Build a Successful Long-Term Weight Training Program

STACK Expert Justin Kompf lays out a 12-week weight training program that changes key variables in a periodization scheme.


Are you an athlete who wants to gain muscle or become stronger and more explosive? Putting together a successful long-term weight training program is a process that includes several variables. Some of the most important:

  • Volume: The number of sets and reps and the frequency of training.
  • Intensity: How heavy is the weight?
  • Tempo: Bar Speed. How quickly do you lift the weight.

Periodization

Periodization is the planned variation of the variables. Weight training programming involves two types of periodization—linear and nonlinear.

Linear periodization begins with lots of volume and lighter weight and moves into heavier weight with less volume. Non-linear periodization involves frequent changes in training variables from high intensity, low volume to low intensity, high volume and back again.

Generally speaking, athletes need to be explosive. Rate of force development is the most crucial attribute for sporting endeavors. On the other hand, people who don't play sports competitively may lift to get stronger and gain muscle.

For each goal there is a "most important" variable. For power, it is tempo (lift weights fast); for strength, it is intensity (lift heavy weight); and for muscle growth, it is volume (lots of reps and sets.)

(Learn more about how to develop a periodized workout plan.)

Let's create a simple 12-week training program with four blocks and focus on only one day for each. A block refers to a specific training cycle. The concepts from the one day can be applied to the other two or three training days in the block.

I tend to favor nonlinear or undulating periodization for athletes, as it covers strength and speed. Let's say our hypothetical athlete has a Back Squat maximum of 315 pounds. For these 12 weeks, we will vary the training theme from speed to volume to strength. As we move into a new training block, the training variable that changes is set in boldface type.

Tempo is referred to as 301 in this example. The first number (3) represents the number of seconds on the way down; the second number (0) represents the time between the way down and the way up. If there is a 1 in that position, it indicates a 1-second pause. The third number (1) represents the bar speed on the way up.

Block 1, Week 1: Speed

Exercise: Back Squat

Intensity: 60% - 190 lbs

Sets/Reps: 6x3

Tempo: As fast as possible. Focus on maximum acceleration.

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges and Hip Bridges with a 3x10 rep scheme.

Block 1, Week 2: Volume

Exercise: Back Squat

Intensity: 75% - 235 lbs

Sets/Reps: 4x8

Tempo: 301

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges, and Hip Bridges with a 4x8 rep scheme

Block 1, Week 3: Strength

Exercise: Back Squat

Intensity: 85% - 265 lbs

Sets/Reps: 5x5

Tempo: 301

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges, and Hip Bridges with a 5x6 rep scheme

Block 2, Week 4: Speed

Notes: We are moving into a different training block, so we can change one or two variables from the last training block. It could be intensity, rep scheme, or even exercise selection. There is no wrong answer here. Let's increase the intensity and vary the accessory exercises.

Exercise: Back Squat

Intensity: 65% - 205 lbs

Sets/Reps: 6x3

Tempo: As fast as possible. Focus on maximum acceleration.

Accessory work: Box Jumps, Leg Press, and Step-Ups with a 3x10 rep scheme

Block 2, Week 5: Volume

Exercise: Back Squat

Intensity: 80% - 250 lbs

Sets/Reps: 4x8

Tempo: 301 tempo, this means 3 second eccentric, 0 second pause, and 1 second concentric contraction

Accessory work: Box Jumps, Leg Press and Step-Ups with a 4x8 rep scheme

Block 2, Week 6: Strength

Exercise: Back Squat

Intensity: 90% - 280 lbs

Sets/Reps: 5x5

Tempo: 301

Accessory work: Box Jumps, Leg Press and Step-Ups with a 5x6 rep scheme

Block 3, Week 7: Speed

Notes: For this next training block we can continue to increase the intensity and switch the lifts. We also have the option to increase the number of repetitions. For this block let's just focus on changing the main lift. We will change the Back Squat to a Box Squat, which may be ideal for an athlete who is looking to increase his or her force production.

Exercise: Box Squat

Intensity: 60% - 190 lbs

Sets/Reps: 6x3

Tempo: As fast as possible. Focus on maximum acceleration.

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges, and Hip Bridges with a 3x10 rep scheme

Block 3, Week 8: Volume

Exercise: Box Squat

Intensity: 75% - 235 lbs

Sets/Reps: 4x8

Tempo: 301 tempo, this means 3-second eccentric, 0-econd pause, and 1-second concentric contraction

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges, and Hip Bridges with a 4x8 rep scheme

Block 3, Week 9: Strength

Exercise: Box Squat

Intensity: 85% - 265 lbs

Sets/Reps: 5x5

Tempo: 301

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges, and Hip Bridges with a 5x6 rep scheme

Block 4, Week 10: Speed

Notes: Once again, with a new training block we have the opportunity to alter training variables. For this block, let's increase the number of sets by one. This increased the volume substantially. For example, if the athlete does just one more set for 10 reps with 225 pounds, that is equal to 2,250 pounds of volume!

Exercise: Box Squat

Intensity: 60% - 190 lbs

Sets/Reps: 7x3

Tempo: As fast as possible. Focus on maximum acceleration.

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges, and Hip Bridges with a 3x10 rep scheme

Block 4, Week 11: Volume

Exercise: Box Squat

Intensity: 75% - 235 lbs

Sets/Reps: 5x8

Tempo: 301

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges, and Hip Bridges with a 4x8 rep scheme

Block 4, Week 12: Strength

Exercise: Box Squat

Intensity: 85% - 265 lbs

Sets/Reps: 6x5

Tempo: 301

Accessory work: Rear-Leg-Elevated Squat, Lunges, and Hip Bridges with a 5x6 rep scheme

There are many ways to create a properly planned weight training program. This was an example of undulating, nonlinear periodization. I could have started with training blocks that were high in volume leading into training blocks that were high in intensity and low in volume. Both could be equally effective and either would certainly be more effective than no plan at all. When putting together a long-term weight training program, the key is to stay consistent with your plan while working to increase or improve one or more training variables.

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Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock

Topics: WEIGHTLIFTING | WORKOUT PLAN | BOX JUMP | WORKOUTS | EXERCISE | PRESS | INTENSITY | LEG PRESS | WEIGHT TRAINING