PREFACE: The below mesocycle is part of an annual plan for an experienced lifter with specific lift goals. This is not a general fitness, weight loss or bodybuilding plan. It is my hope that readers will be able to interpret training data to see the less obvious gains that training can provide.
I recently completed a 30 day mesocycle designed to increase performance. My programming typically runs 4-6 weeks depending on training frequency, specific adaptation, goal vs. where I presently stand and relative intensity. Four, and sometimes up to six weeks is what I have found to be optimal for myself. Pushing past six weeks without a de-load (a 5-10 day period of lighter work) has had negative consequences in the past and don’t intend to revisit any old (or meet any new) lifting injuries.
The Basic Breakdown
Day 1: Power. Low repetitions at 85% rep maximum. Squat,Bench Press and Deadlift. Bench Press and Overhead Press alternated weekly. In the event a PR (personal record) was hit the set was discontinued. This is a self imposed rule I put in place for my own safety. Typically sessions would be 5 or less reps per load.
Day 2: Hypertrophy. High volume at 70-75% rep max. Accessory lifts utilized to strengthen weak areas in given lifts. Sets of 3-5, and reps from 8-15. Although I recovered quite well, this was the training that took the most out of me. In thirty days I adapted pretty well to that level of volume.
Day 3: Strength. 5 sets of 5 reps undulating loads as needed. I’ve noted a natural wave in my lifting over time and since I’m not competing in any strength sport I have the patience to ride things out. I am well-adapted to to the 5-10 rep range.
At the end of my 30 days I reviewed my training data there were the initial observations:
– Only a 10lb/4.5kg improvement in the bench press.
– Disproportionate (and somewhat modest) increase in upper body mass compared to the lower body. (Confirmed via InBod measurement, my favorite T-shirt and Gym Bro props)
– No 1RM above whatever the plan called for was attempted even on great lift days.
– Strength Day and Power Day sometimes seemed to nearly mimic each other.
Basically I only seemed to have gained a small amount of strength and a little extra mass to my upper body. On the surface my numbers were not highly impressive given the work and time invested. Was my 30 Days for Naught?
No, the details matter.
30 Days (for me) was a good length for this program given where I started from. In the winter I may run a 6 week trial of this program with adjusted loads.
– No training injuries. I honestly felt like I could have lifted almost every day. My elbows plagued me quite a bit last year and they longer seem to present a problem even on the most demanding lifts.
– No missed training days and only one recorded failed lift. Actually I simply didn’t attempt a fifth rep one session and count it as a fail. It’s not that I tried moving a load and failed to lock it out. Not missing a training a day is a big deal, the hardest part about training is actually getting to the gym.
– I had two days which I deviated from the plan due to fatigue. I simply lowered the planned load and increased volume as able. I left the gym feeling better than when I walked in.
– Increased my 85% RM output and decreased set density. I could do more work in less total time.
– Technical improvement in all four lifts. Tracking data shows acceleration.bar path and force production greatly improved in the Deadlift and Overhead Press which indicates greater lift efficiency and starting strength.
– Increased warm-up set loads. I comfortably warm up 10-20llbs heavier than before, so total tonnage per set and session is higher. I didn’t set my loads “low” initially as they were appropriate for me when I started the 30 day cycle.
In my opinion those are all signs of progress.
No, I wasn’t baking a cake.