PROGRAM DESIGN FOR WEIGHTLIFTING



The underlying issue of jumping forward, or any technical issue for that matter, will always be a combination of inadequate positions and the movements associated between those positions. But if you're not sure what position/movement is causing the issue the no-feet snatch/clean could be found helpful.

Programming is an art in itself, however, like any other art, there are fundamentals that need to be understood before originality can be applied. In this article I'll try to explain, in the simplest way I know how, the basics of programming so you can apply it to yourself.


Basic program structure — PERIODISATION

Structure is key when it comes to programming. Without structure results are going to be that much harder to achieve. So periodisation is used as a means to get basic structure to a program. Essentially it's just a method of dividing a longer program into separate phases, namely macro, meso, and microcycles. In weightlifting the mesocycle phases used the most often are: General preparation phase (GPP), strength phase, and competition / peaking phase. And in that exact order. Each phase serves a specific purpose and is programmed to achieve exactly that. let's dig into it, shall we.


General Preparation Phase

The main purpose of the GPP phase is to "create a foundation" for more intense training later on in a program. This is achieved by three factors, firstly; having a wide variety of exercises. This will improve overall skill and strength, yet, non-specific movements. Secondly; having noticeably high volume. Higher volume, achieved by increasing total sets and higher rep ranges, will improve hypertrophic GAAAIINS and increase fitness levels. And last, but not least; the GPP phase allows time for technical work. Since most of the higher intensity work will be done in later phases, doing technique work in this phase is really beneficial.


Strength Phase

Following the GPP a strength phase will be introduced. During a strength phase the volume will reduce, intensity will increase, and exercises will be more weightlifting specific, although, there will still be quite a variety of exercises to choose from. In the strength phase a large emphasis will be put into progressive overload and structured de-load weeks/days. (more on this later)


Competition / Peaking Phase

For this phase/s volume will decrease even further, intensity will increase, and the exercise selection will be limited to only the most specific movements, namely; Snatch, clean & jerk (+ some variations), and front/back squat.


Quite simple, right?

It should be fairly easy to see the trend through the three phases. Volume decreasing, intensity increasing, and exercises being more and more weightlifting specific as you go along. Just in case you still don't get it, here is another graph, for you visual learners.

No athlete is the same, so nor should their program be.

Well, I say that... The case is a bit different with beginner and intermediate lifters. When starting out, a generic program could be found tremendously useful (if done right). In fact, the same could be said for experienced lifters, however, the beginner will get a much greater benefit out of a generic program than an experienced lifter will. Enough jibber-jabber, let's move on. Depending on the athlete, what experience they have and what skills they're lacking, the length of the phases will vary and the exercises within the phases will differ. Generally, the more experience an athlete has, whether it's experience through weightlifting specifically or other sports, the shorter the GPP and the longer the strength phase will be. The competition / peaking phase, in my opinion, anyways, depends on what the athlete prefers and what works for them. Some like it short and intense while others like it lengthy and less intense. Although, there is a minimum requirement for peaking condition to be achieved.

Examples of a 16 week program Beginner

GPP: 8 weeks (3:1)x2 Strength phase: 4 weeks (3:1) Competition / peaking phase: 4 week (3:1) Intermediate GPP: 5 weeks (4:1)

Strength phase: 6 weeks (3:1) +2

Competition / peaking phase: 5 weeks (3:1+taper)


Experienced

GPP: 3 weeks

Strength phase: 8 weeks (3:1)

Competition / peaking phase: 5 (3:1+taper)


The three cycles — Macro, Meso, and Micro

The macrocycle

This has already been covered since the whole program itself is the macrocycle. So we won't go into further detail here. Although, sometimes the macrocycle is referred to as an annual plan. But in this case let's just stick to the whole program.


The mesocycles

There will be three mesocycles within our "virtual" 16 week program: GPP, strength, and competition / peaking as mentioned previously. Within these mesocycles, there will be added further structure. The first thing I like to add are the de-load weeks. Because they will be evenly distributed you can easily add them in to begin with. Normally a de-load week will be every four weeks, making it a 3:1 ratio. Meaning that there will be three weeks worth of hard work followed by one de-load week (we'll get into the de-load a bit later). Mesocycles include elements of weekly progressive overload, be that in volume, intensity, or frequency (We'll also get into progressive overload in more detail later). So like with the macrocycle, where intensity and volume will fluctuate, so will it in a mesocycle.


The microcycle

A microcycle is the shortest, yet most detailed, part of a program. Written on a weekly basis, it's within the microcycle you'll program weekly training frequency, exercise selection, intensity, and volume. First figure out how many sessions should take place pr. week. Again, this will vary between lifters, but three session pr. week should be a minimum (not that you can't get results from less). And there is no need to have more than five session per week, unless you're an experienced lifter. In which case there would be days including two sessions, one in the morning and one in the evening. Even in a microcycle there will be elements of progressive overload. How you set up that progression it completely up to you. Taking the example from above with five training days, having a light session on Monday, medium session on Tuesday, medium again on Thursday, a heavy one on Friday, and a light session again on Saturday is only one way of doing it. When having an element of progressive overload within microcycles it important to allow for super-compensation.

The myth of Milo

Milo, a 6th Century wrestler, is most famously known for lifting a baby calf everyday, until eventually it became a fully grown bull. Doing this everyday, in turn, increased Milo’s muscle mass and strength.

The story is used to illustrate the principle of Progressive Overload.


The principles of progressive overload should be the backbone of every program. Without it the athlete will not achieve results close to that of a program in which includes the principles of progressive overload.

So how does one overload progressively?

There is more than one method of achieving overload. In weightlifting, or any strength sport for that matter, where increasing strength is the main goal, overloading the intensity of the work done will be a superior way of achieving strength. Other methods are by volume and frequency. BUT that does not mean that volume or frequency don't play a role when overloading via intensity, because they do. In fact, if volume and frequency don't work in conjunction with the intensity overload, the results will not be as good as they could. There will be a sweet-spot of the intensity-volume-frequency ratio to achieve the best results. Although, that ratio will of course vary between lifters and is not set in stone. To keep it simple, I'll make and example of progressive overload by increasing load and decreasing the sets.

Week 1

Monday: Squat 5x5 @ 75% Thursday: Squat 5x5 @ 78%

Total volume 3825kg


Week 2

Monday: Squat 4x5 @ 77%

Thursday: Squat 4x5 @ 80%

Total volume 3140kg


Week 3

Monday: 3x5 @ 79%

Thursday: 3x5 @ 82%

Total volume 2415kg


Although this is a very simple example of progressive overload it still shows the progression. This should be done with every exercise that is intended to improve strength. And even within microcycles you should program volume/intensity progressions. Notice how the average intensity goes up each week, yet the volume slowly reduces by two sets pr. week, resulting in a decreased total volume — just as we like it. When done in conjunction with volume it refers back to the periodisation talked about earlier, where intensity goes up while total volume goes down. Keep in mind that the increase of weekly intensity should be very low. Anywhere between a 2-5% increase should be enough. Otherwise the body is going to have a hard time adapting to the excess stress it's put upon. Talking about adaptation, achieving super-compensation is super important. See what I did there? Used the word "super" as an adjective for something called super in the first place, genius that!... what, you don't think so? DAMN.

Super compensation

Getting strong is not a linear progression, it's a bit more complicated than that, unfortunately. The reason for planned de-loads and off-days is to allow for super-compensation. Sufficient recovery has to be included in a program for any improvement to take place. So to ensure the best results, make sure the recovery period following a high intensity workout is at least 48-72 hours. This is not to say that you can't train within the next 48-72 hours after a session, it just means that you have to train something else within those hours. Or at a low intensity. This concept is especially important when progressive overload is included in the program (which it should be). However, I don't want to go into too much detail with this, so for more detailed information on super-compensation, click here.


Which exercises to include in the program?

Everyone should be doing snatch and clean & jerk on a weekly basis, no question about it. You won't get better at them unless you do. The same goes for snatch pull, clean pull, back squat, and front squat! just do em' please.


Now, there are a million other weightlifting exercises that could improve both technique an/or strength, but when should you use them? First of all, it all depends on what skill/strength the athlete is lacking. If there is a lack of leg strength, easy, just program some heavy ass squats. But what if strength isn't the issue but press out in the jerk is? This is where it's important to know exercises like the push press and power jerks for example. It's important to know what exercises do what, since that will determine if the athlete actually need it. Don't just put push presses in there just for the sake of having it in the program. It's a good exercise, don't get me wrong, but does your athlete actually need it? For any technical issue in the olympic lifts there will most likely be an exercise that can help correct it. Let's take the example of someone jumping forward in the snatch and/or clean.


The underlying issue to jumping forward, or any technical issue for that matter, will always be a combination of inadequate positions and the movement associated between those positions. But if you're not sure what position/movement is causing the issue the no-feet snatch/clean could be found helpful. This exercise doesn't address the root of the faulty movement causing the issue directly. However, to successfully snatch without moving the feet one has to eliminate the faulty movement that caused them to jump forwards in the first place, and therefore the no-feet snatch/clean will address the issue indirectly. No-feet snatches is just one movement that can help. There are also other ways of fixing this issue.


Here, here are some problems often seen in weightlifting and some exercises that could fix them

Need speed under the bar?

Power, hang, and block variation will be helpful. Need to improve the 3rd pull and get a faster turnover? Tall snatches/clean and hip snatch/clean.


Just need an overall better technique? 3 position snatch/clean


Unstable overhead? Overhead squat and snatch balance


Weak overhead?

Push presses and strict press


Bar crashing on the clean? Muscle snatch/clean


The takeaway message with the exercise selection is that they either need to help fix a technical, mobility or confidence issue, or improve strength where needed. Please, just choose the exercises accordingly.


Do you want more information on programming?

My recommended books on this topic will for sure be the book Periodization (£12.99) by Tudor Bompa and Carlo Buzzichelli. (The 6th edition of the same book is also out now (£50.39)). And of course, the book Weightlifting Programming by Bob Takano is a must!

 

Thanks for reading! If you've got any questions please don't hesitate to drop an email to faebarbell@gmail.com or by going to the contact page.


Good luck with the programming. Pol