Jump-start your gains with a power cycle!
With the ever-increasing focus on muscle size, both in competitions and in your local gym, lifting for strength appears to have lost its lustre among bodybuilders. That’s a shame, because it should be an essential component of their regimes. I’m not saying you need to train like a powerlifter year-round – if you did, you’d be one – but you should have the ability and know-how to shift into a power cycle now and then to bust through plateaus.
“The strength cycle is something you can do for six weeks to get past a sticking point and build beyond what you’ve already done,” says former pro Mike Francois, who won his first four pro shows after shifting from power-lifting-type training to bodybuilding training. In addition to allowing you to lift more weight, strength training can also help increase muscle mass, enhance joint stability, improve flexibility and lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
To improve your strength perceptibly, your power programme needs to be based on sound training principles. Chief among these is muscle overload, which means giving your muscle a workout that they aren’t used to handling, whether that comes in the form of more weight, more volume (reps, sets or both), shorter rest periods between sets or some other stimulus. Although muscle overload sounds like a simple concept, it’s often misinterpreted to mean “more is better”. But in reality, “more” is probably the biggest detriment to strength development. To avoid taking muscle overload to excess, you must listen to and understand your body’s feeling of exertion from workout to workout.
The second major training principle underpinning strength cycles like the one outlined here is progressive resistance, which is subset of muscle overload. Basically, it says that you need to use more weight gradually over time to get stronger. That doesn’t mean loading more plates on the bar every workout, but it does mean adding 5-10 pounds to an exercise at regular intervals.
With those principles in mind, you’re prepared to undertake the one-month, full-body “Power Programme”. Get ready for some monster gains.
Follow this programme for a month at a time, in lieu of your normal routine.
Start training with weights equal to 70%-80% of your IRM (weights with which you can perform six good reps). Once you can do 12 reps per set, add 5-10 pounds.
Do the workout twice a week.
Regardless of your experience, warm up thoroughly. Warming up and stretching not only helps prevent injuries but also has been shown to improve performance in anaerobic activities such as strength training.
Perform four working sets (6-10 reps per set) of each exercise each workout. Rest at least three minutes between sets and exercises. (For crunches, do sets of 25-40 reps, and rest 30 seconds between sets.) While resting, record your training weight and reps for the just-completed set. Take note of how you’re feeling physically and mentally throughout the workout.
When the month is up, return to your normal routine. Don’t be surprised if you’re lifting more and looking bigger than you were a month ago.
Lying French Press