Anthony Donskov is the founder of DSC where he serves as the Director of Sport Performance. Donskov holds a Masters Degree in Exercise Science & is the author of Physical Preparation for Ice Hockey.
Segmenting the Training Load
At Donskov Strength and Conditioning we have the unique opportunity of training athletes of various training ages (Beginner, intermediate and advanced athletes’ populate our programs). As our business has grown over the years, so too has the number of athletes’ considered intermediate/advanced (4-5 training years) based on experience and years “under the bar”. With this demographic, comes different programming variables. No longer can these athletes make gains with progressive overload by simply adding 5 pounds to each side of the bar. The load needs to fluctuate and “wave” allowing for periods of brief intensity coupled with periods of lighter dosing. Our waves at DSC are three weeks in length with total volume dropping 40-50% in the final week to “realize gains” and stay fresh. Here is how a single wave may work:
Wave #1 (3 weeks in duration):
- Week 1: 4x5
- Week 2: 5x5
- Week 3: 2X5
“Non-stop variation of volume and intensity reduces the possibility of overtraining and enhances the performance peaks.”
In addition to these three-week “waves”, we have also begun to fluctuate the loads during each and every individual workout. The Bulgarian’s called this training in “segments”. Here is how it works, in the above wave, week #2 calls for 5x5. Instead of training multiple sets with a static weight, the athlete would work up to a heavy weight, then follow it up by decreasing the load 5-10%, the equivalent of hitting the gas, then slowly applying the brakes in a continuous manner. Here is an example using the bench press.
Standard Loading: 5x5 (225lbs) Segmented Loading 5x5 (225)
Set 1: 185 Set 1: 210
Set 2: 190 Set 2: 185
Set 3: 210 Set 3: 225
Set 4: 215 Set 4: 190
Set 5: 225 Set 5: 215
“Sharp changes in training volume and intensity are more effective than smooth ones.”
We have started to play around with this loading scheme at DSC for our intermediate/advanced lifters. In order to keep it simple, we aim to keep the segments fluctuating 5-10%. Our goal is to accomplish one “big set” and back off. Then repeat the process. Our athletes’ have responded well to these fluctuations, and in most cases, lift the prescribed weight, and leave feeling fresh. There are a plethora of methods used to solicit gains; our goal is to attain these gains with a “least effective” dosing strategy.
“Ideal training involves changing just one of many variables, until that variable reaches a constant. Then you change another, and then another, until you reach your goal.” - Dr. Morehouse
(1) Tsatsouline, Pavel, Beyond Bodybuilding, Dragon Door Publications, 2005.