sprints, runs, or other modes of conditioning that don't involve a kettlebell day during Built Strong ( or any hypertrophy plan) to ensure that I'm still working or even maintaining the aerobic periodization in conjunction with the strength/muscular periodization? Would glycolytic peaking affect my performance too much in the strength or power blocks such that I should just leave it in the hypertrophy block?

Hypertrophy requires a lot of work. The muscle mass can be maintained with vastly smaller volumes, anywhere from 10-33% of hypertrophy volume. So the obvious implication is that hypertrophy is something that should be focused on in a block.

When it comes to conditioning, so to say, the periodization depends heavily on your needs. Some people have annual tests, some need to be in condition all year long. In any case, I would keep the aerobic base building up all year long, separated from other training as much as feasible.
 

guardian7

Level 7 Valued Member
@guardian7, that's the type of conversation I've been looking forward to. Most of the time I read on here that so and so is doing X plan and thinking about doing Y plan next, and then, the 2 week alternating blocks seems to be discussed a lot in various threads lately, but I rarely see anyone here talk about any form of planned variation or actually separating Strength/Muscles and Cardiovascular conditioning. I know that basically the whole template of SF is that your work capacity and therefore conditioning improves naturally by doing XYZ in A+A, Q+D, S+S, (insert here). Got it. Done em, love em, will continue to buy more plans.

But what I don't see is longer-term periodization in the form of any type of goal or lifestyle discussed. It's usually just I want to kit Xkg on the snatch and people get a couple of recommended snatch plans in a row, but as someone who has multi-modal fitness tests for work with a significant aerobic capacity aspect, I can tell you that working on Strength, Work Capacity, and Running while inserting other terms you have for fitness is super difficult and should absolutely be periodized IMO. Now, how it should be periodized is obviously up for debate, and even the topic of maintaining any mode of fitness fits into that. For example: as a non-runner who loves lifting, I can't take 2-3 weeks where I don't do any form of LSS cardio or at least a couple hard "cardio" sessions and expect to maintain a 40:00 5Mi. I can take a month or two off of strength focus and come back and not have lost much, but I love strength work and cardio sucks. Other people are the exact opposite of me.

For me, I've found that base-building in low-rep strength or power blocks is totally doable as well as base-building in high-rep muscular endurance blocks. I've also found that Q+D peaking type of plans in Strength and Power blocks works well as well as Q+D in base-building blocks is also totally doable. What I've had trouble with is choosing the correct type or even amount of conditioning during a hypertrophy block. I've also had trouble determining where to throw the glycolytic peaking. Should glycolytic peaking be placed in hypertrophy blocks, or is that probably too much work that would either force the block to be much shorter or limit it's effectiveness. Where would I throw in sprints, runs, or other modes of conditioning that don't involve a kettlebell day during Built Strong ( or any hypertrophy plan) to ensure that I'm still working or even maintaining the aerobic periodization in conjunction with the strength/muscular periodization? Would glycolytic peaking affect my performance too much in the strength or power blocks such that I should just leave it in the hypertrophy block?

These are such excellent questions and I will return to this when I have more time. One issue that I don't think gets enough discussion is maintenance. For example, I got my double bodyweight deadlift goal a few years ago but stopped deadlifting. I have gained a bit of weight, some good, a couple of kilos I want to lose, so I have to add 10KG. The pandemic hit and now I have to regain it. Without programming it in maintenance blocks I won't be able to keep it.

Also, for aging, as Charles Staley once wrote, at a certain age, maintaining is gaining.

I agree with Antti that I would probably keep LSD cardio year round, so you can ramp up when you have tests coming.
Hypertrophy needs frequency, so I would have a dedicated block for that. Combining strength + power blocks makes sense.

My approach is also seasonal. I plan on yearly templates for variation as well as practical reasons. It is too humid in Asia for KB ballistics in the summer.
 

Bauer

Level 7 Valued Member
@guardian7, that's the type of conversation I've been looking forward to. Most of the time I read on here that so and so is doing X plan and thinking about doing Y plan next, and then, the 2 week alternating blocks seems to be discussed a lot in various threads lately, but I rarely see anyone here talk about any form of planned variation or actually separating Strength/Muscles and Cardiovascular conditioning. I know that basically the whole template of SF is that your work capacity and therefore conditioning improves naturally by doing XYZ in A+A, Q+D, S+S, (insert here). Got it. Done em, love em, will continue to buy more plans.

But what I don't see is longer-term periodization in the form of any type of goal or lifestyle discussed. It's usually just I want to kit Xkg on the snatch and people get a couple of recommended snatch plans in a row, but as someone who has multi-modal fitness tests for work with a significant aerobic capacity aspect, I can tell you that working on Strength, Work Capacity, and Running while inserting other terms you have for fitness is super difficult and should absolutely be periodized IMO. Now, how it should be periodized is obviously up for debate, and even the topic of maintaining any mode of fitness fits into that. For example: as a non-runner who loves lifting, I can't take 2-3 weeks where I don't do any form of LSS cardio or at least a couple hard "cardio" sessions and expect to maintain a 40:00 5Mi. I can take a month or two off of strength focus and come back and not have lost much, but I love strength work and cardio sucks. Other people are the exact opposite of me.

For me, I've found that base-building in low-rep strength or power blocks is totally doable as well as base-building in high-rep muscular endurance blocks. I've also found that Q+D peaking type of plans in Strength and Power blocks works well as well as Q+D in base-building blocks is also totally doable. What I've had trouble with is choosing the correct type or even amount of conditioning during a hypertrophy block. I've also had trouble determining where to throw the glycolytic peaking. Should glycolytic peaking be placed in hypertrophy blocks, or is that probably too much work that would either force the block to be much shorter or limit it's effectiveness. Where would I throw in sprints, runs, or other modes of conditioning that don't involve a kettlebell day during Built Strong ( or any hypertrophy plan) to ensure that I'm still working or even maintaining the aerobic periodization in conjunction with the strength/muscular periodization? Would glycolytic peaking affect my performance too much in the strength or power blocks such that I should just leave it in the hypertrophy block?
I think your type of questions are exactly why StrongFirst has added Programming Improv to the mix. Conflicting goals, conflicting timelines, limited resources. How to resolve all that?

In your specific context, at least I would say that heavy/low volume tapering would be good during your glycolytic peaking phase.
 

Adachi

Level 6 Valued Member
What I've had trouble with is choosing the correct type or even amount of conditioning during a hypertrophy block. I've also had trouble determining where to throw the glycolytic peaking. Should glycolytic peaking be placed in hypertrophy blocks, or is that probably too much work that would either force the block to be much shorter or limit it's effectiveness. Where would I throw in sprints, runs, or other modes of conditioning that don't involve a kettlebell day during Built Strong ( or any hypertrophy plan) to ensure that I'm still working or even maintaining the aerobic periodization in conjunction with the strength/muscular periodization? Would glycolytic peaking affect my performance too much in the strength or power blocks such that I should just leave it in the hypertrophy block?

I think your type of questions are exactly why StrongFirst has added Programming Improv to the mix. Conflicting goals, conflicting timelines, limited resources. How to resolve all that?
-------------------

I agree with @Bauer

as far as those looking to add more or certain combinations - I find that when I think about that stuff, the complexity and specificity seem to ratchet up rather quickly.

And, as Pavel once noted ...

* A Program Maximum is a highly individual choice.

I think Bauer is probably correct that this kind of area of concern is probably why StrongFirst has introduced Programming Improv.
 

LoneRider

Level 6 Valued Member
Conflicting goals, conflicting timelines, limited resources. How to resolve all that?

One way I've seen this addressed is Jim Wendler's 2x2x2 program where 2 days of Strength x SV/Assistance, 2 days of conditioning and two days of mobility work.

Interestingly enough, analyzing my own two templates for the remainder of this year and the vast majority of next year (alternating six week cycles) have a similar feel to them. One template has a 2x2x2 split along the lines of strength, conditioning, and steady state endurance and the other a more strength biased since I'm lifting thrice a week on that one.
 

Sam Goldner

Level 5 Valued Member
Maintenance is important but it is a challenge whether doing block training or a focused program that runs longer (example, a deadlift program that runs for 12 weeks).

Realize also that trying to maintain everything at the same time just means not actually focusing on a specific goal. It’s like paint: you can mix a few colors and get something nice, but keep adding more and more to the mixture and you end up with a gross blob of nothing.

When my brain starts running in too many directions regarding what my training focus should be, I try to remember Dan John’s analogy about chasing too many rabbits and Pavel’s quote of someone about Horror Vacui.

Thanks,
Sam Goldner, DPT
 

Anders

Level 6 Valued Member
I think it is also important to think in terms of goals. The goal for me is first and foremost to be healthy and to continue becoming stronger and more fit in different exercises. If Block training can help me achieve this, then it sounds like a good idea. I think as long as you keep on improving and becoming stronger you are on the right track.
 
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