Okie dokie, we’re finally getting to the part of programming that a lot of people have questions about. They ask things such as how long should my hypertrophy phase be, how long should I build general strength, when should I peak? All of those questions will be answered within a spectrum in this post. However, I want to advise you not to get too caught up in all the hype that phase potentiation seems to stir up. If I you don’t have all the other variables from previous posts/the book I’m getting this from, then your phase potentiation won’t matter. Please read that again, while its a great topic it’s not the most important thing in your programming.
Let’s take a birds eye view of what your phases should look like before we dive in. Hypertrophy phases build muscle, strength phases increase strength and preserve muscle, and peaking sharpens what you’ve built during both phases.
So you decide you want to get Swole and opt to dive into a hypertrophy cycle. What we already know is that you should be training in the 60-75% range for 6-10 reps. However, what we don’t know is the point of a hypertrophy phases, which is building size and work capacity. Hypertrophy essentially is you attempting to build a bigger, better motor for the following phases. You can train a muscle group 2-6x/week depending on the SRA curve of the muscle. You want to do 15-30 sets per muscle group, 6-10 reps per set, between 60-75%. These phases generally last 2-3 months. For all you bodybuilder bros out there I want you to realize something, staying in a hypertrophy phase for too long is detrimental to your overall progress. Your body will adapt and you will wonder why you aren’t getting bigger, and the answer is because you aren’t pushing the limits on your strength. If you neglect the strength phase you won’t be very successful.
Next we go into the strength phase, and the goal is obviously to gain muscle strength. If that wasn’t obvious to you I’m selling ocean front property in Arizona. Along with this we have a secondary goal of preserving muscle size from the hypertrophy phase. You can train a muscle 2-4x/week in a strength phase based of the SRA curve. You should perform 10-20 sets per muscle, 3-6 reps per set, at 75-90%. Strength blocks typically last 3-4 months. For all you powerlifting bros out there, consider a hypertrophy phase every now and then to build more muscle that will later result in a bigger total.
Finally we reach the peaking phase where all the PRs of lifters past lie. The goal here is sharpen our technical and neural abilities, while maintaining mass and strength. You will train muscle groups 1-3x/week based on the SRA curve. You should perform 5-10 sets per muscle, 1-3 reps per set and the sets should be between 85-95%. The average duration of a peaking block is 1-2 months, at three months you begin to lose muscle size and strength.
How do we make sure that we keep the progress we made in previous phases? Let’s say that little Bobby has shitty quad development, so decided to use high bar squats as his main movement during a hypertrophy phase. Therefore, Bobby now has less shitty quads and he would like to keep them that way, but he needs to start a strength phase and is worried about losing his newfound size. No need to worry little Bobby, just make the first macrocylcle of your strength block a high bar squat, this will essentially lock in your muscle size. After your first macrocylcle you should be able to go to a different variation or the competition style squat.
So Bobby just ran through his strength phase and is ready to peak for his competition. He now has 4-6 months of hard work under his belt, and then he nails his peaking block. Bobby is now overreached and needs to back off before the competition, but he can’t lose his neural gains. *Bobby silently weeps into his tub of protein powder* “Impossible!” he cries, “We all know you can’t take a week off and come back stronger, I’ve wasted 6 months of hard work you crook!” Hey now Booby, I don’t appreciate you calling me names and I never said take a week off. We are going to deload into your meet so that you can maintain fitness and drop fatigue. To do this we are going to lower volume and maintain intensity, so cut your volume in half and keep your percentages. Best of both worlds right? Now go kick some ass and apologize for calling me a crook!
Until next time,
Stick to the plan
Israetel, M., & Smith, C. (n.d.). Scientific Principles of Strength Training.