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Workout Systems: Serious Strength Training
8/28/2018 11:14:37 AM

Serious Strength Training is not so much a single workout, but an entire training system designed to cover all the major aspects of physical transformation. More specifically, it is a training system that manipulates all the loading parameters of physical training through the concept of periodization.
The system is described in the book, Serious Strength Training (Human Kinetics, 2007). The book has three authors, sports scientist Tudor O. Bompa, Ph.D., wrestler and kinesiologist Lorenzo J. Cornacchia, and medical doctor and world powerlifting champion Mauro Di Pasquale, MD. All three have been extensively published, Bompa in the field of sports science and Pasquale and Cornacchia primarily in popular fitness magazines. Thus, while the program covers many complex topics such as muscle physiology, it is written for a broad audience and doesn’t require a background in exercise science to understand the material.
The authors of Serious Strength Training believe that for optimal results from resistance training, a long-term plan needs to be developed using the concept of periodization. Periodization breaks down the training process into specific stages, each with a specific purpose. To be even more precise, here is the technical definition the authors provide for periodization of bodybuilding: “The methodological structure of training phases intended to bring about the best improvement in muscle size, tone, and definition.”
In his past sports science publications, such as the classic Theory and Methodology of Training (first published in 1983), Bompa would outline four-year training plans (as that is the period between Olympic Games.) The authors here also take a long-term approach to training, focusing on designing year-long periodization programs.
Looking at the system overall, the basic sequence of each phase is organized as follows:
Anatomical adaptation
Mixed training
Maximum strength
Muscle definition
In this model, the idea is to develop muscle size first, followed by muscle strength, then muscle definition. However, there is flexibility in the system, such that you can spend longer in each period to focus on weaknesses. For example, someone who wants to develop more muscle mass would spend longer in the hypertrophy phases. Here is one such program:
Anatomical Adaptation, 3 Weeks
Hypertrophy, 6 Weeks
Transition, 1 Week
Hypertrophy, 6 Weeks
Transition, 1 Week
Mixed training, 3 Weeks
Hypertrophy, 3 Weeks
Mixed training, 3 Weeks
Transition, 2 Weeks
Anatomical Adaptation, 3 Weeks
Hypertrophy, 6 weeks
Transition, 1 Week
Mixed Training, 3 Weeks
Hypertrophy, 3 Weeks
Mixed Training, 4 Weeks
Transition, 4 Weeks
From this outline, Serious Strength Training then addresses all the major loading parameters. Here are the guidelines for hypertrophy, comparing a beginning with an advanced athlete:
Duration: 6 weeks for beginners vs. 3-6 weeks for advanced
Number reps per set: 6-12 vs. 9-12
Number of sets per exercise: 2-3 vs. 4-5
Rest between sets: 60-120 seconds vs. 45-60 seconds
Workouts per week:  2-3 vs. 4-5
Aerobic training session week: 1 vs. 1-2
Rather than letting the reps determine the weight used, Serious Strength Training uses percentages based on 1-rep maximums. Using these percentages, the weights could vary for a specific exercise during the week and during each training phase. For example, for an Advanced Bodybuilder performing a 6-week cycle for the bench press, the first workout of a hypertrophy phase might be 60% x 4 x 12; for the last workout the reps decrease, but the number of sets and intensity may increase to 85% x 5x5.
Although the authors contend that this workout system is for bodybuilding and strength, the examples given in the book are primarily geared towards bodybuilding. Also, the exercises selected were based on EMG studies. For example, for the long head of the biceps, seven exercises are described in the program. The exercise with the highest EMG measurement was the biceps preacher curl with an Olympic bar, and the lowest was the standing EZ biceps curl with a wide grip.
A large number of exercises are provided, but you won’t find many basic powerlifting movements such as deadlifts and squats, but substitutes such as safety squats and modified hamstring deadlifts (i.e., the Romanian deadlift). Power movements such as snatches, cleans, and jerks are also not mentioned in this program. Here is an example of the exercises prescribed during a three-week hypertrophy workout designed for professional bodybuilders, alternating between two workouts.
Day 1: Safety squat, standing leg curl, lunge, back extension, biceps preacher curl, decline triceps extension
Day 2: Flat bench press, incline fly, one-arm dumbbell row, incline side lateral, front dumbbell press, shrug, two abdominal exercises, donkey calf raise.
Detailed workouts are provided to achieve a variety of training goals, such that you will learn exactly what to do every workout for an entire year. You will know exactly what exercises to do, how many reps and sets to perform, how much rest to take, and exactly how much weight to use for every set – not just for a few weeks, but for an entire year! You will be hard-pressed to find another program that offers such a long-term training prescription.
In addition to the workouts, the book Serious Strength Training also examines other variables that affect results, including nutrition and supplementation. And just as the training is periodized, so is nutrition. For example, the authors believe that varying your calorie intake during the week (just like varying your workouts) leads to better progress. If the goal of a nutrition program is to average 3000 calories a day in a five-day period, the intake could progress as follows: 3500, 2000, 3000, 4000, 2500.
If you’re looking for a detailed, science-based program designed to increase strength and especially muscle mass, Serious Strength Training might be precisely the training system you are looking for.
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