Progress is a Process

Something that rarely gets disgusted is the process by which we progress movements during training. We know that from a meet preparation standpoint, training should be more specific to the competition movements. During the off-season, the movements should be more general. Now, if you subscribe to the notion that your training should be as specific as possible all the time, then so be it, but I wish you good luck. Training variety lends itself to building a well-rounded physique, base level of conditioning and it prevents training from getting stale over time. The process by which you progress, regress and swap movements will be dependent on your goals and the timeline, but some general guidelines should apply.

The further away from the meet, the more general training should be. This holds true for movement selection, energy systems and absolute intensity alike. You should be aiming to perform more volume with lighter weights on movements that resemble the competition movement. Relative intensity should be high, but absolute intensity should be low. How does one accomplish this? You choose movements that challenge your weaknesses. As you train in this manner, your proficiency in the movements improves, your work capacity improves and your weaknesses become less weak. If you follow the site, you know this isn’t new information. But, how do you get from the general to the specific in an intelligent manner? You do so by systematically bridging the gaps.

First, you must progress the loading parameters. This is accomplished through increases in volume first, followed by intensity. Increase the amount of work you do, then increase how heavy that work is. As the absolute load increases, you’ll be able to match up relative intensity and absolute intensity of a different movement. We know that intensity and volume should undulate, so this method works perfectly. Performing 10 working reps at RPE 9 of a challenging variation, should match up to the relative intensity of 20reps of a less challenging movement. From there, you can increase the volume and intensity in the same manner before you swap the movement again. 

Next, we need to look at the movement itself. What makes one movement more difficult than the next? Typically, it is either the altering the length of the ROM (buffalo bar vs. board pressing), or altering the center of mass (Cambered bar vs. high bar). The longer the ROM and the further away the bar from the center of mass, the less weight you’ll be able to handle. There are plenty of examples and the choice of movement would be based on the needs and weak areas of the specific lifter. As you progress the volume and loading parameters simply shorten the ROM, or bring the center of mass closure to the body.

Other considerations would be altering the time domain, or time under tension of the movement, such as introducing a tempo, or pause work. Altering the velocity curve of the movement through accommodating resistance. Altering the density of the training by manipulating rest periods. Whatever you choose, be wary because the more manipulations you make to the training, the more methodical you must be in progressing back to the competition variant.

Accessory work should follow an inverse pattern in terms of both absolute and relative intensity. As the main movement of the day gets heavier and more intensive, the accessory work should become less intensive. The volume of accessory work should also decrease as more energy and recovery reserves should be devoted to the main work. Varying the loading mechanism, time domain and ROM are an integral part of planning accessory work. They should address structural balance, weak points and aim to preserve movement qualities that may be lost as training specificity increases.

While this may seem overly complicated, it does not have to be – you just have to PLAN!  Once you know how much time you have before the meet, you’ll know how long you have to progress variations before meet prep.  During meet prep, specificity is king and main movement is the priority. The first assistance movement should be a close variant chosen to address weak points. This movement can change over time, and as the meet approaches and absolute intensity of the competition movement rises, it will be eliminated to facilitate recovery. This means that at 10 weeks out, training variety should be next to non-existent. Using the example of a 10-week prep, you could likely progress 2 movements, but the longer the off-season, the more variations you could use. 

Here is an example of a 10-week Off-Season progressing 2 squat movements:

Week 1 – SSB 5x5 RPE 7; Front Paused 4x5 RPE 7

Week 2 – SSB 5x5 RPE 7; Front Paused 4x5 RPE 7

Week 3 – Comp Squat – 5's at RPE 6

Week 4 – SSB 5x5 RPE 8; Front Paused 4x5 RPE 8

Week 5 – SSB 5x5 RPE 8; Front Paused 4x5 RPE 8

Week 6 – Comp Squat – 5's at RPE 7

Week 7 – High Bar 5x5 RPE 7; Front Squat 4x5 RPE 7

Week 8 – High Bar 5x5 RPE 7; Front Squat 4x5 RPE 7

Week 9 – Comp Squat – 5's at RPE 8

Week 10 –High Bar 5x5 RPE 8; Front Squat 4x5 RPE 8

Begin Meet prep

Week 1 – Comp Squat 5x5 RPE 7; High Bar Paused Squat 4x5 RPE 7

Week 2 – Comp Squat 5x5 RPE 7; High Bar Paused Squat 4x5 RPE 7

Week 3 – Unequipped Comp Squat – 3's at RPE 6

Week 4 – Comp Squat 5x3 RPE 8; High Bar 4x3 RPE 7

Week 5 – Comp Squat 5x3 RPE 8; High Bar 4x3 RPE 7

Week 6 – Unequipped Comp Squat – 1's at RPE 6

Week 7 – Comp Squat Singles RPE 8

Week 8 – Comp Squat Singles RPE 9

Week 9 – Taper

Week 10 – Meet week deload

Progression should not be done on a whim. Planning your progressions will ensure a seamless transition from general to specific, allow you to accumulate the appropriate amount of volume required to improve your weak points and allow you to peak your strength when it matters – on the platform. Be methodical in your implementation. Progress is a process.