So you just finished up your hypertrophy/endurance phase, but seem to hit a wall in increasing weights. Not to mention, you are probably a bit burnt out mentally and physically from the high volume. No worries, here's the next step to keep you going.
Muscles need constant stress through smart progression and variation to optimally adapt. By changing sets and reps of the same exercises, this will give you the increase you have been looking for. Next we go over the basic strength phase. The primary purpose of this phase is to increase absolute strength: the maximum amount of force you can lift. We now want to change the sets and reps (volume) lower, and the weights (intensity) higher. Below is a general scheme to enable the adaptation in strength to occur:
- Weights being lifted should be 80-90% 1RM
- Keep the set between 3- 5, and the sets between 4- 8
- Try this out for 2-3 weeks, while lifting weights 3-4 times a week.
Don't forget, safety first! Follow these guidelines:
- Always have a spotter, especially now that you will be going significantly heavier in your intensity
- Increase the weight by 5-10% per week to keep progressing while having a safe increment in improvement
- Don't hold your breath. The weight will be heavy, so naturally you will hold you're breath. This can cause fainting and an unsafe increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Exhale on the concentric contraction, and inhale on the eccentric (review those terms here).
My last advice during this phase is not to be intimidated by the weight. You know the weight will be heavy, and it will be hard. This shouldn't be a surprise. Know that just because it takes a little longer to finish each rep, you will get it done with a spotter there just in case. Lift heavy and lift hard my friends. Strength/power phase coming up next.
Baechle, T. R. & Earle, R.W. (2008). Essentials of strength training and conditioning 3rd Edition. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
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