Cycled Occlusion Training – Prior Thoughts and Theories

​   Since I discovered occlusion training, I began noticing the mention of it substantially more than before. I began theorizing on how this could be executed most effectively for strength training, and hypothesized a training plan that I will be testing over the next three months. For those uneducated on occlusion training, it is performed by wrapping the upper area of a limb (typically only biceps and thighs) in order to reduce blood flow and increase the effectiveness of your exercise on Type 2 muscle fibers. It has been proven to work so long as it is performed responsibly. In practice, occlusion reduces venous return (blood flow from the limb to the heart), causing rapid accumulation of lactic acid in the area and lowering the oxygen of the limb. This accomplishes much more effective growth of Type 2 (fast-twitch) fibers in the muscle which help specifically with short-burst, intense movements/lifts. Of course, under circumstance, lactic acid build up sounds bad; it is, however, known to increase protein synthesis, so many ill effects can be counteracted by ensuring enough protein intake before and after exercise. None if this is news, particularly, unless you’re out of the loop and somehow stumbled upon my blog before pretty much any other fitness enthusiast’s. I appreciate you for that. Let’s move on to my theory, which I’ve begun testing just prior to writing this.

A Lesson In Gains

​    Did your noob gains feel great? As if you’d be making gains at that rate for years to come. If only. Now, we can’t provoke the muscle to that extent and make that absurd of gains – but we can come close. Introducing the body to new exercises hits the muscle from an entirely different angle. If you’re trying to increase your deadlift, per say, and you have never done bent over rows – you may find it incredibly beneficial to begin. Who would have guessed that dangling a couple hundred pounds by mostly your lower back and yanking it violently into your torso would have tremendous impact on your deadlift. Since I began programming barbell rows regularly my deadlift has gone up over 50lbs in one month. I can rep my old personal best for at least 6 with all confidence. Starting occlusion training is different from starting a new exercise, and another theory of mine actually combats what this article is all about. More on that toward the end. Regardless, occlusion training will help you push your body further than usually possible, allowing you to tap into your gain bank and make a big withdrawal. In one month of occlusion training two to three times a week, it’s inevitable that your body will grow not only in size, but strength. This does not last, though. Everything you’ve gained should last, but as with many things, you will come close to plateau with it and have to work yourself even harder to progress. Here’s the plan I will be following over the next three months to get the most out of occlusion training:

Cycled Occlusion Training

​    The premise is to practice occlusion training two to three times a week. There will be at least one leg day and one arm day heavily influenced with occlusion training. We do not want to abuse this method, especially since it is new to us. As with all new introductions to the body, occlusion training will rapidly become a very effective utility in building our strength. With the rapid increase in size to our Type 2s, we will want to consume more carbohydrates – increasing glucose content (this is very effective since our body can now store more). This will help with pushing higher numbers, maintaining endurance during training, and making generally more fluid progress. By the fifth week, the body will become acquainted to the practice and we will have made the majority of the strength gains we could get out of it. Of course, more would come if we continue this, but the risk isn’t as sweet as the reward. The proceeding month will be taken with little to no programmed occlusion training. Our workouts will be more intense, though seemingly less without the involvement of occlusion. The increased lactic acid in our body will diminish, and we will progress at a normal rate again. We should not, of course, lose any gains from the prior month. We will fall back on a regular carb, high protein diet and enjoy the progress we’ve made. Once the body has grown accustomed to lack of occlusion training – we prep for them fresh gains again! Month three will be very similar to month one, but we will employ some different movements during training. For example, month one leg training will consist mostly of squats, leg extensions, and leg press. During month three we will frequently incorporate some different movements such as a trap bar deadlifts and heavy step-ups, which I rarely program normally. We need to attack the muscle from as many foreign angles as possible. Ensuring our diet stays consistent (high carb during this period), we should be able to once again provoke some fresh gains. This could, of course, all be bullshit. My conflicting theory involves reduction of lactic acid, thus protein synthesis effectiveness, and potential progress during our month without occlusion training. It is, of course, silly to think that dropping occlusion training for a month will hurt your progress if you’re in the gym consistently challenging your body. It could all be bunk, and that’s why we trial it. Be on the lookout for updates on this programming over the spring/summer!

Wrap-up

​    So what are your thoughts? Can we provoke dormant muscle fibers and simulate noob gains any time we like? Is occlusion training simply better to incorporate in training on the regular? Please, feel free to offer your mind to me below this post, or on Twitter/Instagram (links in the sidebar). We may be seeing some live content in the near future, so stop by and give me your input then! More details on that when it is confirmed.

As the theorized programming has yet to be tested or proven effective, I have no available training program for you to try. Keep your eyes peeled in the distant future for things of that nature, as they will be coming!

Until next time!

Overcoming Early Plateaus – The Magic of Consistency and Cues

If you’ve developed your form to a state of satisfaction, regardless of what lift is in question, you may be tempted to experiment. Very moderate grip position, stance width, bracing method changes (etc.) while still following the same general structure. I strongly believe this to be a mistake many intermediate lifters make – myself included. Of course, it is proactive to tweak and find your perfect positioning in every aspect of a lift, but these constant slight adjustments become trivial. Practice consistency and stick to one cue progression. Otherwise, you will approach the bar envisioning the lift going differently each time. Once you’ve overcome major inefficiencies in your lift and would consider yourself to be intermediate, you must find a cue progression that works and follow it to a T each single lift.

My Case

The lift I found myself most inconsistent with was the squat. My stance was too narrow at first, my hand positioning was all over the place, and the same with my depth. In this case I was squatting ATG with very heavy loads, when I surely couldn’t even get them up at precise parallel. Over time I found myself more comfortable in a wide stance, still going ATG most of the time. Eventually I got comfortable squatting to just below parralel, and only for volume will I squat ATG until I master my own cue progression. At this point in time, I was still adjusting my stance just slightly each session, as well as my grip. Wide grip was my bread and butter for the extent of a week, when it came to my attention that I could not contract my upper back to optimal tightness this way. Not only that, but my shoulder and elbow flexibility is more than sufficient to practice a close grip. Now that I’ve achieved this foundation, you’d think I was made. Instead, I would move my grip an inch outward or inward each session and go an inch wider or more narrow in my stance. There is no harm in this, however, I cannot progress efficiently whilst constantly experimenting during working sets. What I ended up doing is finding a narrow grip that I would stick with, regardless of whether or not it feels perfect every session. I’ve found a stance right in between all the experimental widths from before and have stuck with it. My grip, unrack, walkout, stance, brace, decent, lift, and lockout are all the same now. Each single lift, unless I am doing volume (in which case I find it more comfortable and beneficial to go far below parallel), plays out the same. I have achieved more than two PBs in the squat since this adjustment, and am feeling much more confident in the future of this lift for me.

What information do you benefit from?

Do not think it is efficient to constantly make minor adjustments to your lifts as an intermediate lifter. Stick to a cue progression and master it. This may be very standard coaching advice, but as a self taught lifter, I feel this may not be something so obvious. You do not progress in your lifts by constantly trying new things to see what helps you lift more. You progress by sticking to a method that works, and mastering it.

Wrap-up

I hope anybody visiting has found this helpful toward progressing themselves through plateaus or inconsistencies in their lifts. I am not a certified coach, and would consider myself but an intermediate powerlifter. This seems, however, to be very standard advice that many overlook, and thus hit a wall. Best of luck and happy lifting, my friends.

Until next time!