As you enter Build Phase strength training, you may be wondering how to know where you fall on the strength training spectrum and if you are lifting the load you should be. We are here to help you out with some various scenarios that might give you an indicator of how to progress.
BUILD PHASE 1:
You just finished the strength training cycles of Postseason and felt confident with the exercises and the loads that you were lifting. You were confident of your form and safety during these lifts and were consistently hitting 8-10 reps feeling like you had strength to lift a bit more or a bit heavier.
With this scenario, for Build 1, you can add ~5-10% to the weight you were lifting previously, and decrease the amount of reps you were doing. So for example, if you were deadlifting 180lbs for 10 reps comfortably, you will now aim to lift 200lbs for 4-6 reps. Since you are lifting a bit heavier, there may be some additional fatigue and/or soreness.
- Just starting strength (either because of late-season racing, you’ve just joined squad, ec.)
- You are entering Build Phase feeling as if you did not grasp the movements in the Postseason.
- Struggling to be consistent with strength
- Managing injury concerns
You should be using Build Phase 1 to continue working on these movements and trying to establish great form. Embrace the 6 rep range for the exercises, but not try to add too much weight because you might not be able to achieve that safely. Instead, work on the previous weights that you were lifting because that will give you the needed response to the lifts. Program in a little extra rest so you can really work on terrific form and lift safely. If you still struggle with form, seek the advice of a personal trainer or coach who can watch you lift and give your critiques.
BUILD PHASE 2:
Moving into Build Phase 2, we come closer to the classic “racing season” so we reduce load on the body and increase power production and coordination. The hang clean and the box jump are the key movements during this phase. We aim to do these with less weight and lower stress on the body seeking form and coordination over power. The goal is to come away from these workouts with minimal muscle soreness and a better overall “functional” athlete.
You have had no real issues during Build Phase 1 strength. You feel confident with your form and technique enough so that you were able to lift heavier the last 4-6 weeks. Since you nailed good form and load increase the first 6 weeks of Build Phase, you have built up some nice strength and muscle recruitment within those very important exercises. You might have been a bit sore following some of those workouts, but only in the appropriate muscles like glutes, hamstrings, quads, and not in any ancillary muscles like lower back, knee, or neck/spine.
In this case, you are ready to move on to Phase 2 of the Build where we will “deload” weight in order to increase power and speed. You will be able to move confidently to the hang clean and box jump movements. That said, form remains incredibly important as these movements recruit more joints and muscles. If you have never had instruction or coaching on these exercises, this would be an ideal time to do so; booking a session with a trainer to understand proper hang clean form would be a wise time and money investment. Since we are moving quicker under less weight, these exercises might leave you a tad sore the first day or so, but should not leave any lingering fatigue or noticeable muscles soreness.
You are not feeling over-confident in your squat or deadlift form. Perhaps you used the last 4-6 weeks to focus on learning the movements and still might find yourself a bit wobbly while executing. This is ok! The smart athlete in you knew that you should improve the technique before lifting a bit heavier and risking any chance of injuring yourself. Good work. Your form and confidence in the gym are improving and you think that with a little more time you could hit these lifts appropriately.
The best option here is to continue on the path towards optimal form and technique, specifically on the hang clean. It would not make sense to jump into a more complex combination of a squat and a deadlift if you don’t have those nailed down. For that reason, you can use this combination of options here:
- Stick with the current weight and load for your deadlift, and do those workouts all the way through Build Phase 2. You can simply work on the same weight until that weight feels easier and easier, you have no need to progress the weight. That is your substitute for the hang clean workout.
- You can give the box jump workout a chance because that is a little more natural of a movement, but you should start with a light, lower box that is not much higher than your knee. Since you are jumping upwards and not coming down in a huge, deep landing, this should not cause too much residual stress or fatigue but does give you the chance to lighten up and get your nervous system firing a bit more rapidly.
- Because the box jump gives you a chance to work the ankle, knee, hip, and shoulders in combination, you can drop the squat workout because that one just might leave you a bit too sore or fatigued during this phase.
Don’t push yourself too far or fast during this phase! Remember, in the long term, it’s more important if you spend time mastering the movements and get the full benefit of them. When we make this progression again in later seasons you will feel excited and ready to nail it then.