Strength Cycles- The plateau buster!
Have you been CrossFitting for 6 months or more and are looking at taking your strength to the next level? If you have found that your strength gains have plateaued then a strength cycle is just what you need to jump start progress again. Now I cannot stress enough that not all strength cycles are appropriate for CrossFit athletes. In fact most strength cycles will only burn out or injure us due to the share amount of training we do. The programs below can be simply added to your current routine very little chance of them having a negative impact on your progress or recovery.
NOTE- Please enquire with a Coach (ideally Dave) before getting started.
What is Linear Progression?
Linear progression is a strength training method that has been used successfully for decades throughout the world to build a foundation of strength in athletes. The idea is to start easy and slowly add weight onto the barbell over the course of weeks and months. The progress using this method is long, slow and gentle which is key to long-term progress and the development of lasting gains.
When does it start?
After establishing your starting weights through testing over the course of a week (see below) then the very next Monday you will be good to go.
OPTION A- Quattro Strength Cycle
This is for athletes who train on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and/or Saturday. The key to this programs are the inclusion of two rest days on Tuesday and Thursday. If you cannot run this style of training frequency then this is not the program for you. Please keep in mind that if your sleep, stress management and nutrition is not up to par then before starting this program these elements must be addressed.
How Do I Get Started?
Our first goal is to establish your stating point for the cycle on the Back Squat, Front Squat and Deadlift. Experienced athletes (1 year or more) can test your 1 rep max during the strength portion of our class over the course of the week. On the first week of the strength cycle you will begin at 50% and we will build from there by adding weight to the bar each week.
If you are not comfortable with the idea of maxing out which is understandable Our newer athletes you can use the following protocol. First of all start with a very light weight (usually just the bar), and work a set of 5. We will repeat sets of 5 adding small increments to the bar until we see the weight start to slow down. Please note, I did not say we work to our max, but simply we watch for the bar to slow down. At that point, we do two more sets with the same weight and call it a day. From here our cycle will begin on the following schedule.
Quattro Strength Cycle
3×5 Back Squat (i.e. 5-5-5)
3×5 Front Squat (i.e. 5-5-5)
5×3 Back Squat (i.e. 3-3-3-3-3)
3×5 Back Squat (Fridays weight)
3×5 Front Squat add 2.5
1×5 Deadlift add 2.5
5×3 Back Squat add 2.5
WEEK 3+ Repeat
The goal in this program is to continue week after week adding these small increments to increase strength dramatically over time.
Inevitably you will think to yourself, “but I know I can lift more coach, I’m just gonna jump 5kg this week.” Making bigger jumps will only sabotage you and the program in the end. If you make a big jump, you are pushing yourself to your true max too quickly and we will have to re-set the weight back down in the future. Remember, if you add 2.5kg to your squat each week for 6 weeks that is 15kg. Who wouldn’t kill for another 15kg on their squat? Don’t make big jumps, follow the program and the strength and weight on the bar will come!
What about the warm up? Each time you come in to lift after your first testing day, the warm up should look something like this.
5 x 20kg
5 x 40kg
3 x 60kg
1-2 x 70kg
3 x 5 x 80kg (work sets)
Our main goal with your warm up is to get you warm, without tiring you out. We want to be able to put everything we possibly can into the final 3 sets of 5 (or Friday’s 5 sets of 3). Note: on Wednesday you will be able to start your Deadlifts pretty darn heavy as you will have already warmed up a lot by preforming 3×5 Front Squats.
My hope is that each of you will get through the warm up as quickly as possible. Remember that the faster you go, the warmer you will get. This also serves another function however. Our goal is to put everything we possibly can into those 3 sets of 5, so we need proper rest between sets. I would like to see a minimum of 2 minutes between each set once you are working on your 3 sets of 5 (herein referred to as “working sets”) As you guys all know, we are limited in our class times, so the time has to come from somewhere. I would much rather see a fast warm up than rushing your working sets.
The only way to make any progress is to keep track of your numbers by writing the down or inputting the numbers into your phone.
What If I Go Away, Get Sick, Injured etc?
If you go away for a week and cannot train then regress one week of your program and continue to build.
If you get sick then regress potentially two weeks of your program and continue to build.
If you get injured well that’s a tough one and it depends on the location of the injury, the severity and how long your out of action. It could potentially mean starting all over again so the solution is don’t get injured. Listen to your body. Don’t ignore niggles. Take responsibility for yourself as a grown up and serious athlete
OPTION B- WENDLER 5/3/1
This is perfect for the athlete who trains on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and/ or Saturday. The key to the program is the rest day on Wednesday.
Friday Bench Press (optional)
Note: I wrote Bench Press is optional as it simply isn’t a big part of the CrossFit curriculum. For those who wish to add the Bench to their strength cycle you may do so by performing this on Friday tucked away in bodybuilding corner.
IMPORTANT POINTS TO KNOW
- All lifts are based off 90% of your 1RM. This means 90% of your 1RM straight back deadlift (not a 1RM rounded, back snap) and your squat depth must be legit i.e. crease of the hips below the knees. This is to ensure two things; 1 the cycle works and 2 you don’t get injured. Ignore these words at your own risk!
- If you don’t know your 1RM on the Squat, Press, Deadlift and Bench Press you will have to test these sometime this week.
- Progress is slow so be patient (strength acquisition is a marathon not a sprint)
- You must keep track of your own numbers.
- If you miss a session don’t sweat it just continue the cycle as programmed
- Each cycle runs for 4 weeks and we will do at least 3 cycles (12 weeks total)
- Athletes running either Wendler or the Quattro Cycle should focus more so on our SWOL programming over FIT WODs to help ensure you don’t get burnt out.
IMPORTANT REMINDER!!! All sets are based off 90% of you 1RM!!!
Week 1: (Wendler 5’s)
5@65%, 5@75%, 5+@85% Max reps! Record your score. All percentages are 90%1RM
Week 2: (Wendler 3’s)
Start with 3 warm-up sets (5@40%, 5@50% and 3@60%)
3@70% (of 90% 1RM)
3+@90% (Perform as many reps as possible at this load. MUST be more than 3)
Week 3: (Wendler 5/3/1)
Start with 3 warm-up sets (5@40%, 5@50% and 3@60%)
5@75% (of 90% 1RM)
1+@95% (Perform as many reps as possible at this load. MUST be more than 1)
Week 4: (De-Load)
Let the body rest and rejuvinate!
5@40%, 5@50%, 5@60%
On deload week take it easy with your CrossFit to. Perform half the volume of any of the Metcons.
Week5: New Cycle…..Start week 1 again, if you hit all your numbers, which you should, you will add 2.5kg to your 1RM Press and 5kg to your 1RM Squat/Deadlift and re-calculate your 90% 1RM.
Stick with this program for 3 months before retesting your 1RM. You should be able to run this program for at least 6 months before needing to re-evaluate your program. Have fun, train hard, enjoy!