Anthony Donskov

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.

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The Machine

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According to the dictionary a machine is “an apparatus using or applying mechanical power and having several parts, each with a definite function and together performing a particular task.” Strength and conditioning programming is a “machine!”  It has multiple moving, adjustable, parts all working to enhance performance, reduce sport injury and provide measurable gains for the athlete/client.  From my experience, the best machines are the easiest to use!


“The fewer moving parts a machine has, the more likely it is to reach its destination without breakdown.” –Pavel Tsatsouline




A good strength program does not need too many moving parts.  Push, pull, hinge, squat, core are universal patterns.  What a program DOES need is a knowledgeable operator!  How do we as coaches operate these “parts” to reach a destination that may be different for various populations and training ages?  As Coaches, our operator’s manual encompasses: sequencing, tempo, rest, stress prescription, volume, intensity, regeneration, peaking ECT.  Take home point:  A machine is only as good as its’ operator!  A press is just a press, but the prescription changes depending on the destination.  Does the athlete need mass, strength or endurance?  What sport does he/she play? How long have they been training?  Here is an example using the bench press.


Strength Training (Beginner):  We keep it simple at DSC.  Our beginners are all placed on a progressive resistance program.  Our goal as Coaches is to increase the weight 2.5-5 lbs each week.  Stress levels fluctuate every three-weeks and rest between sets is minimal to increase time under the bar and work density.  At the conclusion of each phase our athletes will perform an AMRAP set (As many reps as possible), if the athlete attains 10 reps or higher (Phase 1 calls for 8 reps), we will increase the load 10lbs in preparation for Phase 2.  Here is how Phase 1 would look for a beginner:


Week 1:

Volume: 2x8 (not including warm-up)

Temp: 3/0/0 (3 second eccentric)

Rest: Minimal

Weight:  Work up to an 8-rep weight (reps 7 and 8 should be difficult with “technical proficiency”.) 


Week 2:

Volume: 3x8 (not including warm-up)

Rest: Minimal

Temp: 3/0/0 (3 second eccentric)

Weight:  Add 2.5-5lbs from last week’s weight. (Reps 7 and 8 should be difficult with “technical proficiency”.) 


Week 3:

Volume: 3x8 (not including warm-up)

Temp: 3/0/0 (3 second eccentric)

Rest:  Minimal

Weight:  Add 2.5-5lbs from last week’s weight. AMRAP last set.  Adjust weight accordingly. 


I realize 8 reps is not considered a “strength specific” scheme for an advanced athlete, but in my opinion and experience, most rep schemes work for beginners.  They simply need time under the bar and constant practice/repetition!


Mass Building (Intermediate Athlete):  Truth be told, we train power athletes at DSC.  Our “mass building” is the byproduct of our planned programming/periodization and does not encompass a majority of the program.  We manipulate volume and intensity to attain this desired result, with the former being the most important.  Volume makes lasting changes in the muscle (myofibril and sarcoplasmic density) and surrounding tissues but comes at the expense of delayed soreness and decreased trainability in the following training session.  We program our “mass building” in small doses in order to attain inter-muscular coordination and create a stable platform for our strength training.   Here is an example:

  • Volume loading:  Keep the intensity the same, but increasing the volume each week.  We will not program like this for longer than 3 weeks due to delayed soreness and decrease in training readiness.  

Week 1:  2x8 (16 total NBL)  ***NBL=number of barbell lifts

Week 2: 3x8 (24 NBL)

Week 3: 4x8 (32 NBL)

Reps 7&8 should be difficult, performed with technical proficiency.  We do not use 1RM%. 


Strength Training (Intermediate Athlete):  Call it intra-muscular coordination (rate coding, motor unit synchronization and motor unit recruitment); I call it training the nervous system.  We increase the intensity in our programs in Phases 2&3 in order to train the nervous system, and peak strength gains.  Phase 4 will cut intensity to allow the athlete to recognize the delayed training effect and attend training camp fresh and ready to perform.  Here is one of our programming methods that we use at DSC to train absolute strength.


Cluster bench: Clusters are a series of one-rep maxes with 30-45 seconds rest in between.  We use this time to coach.  We ask the athletes’ to start with a weight that will leave at least one rep “in the Bank.”


Week 1-3:

Volume: 1x5 (warm-up), 1+1+1, 1+1+1, 1+1+1

Temp: Explosive

Rest: 30-45 seconds between attempts

Weight:  Heavy


These are just a few examples of how we operate “the machine” at Donskov Strength and conditioning, simple, yet well planned out and organized to reach a position specific destination.  The “parts” are very similar; the key is to know how, when and why to use them.   There is no such thing as a perfect program, but the best coaches are constantly looking at ways to improve their operators’ manual in order to create a well-oiled machine. 





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