When you go on a road trip you plan your destination. You don’t just hit the road and figure it out from there (well, if you’re an uber hipster, sure). For the rest of us we want to know 2 things: how we’re going to get there (train, bus, car) and when we’re going to get there (a few hours, a few days)? Your training program is very much the same. You want to know how you to train (exercises selection, frequency, volume, intensity) and when to move on (change program for more results). Instead of a map for your journey you’ll need blocks….training blocks.
WHAT IS A TRAINING BLOCK?
A training block is, typically, a 4-week training cycle. Enough research over the last 50+ years has shown that after 4 weeks it is necessary for most individuals to change up their training. However, it does not mean change the program in its entirety. It means you change a few variables:
- Exercise selection
- Tempo of reps
- Number of reps
- Number of sets
- Weight used
- Training frequency (i.e. training a muscle group 1x, 2x, or 3x week)
HOW DO I CREATE MY OWN TRAINING BLOCK?
You’re going to hate this answer….it depends. Are you trying to get stronger? Bigger? More powerful? Don’t worry, we’ll keep it simple and stick with getting stronger and bigger. Let’s remember what this means:
- Bigger (aka Hypertrophy) = enlargement of sarcoplasm in your muscle fibers (yes, ladies, if you want to be “toned” you need to ENLARGE the sarcoplasm in your muscles)
- Stronger = enlargement of myofibrils in your muscle fibers (this is the “cross-sectional” relationship of myosin and actin in your muscles that make them stronger)
EXAMPLE 1: BIGGER
Block 1 = Hypertrophy
Block 2 = Hypertrophy
Block 3 = Strength
You will repeat this sequence as needed. You might be asking, “Why do I need to focus on strength? Shouldn’t I just focus on hypertrophy?” While focusing on hypertrophy sounds logical you need to spend some time stimulating myofibril strength. As you increase your overall strength you’ll have the ability to handle more weight back on the hypertrophy training-block. The more weight you can move means the large the muscles can grow.
EXAMPLE 2: STRONGER
Block 1 = Strength
Block 2 = Strength
Block 3 = Hypertrophy
You probably noticed we are simply switching the focus of 2 training blocks on hypertrophy to 2 training blocks of strength. You might also be asking yourself, “Why do I need to focus on hypertrophy? Shouldn’t I just focus on strength?” In the same manner that those focusing on hypertrophy should spend every 3rd cycle on strength you need to do the same, but in reverse, on hypertrophy. Why? You need to physical enlarge the sarcoplasm in your muscle fibers. The more sarcoplasm you have the more room the myofibrils have to grow. Bigger myofibrils means stronger muscles.
STAY FIT MY FRIENDS!