Note From Greg:
In addition to being a great friend and loyal training partner, Jamie Smith has been pivotal in my development as a coach. He has pointed me in the direction of a ton of great texts on periodization, and helped me form a better thinking process in developing my own training. The hardest person to program for is yourself, and throughout the past 2 years that I have focused on powerlifting in my own training I have used his structure as the foundation for my own training. The best part of having a great training partner is that you can bounce ideas off each other, which helps you find the perfect blend of what they know works, and what works for you.
I wouldn’t be the coach or the lifter I am today without his guidance. With that said, I am very grateful that Jamie has allowed me to share his approach to block periodization in a series on The Strength House. I strive to bring you all the best information to help you achieve your best, and what you are about to read is exactly that.
Block Periodization (Exercise Classification) Part 1
Block Periodization is a programming method primarily focused on inducing a specific training stimulus in an ordered, sequential fashion. Each sequence represents a different “block” of training, programmed with an overall emphasis in mind. The goal is for the athlete to adapt to the stimulus, as that is how training and competitive progress is achieved.
This style of programming, most noticeably used by Dr. Yuri Verkhoshansky, Dr. Vladimir Issurin, and Dr. Anatoliy Bondarchuck, has proven to be successful in advanced athletes whose sport requires them to peak for competition a few times throughout the year.
Note from Greg: Check out these texts.
From personal experience, I have found it difficult to implement Block Periodization programming with novice and intermediate team sport athletes (hockey, baseball, football, etc.). However, I have used Block Periodization successfully with my own power lifting training, as have my training partners.
When implemented correctly, Block Periodization is a valuable, verified way of improving performance.
Since I started to show interest in power lifting (2009), I have done years of research on Block Periodization. The resources I highly recommend and have learned a great deal from is Jeremy Frey, James “The Thinker” Smith, and Landon Evans. These guys have done a great job presenting the correct information about Block Periodization. There are a lot of so called “experts” out there, that have no clue what they are talking about when it comes to this style of training.
Note from Greg: Check out great content from these guys (click their name for links).
I have also found a lot of great stuff from Mike Tuchscherer on the forum at his site.
Additionally, Gabriel Naspinski has a lot of great stuff at EliteFTS.com
What I really like about this type of programming is the simplicity and the specificity progression. There is so much information out there on this topic and it can get very complicated, but it doesn’t have to be that way. The focus of this article is to explain how I program the different exercises/ movements during the preparation process of a power-lifting competition.
I follow the principles of the exercise classification model that Dr. Bondarchuck designed for his athletes. I highly suggest you check out Joel Jamison’s website, 8-weeksout.com. He has recently posted a video series with Martin Bingisser about Dr. Bondarchuck’s principles. Martin has trained under the great coach for years and has a wealth of knowledge about Dr. Bondarchuck’s training system. His training principles are based upon his exercise classification.
It is broken down into 4 different categories, General Preparatory Exercise (GPE), Special Preparatory Exercise (SPE), Special Development Exercise (SDE), and Competition Exercise (CE). The primary purpose of this style of training is to progress from general to specific movements. It is really that simple. In the case of powerlifting, as you get closer to your competition you will choose movements that have a higher specificity. This will allow for a higher transfer and allow for full preparedness at the competition.
Block Periodization, at its core, is a progressive training system. As the athlete moves from training block to training block, the training shifts from general to specific. At the beginning of the athlete’s training cycle, the workouts are less specific. Towards the end, before completion of the final block, a majority of the athlete’s energy reserves are put towards performing the competition exercise. This will allow for a higher transfer and for full preparedness at the competition. The movements performed in training are broken down into four categories:
• General Preparatory Exercise (GPE)
GPE is not entirely specific to the sport (power lifting). Think of these as the least specific movements (different movements, muscles, and energy systems) designed to induce a positive stimulus.
• Special Preparatory Exercise (SPE)
SPE are movements that get slightly more specific in relationship to the competitive lift. Similar muscle groups are activated, as is the physiological system as a whole.
• Special Development Exercise (SDE)
SDE start to get more specific towards the competition exercise. These movements will replicate, in part or in whole, the competition exercise.
• Competition Exercise (CE)
The CE is exactly what it sounds like- the main movement – in which programming and preparedness are centered around. This is the most specific of the movements.
(more on this next installment)
Check back in soon for the continuation of this series, and be sure to check out Jamie’s training log and happenings at his facility The University of Strength to see these concepts in practice by clicking the logo below.
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Photo Credits: Eric Feigenson Photography