Early 2014 and periodization: reflections on training (part 2)


This is part 2 of a multi-part series (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) involving my thoughts on the physical training I did in 2014 and early 2015. I did a lot of weird, goofy stuff, and I hope my discussion will be interesting and helpful to others. Here is part 1.


To review, this is the program I laid out for myself and committed to doing in early 2015:

  • 6 weeks focused on barbell strength: the highly-modified SS protocol I mentioned in the previous post, plus some snatch work, some press-to-handstand (as I called it) work, pull-up/dip/muscle-up accessory work, and then twice-weekly conditioning sessions (usually step-ups on the hiking box with a pack, occasionally a short run).
  • 3 weeks of “GST”: 2x/week barbell maintenance, a front lever progression, a straddle planche progression, 2-3x/week conditioning (split between running and “hiking”), kip-up progression, and handstand work.
  • 2 weeks of barbell strength (same protocol as above).
  • 3 weeks of work capacity: focused on running, push-up volume, barbell maintenance, and some CrossFit-style metcons.
  • 2 weeks of barbell strength.
  • 3 weeks of hypertrophy work: lots of body weight, some curls, dips, and so forth, plus barbell maintenance.
  • 4 weeks of weightlifting: Bulgarian-esque programming training for the snatch, the back squat, and the clean and jerk 3x/week, strict press maintenance, and some accessory work.

My goals were to build strength and conditioning for hiking, climbing, and GPP. So how well did all of this work? I made passable strength gains in the barbell strength-focused cycles. My attempts to rebuild my hiking ability were successful. I was not very good about general compliance, particularly dealing with conditioning and accessory work. I have a tendency to try to push things at too high of an intensity, which makes it hard to collect the volume needed to drive adaptation. This was especially true in 2014, where I felt that if I ever backed off on the intensity I would simply lose strength. I’ll discuss the pitfalls of this approach more when I get to the barbell strength-focused post, but suffice to say that I was ignoring the little voice in the back of my head telling me that this was too much ego and not smart training. And my ego is a damned gainz goblin.

My attempts to do metcons (the Military Athlete Barbell Complex, the Military Athlete Leg Blaster, modified CrossFit workouts) were simply not all that successful. I think my body simply wasn’t being trained, strength-wise, very well — too much intensity and too little volume, leading to inadequate work capacity —  which made it sticking to brutal metcons very difficult for me physically and psychologically. I always thought of the barbell strength training as my non-negotiable have-to-get-it-done training, and metcons as optional…which means I skipped them a lot.

With the benefit of hindsight, I probably would have done the following:

  • pushed the linear progression of my SS-based protocol longer, and I would have actually done resets and the like. I might even have done a StrongLifts program instead, just to get in that work capacity development. I also would have shortened my rest periods between work sets. At this point, I was resting until I felt like lifting again, which could entail 10+ minute rest periods because I’d get distracted. There was no need for these and I’m sure it slowed down my progress.
  • I would have skipped my bodyweight and hypertrophy cycles. They were a tremendous waste of time. I made very little meaningful progress in either area (though I did get my first kip-up, which was cool).
  • I would have been much more disciplined about my conditioning. I could have made substantial gains in conditioning with a bit of thoughtful training and more dedication; unfortunately, I made no discernible progress outside of hiking ability.
  • I would have not pushed intensity so hard. I was very concerned about edging max weights higher, which led to me sacrifice volume for intensity every time I thought there was a reason to choose one or the other, and ultimately prevented progress.

Next up, I’ll discuss the major programming shift I attempted in August 2014.