“Every endeavor pursued with passion produces a successful outcome regardless of the result. For it is not about winning or losing-rather, the effort put forth in producing the outcome. The best way to predict the future is to create it-therefore, we believe we have the best training methods to help each athlete achieve their dreams and goals and ultimately reach their ability level in the arena of sports and life.”
–Bollettieri Tennis Academy’s Creed
First things first: welcome, Theory To Practice readers, to the new site!
The same, awesome, TTP content you’ve come to love, albeit now in a shiny new package.
My good friend and Efficient Exercise client, John Cole, put this site together. Trading training know-how for web expertise is a beautiful thing indeed. Nice work, John! And I hope you’re now enjoying your new-found Efficient Exercise / ARXFit-induced swoleness, and a little more “umph” in your BJJ game!
So TTP readers, poke around a bit and let me know what you think. I value your feedback, so let me know how I can make this a more informative and useful site for you. We’ve still got some tweaks and modifications in the works, but we’re close enough to done for a rollout.
So, here we go! On to the business at hand:
Life after APRE (Autoregulated Progressive Resistance Exercise)?
This question has come up repeatedly in the last few months since Theory to Practice has been in redesign; I’m going to paraphrase here since the same general question has been raised in a number of different ways. But in essence, it goes a little something like this:
I’ve been using APRE for a while now, and have experienced tremendous success in my core lifts. But lately, however, the system seems to have played-out as I’ve plateaued in each of the big, compound lifts, and in each rep grouping (APRE3, 6 and 10). Any suggestions on where to go from here?
First up, a little review on APRE. Check out this previous TTP post. Also, check out the work done on the subject by Bryan Mann (especially this). If there’s an expert on the subject, it’s for sure this guy. I’ve just been able to tweak what Bryan has done for my own needs, and the needs of my Efficient Exercise clients.
Next, let’s establish a bit of context: I view all training through the lens of what is required to excel at non-barbell sports. This is an important point. In other words, I don’t power lift, and I don’t Oly lift. Nor do I bodybuild. I do, however, steal from all of those disciplines (and more!) in order to create unique S&C programs aimed at bettering performance outside of the gym. Sometimes that means getting stronger, but more often than not it means that getting faster or more powerful is the focus. In that sense, my greatest training influences come from the world of track and field and, more specifically, from the training of sprinters and throwers. When I put together a program for any athlete (or regular Joe or Jane, for that matter), it’s viewed through that lens — as opposed to say, a bodybuilding or “barbell sport” lens. For training purposes, just about every field or court sport (even life itself) can be broken down into some combination or sprint or throw training....even life itself can be broken down into some combination or sprint or throw training Click To Tweet
From there, it’s just a matter of training for the particulars. More on this in a later post, but for now I just want to let you know where I’m coming from.
Now, like most strength-based programs (5×5, 5/3/1; you name it), APRE is a system where moving max load for specified reps is the focus. Now, I happen to believe that APRE is superior to any other method out there for helping one get really strong, really fast; eventually, though, progress is going to slow, no matter how good the system or the programming is.
At this moment you’re probably thinking “well, no shit, Sherlock”, but just hang with me just a bit longer.
You should understand that strength is a relatively straightforward metric to progress. It is (relatively speaking) easy to program for, and it’s readily to measured (you either made the lift, and with decent form, or you did not). Or, as is the case with ARXFit, you either produced more force, or you did not. And, too, in general terms, a stronger athlete is a better athlete. All good so far.
But in reality, it’s the ability to generate repeated bursts of power that makes the better athlete; strength being just one component of the qualities required to generate those bursts. And again, it just so happens to be the easiest component of power to affect. Easy to program that is — the work itself, like the work required to elevate general conditioning, is tough!
Eventually, though (and no matter what strength-based training system is used), a trainee will begin to rub-up against natural limitations. Progressing strength, in a straightforward manner, is the low-hanging fruit of the S&C world. I’m not saying it’s not important (it is, and vitally so), it’s just the easiest, from a programming sense, to positively affect.
And strength is absolutely the metric a trainee should focus on (along with form, of course) in the early training stages. No need to overthink things early on. Get strong in a few compound movements, using basic programming, applied consistently. It works! And for most trainees (and just about every average Joe and Jane), only muted shades of other methodologies will be required, in smartly programmed doses, to keep them progressing nicely into old age.
… if higher level performance is the goal, other aspects must be trained which will require other readily measured outputs. And to keep the discussion focused on weight room measurables, bar speed and power production are those other main two measurables.
And folding these aspects into a comprehensive training program is an entirely different discussion; one that requires diving headlong into more nuanced, effective programming. For the purpose of this post, we need to concentrate on the question at hand, which is (essentially): how do I increase strength after conventional methods have played-out?
In broad strokes, we have a couple of different options. The first of which is to begin to target qualities that influence strength production — hypertrophy (a bigger engine), for example; RFD (rate of force development) and strength-speed as well. “Surfing the force-velocity curve” with smart programming / periodization is key here. But if we consider strength in a “max effort” sense, we can begin to play with some Westside ideas, too. Namely attacking circa maxes and expanding our exercise and rep scheme repertoire.
See this related post: Autoregulating the “Max Effort” Day.
So for the APRE follow-on stage, I’ve taken a page right from the Louie Simmons / Westside playbook. I maintain a “live document” (just a simple Google doc, in actuality), of approximately 60 base exercises, with maxes listed for a variety or rep ranges (most from 3 to about 12).
Note: if I go fewer than a couple of reps on any particular exercise, I do so on ARXFit equipment. It’s simply a safety, return-on-investment, and overall efficiency issue.
Now again, my actual programming is another discussion for another time, but let’s just say that today happens to be a “max effort / vertical press” day. Let’s also say I want to be in the 5 rep range. And, let’s just say, for argument sake, that 225 is my last posted max in the BTN push-press for 5 reps. It may have been over a year since I hit that weight/rep combo, but that’s of no matter; that’s the combo I’m gunning for.
So I’m using the general idea of Westside’s “rotation through many varied circa-maxes” and married it with the general idea of Autoregulation / APRE. I make a run for that max at that rep range, but I don’t beat myself up if I don’t hit it.
And by the way, “circa-max” is an in-the-gym / non-”psych-up” max, as opposed to a lay-in-all-on-the-line, “competition” max. Remember, we’re training to get better. Hitting a circa-max nets you BBQ, a cold beer and a high-five, not a championship ring or gold medal. Know the difference, and attack accordingly.
Here’s what that an actual workout might look like:
A1) BTN (behind the neck) push-press: 95/10, 135/7, 185/6, 205/6, 225/6, 225/5, 205/6, 185/7
A2) weighted chins: bw/10, 45/5 (7 rounds)
A couple of things:
I count the 95, 135 and 185 lb sets as “warm-up” or “feel-out” sets.
The first go at 225 determines what happens at the following set. In this sense, it’s right out of the APRE playbook; increase weight, decrease weight, or stay the same. In this case, I just eeked-out 6 reps, so I kept the weight the same for another go.
I add additional “drop down” sets for added volume. I mean, I gotta deload the bar anyway, right? Might as well use the opportunity to get in some additional work.
Chins: I almost always weave in an antagonist movement; that’s just a programming constant for me. It’s of course not the focus of today’s workout…but I could just as easily flip this workout around and make it so, using a lighter push-press as the antagonist to a max effort chin run. In fact, I have done just that in past workouts.
Now I can also segment periods of concentration on a certain movement (vs constantly varying) using the same method. Say for whatever reason, I want to concentrate on my overhead push-pressing. No problem — I use the same methodology and concentrate on the push-press for a couple of weeks in a row. I’d also add in speed and power elements as well (surfing the curve; using bands, for instance) in the overhead press variations, but the max effort work can for sure be autoregulated.
And one other thing: I still use standard APRE (as put forward by Bryan Mann) at times. Example: I badly sprained a knee recently (stepped in a divot while sprinting), and used straight-up APRE as the strength portion of my rehab. Of course I did plenty of rehab exercises, assistance work and ARXFit work (especially isos) as well, but as far as squat and deadlift barbell work, it was all basic APRE; inching my way back to normalcy.
Remember: smart programming, applied consistently, over time, produces results. APRE is just one component of that equation, nothing more.Remember: smart programming, applied consistently, over time, produces results. Click To Tweet
In health, fitness, and ancestral wellness –