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Results: Maximum Overdrive

Results: Maximum Overdrive

Maximum Overdrive is a nine-week cycle designed for the beginner to intermediate athlete who is interested in laying a solid strength and aerobic foundation.  This was intended to be a foundation cycle focused on building solid strength foundation and peaking this strength for a one rep max in three primary lifts:  Power Clean + Push Press, Back Squat and Bench Press.  In addition to building strength the secondary focus of this cycle was to build aerobic base and movement fidelity, this would begin to lay down the aerobic foundation for the next cycle which would build intensity and prepare our athletes for an aerobic test.

Keep in mind that Maximum Overdrive is the first cycle in a 3 part training plan designed to establish a strength and endurance foundation.  Then our athletes progressed into Mandatory Fun which brought up the intensity and built even more lower body volume and finished with testing The Darkside.  Blue Falcon then finished this entire cycle and peaked our athletes with high intensity anaerobic work and strength endurance.

PHASE 1 – Volume

Strength Goals

-Build Squat Volume

-Build Press Volume

-Build Power Clean + Push Press Technique/ Volume

-Build accessory Leg Volume- RDL’s and Tabata Calf Raises

-Build accessory grip work- Heavy Carries

As coaches we had a few initial thoughts going into this cycle.  We’ve had a lot of success in the past with high volume and moderate intensity for foundational strength training.  This allows our athletes to get a high volume of repetition and truly get comfortable with a lift under light to moderate loads.  This builds movement fidelity, strength endurance and hypertrophy for our athletes.  With this comes a confidence in the lift that you can only get through repetition.  Although in the past we saw an increase in strength endurance we didn’t see a huge carryover into our athlete’s 1RM due to lack of time under maximal loads 90%+.  For this cycle we wanted to incorporate both of these elements and used the first 5 weeks as a build and the final 4 weeks as a peak and strength retest.

For our initial loading we wanted to simplify things for our athletes and had them work off of prescribed weight jumps, meaning that depending on the athlete’s initial 1RM they would make set weight jumps between 5-25 lbs, roughly 5% increases for each progression.  While this seemed sound in theory it required the individual athletes to remember their previous working numbers instead of having a set number and a changing percentage to work off of.  This actually ended up being more confusing for the athletes as the cycle went on and we went back to percentages for the peaking phase of the cycle.

We also wanted to have distinct Total/ Upper and Lower Body days.  This was by design to increase total volume.  For our accessory lifts on the lower body days we also incorporated RDL’s and Tabata Calf Raises.  We had some issues with this volume initially.  While our athletes are used to pushing a high volume of work, adding multiple lower body exercises left them incredibly sore, and some of our newer athletes really suffered under the Tabata Calf Raises.  This forced us to cut back the volume of the accessory work as it wasn’t a primary goal for the cycle.  

Endurance Goals

-Endurance Test- The Darkside

-Build Volume to 50 Minutes of Constant Work at a Conversational Pace

-Accessory Lower/ Total/ Upper Body Work

-Establish Easy working pace

-Train Recovery

-Improve Movement Fidelity

We’ve always struggled with developing a test that would properly train functional endurance.  We don’t have the time or the desire to run or ruck for hours.  We wanted a mental fitness component and we wanted it to have both weighted and unweighted variables.  What we came up with we like to call The Darkside.  It checked all of those boxes and more.  After we assessed our goal and created a test we started to develop aerobic base.  This is still our non specific training, so we didn’t focus too much on training to the test, but instead we did this with progressed lower body and total/upper body endurance days.  These are basically sessions that range from 30-50 minutes and incorporate accessory lifts followed by a single mode endurance activity (run, step ups, tire drag airdyne etc).   Check out our Foundation program if you want to use the above method to build a rock solid aerobic base.

For our purposes this has been one of the best ways for us to increase endurance, train accessory strength work, push volume and get in any additional core, grip or carry work for a large segment of athletes.  In an effort to keep training volume high we followed the lower body strength sessions with lower body endurance efforts.  While the athletes struggled initially under the volume they accommodated for it after a few weeks and we saw an increase in performance.  How much of this was physical versus mental we don’t know, but regardless the athletes were able to handle the volume of work a better focus on pace.

Our biggest struggle with establishing the aerobic base component of this cycle was teaching our athletes pace.  Most wanted to go too hard and couldn’t maintain the intensity or their quality of movement degraded as they got fatigued.  In a time when everyone wants to push as hard as possible or race through the workouts we had to reteach our athletes how to work at an easy or conversational pace.  This was also more of a mental challenge for the athletes as well.  But as they became accustomed to the work and our coaching points they were able to reign in their efforts and work on establishing an easy or conversational pace.  On us as coaches this required us to really focus on teaching the athletes the how and why of what we were doing, and why it was important to go a little easier to train at these longer durations.

Another point of these longer, slower efforts is movement fidelity or keeping the quality of the movement high as the athlete fatigues.  This is as much a mental focus as a physical one, but it is important for our athletes.  In our experience, this is where we see the biggest breakdowns in our athletes.  As they fatigue they mentally shut down so they struggle to hit full range of motion of the prescribed movements or as the volume increases the individual tries to work around the uncomfortable nature of the exercises.  We hammered quality reps into our athletes at an easy pace, this left no excuses for half assed reps or failure to execute the exercise correctly.  If the athlete is unable to do an exercise correctly at an easy pace, then they will struggle and invariably lose the training effect of a much more intense session, or in a worst case scenario get injured.

These longer efforts consistently exposed these two coaching points.  First if the athlete didn’t have enough of an endurance base then they couldn’t maintain movement integrity for the prescribed time.  Or if they went out at a pace that was too hard then their intensity dropped off and they couldn’t maintain movement integrity.  If you are an athlete working through this cycle these are two points to focus on and keep you honest working through these efforts.   

Putting It All Together

The hardest thing to do with a hybrid cycle like this is properly integrating the strength and the endurance components.  Due to the pace of the endurance efforts this gave us a little leeway, as an easy pace doesn’t put too much stress on the athletes.  But we still had to be conscious to not beat the athletes up too much before their next squatting session.  In an effort to work around this each primary strength session was followed by an endurance based session that trained those some body parts.  These endurance efforts then alternated between loaded and unloaded to give the athletes both variety and allow a measure of active recovery.

So two training weeks would look like this:

Week 1

Session 1- Lower Body Strength

Session 2- Lower Body Endurance- Loaded

Session 3- Total/ Upper Body Strength

Week 2

Session 4- Total/ Upper Endurance- Loaded

Session 5- Lower Body Strength

Session 6- Lower Body Endurance- Unloaded

As you can see this alternated the strength and endurance work on a 2 to 1 ratio.  So every other week the athletes would have two strength days and one endurance day or vice versa.  While this was nice for variety and allows the athletes and coaches to stay mentally motivated for longer periods of times, it did have some downfall which we will talk about later.

PHASE 2 – Intensity

This cycle really came together during the 2nd phase or the peaking phase.  After 5 weeks of volume it was now time to start adding intensity.  The most basic rules of periodization mean that you can’t add intensity without a reduction of volume.  This was also a reward for our athletes, after pushing big volume it’s actually kind of nice to get under much lower rep ranges, even at heavier weight.

Phase 2 Strength Goals

-Prepare the athlete for heavy loads leading to a new 1RM

-Focus on consistent technique under maximal loads

-Accessory Pulling Work- Pull Complex (Cobra Complex)

From previous experiments with Block Periodization we’ve learned that it’s a great way to build strength, but it doesn’t always transfer well to a 1RM retest.  Since our goal was training the for the 1RM we used the final 4 weeks as a peaking phase we increased the athletes percentages up to 90% and dropped them to multiple singles.

There is a huge level of mental fitness that is built when athletes get used to getting under progressively heavier loads.  This is the biggest transfer we can get with our athletes is having faith in the technique they are training and not altering it when the loads get heavy enough to scare the athlete.  We all know that heavy loads can be intimidating, but this can be mitigated with training consistency and building the athlete’s mental fitness and desire to lift heavy.

We slightly altered the strength protocol going into the second phase of the cycle as well.  We hit every primary strength lift once a week and cut out almost all accessory lower body training.  So now it became even more of a hybrid cycle.

 Phase 2 Endurance Goals

-Add Intensity

-Manage Recovery

-Teach Concept of Pace – Easy Pace to Hard Pace to Recovery Pace

-Train Active Recovery

For our second phase of the Endurance plan we added intensity.  We did this with prescribed intervals of work to rest.  This started with the athletes running through two back to back bodyweight circuits.  For the majority of the efforts they worked at an Easy Pace and focused on quality movement and our primary rule in the gym was constant, quality movement.  However after a set amount of easy work they picked up their intensity to a Hard Pace for a minute.  This was a pace right below their maximal effort that they had to sustain for a full minute.  As the cycle went on this was progressed by reducing the Easy work and adding more Hard intervals.  The main focal points of these efforts were adjusting pace- both easy to hard and hard to easy.  We also wanted the athletes to manage their recovery and keep the movement quality high when they were fatigued.  After all Leg Feed the Wolf.

For our second endurance session we started the athletes with an Easy 15 minute effort at which point they then dropped into Max Effort Shuttle Sprint Intervals.  These were progressed by increasing the work duration and reducing the prescribed rest.  After these efforts the athletes dropped back into another 15 minute easy to moderate effort.  The goal here was have the athletes maintain a consistent effort after a high level of fatigue and also measure how long it took them to fully recover while working through the final effort.

Putting it Together

We needed more consistency with Phase 2 so the efforts were structurally the same week to week, the only thing that changed was the fact that the efforts were progressed. So the sessions mirrored the following structure.

Session 16- Total Strength/ 30 Minute Endurance 4 Minutes Easy 1 Minute Hard

Session 17- Lower/ Upper Strength

Session 18- 15 Minute Endurance/ 20 Sec Work 40 Sec Rest Intervals/ 15 Minute Endurance

Results

Maximum Overdrive concluded with a retest of all of the strength components of the original cycle.  The endurance test was made the primary focus of the next cycle- Mandatory Fun and will be retested by our athletes at the conclusion of that cycle.

Overall the results were pleasing.  While not everyone increased all of their lifts, the increase in quality technique and confidence underneath the barbell was fairly dramatic across the board.  And due to changes in technique and increasing the quality of a lift, we don’t always expect an immediate strength increase, especially if it was a lift where the athlete struggled with full range of motion or some key component of the lift.

Back Squat

70 Athletes Retested

59 Improved

Average Increase of Those Improved: 10.44%

Power Clean + Push Press

81 Athletes Retested

63 Improved

Average Increase of Those Improved: 10.54%

Bench Press

78 Athletes Retested

68 Improved

Average Increase of Those Improved: 9.83%

The Darkside – Retested at the completion of the next cycle Mandatory Fun

64 Athletes Retested

62 Athletes Improved

Average Increase of Those Improved +44 points

Final Thoughts

Strength

This cycle was designed for a beginner to intermediate athlete and for almost all of those athletes in our gym we saw very solid results.  Our stronger veterans didn’t see the same results and that was probably due to the lack of squat and press volume.  In previous high volume cycles we’ve squatted and pressed up to twice a week and while this is great for getting strong it is incredibly taxing on the body and hard for the athlete to stay motivated to keep getting under heavy weight.  So honestly there wasn’t enough sport specific work and intensity  for our veteran athletes to see huge improvement.  

We honestly don’t know if the Calf Raises and RDL’s had any real improvement in the athletes.  We do know that strong is strong as any progressed movement will yield benefit down the road, but we didn’t have any pre or post test to measure this.  We do know that initially it was too much volume for even some of our heartiest of veteran athletes and that has since been changed and is reflected on the published cycle.

We also should have had more consistent strength days in the first part of the cycle, not repeating the lift until every 4th session was a little bit confusing for the athletes and was honestly not really enough volume for our veteran athletes.  It also took away from hammering as much technique and confidence as we would have liked to.  Although it did allow us to keep the cycle new and interesting for the athletes for a full 5 weeks.

In Phase 2 we also didn’t have enough time under a heavy load to see an overload adaptation in our veteran athletes.  But this program wasn’t designed to exponentially increase strength in a veteran athlete.  If it was we should have taken this out another week and taken the athletes up to 95%+ of their 1RM’s for singles.  We did notice that some athletes just weren’t mentally prepared for the heavy nature of a 1RM and it showed when we tested.  Another week to build confidence in technique and under load would probably have been extremely beneficial.  We also had very limited deload sessions during this cycle and while they seemed more than adequate for our athletes, this made us reluctant to push the cycle out for another week of maximal lifting.  We’ve had issues in the past with our athletes peaking in the final week of the strength cycle and not hitting similar numbers during their testing days.

Although for the hybrid athlete testing and retesting the 1RM is just a measure of gym strength, and unless you are involved in a sport where you will be tested specifically on a 1RM this amount of strength volume will be more than adequate.  Maxxx Gainz would be better suited for a veteran athlete that wants to primarily focus on strength and hypertrophy.

Endurance

Although we really didn’t have a way to test these efforts in the middle of this cycle.  Personally as coaches we were very pleased with this portion of the cycle.  The athlete’s ability to learn pace and actively recover, while not tested was plainly evident as the cycle went on.  For us a coaches it was very gratifying to initially see athletes struggle with 4 minutes of easy work and 1 minute of hard work and 3 weeks later do much better with 2 minutes of easy work and 1 minute of hard work.  We know that a lot of this was a mental carryover as much as a physical one, but for us that is still a success.  This also had a huge carryover into our 1.5mile pretest for the next cycle.  Even without any specific run training, most of our athletes tested extremely well for this test.

(We did retest The Darkside following the intensity work of the following cycle and were incredibly impressed by not only our athletes improved physical fitness, but also their mental fortitude.  To an athlete they came in and clocked in on an incredibly difficult test and knocked it out of the park- with an average increase of +44 points!)

Conclusion

For the beginner to intermediate athlete that wants to not only increase strength, but also endurance and lay the foundation for adding intensity this was an incredibly successful cycle.  All of the coaches put work into the design and execution of this cycle and it was incredibly rewarding to see the carryover in the athletes.  For the majority strength and endurance was increased, but mostly gym confidence and individual confidence in the lifts and pace was increased.

We know that it isn’t sexy or exciting to lay a strength and endurance foundation, but the bigger the foundation the more work you will be able to lay down the road.  These cycles are the basis for building a lifelong athlete and need to be integrated into training to fully realize your potential as an athlete.

Below is an outline of the strength and endurance progressions that we followed.  This is included to give you an idea of the how we adjusted our intensity and volume as the cycle progressed.

STRENGTH PROGRESSIONS

Power Clean + Push Press

Block 1

Start – 65% – 15 Reps

Progression 1 – 70% – 10 Reps

Progression 2 – 75% – 8 Reps

Block 2

Progression 3 – 80% – 6 Reps/ 90% – 3 Reps

Progression 4 – 82.5% – 6 Reps/ 92.5% – 3 Reps

Progression 5 – 85% – 6 Reps / 95% – 3 Reps

Retest

Back Squat

Block 1

Start  – 65% – 50+ Reps

Progression 1 – 70% – 40+ Reps

Progression 2 – 75% – 30+ Reps

Block 2

Progression 3 – 75% – 15 Reps/ 80% – 15+ Reps

Progression 4 – 80% – 9 Reps/ 85% – 9+ Reps

Progression 5 – 85% – 6 Reps/ 90% – 3+ Reps

Retest

Bench Press

Block 1

Start  – 65% – 50+ Reps

Progression 1 – 70% – 40+ Reps

Progression 2 – 75% – 30+ Reps

Block 2

Progression 3 – 75% – 15 Reps/ 80% – 15+ Reps

Progression 4 – 80% – 9 Reps/ 85% – 9+ Reps

Progression 5 – 85% – 6 Reps/ 90% – 3+ Reps

Retest

 

ENDURANCE PROGRESSIONS

Block 1

Start- 40 Minutes – Easy

Repeat 40 Minutes – Easy

Repeat 40 Minutes -Easy

Progression 1- 50 Minutes Easy

Repeat 50 Minutes – Easy

Repeat 50 Minutes – Easy

Block 2

Progression 2 – 24 Minutes Easy/ 6 Minutes Hard- 4/1 easy to hard

Progression 3- 24 Minutes Easy/ 8 Minutes Hard- 3/1 easy to hard

Progression 4- 20 Minutes Easy/ 10 Minutes Hard- 2/1 easy to hard

 

Progression 2b – 15 Minutes Easy/ 10 Minutes- 20 Work/ 40 Sec Rest / 15 Minutes Easy

Progression 3b – 15 Minutes Easy/ 10 Minutes-30 Work/ 30 Rest / 15 Minutes Easy

Progression 4b – 15 Minutes Easy/ 10 Minutes- 40 Work/ 20 Rest/ 15 Minutes Easy

 

-Coach Moore

 

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