In the most simple of terms, a “wave” (as it applies to weightlifting), is any rep grouping/template that aims to take advantage of the well-known temporary physiological adaptation known as post-activation potentiation.

Standard waves are figured using percentages of the trainee’s 1RM in the particular movement.  This method of set/rep load determination – while probably sufficient for beginning/novice-level trainees – leaves much to be desired in the more advanced trainee.  A couple of the more obvious problems in using straight percentages for this purpose are (1) actually defining a true 1RM for the movement in question(do we mean competition max?  Gym max?  All-time max?  And within what time frame are we speaking?), and (2) the lack of factoring for the effects of surrounding training/stresses (fatigue) which are totally unrelated to the particular movement in question, i.e., factoring for what my best effort can be, considering today’s unique set of fatigue-related circumstances.  I’ll probably add more to this over the weekend (if time permits), but for now just know that I use more of a per-workout drop-off method to determine my per-set/rep/and wave loading; my first wave being what I would consider a “feel” wave – getting a general feel for what the day’s max effort is likely to be.  I realize this is a bit too right-brained for some of the more left-leaning readers who insist upon hard/fast numbers, but this is how I roll.  I call it ruthless subjectivity, and it requires the ability to push one’s self (or your trainee) well beyond the day’s comfort zone, regardless of what any “spreadsheets”, “progressions” and mojo “calculations” predict that you should do.  Now that’s not to say that my best efforts are not factored into all of this – they most certainly are – but only insofar as this number imparts a ballpark notion of where I ought to end up.  I know I need to head west to reach California; getting From G-Vegas, NC to LA, though, requires a little more in the way of planning, mapping and intra-trip adjusting.

Today’s workout – rise and shine at 4:30 AM, in the gym at 6:15 AM, coffed-up and ready to roll:

Warm-up – farmer’s walk/gobblet squat combo.  220 yrd farmer’s walk with 80 lb DBs, goblet squats x 7 (80 lb db) every 50 or so yds (5 sets total of goblets).  Some dynamic stretching and plyos.  Then:

Snatch-grip “deadlifts”.  I say “deadlifts” here because these are actually a deadlift/RDL hybrid – in other words, I tried to minimize the quadriceps involvement in the movement, shifting as much of the load as possible to the posterior chain.  I “pushed the floor away” with my heels throughout the pull, reaching as far back with my butt as possible until the bar cleared the kneecaps  – this creates a slightly different knee angle than the traditional deadlift, somewhat reducing the quad involvement.  I can tell that I maintained a good bar-to-shin relationship, since both my shins are now rubbed raw.  The snatch-grip also helps to nullify any natural deadlift pulling advantage I’ve got due to having long, gibbons-like arms.  Added pull-up bar muscle-ups x 3, and a few bw drop-squat rebounds between each set.  hey, I get itchy in that 2 minutes or so between sets that I’m supposed to be resting.

1st wave –
5 x 225
3 x 275
2 x 315
1 x 355

2nd wave –
3 x 315
2 x 355
1 x 365

3rd wave –
3 x 335
2 x 365
1 x 375

I put bar speed at a premium here, with the only “grind” rep coming on the 1 x 375.  What we’re going for here is the potentiation effect of the heavy single allowing for (i.e., potentiating) a heavier loading in the subsequent 3s and 2s.  This means that the heavy single is only a means to an end – not an end in and of itself.  My intent was to hit a 4th wave (only a 3 and 2 set, though – no need for an end single, unless I just felt like I had it in me) and that’s why I did the last single at 375 (to potentiate the next two “money” sets).  I’d lost track of time, though, and realized I wouldn’t be able to squeeze those last 2 sets in.  Anyway…  This took about 35 minutes to complete, but I wasn’t concerned so much with this being a MetCon-esq workout, so I didn’t keep close tabs on that.

Post workout nutrition was a Fage Total Greek yogurt and a handful of walnuts about 1 hour following the workout.  I Put some free-range yard bird in the crock-pot along with a couple of sweet potatoes before I headed out for the gym this AM.  By the time I get home from work this evening (hopefully before 7PM), I’ll have a nice dinner awaiting me.  I’m sure the dogs are going absolutely snake shit right about now with that good chicken aroma wafting about the house.  Poor little dude and dudette.


  1. Good description – even for the use of standard deadlift. And I’m there too with red stripes running down my shins – occassionally drawing blood when catching the knurling. (don’t like to think about what’s on that bar)


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