#118 – All Roads Lead to Block Periodization Programming
Building on Episode #116, Advanced Programming Methods for Strength, Matt and Scott discuss the intricacies of block programming and their preferred templates for implementing it.
Block training is laid out in a few stages:
- Accumulation phase
- Transmutation or Intensification phase (“Heavification” if you’re Scott Hambrick)
- Realization phase
A full cycle of block generally lasts 12 weeks, with each phase being 3-4 weeks long followed by a deload week at the end. Most lifters will train through these phases in a 4-day split model. The first phase is the accumulation phase, during which the lifter performs a lot of volume at moderate (70%) intensities. Matt prefers to incorporate both the competition lifts and supplemental lifts with a range of motion equal to or longer than the competition lift (such as a deficit deadlift). The purpose of the accumulation phase is, as the name implies, to accumulate a lot of stress via volume.
The transmutation phase trades the volume of the accumulation phase for more intensity, introducing work in the 80% range. Transmutation refers to transforming the work capacity built during the accumulation phase into strength gains, as demonstrated by the weight on the bar. Whether this transmutation is the result of tapering the volume and “peaking” (though the lifter is far from actually peaking at this point) or a consequence of increased work capacity built during the accumulation phase is still in question. What’s important is that the lifter reintroduces intensity back into the question, to maintain some practice with heavy loads. As mentioned in previous episodes, lifters will vary in how long they can train at submaximal loads and still be able to lift maximal loads when the time comes, so during this phase Matt and Scott will sometimes program heavy singles followed by backoff sets, to allow some practice with heavy reps.
The next phase — realization — completes the transformation by introducing very heavy work (90-97%) in the competition lifts and tapering the volume even further in the lead up to the competition/meet. The supplemental lifts now exceed the lifters competition PR’s, and the range of motion are shorter (Matt mentions a three-inch press lockout, for example). The first week or two, the lifter usually feels great, enjoying the reduction in volume and the climb in loads. By week three and four things get significantly more difficult as the lifter approaches 95-97% singles. RPE is very high at this point, and the lifter may even miss a couple reps. It’s important to remember that we have not fully dissipated the fatigue accumulated through the accumulation and transmutation phases yet. Over the next couple weeks and the final deload week, the lifter will fully peak, in time for the meet.
Clearly, block training requires very consistent training as the SRA cycle is stretched over the course of months. Even a few missed workouts can throw off the stress side of the equation and compromise the whole training block.