What is "programming"? What does it mean?Edit

Programming is the logical, planned methodology developed for a workout routine used to reach pre-determined training goals. It includes all variables of training, such as exercises, days performed, sets/reps/weight/volume/workload, planned rest periods, and can even get as detailed as movement speed and rest between sets.

Programming is and should be, very simple for the beginner. It is necessarily more complex for the well-trained. What this means is that if you are a newb to training, you don't need some complex scheme or workout. A few basic exercises performed a few times per week with steady upward progression in weight is all that is necessary. As you get closer to your genetic limits through training experience, your programming will become more complex.

There is one basic law which guides programming development:

Use the LEAST COMPLEX PROGRAMMING possible at all times.

Only advance to more complex programming when absolutely necessary.

One of the biggest, if not THE biggest mistakes made is violating rule # 1. If you violate rule #1, it is a guarantee that you are slowing your gains down. You may still make gains, but you will not be making them as fast as possible if you are able to use less complex programming.

  • Simple programming = beginner = workout-to-workout progression and planning
  • Somewhat complex programming = intermediate = weekly or biweekly progression and planning
  • Complex Programming = Advanced = Monthly or quarterly progression and planning
  • Very complex programming = advanced/elite = Semi-annual or annual progression and planning

If you can make progress from workout to workout, then there is no need to use programming that is designed for week-to-week advances. You are slowing yourself down.

What are the basic considerations in programmingEdit

1) Exercise

Back squats, front squats, lunges, and leg extensions all train the quadriceps. If you have done these 4 exercises, you know darn well they have a VERY significant impact on the body overall. An exercise's effect is both "local" and "systemic".

Leg extensions have a very high level of "local" effect. The burn is brutal, and for a few minutes afterward, you may have trouble walking. If all you did for your legs was some hard leg extensions, then today you'd feel it, but tomorrow you'd probably be fine. Your leg extension workout will have zero effect on the rest of your body.

On the opposite end, back squats may not produce the specific localized burn that leg extensions do, but you may end up walking like a duck for upwards of 3-4 days afterward. When you're done with a squat workout, your legs and hips are tired, but your entire body is a bit tired as well.

2)Volume and Workload

Volume = sets * reps
Workload = sets * reps * weight used

3 sets, 5 reps, 200 lbs

3*5*200=3000 lbs of workload.

Generally, exercises performed with lighter weight can be done for a high # of repetitions, which may make things seem like higher reps = higher workload, but, you can't JUST take workload into consideration without also including:

3) Intensity

This is defined as % 1-RM. It is not "perceived exertion", nor is it "difficulty". This is the officially used and quantifiable definition for intensity.

So our above example, 3x5x200=3000

This may very well work someone who can only bench about 230 lbs (200 lbs / 230 lb max = 87% intensity). However, if you can bench 300 lbs, then a 200 lb bench is only 66% of your 1-RM, so it doesn't do much.

It is helpful to adjust our basic workload equation with the intensity factor to get "adjusted workload"

For example:

230-lb bench press: 200lbs. = 87% 1-RM:
Adjusted workload = 3*5*200*87% =~ 2610

300-lb bench press: 200lbs. = 66% 1-RM
Adjusted workload = 3*5*200*66% ~ 2000

Notice the "Adjusted workload" for the stronger athlete is ~ 25% less despite using the exact same weight. This VERY important when determining heavy/light/medium days, as well as recovery days in a "volume-recovery-intensity" type scheme (both discussed later)

In order to keep warmup sets out of the equation, anything < 60-70% 1-RM is not used for purposes of workload calculation, unless several sets and/or reps are performed of said exercise.

4) Scheduling

For the general trainee, this is pretty flexible. For the specific athlete (i.e. a PL or football player), scheduling is one of the most important considerations and can possibly become the overriding determinant.

Joe Average lifts weights because he wants to. Joe Halfback lifts weights so he is better on game day. Joe Powerlifter lifts weights to be stronger for a competition. As such, the schedule and planning of training must suit the exact goals of the trainee.

5) Variation


Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg. 168-171, PP The intermediate stage is the place where most athletes make their biggest training mistakes...Many intermediate trainees get caught up in an endless cycle of “changing routines”, constantly messing with the weekly schedule of exercises, sets, and reps...variety lies in the way the basic exercises are applied, and not in a bunch of new exercises.

Translation - Just because you're not doing the core program, doesn't mean you shouldn't use core exercises. Do not change your primary workout stimuli from "squats-benches-rows" to "leg extensions - Nautilus flyes - Soup can curls". That isn't variety. That's stupid.


Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe, pg. 173 PP Variety for variety’s sake is pointless. All training must be planned, and success must be planned for, and all the variety in the world is no substitute for correct planning.

Translation - "Different" isn't always better. "Better planning" will equal "better", however.

What do "sets across", "pyramiding" and "ramping" mean?Edit

Sets across is a method of weight progression where all work sets are done with the same weight for the same repetition # during a given session. i.e. "3x5x225" means you do 3 sets of 5 repetitions per set with 225 lbs for all of your work sets. This method tends to be very effective at both strength and muscle mass accumulation. The volume allows for mass accumulation and the repetitions, if low enough, provide for good strength development.

Ramping is a method of weight progression where all work sets are done with the same # of repetitions, while the weight increases. For example, "315x3x5 ramped" means you will do 3 ramped sets of 5, with 315 being the heaviest weight you ramped up to.


bar x 5 = warmup
135 x 5 = warmup
185 x 5 = warmup
225 x 5 = warmup

255 x 5 = ramp set
285 x 5 = ramp set
315 x 5 = ramp set

Notice that the lightest "ramp" set is still heavy enough to get a training effect, as it is 80% of the 5-RM (more on RM and its uses in the "Programming" section). The idea is to ensure you get to a nice heavy weight at the end of the ramping, but to use moderate weights and reps to get a bit of volume for workload increases and mass accumulation.

Pyramiding is an old-school bodybuilding type weight progression scheme where you start with a lighter weight and do a bunch of reps, then gradually increase the weight while lowering the reps. Its effectiveness is entirely dependent upon your goals and your exact methodology.

1 method of pyramiding for a bodybuilder, used as an example:

Warmups, then...

225 x 12
245 x 10
260 x 8
265 x 4
270 x 1 or 2

Note that the 12, 10 and 8-rep sets essentially obliterate the trainee, and that 2 more sets are performed, but with notably submaximal intensity (%age of 1-RM)? Since "heavy/hard" 8-12 rep sets are good for mass building, a good pump will occur, and the trainee will make some size gains for a period of time, but without some volume/intensity manipulation (or proper chemical assistance), the trainee will quickly stall on a program such as this. It can be VERY effective for periods of time, especially for well-trained individuals, but frequently the training emphasis ends up being placed on the lighter weights and higher reps, which burns the trainee out, rendering their last few sets too light to be of real use.

In many cases, a better way would be to do your warmups, then

275 x 8
255 x 10
225 x 12, 10

Notice that in the 2nd method of weight progression, the total workload is higher, the # of reps performed above 75% of 1-RM (Which could be estimated to be 315~325ish here) is much higher. The maximal 8-rep set is only 260 in the 1st progression method, and tops out at 270 for a rep or 2. A total of 3 sets are performed in the target rep zone of 8-12, and they are performed with less weight. In the 2nd method, more sets with notably more weight are performed in the target rep zone of 8-12 because fatigue is less of a limiting factor.

It simply makes more sense to train heavy when you are at your strongest, and as you fatigue, use less weight. The 2nd method is frequently referred to as "reverse pyramiding". You may also hear reference to "down sets", "burn sets", or "back off sets" to describe the lighter sets performed after the top weight.

What is linear periodization? What is dual factor periodization? Which type does SS use?Edit

This program relies on "linear progress", which means that you will track progress from workout to workout. You are untrained, so you can disrupt homeostasis and cause a "training effect" with very few sets (3, for example). The benefit of this is that you can recover quickly from only a few sets. What this means is that you can do an exercise today, "trash" yourself because of your poor conditioning with a pretty easy workload, then come back in a few days and be fully recovered. It simply doesn't take much to cause the necessary training/recovery stimulus when you're new to the weights. This is the benefit of being an absolute novice/beginner. As you progress in your conditioning, you might be able to add a set here or there or perhaps an extra exercise for a set or 2 (such as dips), and still progress from workout to workout.

Eventually, your strength and conditioning will be such that more than only a few sets will be required to disrupt homeostasis. You will be better conditioned, and you'll require higher volume and workload to get the training effect. Unfortunately, you won't be able to recover as rapidly, and as a result, a workout scheme slightly more complex than "add weight to the bar each time" will be required. Linear periodization is what the successful intermediate will use during this period. They are stuck halfway between the rock and the hard place. They have enough conditioning to recover pretty quickly between workouts, but they require far more stimulus to disrupt homeostasis and produce a training effect. Instead of progress being workout-to-workout, progress ends up being week to week. Interestingly, this is where the majority of trainees end up, toiling about in "intermediate-ville" for the majority of their training lives, because they can't use "anything" to grow, like they did when they were newbs, and they really aren't going to get a lot out of the typical professional bodybuilder's training regimen at this time either. Regardless, there will come a point when even linear periodization isn't going to be enough.

Dual factor periodization is an incredibly effective technique that can result in great strength and development advances for a very well-trained athlete who has hit the wall in their training progression after years of hard, consistent training. Not only can they not make incremental weight increases on their exercises from workout to workout, they can't even make increases from week to week, and a certain level of "down/backoff" time needs to be planned into what amounts to a semi-annual or possibly annual training cycle. The workouts aren't taken from day to day or even week-to-week, they will be taken in larger periods, such as a month or 6-week period. The workouts are organized to provide cumulative stress to the body over several weeks and many workouts.

If you are considering this program, then the need for such complexity is miles away. You need to do the basics, you need to practice the basics, and you need to add weight to the bar every workout, consistently, for as long as possible.

Once you have spent some time in the iron game and your training has progressed to the point where you can't reasonably add weight (or repetitions) to the bar without specific planning and workload manipulation, then you will require some form of periodization. That is beyond the scope of this program, and, for now, is unnecessary. It will be something to look forward to in the future, and hopefully for you, FAR in the future. The longer you can milk the "basic linear progress" (i.e. add weight to the bar every workout), the farther you'll get and the quicker you'll get there.

Originally Posted by Mark Rippetoe (Novices) lack the motor skill to perform a valid one-repetition maximum effort on any barbell exercise. They have only been performing the movements a short time, and have not had a chance to develop the motor pathway of the movement to the point where the effort can be the focus instead of the movement pattern.

In other words, a newb's 1-RM is useless for programming purposes. Nothing positive can be derived from performing a 1-RM. It is not indicative of the trainee's actual strength, and a 1-RM is not useful as a training stimulus because it lacks the necessary volume to cause any type of homeostatic disruption, which results in a training/adaptation response. A newb's 1-RM will be more indicative of how well he performs the movement, rather than how strong he is.

For this program, the way you determine your 5-RM is to perform your 5-RM.

Let's say you "estimate" that you can probably do 200 lbs for a set of 5

You would do a warmup and slowly pyramid up to the max set as follows:

bar x 10
95 x 8
135 x 5
165 x 3
185 x 1

200 x 5
if that felt pretty easy, then shoot for 205 or 210 after a long (5 minute) rest.

For funsies, you can use the Brzycki equation to determine your 1-RM approximation.

1RM = Weight ÷ ( 1.0278 - ( 0.0278 × # of reps <5> ) )

You can use this info to:

1) Calculate intensity for whatever percentage of your 1RM you deem appropriate
2) Reverse the formula to back out your maximum weight with any number of reps

Weight = 1RM × ( 1.0278 - ( 0.0278 × Desired number of repetitions ) )

An alternative equation is as follows:
1RM = Weight × ( 1 + ( 0.033 × Number of repetitions ) )

The corresponding reversed equation is:
Weight = 1RM ÷ ( 1 + ( 0.033 × Desired number of repetitions ) )

This last information, regarding Brzycki, is only for fun. You won't need this, and I include this only to keep novices
from attempting to do their 1-RM so they can brag to their buddies. It probably won't work, but hey, I tried.

What is dual factor periodization? I don't understand this stuff.Edit

Understand that the necessity for dual factor periodization is A LONG WAY OFF! You are either a beginner or an intermediate. This information is provided FOR INFORMATION PURPOSES ONLY. It is NOT provided as a way for a beginner or intermediate to train!

With that understanding, we have to define a few terms first as they relate specifically to this subject.

Fitness - the resultant physical ability of the body to adapt and respond positively to external stress

Fatigue - The decreased capacity or complete inability of an individual or a bodypart to function normally because of excessive stimulation or prolonged exertion - note fatigue can be very temporary as a result of acute stimuli (i.e. biceps get fatigued from a set of curls) or fatigue can be systemic and cumulative (i.e. the body and its systems are fatigued from hard training over a period of weeks/months)

Performance - the degree of excellence resulting from physical activity, i.e. your ability to bench/squat/dead/chin/row, etc (remember, we're talking SPECIFIC to weight training here) or, for bodybuilders, the body's ability to demonstrate muscularity

Overtraining - The act of training too often/too heavy/too long, which causes the body's recuperative systems to become overwhelmed so that you can no longer recover from training. Performance is DRASTICALLY reduced, as a result, as the body cannot combat what proves to be excessive and chronic fatigue.

Overreaching - the planned process of inducing mild systemic overtraining followed by a planned period of systemic fatigue reduction, with the purpose of dramatically increasing performance

Please note, this is for information purposes only. As a novice or even an intermediate, you simply will not need this type of extreme planning in your programming. Now then, onward and forward..

Dual factor theory, simply put, involves planning your workouts with the knowledge that fatigue and fitness both affect performance. As you train, you build up your fitness level. Imagine if you were could train several times a day, everyday, and get stronger and faster constantly. Your fitness level increases, and for some time, your performance level increases as well. You are more energetic, you don't get sore as often, you become stronger/leaner/faster/more muscular, etc. Life is good!

However, we AREN'T like Wolverine, and fatigue reduces our ability to train at peak performance. As a result, we train for a period of perhaps 1-2 hours, then we take a day (or more) to rest before training again. The purpose of the break is to reduce fatigue to a level which allows us to train again at (or near) peak performance, be it the ability to bench 5 more lbs or the resultant ability to demonstrate muscularity.

Over the course of weeks (and possibly, for beginners/intermediates/genetic misfits [Hola, I'm talking to you here!] months) your training results in an increase in fitness, but it also results in the systemic accumulation of fatigue which begins to overwhelm the body's recovery mechanisms. Anyone with experience who has trained for a period of time and then begins suffering from the symptoms of "overtraining" can attest to this. After anywhere from 4 to 12 weeks of hard, intense, consistent training, most people begin to suffer the classic symptoms of overtraining, i.e. loss of appetite, weakness, achy joints, extreme fatigue, problem sleeping, as well as the annoying and frustrating strength deficits in the gym.

You are overtraining. Sounds pretty bad, doesn't it?

Except.... overtraining is a BEAUTIFUL thing!

Why? An easy correlation can be made to a guy who runs

If dude runs 5 days per week, 10 miles per day for several weeks, he is going to become extremely fit, but he will get tired due to what we call overtraining. For awhile, he was able to train this way and continue to get faster (increase in fitness accompanied by an increase in performance). However, after several weeks of this, he simply cannot recover from his running, and he gets slower. His fitness has increased, but he has been overwhelmed by fatigue which results in REDUCED performance.

Now, imagine if, after 4-6 weeks of doing 50 miles per week running, he cut back to 3 runs per week at 5 miles per day. Essentially, he just went from 50 miles weekly to 15 miles weekly.

He's still running, and one could argue that, because he's running only 5 miles every other day during the week instead of 10 miles daily, he's probably running a lot faster than he was if he was still doing 10 miles. He lowered his overall volume and workload (total miles ran) and frequency (days running per week) but upped the intensity (his running speed during the 5 mile is faster than his running speed during the 10 mile)

Because he spent weeks accumulating tons of fitness from his hard workouts, these 15-mile weeks where he runs 3x per week are like a walk (or cruise!) in the park for him. His fitness level was accustomed to handling 50 miles per week, but now he's only running 15 miles per week.

As a result, the fatigue that also accumulated during those 6 or so weeks of 50-mile running is now able to dissipate, even though he's still running each week. Hear what I'm saying...he drastically REDUCED his training load, yet he IMPROVES his performance! He cut back on volume and frequency, and now he sees increases in his athletic performance because fatigue dissipates and his fitness is allowed to "show through". Because he is still training, he isn't becoming deconditioned, so to speak, but he is training easier and less often, so his drastically increased recovery ability, garnered from months of hard training, is able to help him recover from the reduced (But still challenging) intensity and workload.

You can be in great shape, but if you're flippin' tired, you can't perform that well. Unfortunately, it takes ALOT OF HARD WORK over a period of time to get into great shape, and that hard work causes fatigue to accumulate.

Check the stupid picture/graph I drew. It represents "general fitness level" with a blue line and "general fatigue level" with a red line, with "performance" being the green arrow drawn between the difference. As you exercise, your general fitness level increases, as does your fatigue accumulation. Unless you are a Mentzer-drone, you train more often than 2 or 3 times per month. As a result, fatigue WILL accumulate (and this is a GOOD thing!)

The harder you work, the more your fitness goes up, but it is accompanied by an increase in fatigue accumulation (Loading/accumulation phase). How you perform is not based SOLELY on your fitness level, but it is based on a (very non-mathematical, but rather theoretical) equation that basically states:

"Performance = Fitness - Fatigue"

Put simply, your performance will be dictated by your level of physical fitness, coupled with how tired you are.

Your FITNESS might dictate that you can PERFORM a bench of 300 lbs, but because you're FATIGUED (tired), you can only PERFORM a bench of 250 (random numbers chosen purely for illustrative purposes)

Eventually, you get to the point where you are thoroughly busting your ass and you are starting to see that fatigue overtakes you (overreaching/overtraining phase). At this point, fatigue has "won" (albeit temporarily) so many trainers will just quit for awhile (a week, sometimes weeks, sometimes several months). This is the ultimate in "missed opportunities".

The thinking man's trainer decides to take advantage of this by PLANNING to do this, using "Dual Factor periodization". He improves his fitness using increasing levels of volume and/or weight and/or frequency and once he notices that fatigue has overtaken his body's recovery ability, he drastically cuts back on his frequency and/or volume and/or intensity. This allows for an active rest, so fatigue dissipates. however, he is STILL TRAINING, and his fitness levels continue to climb (or at least stay the same) while he 'rests'. Fatigue dissipates, his fitness level stays the same or improves, and performance shoots through the roof.

After a period of time...perhaps a "cruise" of 1 or 2 weeks, or perhaps an "active deload" of 2-3 weeks, or a "strategic deconditioning" period of 10 days, you are still "in shape" because you've been training, but you are well-rested, and you are ready to attack the weights again.


Hopefully they will explain what I failed to make sense of (never end a sentence with a preposition).

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