Please critique this proposed DL cycle

freeflowme

Triple-Digit Post Count
Hey all,

I just got to looking ahead at the calendar and realized that there's 7 weeks until the week of Thanksgiving, when we'll be traveling to visit family, which makes for a pretty nice little cycle of 3 weeks waving up, a deload the 4th week, and then another 3 weeks hopefully peaking in a PR.

I've been going back over my PTTP logs, and have noticed a couple trends:
  • 2x5 w/ 2nd set @ 90% has seemed to work better for me than the 5, 3, 2 (slightly lower intensity, built-in variation in load)
  • 15 lb jumps also worked better for me than 10lb ones in my progress from a ~265 -> 300lb 5RM (good blend of easy and hard every week)
  • My PRs were reached after about 10-12 sessions (~2.5-3wks)
  • My PRs were about 90lbs above where I started the cycle
  • Fatigue was a limiting factor DL-ing 5x/wk. I was always in dire need of a deload after 3 weeks, which I unfortunately didn't know about as a training principle at the time, but since cycles were built around when we were going to be going out of town, I always had something of a deload built in.
  • Adding pullups to the program robbed from my ability to recover for deadlifts. I should stick to 2 lifts, as the program is written.
So, I've incorporated these principles into my proposed 7 week DL cycle. I'm going to try 4x/wk, as I hope that training 2 days, then taking a day off, then doing 2 more days will build up a lot less fatigue than training 5 days straight. I don't know enough to know how to manipulate any variable other than frequency / recovery. I thought about trying to taper the heaver weeks to 2x3s or 2x2s, but Pavel says that 5s build strength that lasts (I think I read that in Reload?), so I want to stick with them wherever possible.

Please let me know what you think:

Previous PR: 290x5 / 300x3 (225 = ~77% which might be a bit high of a starting point - my previous cycles started at ~67% of what my PR ended up being - but the book says to start with 70-80% of your 5RM)

Week 1: 225, 240, rest, 255, 260, rest, rest
Week 2: 240, 255, rest, 270, 285, rest, rest
Week 3: 255, 270, rest, 285, 300, rest, rest (beats previous PR by 2 reps)
Week 4 (deload), 200, rest, 200, rest, 200, rest, rest (I could use some ideas here on how to deload)
Week 5: 240, 255, rest, 270, 285, rest, rest
Week 6: 255, 270, rest, 285, 300, rest, rest
Week 7: 270, 285, rest, 300, 315, rest, rest, (set new PR)

And if I'm too fatigued at the end of Week 7, I do have the Monday of the next week to try for the PR again after the weekend to rest.

Honestly, looking at this part of me thinks it might work, and part of me is really hesitant. 225 breaks off the floor just from getting tight in my set up, but I haven't pulled heavy weights in a while, so I don't know how things will progress. Another part of me thinks I should pull a true 5RM or 1RM and base my cycle off that, but I really want to get started on Monday, not waste a few days resting, testing, then resting again. I guess a few days "wasted" might save my whole 6 week cycle.

Anyways, thoughts appreciated.
 
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Steve W.

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Your percentages seem a little high, and this is supported by the fact that you report getting fatigued and needing frequent deloads.

Keep in mind that DLing close to your limit is very fatiguing, and PR attempts are especially so. You don't HAVE to go for PRs every cycle, or even EVER, and as you progress, it will become impossible to do so anyway.

I'd advise taking a page from Dan John's playbook and just try to nudge up your "comfortably heavy" weight. Here's a sample 7 week cycle (top sets only are listed) that still uses a 4 steps forward/3 steps back wave with 15lb steps, and that you can use for 4 days/week (although steps in a wave and training days in a week don't have to match).

190/205/220/235
200/215/230/245
210/225/240/255
220/235/250/265
210/225/240/255
220/235/250/265
230/245/260/275

This goes from 66% to 95% of your 5RM. I would recommend not trying to push farther at this point, but backcycle and build up again a little heavier. Maybe plan out a 6 week cycle starting 5lbs heavier (without a step back in the middle as in the 7 week cycle above), which would put your top session at 290, your previous 5RM. By this point, that should no longer feel like a 5RM. Then plan subsequent cycles to nudge up that last heavy, but not max, set of 5 by the end of each cycle.

IMO, this will lead to better sustained longterm progress with less chance of burnout of the need for frequent deloads.
 

freeflowme

Triple-Digit Post Count
Thanks @Steve W. I may try to get myself to follow what you suggested "to a T."

I had a similar idea about trying to nudge my "comfortably heavy" up when I ran my last DL cycle in August (I had my 290x5 5RM PR in July). I ran August:

200/210/220/230/210
220/230/240/220/230
240/250/230/240/250

And on the following Monday that I was supposed to do 260 and then back to 240/250/260/270 I just didn't think I could do it. My lower back was so fried I couldn't move around well, and mentally I was just toast. I was using 5-3-2 and also doing pullups in addition to OHPs, which I think was just too much daily volume. So, maybe the deadlift structure itself was okay. Can't say for sure. But it was super demoralizing to feel like I burned out lower than my July cycle and even my June cycle.

I think part of my problem is that this is stuck in my head:

"Before you know it, things will get heavy. Do not attempt a rep unless you are 100% certain you are going to make it in good form! Just drop the rep or reps that you have not made and carry on the cycle until you are down to two or three reps. Another option is not to peak at all, but terminate a cycle once you have made a little gain, say five pounds per lift, over a previous one." - PTTP, pg. 52

But I guess that's still happening, as long as I think of the cycle as 12-16 weeks with a lot of undulation in between. I guess it's only in the very beginning that you can expect every 8-16 sessions to end up in a PR.

I think another part of it is that 225, for example, feels so light the day I do it (I'd say RPE 5) that something like 190 (w/ a back-off set of 170!) feels like it can't even be worth doing for the body (RPE <4). I've always struggled with relative intensity and making PTTP work - if I take a cycle to a point like Pavel says above, where I'm only able to hit a triple and then a double, I need nearly a week to recover between sessions, at which point you're no longer doing high-frequency CNS training. I wish there were more detail on all this.

Part of me has been contemplating switching over to S&S and once acclimated to that testing my DL 1RM and running the DDDL plan alongside S&S. They're both more fool-proof for someone who doesn't understand cycling very well, like myself, as the volume, frequency, and intensity are all pretty much baked into the program for you.

One question: If I had 8 weeks instead of 7, would you suggest stepping back to 200 instead of 210 as a starting point for week 5 (i.e. the weeks themselves are also a 4:3 wave) or do you think the single bump back is just as good?
 
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kennycro@@aol.com

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
Fatigue was a limiting factor DL-ing 5x/wk. I was always in dire need of a deload after 3 weeks, which I unfortunately didn't know about as a training principle at the time, ...
Deadlift Frequency

Deadlifting 5 times a week is a lot. That because the lower back is quickly and easily overtrained.

So, it no surprising that you felt fatigued after three weeks.

Number of Weeks In A Training Cycle

The number of week in a training cycle are somewhat dependent on you Training Age; how long you have been training.

Novice Lifers take longer to adapt to a training program. One adaption take place progress stops.

This means Novice Lifters can perform the same training program for a longer period of time, possibly 8 weeks or a little longer.

Advance Lifters adapt faster to a training program. That means they need to change their training program more frequently; every 3 to 4 weeks.

Training The Deadlift (Any Lift) 5 Time A Week

This accelerates adaptation and muscle fatigue. Continuing to maintain a program once those two thing occur initially lead to...

Overreaching

This means you are slightly overtrained and will recover in a short period of time.

Continuing to push, once you have Overreached eventually lead to...

Overtraining

This means the body has been traumatized for a much longer period of time and is going to take much longer to recover.

That is why planned Periodization Training Periods are so important; allowing for Recovery for gain in strength and muscle.

I'm going to try 4x/wk, as I hope that training 2 days, then taking a day off, then doing 2 more days will build up a lot less fatigue than training 5 days straight.
Decreasing Training Frequency

Providing more recovery by decreasing your frequency will definitely help. My suggestion is to decrease it to 2 times a week with...

Light To Moderate Training Session

The objective of this is to promote recovery. This training session needs to be fairly light and easy.

Heavy Training Session

This need to be your heavier training session, progressively increasing the load each week.

Example

Week 1


a) Light to Moderate: 225 X 5

b) Heavy: 260 X 5

Week 2

a) Light To Moderate: 240 X 5

b) Heavy: 285 X 5

Week 3

a) Light To Moderate: 255 X 5

b) Heavy: 300 X 3 plus

Warm Up Sets

The objective of a Warm Up set is to perform the minimum about of work that prepares you for you top set. You top set is the most important set.

That means performing lower warm up repetition and taking larger weight jumps; as you noted,

With that in mind, my recommendation would be taking 30 plus jumps between sets and only performing 1-2 repetition with the lighter warm up sets before hitting your top set.

Example 300 lb Top Set

Set 1: 135 X 5

Set 2: 185 X 3

Set 3: 225 X 1

Set 4: 255 X 1

Set 5: 300 X 3 plus

This Is A Periodization Training Program

Week 4 (deload), 200, rest, 200, rest, 200, rest, rest (I could use some ideas here on how to deload)
Week 5: 240, 255, rest, 270, 285, rest, rest
Week 6: 255, 270, rest, 285, 300, rest, rest
Week 7: 270, 285, rest, 300, 315, rest, rest, (set new PR)

Overall, it looks good.

Additional Recommendation

Think of each week as a Warm Up for the next week. Remember, the objective of a warm up is to do the minimal amount of work that prepare you for you top set or in this case you Max Training Week.

Push the load up each week but not to the point of fatigue.

Summary

1) Decrease your number of training session to two for the week, as noted above.

2) The purpose of Warm Up Sets is to perform the minimal amount work necessary to prepare you for your top set.

3) Each week is a Warm Up for the following week. Increase the load each week but not to the not to the point that you are too fatigued for your final Week 7.

Kenny Croxdale
 
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freeflowme

Triple-Digit Post Count
Thanks @kennycro@@aol.com. Interestingly, the 2x/wk, 1 heavy and 1 light-to-moderate is pretty much exactly what the StrongFirst "Reload" program calls for. I was hesitant to test my 1RMs and 5RMs and run Reload right now because I don't have an 8-week window to complete the program until the start of 2020.

It's also similar to what the SFL manual calls "PTTP 2.0" - 2x/wk with 5,3,2 at working weight and 2-3 back off sets at 80% working weight.

So, I guess the consensus is that DL 2x/wk is better for the intermediate lifter.

In your examples, you only work up to one top set of 5 or 3 (depending on the load and placement in the cycle), correct? Never 2x5 or 3x5? Much less 5x5 (a la Faleev 80/20)?

What I don't understand is all the statements I see in threads both here and DragonDoor (sorry to mention that place here ;)) on how "anyone" should be able to follow PTTP by the book to a 2x BW DL. This means linear or wave cycling with 5 or 10lb jumps and deadlifting roughly 5x/wk. I'm nowhere near that, and I don't quite understand why others can reach much higher heights before burning out on this program.
 
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Steve W.

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
"anyone" should be able to follow PTTP by the book to a 2x BW DL. This means linear or wave cycling with 5 or 10lb jumps and deadlifting roughly 5x/wk. I'm nowhere near that, and I don't quite understand why others can reach much higher heights before burning out on this program.
I basically followed PTTP up to a 425lb DL and 465lb trap bar DL at 180-185lbs BW. However, I did not just progress linearly to that point.

I remember that my first cycle ended with a shaky 235lb single. For a while I progressed using linear cycles and hitting new PRs every cycle, but then hit a point (IIRC, around 315lb+) where I switched over to wave cycles, did more frequent back cycling, stayed with light-moderate to comfortably heavy weights for longer stretches before pushing ahead, and didn't try to push my limits as often. Looking back, I would have been even more patient, stayed within the "comfortably heavy" range even more, and tested close to my maxes even less often.

PTTP is a high frequency program at 4-5 sessions per week. You can't have high frequency, high volume, AND high intensity. PTTP limits the volume, but with such a high frequency, you do have to be judicious with the intensity as the weights get heavier.

In general, I enjoyed the high frequency. I feel like it helped me to develp skill in the lift, kept the groove freshly greased, and I just enjoyed lifting on most days. But even though PTTP can be considered a bus bench* program since it follows planned cycles, I think it works best with a park bench** mentality. Keep the weights where you can just punch the clock, do your work for the day, and come back and hit it again tomorrow. As Dan John says, "Train today as if you are planning to go for a PR tomorrow. Then train the same way tomorrow."

*Bus bench = a more structured progression where you are expecting something specific to happen at a certain time, such as hitting a certain weight in a certain session (like sitting on a bench at a bus stop waiting for a bus).

**Park bench = a more unstructured progression where you are just focusing on the process and letting the results happen as they happen (like sitting on a park bench just taking in the scenery).
 
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Abdul-Rasheed

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
But even though PTTP can be considered a bus bench* program since it follows planned cycles, I think it works best with a park bench** mentality. Keep the weights where you can just punch the clock, do your work for the day, and come back and hit it again tomorrow. As Dan John says, "Train today as if you are planning to go for a PR tomorrw. Then train the same way tomorrow."
Thank you for this insight.
 

kennycro@@aol.com

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
I was hesitant to test my 1RMs and 5RMs and run Reload right now because I don't have an 8-week window to complete the program until the start of 2020.
Reload

I realize "Reload" is a ubiquitous term that continues to be perpetuated. That is why you and most individuals reference it.

Reload is the dumbbed down, usually overly simplified term for Periodization Training that is often incorrect.

The main issue with many is that they "Deload" for one are two workout and then try to Reload and go back to their max or near max training load.

They may initially perform better for the next one or two workout and then relapse into Overreaching (the prequel to Overtraining) and stop making progress.

Based on the program you provide, your program is a well thought out Periodization Training Plan.

Your 8 Week Plan

Based on how your training program is written, it appears to me that your 8 week plan would actually be two 4 week Periodization Training Plans.

I use a similar approach with a 3 week Periodization Training Plan. Week 3 is my max effort week followed by Week 4 now being Week 1 of a new training program.

I don't see it as a 6 week plan with but as two 3 Week Training Cycles. I see it as an ongoing plan in which I try to make increases in each training cycle every three weeks.

So, I guess the consensus is that DL 2x/wk is better for the intermediate lifter.
Training Frequency

I am an advocate of Training Frequency, as long as it doesn't lead to Overtraining.

That means you need to "Autoregulate", listen to your body. If your strong, continue. If you feel fatigued, back off.

In your examples, you only work up to one top set of 5 or 3 (depending on the load and placement in the cycle), correct? Never 2x5 or 3x5? Much less 5x5 (a la Faleev 80/20)?
Top Set

Yes, my example was performing one top end set. That is based on how I train. I perform a one high intensity top strength training set. I physically recovery better and secondly, I am mentally able to push myself with one all out set rather the multiple sets at a slightly lower intensity.

Flat Pyramid Sets

Perform 3 Set of 3 Reps or 5 Sets of 5 Reps is know as a Flat Pyramid. I use it with some Auxiliary Exercises but not with my prime lifts; Squat, Bench, Deadlift.

Some individual do well with this. I initially used the 5 X 5 Method with my prime lifts years ago and had good results.

So, if it works for you, keep doing it.

This means linear or wave cycling with 5 or 10lb jumps and deadlifting roughly 5x/wk.
Training A Lift 5 Times A Week

It may work for some individuals. However, I am not a fan of it.

As you found out, that amount of frequency leads to fatigue.

Secondly, the lower back is quickly and easily Overtrained, as Dr Tom McLaughlin (PhD Exercise Biomechanics/former Powerlifter) research noted.

The anecdotal data, based on how Powerlifter train the Deadlift, have demonstrated that, as well.

The bottom line is how well you respond to the frequency and intensity of your Deadlift Program dictates what you do.

If it is working for you, continue. If it is beating you up, cut back.

"Research is what I am doing, when I don't know what I am doing." Einstein

No matter how smart anyone is, some experimentation is necessary and failure needs to be accepted as part of the learning process.

The NASA Morpheus Moon Lander

upload_2019-10-7_5-3-5.jpeg

Years ago, the news showed this, stating, "Here is what a million dollars look like on fire."

The news stated that even NASA with all their geniuses get it wrong.

It went on to say that NASA's budgets money and time for failure; it is part of the learning process.

As Alexander Graham Bell stated, "Failure means that I eliminated what didn't work and am moving close to the answer of what will work.

Your body is your lab.

Kenny Croxdale
 
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Sean M

Quadruple-Digit Post Count
@freeflowme Have you read up on Pavel's 5x5x5 "Mind Over Muscle" program? Here's a write-up, though for some reason they don't credit Pavel (I think he wrote the article 15+ years ago for the publisher and they own it without having to credit him?).

The idea is you get a decent volume for the week (25 reps x 5 compound exercises), frequent practice (every lift every day), heavy weight (5 reps with 6-7RM)...but only one set of 5 (per exercise) to limit fatigue. Fits right in with Pavel's core philosophy: as heavy as possible, as often as possible, while staying as fresh as possible.

If PTTP is too high daily volume, just one set of 5 (of DL and 4 more exercises as you're able, e.g. no squat rack could be deadlift, Zercher squat, barbell clean and press, row, and weighted chins) might do the trick. You can be flexible in the weigh selection, using a few warm-up singles to gauge the working weight for the day and going +/- 2-5% accordingly.
 

Steve Freides

Forum Administrator
Staff member
Senior Certified Instructor
I realize "Reload" is a ubiquitous term that continues to be perpetuated. That is why you and most individuals reference it.

Reload is the dumbbed down, usually overly simplified term for Periodization Training that is often incorrect.

The main issue with many is that they "Deload" for one are two workout and then try to Reload and go back to their max or near max training load.
@kennycro@@aol.com

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