New Programming for 2020

If you haven’t noticed by now, I am a man who is comfortable with paradox. My children love to tease me citing images of me holding a tiny kitten or playing tea with a toddler. I'm no stranger to being called a “gentle giant.”

When it comes to programming I love consistency. I can contentedly follow a program from months on end, pursuing the same lifts and the same exercises, seeking stimulus in a deep dive into form and technique and increasing intensity as my ability improves.

Until it’s time to change.

And yep, it’s time to change. At the end of our current cycle, we will be changing (just a little bit) the way we do things here at the gym. See? Consistency and Change, a paradox I am quite at ease with.

Papa and his girls

Triple Progression and Autoregulation

For years we have used Jim Wendler’s 5-3-1 template. It’s a good program and has helped us all build some quality strength and muscle. My only fault with it stems from more of a “herding of cats” issue. Some of you train two days a week and some three days. How best do I manage a three lift system in a four-week cycle when not all of you train the same number of days per week?

Enter Triple Progression. With Triple Progression programming, we can establish a baseline working weight for each of the Agoge Big 3 (Back Squat, Military Press, Deadlift). Using an A, B, C format you can work on one of these lifts each time you come in. 

For instance, Craig trains Tuesdays and Thursdays at 9:00. His first workout (Tuesday) of the new cycle will be an A workout (Back Squat). His second (Thursday) will be a B (Military Press) and his third workout (the following Tuesday) will be a C (Deadlift.) He’ll continue this pattern moving forward. If life gets in the way (and it will) he’ll resume the A, B, C pattern starting with whatever lift is next in the rotation regardless of how many days he may have had to miss.

Instead of programming weights for you, we’ll establish a baseline working weight (around 80% of your 1 Rep Max.). Your goal is to achieve five sets of five reps in at least two successive workouts while maintaining the following criteria:

  1. Full control of the weight during each rep.
  2. Ability to focus on every element of good form (bracing, stacked joints, etc.)
  3. Finished with “two in the tank.” Meaning you’ve enough energy and strength remaining to complete two more reps before reaching failure.
  4. Two minutes of rest (minimum) between each set

Maintaining these criteria are the foundation for “autoregulation.” As always, Laura and I will be on hand to help you maintain good lifting practice but it will be up to you to note whether a lifting session was easy enough to warrant an increase in weight or if more practice is needed to truly “own” a given weight.

Accessory Work, Microcycles, and Macrocycles

Regardless of whether it’s an A day for you or a C day, we will all do the accessory work together. Accessory work is determined by the day of the week.

Accessory exercises will change every microcycle (4 weeks) and will build qualities you’ll need for testing at the end of every macrocycle (12 weeks.)

"Test? No said we were gonna have a test!"

A weakness in the way I have been doing things is there is very little accountability for me. There's nothing to track to ensure my programming is on point and actually achieves its intended goal, i.e. make you stronger. Sure you’ve got your notebooks, but I rarely see them being used to their full potential. Even when it is it remains an individual practice and does little to build community, a fundamental element of my vision for the Agoge that could use some improvement.

So, testing. At the end of every macrocycle (12 weeks) we will hold a testing week. During that week we will have three specific workouts designed to test work capacity, strength, and endurance. Rather than an individual contest the entire gym will work together to post numbers worthy of admiration and, in subsequent tests, seek to surpass those numbers.

No one needs to know your personal contribution to the gym total (unless you just feel like sharing.) Instead, we will focus on our collective effort and being a part of something bigger.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to this.

See you in the gym,

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