The Raider cycle consists of three phases:
The total duration of Raider is 22 weeks. This duration includes testing, transition, and taper weeks.
Raider is a strength cycle. Though it includes training for multiple fitness attributes, the majority of training, and the overarching cycle progression, are guided by strength. As you progress through the phases, the focus on strength will become clearer and more pronounced.
Raider was designed as the first major cycle of 2020 for Atomic Athlete.
It arose out of the Covid-19 pandemic shutdown in Texas from mid-March to mid-May. During the shutdown, due to the gym’s closure and subsequent lack of equipment for athletes, we focused on muscular endurance and work capacity. This allowed us to train metabolic and high rep components of fitness, but forced us to step away from the barbell. Our athletes lost some of their strength gains during this time.
When the shutdown ended, we were limited on how we could train, both by social distancing and mask requirements. These facts, along with the strength losses, encouraged us to turn toward the barbell to limit the amount of training space and equipment each athlete required and to regain lost strength. Yet, it would be impossible to simply hop back under the barbell after such a period away from it. The stress and strain of moving back into heavy barbell work may have proved too much for the body, so we took a more circumspect approach, focusing our efforts on building fundamentals of strength before transitioning into pure strength work.
Yet, Raider also aimed to take our strength to new heights. This led us to consider a much longer cycle length, with each phase being longer, and to employ multiple variations of each movement to train specific weaknesses common to them. Additionally, we made each microcycle (the repeated blocks within a phase) longer and with greater variety.
Raider, therefore, is a great cycle for the athletes who meet any of the following conditions:
- Have limited training space.
- Have been away from strength training for an extended period due to either a total break or to train other aspects of your fitness.
- Are coming off of a strength cycle and looking to tighten up movement quality in fundamental lifts.
- Are coming off of Ronin and/or Shogun.
The only truly required pieces of equipment are a barbell, squat rack, bench, and plates to load heavy lifts. However, since this is a long cycle, we rely on using kettlebells, dumbbells, running, jump ropes, and the like. You don’t need any fancy cardio equipment, but they provide variety. A course of known distances will do for the aerobic work, but even something to do step-ups on will suffice. A single pair of dumbbells or kettlebells are fine, though, again, not entirely required since the barbell can be used as a replacement for most of those movements, though you may have to use a little creativity to do so.
Timeline and Execution
The 22-week duration includes everything. You neither need to test ahead of time (however, if you’re coming off of Ronin/Shogun, you will have numbers), nor add in any taper, deload, or test weeks. Simply start on Week 1 and proceed through the program.