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Loredana Toma back squat
Loredana Elena Toma, 160kg back squat

1. Patience

Everyone wants results, but get disappointed when the results don't show after a three-week program. There has been conducted countless strength related research, and funny enough, all of them use a fairly long program. Between eight and twelve weeks. The reason for this is simple. Strength adaptation takes time. For beginners, less work needs to be done for adaptation to take place, with an intermediate or advanced lifter adaptation takes longer and comes in smaller doses. Complete beginners can see improvements on a weekly bases. This normally goes on for a few weeks until it starts staggering and results take longer and longer. It's commonly referred to as noob gains. For intermediate and advanced lifters it's a different story. For adaptation to take place more stimulus has to be provided. Either in the form of volume, frequency, or intensity and can take up to eight to sixteen weeks to see results.

So expecting results after just a few session is unrealistic. Give your body some time to adapt, recover, and overcome the stimulus of a program or phase upon which squat strength is focused. Which brings me to the next point.

2. Periodisation

Strength is not just one commodity, but a combination of a few factors. There are, in essence, three elements to strength. The first one is called physical strength and refers to the cross-sectional area of a muscle, aka its size. The second one is neurological strength which refers to the strength of the neurological signals that pass through to the muscles informing them to contract. And the third one is called mechanical strength. Mechanical strength refers to a muscle's pulling force and the way those forces act upon bones and joints as lever arms. You can have a direct effect on the first two, physical strength and neurological strength, through strength training. The third one, however, is set in stone. Unfortunately, you won't be able to change the insertions of your muscles. Knowing this, you can periodise your training to take advantage of it. Normally longer duration programs, sixteen weeks and more, have elements of periodisation. Periodisation is a process of dividing a long period into smaller phases or cycles. An annual plan would be called a macrocycle, within a macrocycle you'd have mesocycles, normally the months but could be six weeks, twelve weeks and so on. Within a mesocycle you'd have microcycle which often is the weekly program. A normal way to create programs is with one macrocycle, say twelve weeks, and within the macrocycle you'd have three mesocycles, a general preparation phase (GPP), a strength phase, and a competition phase, normally all three divided into 1/3 of the macrocycle each. Here is where the two commodities, physical and neurological strength come into the picture. During the general preparation phase, the general aim is to attain hypertrophic gains. This would normally include fairly high volume and higher rep ranges, six and above reps in each set. When the general preparation phase is over and you've gained some size you'll move into a strength phase where you'd do more of neurological strength type training. This is typically training with moderate to low volume and higher intensities. Meaning, fewer sets per week, yet, heavier squats ranging from eighty to one hundred per cent of the current 1RM. The last phase, the competition phase would include even lower volume and even higher intensities and signifies the utmost neurological strength type training.

3. Progressive overload

For adaptation to take place, be it hypertrophic adaptation or neurological adaptation, the tissues have to be challenged. They have to face stimuli that are difficult to overcome. This is usually done with either volume or intensities. Over some time either the volume of squats or the weight on the bar has to increase. If you always do what you've always done you'll always get what you've always got. This is really easy to do. Say you squat once a week and want to add the element of progressive overload to your method. You'd start off by squatting 3x3 with 85%, next week you'd add one set - 4x3 with 85% - next week you'd again add one set. By week four, instead of going to 6x3 with 85%, you'd go back down to 3x3 but this time with 88% and t