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Concrete Pheasyque Free E-Book

Concrete Pheasyque
Training E-Book
Written By:
● Jake Boly
● Eugen Loki
Why We Teamed Up
Hey there!
Welcome to the Concrete Pheasyque E-Book, we’re so grateful to have you. This book is
designed to hopefully do three things
1. Educate you on some basic training principles
2. Shed light on how we view some topics
3. Help you further understand why we do what we do.
If we can accomplish even one of these, then we consider that a success. This book is
intended to be informative in nature and is not to be taken as an end-all-be-all with
certain training topics.
In the world of fitness, there are multiple ways to reach a desired goal, and as coaches,
we use the best methods that we have learned and adapted to help others do so.
If you have further questions on chapters and topics, we’d be happy to help you with
whatever is tripping you up.
In Strength,
Eugen Loki & Jake Boly
Table of Contents
1. True Beginner, Novice, and Intermediate Lifters
2. Compound Movements & Accessories
3. Sets, Reps, and Their Meanings
4. Common Terms
5. Principles of Specificity and Overload
6. Muscle Contractions
7. Tempo
8. Rest Times
9. Periodization Basics
10. Program FAQs
11. Cardio Guidelines
12. Nutrition Guidelines
13. References
Concrete Pheasyque Tip:​ ​This E-book while informative in nature is designed to
complement the 4-week free programs. However, we set it up to help give you tools on
the above topics that you can then take with you to other coaches and self-created
Chapter 1: True Beginners, Novice, and Intermediate Lifters
The True Beginner | < 2-3 months
Let’s define what a​ true beginner​ is, first.
Technically, a ​“true beginner”​ to exercise is somebody who’s never played any type or
sports, ever. Somebody with zero training experience/background. We’d define it as
somebody who’s been finally contemplating the idea of starting to exercise and start
training to either improve their:
1. General/physical health
2. Appearance
3. Strength
It doesn’t really matter whether you are a kid, a man, a woman or an elder person, and it
doesn’t even matter if you think ​“you’re not strong enough to be lifting weights” ​or that
“you’re too weak to train”​, because at this stage, your own perception of self-efficacy
isn’t a reliable judgement parameter. ​Why? ​Because it’s either based on past
experiences or just mere assumptions of what you think you are able to do.
You are stronger than you think, and this is your chance to prove it to yourself.
The goal at this stage is to start moving and to slowly progress - strategically - by
practicing the exercises chosen for this specific stage. You won’t be doing too much
work here, however, it will get a little harder as you keep progressing and as you’ll
experience an increase in volume & intensity as the weeks progress.
Reps will be performed slowly in order to really get a feeling of the exercises, through a
higher number of repetitions per set so that you can also learn body awareness in order
to develop movement proficiency.
This is the core base of the program, and every exercise within will be performed at
higher intensities as the program progresses in difficulty with more challenges. This is
done to increase the stimuli that your body will have to adapt to.
The increment of physical activity is going to be a great boost to weight loss, well-being
and even self-belief, which should be your goal as you progress through this “True
Beginner phase!”
The Novice | 3 - 12 months
So you’ve learned basic body awareness and you’ve developed a base level of strength.
At this point, you start to transition between the” true beginner” and “novice” in the gym.
A novice is a fitness enthusiast that understands how to move ​(to a degree)​, but still lacks
the accumulation of time spent in the gym, under the bar, and being strategically active.
Often times, “novice” is defined as time spent training, however, the definition of novice
can vary based on previous experiences in sport and in the gym.
For example, if you’ve played sports your whole life, but never physically lifted with a
plan, then you’ll be labeled as a novice, but you’re more than likely further along than a
true beginner that just entered this phase.
Generally, the novice’s goals will vary depending on their current training state and their
previous training experiences. Some of the goals the traditional novice fitness enthusiast
wants to accomplish include:
Improve strength
Increase movement proficiency
Change their body composition
Work towards a specific goal (hypertrophy, max strength, power, etc.)
Within the Concrete Pheasyque prescription, the novice program is designed to provide
multiple stimuli and progress you in a calculated way.
At times, novice fitness enthusiasts can overreach because they have yet to develop a
full understanding of their abilities, so our program is designed to support your goals by
properly acclimating you to various forms of progressive overload.
The Intermediate | 1 year +
The intermediate fitness enthusiast will vary greatly and that’s why we’ve defined this
population as being slightly more loose. For many intermediate athletes, they know their
way around the gym with no issue and know exactly what they would like to accomplish,
however, they may not have the depth of knowledge to accommodate their goals.
In the Concrete Pheasyque prescription, we built a program that attempts to help fitness
enthusiasts accomplish multiple goals and it applies various training ideologies in doing
so. For example, this program will help athletes improve their:
General strength + power
Body composition
Body awareness
By strategically programming multiple training ideologies into one block, we can begin to
expose fitness enthusiasts to multiple ​advanced​ training topics to help them build out
their toolbox. By slowly exposing athletes to things like autoregulation we open up the
availability for further goal selection.
Our goal with this program is to help fitness enthusiasts truly decide which direction
they’d like to take with their training.
How do I know what level I am? What’s my training age?
Training age is defined by the amount of exposure you’ve had in the gym over the
course of your career. Generally speaking, training ages can vary greatly because not all
time spent training is created equal.
For example, a year spent working with a trainer/coach and learning will weigh heavier
than a year spent bouncing around the gym without a clue.
When assessing your training age, we recommend using your best judgement and
relating it to the time you’ve spent training. Often times, only using time to define a
training age is not enough. However, it can be a useful tool to help get you started.
Below are general time guidelines we’d use to define populations.
● True Beginner: <2-3 months
● Novice: 6 months - 1 years
● Intermediate: 1+ years
After you’ve established the time you’ve spent in the gym, then relate that to your
abilities and try to be objective with yourself.
Chapter 2: What Are Compound Movements and
In their most simple definition, compound movements are multi-joint movements such as
the squat, bench press, deadlift, and overhead press.
The Concrete Pheasyque programs all​ i​ nvolve compound movements to start off workout
days, then have accessories that follow to support that compound. We like to think of
compound movements as being the base of the pyramid, then the accessories that
follow are the building blocks that complement it.
If you’re brand new to training or
structuring workouts around compound
movements, then a great way to start
thinking about them is to rank each
exercise in a tier-like fashion. For
example, bigger exercises, and
compound movement variations are
ranked higher in the tier system, while
more single-joint, isolated accessories
are lower. For example, higher ranked
accessories could be the barbell row, leg
press, and good morning. Then as you
work your way through the program, the
accessories will continue to become
much more isolated in nature.
Why is this useful?
Ranking accessories in a tier-like fashion is useful for two main reasons.
First, it helps you plan workouts that fall in-line with how much energy you project to
have at various points. For example, you don’t want bigger, more energy and focus
demanding accessories as the final movement in a workout because you might not have
the energy to push them in the way you’d like. This can limit your growth and put you in a
high-energy demanding position when you simply don’t have the resources to match the
tasks at hand, AKA because you’re already tired!
Fatigue increases linearly during the workout, and as this occurs, our ability to exert high
levels of force decreases, which can hinder progression.
Second, it forces you to think of workouts from a strengths and weakness mindset. If you
rank every accessory in a tier and you notice that in one of the tiers a few of the
exercises for a body part feel exceptionally harder than some of the others, then you can
ask yourself, why is that?
More than likely that could be a lagging area
that is present, hence why those movements
feel incredibly tough when they’re not
demanding from an energy perspective. For
example, I have hip stability issues, so
recognizing that unilateral work is tougher for
me allows me to rank exercises accordingly (I
put them higher in my program because they
need more attention).
Let’s go through a couple examples below
from some pretty routine workout days.
Compound​: Squat
Compound​: Deadlift
Compound​: Bench Press
Tier-1: Walking Lunge
Tier-1: Block Pull
Tier-1: Incline Bench Press
Tier-2: Split Squat
Tier-2: Barbell Row
Tier-2: DB Bench Press
Tier-3: Goblet Squat
Tier-3: Pull-Up
Tier-3: Skull Crushers
Tier-4: Hamstring Curl
Tier-4: Lat Pulldown
Tier-4: Push-Ups
When it comes to ranking your accessories in tiers, I’d recommend going about the
process in three ways (listed below) and choose the method that makes the most sense
to you when it comes to ranking your accessories. You can even blend multiple
methodologies together, as that’s what we’ve learned to do over our career!
1. Prime Movers
2. Energy Expended
3. Number of Joints Used
It doesn’t matter how you rank your accessories, what matters is that you do so
consistently for every program in a way that makes the most sense for your
programming and your needs. For example, we rank accessories by muscles and energy
expended. This personally helps us partition our programs with a muscular and energy
expenditure focus.
Chapter 3: Sets, Reps, Volume, Intensity, and Their
In the gym, there are handfuls of universal terms that are worth getting familiar with. In
this chapter, we’ll cover some common training terms and briefly define them with some
context to explain why they’re important.
Sets​: The amount of times you’re going to perform a specific task (rep).
● Okay, everyone knows what a set is, but sets can mean a few things and it’s
important to acknowledge how your program uses them. Set usage can help
dictate training goals.
Reps​: The task-specific movements performed within sets.
● A singular rep is typically defined as a single task-oriented movement, but a rep
can also be a group of multiple task-oriented movements. For example, a
renegade row with a push-up is one rep, even though they could be considered
two or three individual “reps”.
Volume​: Accounts for the total amount of work performed on a time-specific basis.
Volume can have different definitions, but for the purpose of this eBook, we’re going to
use the definition of Volume intended as Volume Load.
Typically, volume will be equated by accounting for total sets, reps, and load. Volume can
be used on a daily, weekly, and block basis, or be defined by a specific amount of time.
Intensity​: The way a movement is scaled when it comes to achieving a desired energy
● Intensity can be defined by percentages (%) of one’s 1-RM, RPE, RIR, or by even
more nuanced methods such as changing range of motion, time under tension,
and so forth. ​Essentially, intensity can have multiple meanings and it’s up to you
and your coach to discuss how you plan to use intensity to track progress
towards adaptations.
Now that we’ve defined what sets, reps, volume, and intensy are, it’s time to
acknowledge how they can be used in a program.
When explaining these terms to clients and how they relate to what they’re doing, I
prefer to keep it simple and define them as below,
Sets, reps, volume, and intensity are all byproducts of a task-specific goal, and are
modified based on the training adaptation.
Basically, consider the goal you’re trying to achieve in the current moment. Once you’ve
done that, then you can understand how your coach is using the above variables/how
you can program them accordingly for yourself.
How to Think About Volume and Intensity
Similar to accessories, I like to place intensity and volume into a hierarchy for certain
goals. Some coaches use different means of writing programs for particular goals, but
this is how we like to think about volume and intensity, which will then dictate sets, reps,
exercise selection, rest times, and so forth for a training block.
In our opinion, this is the most simple way to think about programs and goals. If you can
define which variables are the most important within volume and intensity, then you can
dive into the details of progressive overload that can fine-tune the above two variables to
your needs.
Confused? Don’t worry, we got you.
Remember, above we mentioned that volume and intensity can have multiple meanings.
This is where the art of programming truly becomes apparent and having a
knowledgeable coach that understands progressive overload helps.
Let’s go through an example,
Let’s say you have a goal of hypertrophy and increasing the size of your muscular frame.
You’ve defined that increasing volume should be your primary focus for your next
training block and intensity will come in second, great, so now what?
Stop and take it a step further, let’s define how you want to increase volume and scale
intensity without burning out. Essentially, let’s define how you want to progressively
overload the body. Below, I’ll provide a couple ways you can scale volume and intensity
1. Total Daily Sets x Reps
2. Training Sessions In a Week
3. Physical Time Spent Lifting
1. Weight Lifted
2. Time Spent Performing Certain Exercises (Time Under Tension)
3. Changing Angles/Using Variations
Generally, I like to focus on one or two variables within volume and intensity and relate
them together. This then helps the whole flow of your program from the exercises
selected, intensities used, amount of training sessions needed, and so forth.
Progressive Overload​: A calculated stress placed on the body that can be defined,
scaled, and tracked. Many athletes think progressive overload is just adding weight, but
in reality, it’s any change in stimulus that can be thoughtfully managed and tracked.
Chapter 4: Common Terms
Superset​: Two sets performed back-to-back with a time frame oriented break between
Giant Set (Circuit)​: Three or more exercises performed one after another.
Concentric​: A movement that results in the shortening and contraction of a muscle. Often
times, this will be lifting an external load against gravity.
Eccentric​: A movement that results in the lengthening of a muscle. Typically, eccentric
contractions will take forms of resisting gravity.
Isotonic​: A static position that creates a constant force being produced into an
immovable object.
Isometric​: A static contraction that results in force production, but has lack of concentric
and eccentric properties.
Isokinetic​: A resistance that remains constant through each movement phase.
Overload​: The concept of producing a stimulus that is designed to overload what a
system is capable of.
Specificity​: The concept of training and allocating resources that are tailored to an
activity, sport, or individual.
Rate of perceived exertion / RPE​: The idea of autoregulating training in accordance to
intensity and daily readiness.
Progressive Overload​: A training concept that focuses on gradually increasing a stimulus
to facilitate a trainable and scalable adaptation.
Tonnage​: Total amount of weight that is lifted in any given timeframe.
Variable Resistance​: Resistance that is subject to change throughout a movement or in
different planes of motion.
Accommodating Resistance​: Additional external resistance that is added to a set,
prescribed weight.
Chapter 5: Principles of Overload and Specificity
The overload and specificity principles are two of the most fundamental concepts in all
forms of strength training and sport. These principles are crucial for athletic success and
have a high degree of overlap between their use in training and success in competition.
Think back to the first time you picked up a weight in the gym and how difficult it was. As
time passed and you improved with that weight, you likely began to add more weight,
sets, and reps. What you probably didn’t know at the time was that you were naturally
practicing both the overload and specificity principles.
Essentially, you were adding an increased stimulus to the task at hand to achieve a
desired specific effect, whether that be strength, size, endurance, or power.
● The Overload Principle​: Adding more to whatever stimulus you’re performing to
achieve a higher and progressed adaptation.
● Principle of Specificity​: The type of training being performed should be relevant
and within the skillset to one’s sport and goal.
In strength sports, both of these principles need to be present in order to progress in a
calculated and well-paced manner. And while these principles are extremely important
for all lifters, they’re especially important for strength athletes who solely compete in one
strength sport, as they need both overload and specificity to reach the top of their game.
Throughout everyone’s lifting careers, the importance of each principle will shift in and
out of the center spotlight based on factors like current goals, competition timelines, and
training statuses. Coaches and athletes can both greatly benefit with broadening their
understanding of the overload and specificity principles.
The Overload Principle
In strength training, most understand the overload principle as “progressive overload”.
This term defines the concept of progressively adding to a desired, goal-oriented training
stimulus. There are multiple forms of training stimuli, some of the most common in
strength training including strength, power, hypertrophy, and endurance.
The overload principle is relatively easy to understand at its core. As you train
consistently and grow, you need to continually work harder in order to progress.
However, this principle can easily get misconstrued without acknowledgement of context
— and that’s where it gets a little more complicated.
The Overload Principle In Research
In the research setting and the gym, the overload principle can be applied in a variety of
ways. Typically, research applies the overload principle to training protocols in the form
of manipulation of volumes, intensities, and frequencies (​1, 2, 3​). These are typically the
three main variables that athletes and coaches apply to training in order to facilitate a
desired training adaptation.
However, it’s worth noting that overload can be applied in MULTIPLE ways, but for
the sake of brevity, we’ll only discuss a few in this book.
When it comes to effectively applying the overload principle in strength training, research
has suggested that coaches and athletes should aim to accomplish an optimal
dose-response relationship (​4​). In layman’s terms, this is essentially understanding the
importance of individualization and objectivity when assessing what loads, volumes, and
frequencies an athlete will respond best to.
In this chapter, the overload principle will be discussed in the context of progressing
intensity, volume, and training frequency. As mentioned above, these three variables
tend to be the most important when muscular strength, power, and endurance are the
How to Apply the Overload Principle
To apply the overload principle effectively in training, a lifter should aim to accomplish a
few important characteristics. Similar to compound movements, training principles have
prerequisites and basic guidelines athletes should aim to achieve to ensure their efficacy.
Prerequisites of the Overload Principle
In order to properly apply the overload principle in training, athletes should strive to be
proficient in a few crucial training characteristics. Wait — prerequisites are needed before
applying the overload principle?
Yes, think about it this way: if the goal is improving strength in the back squat, but form is
lacking and strength levels are unknown, then how can one properly progress? This is
often why many beginners will spin their wheels following haphazard plans towards
training. Below are a few foundational concepts that can be useful to possess before
applying the overload principle.
● Proper form​ — In order to properly progress in any movement or sport, one must
have a baseline understanding of the form that is required to perform the task at
hand, aka possess efficient movement patterns.
● Foundation of Strength​ — To overload strength properly, there has to be an
understanding of current strength levels and capabilities.
● Training History​ — In order to lay out a well-thought out plan, training history is
important when noticing trends with individual strengths and weaknesses.
● Training Goals​ — Current training goals are another prerequisite needed in order
to properly apply the overload principle.
Overload Principle Reminders
On top of prerequisites, there are a few overload reminders that athletes and coaches
should always keep in mind. These will be highly variable on a case-by-case basis and
they may not all apply at one time.
1. Patience​ — There are multiple ways to apply overload in training. Be patient and
choose one or two variables to progress with in each training cycle. Large changes with
multiple variable shifts made all at once can leave one guessing where improvements
have been made.
● Example​: ​Trying to decrease body fat, improve 5k time, build a higher powerlifting
total, and start the sport of weightlifting all at once. Pick one or two goals and fully
immerse into them for a full training cycle.
2. Non-Linear​ — In addition to the point of patience, it’s important to understand that the
overload principle is not always linear.
● Example​: ​Strength stops increasing or becomes stalled when working with a
certain rep and set scheme.
3. Newbie Gains​ — The concept of “newbie gains” in the gym is defined as the sharp
strength increases beginners experience when starting their training journey. New
trainees often experience drastic increases in neurological and strength growth mainly
through the development of motor skill learning and faster rate coding (the firing rate at
which the nervous system recruits muscle fibers). The force exerted by a muscle during
voluntary contraction depends on the number of motor units recruited: in a nutshell, as
we get more efficient at the exercise, our nervous system is able to recruit these motor
units at a faster rate and exert greater force, so it’s important to capitalize and build a
foundation with the overload principle early on..
● Example​: ​New powerlifters following a well-made program, as opposed to
haphazardly training and loading.
The Importance of Individualization With the Overloading Principle
This importance of individualization will be discussed further in the periodization chapter,
although, it’s important to briefly mention this concept before diving into the overload
applications. As athletes progress in their training careers there will be a heightened
understanding of one’s body and its capabilities. By establishing a strong dose-response
training relationship, athletes can properly assess how much volume, intensity, and
frequency, among other factors, they need in order to progress with the overload
principle (​2​).
For strength athletes specifically, this is crucial to understand. Often times, the overload
principle will go hand-in-hand with the concept of autoregulation, or one’s ability to
self-guage their body’s current training capabilities.
Muscular strength, power, hypertrophy, and endurance will all require different increases
in various training variables. By individualizing and relating one’s training needs and
goals, then the overload principle can be applied most effectively.
What the Overload Principle Looks Like In Strength Training
1. Intensity & Volume
In this chapter, we’ll cover two basic ways the overload principle can be applied to
strength training. The first way we’ll cover is with intensity. Training intensities are often
percentages based on the amount of weight on a bar relative to one’s true or prescribed
1-rep max (1-RM). Intensity can also be dictated by things like rate of perceived exertion
(RPE) and reps in reserve (RIR). Essentially, there are multiple methodologies when
illustrating a plan and progressing training intensities with the overload principle.
The overload principle and intensity will entail a steady and calculated increase of weight
over time. As mentioned above, this can come in multiple forms, for the sake of this book
— we will lay out intensity with training percentages.
Example: Back Squat 1-RM = 200 lbs
● Week-1 5x5 = 60% / 160 lbs
● Week-2 5x5 = 62% / 164 lbs
● Week-3 5x5 = 64% / 168 lbs
In the example above, set and rep volumes remained consistent, but intensity is
progressively overloaded to accommodate for the desired training stimuli, which in this
case would be overall strength.
Another way one can apply the overload principle to their training is with the
manipulation of overall volume. An increase in volume will improve work capacity, overall
work output, muscular hypertrophy, and strength. In the gym, volume accumulation is the
summation of reps, sets, and weight lifted during a workout.
Volume = Sets X Reps X Weight Lifted
When it comes to progressing with resistance training, remember, volume and intensity
alterations often go hand-in-hand (​5​). Overall training volume can be increased by the
alteration of sets, reps, and intensities.
Example 1: A beginner wants to improve their overall squat workload.
● Week-1 3x5 = 60% / 160 lbs = Volume: 2,400 lbs lifted
● Week-2 3x6 = 60% / 160 lbs = Volume: 2,880 lbs lifted
● Week-3 3x7 = 60% / 160 lbs = Volume: 3,360 lbs lifted
Example 2: A powerlifter wants to improve their lower body hypertrophy in the squat.
● Week-1 3x10 reps = 60% / 160 lbs = Volume: 4,800 lbs lifted
● Week-2 3x11 reps = 62% / 164 lbs = Volume: 5,280 lbs lifted
● Week-3 3x12 reps= 64% / 168 lbs = Volume: 5,760 lbs lifted
A caveat worth noting in the two examples above is that overall training volume
increased in both the intensity and volume examples, however, the overload principle’s
intent shifted. So while volume accumulation was higher in both examples, the
manipulation of training variables had different purposes.
Principle of Specificity
The specificity principle is arguably one of the most important factors to consider as you
progress in your strength training career. The specificity principle states that as one
progresses in their sport and goals become more specific, then training should reflect
In layman’s terms, as you develop as an athlete and pursue a specific sport, then you
should train with methods and movements that will have high carryover to said sport.
In strength training, the specificity principle will present itself as exercises and training
methods that are prescribed and used accordingly to their relevance to one’s overall
training goal and strength sports. Basically, it’s the calculated prescription of training
practices that are relevant to one’s sport and end goal.
Some example in strength sports would look like,
● Powerlifters train primarily the big three (squat, bench press, and deadlift) and
train variations/accessories that will improve these lifts.
● Weightlifters train the clean & jerk and snatch, and choose variations/accessories
to improve their skill in portion of the lift.
● CrossFit athletes will train movements often prescribed in workouts with goals
focused on strength, work capacity, and power.
Another useful example of identifying the specificity principle in practice is assessing the
differences between a beginner and elite powerlifter’s program. There will be stark
differences between the two that are catered to each individual. These differences are
based on the best practices to maximize one’s specific training goal.
General to Specific Training
The specificity principle, like the overload principle, is essential for training success and
should be used accordingly to one’s current training state. For example, beginners will
benefit in different ways compared to experienced athletes with the use of the specificity
In strength training, athletes can improve their ability to use the specificity principle by
furthering their understanding of movement patterns and by building a foundation of
strength, power, and endurance. These factors can all play an important role in assessing
the direction in which one’s training should progress as they begin to develop more
specific training goals.
This is why beginners who just learned how to bench press are not doing things like
board presses. That activity is highly specific in nature and would not have as much
carryover as simply performing a normal bench press.
● Beginners → General Training
● Experienced Athletes → Specific Training
As an athlete progresses through their career and experience is accumulated, then the
use of the specificity principle will increase. In strength sports, experience and specific
training practices tend to move in the same linear direction.
However, the reasoning behind this is a little more complex than that, and without a full
understanding of what’s going in various [strength] training settings, then a coach and
athlete could be leaving gains on the table.
Specificity —​ while easily digestible at face value​ — becomes increasingly more complex
in normal sport settings. Outside of simply training movements that closely replicate the
skills being worked on, specificity training can also account for things like,
Sport Type (Single or team)
Types of Movements Used In Sport (acceleration, deceleration, etc.)
Muscle Type
Activity Type (aerobic or anaerobic)
Mental Readiness
Daily Stress Levels
Diet & Sleep
All of these factors can impact an athlete’s performance on a day-to-day basis and
accounting for them and the individuality of every athlete can help guide training
oriented towards a specific adaptation.
In the section below, we’re going to reference examples directly applicable to
strength sport settings.​
A Top Down Approach to Specificity
On the surface, specificity is pretty straight forward — choose exercises that closely
resemble and progress one towards their training goal and sport — but what exactly is
going on?
In the gym setting, different movements, volumes, intensities, and frequencies are trained
in order to progress towards specific training adaptations. Whether the goal be maximal
strength, relative strength, speed, hypertrophy, or endurance, then best practices will be
used by athletes and coaches to achieve and reach those goals.
Since the first use of specificity in sport, our knowledge and understanding surrounding
this topic has grown and is still growing, especially in the gym setting. In a 2009 review
assessing the current literature on specificity, study authors suggested that specificity is
multifaceted and assessed the concept in three categories including (6),
1. Energy Systems
2. Muscle Contractions
3. Skills
Authors suggested that the summation of these three physiological components can best
educate coaches and athletes on how to train to reach desired adaptations. Let’s look at
how some of these can be directly applied to strength sport settings.
1. Energy Systems
Energy systems serve as the bridge between how our body uses energy and its
performance in sport. If a sport requires a high-level of displacement for certain energy
systems, then athletes should train to improve those said energy systems.
For example, weightlifting requires multiple explosive bouts of activity. Typically, the
ATP-PC will be the energy system contributing to a majority of these movement’s
successes, so training this energy system often will have a highly specific carryover to
There are three major energy systems in the body, which can be seen below. Each
energy system below will play some role in every activity we perform, but their emphasis
will shift on their demands.
Energy Systems
● ATP-PC Energy System: Anaerobic energy system.
● Glycolytic System: Slightly longer in duration than anaerobic energy system.
● Oxidative System: Aerobic energy system.
If we apply energy system knowledge to the principle of specificity, then we can make
suggestions for best training methods for high carryover to performance.
2. Muscle Contractions
In the 2009 review, researchers also suggested that how a muscle functions is important
to consider when training for specificity (​6​). For specificity training, multiple attributes of
the muscle should be accounted for to construct best training practices.
Contraction Type (concentric, eccentric, isometric)
Muscle Fiber Type (fiber percentage that [most heavily] occupies a muscle)
Velocity of Contraction
Anthropometrics of Individual (limb length, frame, and angles of joints)
With a baseline understanding of these muscle attributes best exercises can then be
selected along with sets, reps, and training practices to best suit an adaptation.
Contraction Type
In resistance training, we train multiple forms of muscle contractions on a regular basis.
Below is a quick reminder of the different forms of muscle contractions,
1. Concentric — Shortening of the muscle
2. Eccentric — Lengthening of the muscle
3. Isometric — A static hold
These three contraction types are trained to some degree in nearly every movement
performed in the gym, however, when specificity is the goal they can be taken a step
further. What does this look like in practice?
Powerlifting Example
● Goal​: An athlete wants to improve their competition bench press, but struggles
with the pause at the bottom.
● Specificity In Practice​: Tempo training, use of pauses, or coach performs
commands during a training set.
In the above practices, eccentric and isometric muscle contractions are taking a majority
of the focus, as these in theory will produce the highest carryover to the athlete’s training
goal — improve their competition bench press.
Weightlifting Example
● Goal​: An athlete wants to improve their jerk stability when working towards higher
clean & jerk percentages.
● Specificity In Practice​: Block jerks, holds at lockout, or drop jerk lockouts.
In the weightlifting example, the main focus is a strong concentric contraction followed
by an isometric contraction. Thus, the specific training practices are working to improve
both of these specific contractions.
Muscle Fiber Type
Muscle fiber type can also be a useful factor to consider when training for specific
adaptations. From what research has suggested about muscle fibers, every muscle and
type of athletes will contain different amounts of muscle fibers (​8, 9​).
There are essentially three main types of muscle fibers and these include,
1. Type I — Slow Twitch Fibers
2. Type IIA — Fast Twitch Fibers
3. Type IIX — Ultra-Fast Twitch Fibers
Each of these fiber types will function differently, so training muscles accordingly to their
suggested predominance can be useful to facilitate training adaptations. This is why you
see athletes like weightlifters often training with methods to improve their fast twitch
muscle fibers.
Dr. Andy Galpin, author of Unplugged and professor at CSU Fullerton, explained that one
way to understand muscle’s and their potential to possess a certain type of fiber is to
think — ​Structure equals function​.
This essentially means that muscles will possess the majority of fiber types based on
their purpose (postural, force producing, etc.). For example, the erector spinae possesses
high levels of Type-I muscle fibers, and this is often suggested to be the case because
they’re a postural muscle (​9​). The quads, on the other hand, will possess a mixture of
muscle fibers and more Type IIA fibers at that, as their purpose is to produce varied
levels of power to propel the body in different directions.
In respects to muscle fibers and the specificity principle, there is merit in considering the
overall training goal and the muscles being addressed. By acknowledging what a muscle
does on a daily and physiological basis, then training can be best structured to suit a
muscle’s best hypothesized training response.
Basically, if there’s a baseline understanding of the fiber types which a muscle most likely
possesses, then sets, reps, and intensities can be structured accordingly. Some
examples in practice can be seen below,
● Postural Muscles (Often Higher In Type-I Fibers) — Benefit with higher rep sets
with lighter to moderate loads to increase work capacity and muscle fiber density.
● Muscles That Possess a Mixture of Fibers — Benefit with a variety of sets, reps,
and loads to improve strength, power, and work capacity.
Research is still sparse when providing exact guidelines for training certain types of
muscle fibers for a specific goal. However, applying a baseline understanding of a
muscle’s structural purpose and the training being used, then one could increase their
training’s efficacy.
Velocity of Contraction
The velocity of a muscle’s contraction entails how fast the concentric and eccentric
portions will be during times of competition. A great example of this is how quickly a
weightlifter must move in the Olympic lifts. Thus, in order to specifically target and
improve the fast rates of contractions that weightlifters use in competition, then training
should reflect similar velocities.
Another example is how velocity based training is becoming increasingly more popular in
powerlifting. By using speed as a metric, athletes and coaches can then shift intensities,
reps, and sets to facilitate a desired speed for a dictated movement. For example, if a
powerlifter is training a heavy squat double at 93%, and they want the speed to be similar
for each rep to indicate mastery of this intensity, then they could use velocity of muscle
contractions to purposely train.
The idea of training specifically for anthropometrics
entails accounting for one’s body architecture. In this
respect, it’s a great idea to consider how limbs, joints,
and the body move on a normal basis and in sport. If
these are accounted for, then thoughtful training can
be used to optimally strengthen the body based on
everyone’s individualities.
3. ​Skills
Skills include the movements that directly — or
closely — reflect those used in competition. For a
powerlifter, the practice of skills would include
training the squat, bench press, and deadlift.
Outside of the gym, skills could also be defined
as the summation of attributes that one requires
to be successful in their specific sport​ (ex:
tumbling for a gymnast, stick handling for a
hockey player, and so forth​). Then within these
practices, skills can be broken down even further
into categories like coordination, power, balance,
strength, and endurance. The complexity of sport makes practicing skills incredibly
important for success.
In strength sports and the gym, skills are often defined as the movements practiced in
competition. From this point of view, specificity would assess how closely an exercise
resembles the competition movement.
For example, training a squat similar to how it’s performed in competition would rank as
the most specific for a powerlifter, while performing something like a box squat would be
less specific. Both movements will indefinitely have carryover to improving one’s squat
and are speciftic, but one more closely reflects the direct competition squat.
There are multiple ways coaches and athletes can address a movement’s specificity to
one’s overall training and competition goal outside of categorizing specificity by the
exercise itself. Below are a few additional ways coaches and athletes can categorize a
movement’s specificity,
Range of Motion
Tempos and Pauses
Equipment Used
Accommodated Resistance Used
Sets, Reps, and Intensities
Something to remember with specificity is that not all training is created equal, and failure
to acknowledge this can be counterproductive to one’s training of specific skills.
If a powerlifter or weightlifter want to improve their competition lifts (skills), then they
should aim to perform those skills
and their variants often.
SAID Principle
As important it is to understand all of
the underlying physiological
adaptations that take place with
specificity training, it’s also a good
idea to highlight the theories behind
this training ideology and its
application. Introducing the SAID
S — Specific
A — Adaptations
I — Imposed
D — Demands
The SAID Principle states that how we train and the stresses we place on the body will
influence specific adaptations. Essentially, it’s a principle that takes all of the
physiological aspects above and applies them in a practical, functional way.
Thus, if a weightlifter wants to improve their competition snatch (1-RM), then they should
train using methods that closely replicate the competition snatch. In practice, this will
look like training sessions with heavy singles, doubles, and highly-specific technique
work. Note, this isn’t to say doing higher rep won’t work, or other power training methods
won’t increase one’s competition snatch, but direct carryover will be different .
A perfect example of the SAID Principle in application is to follow the progression of a
powerlifter’s program in lead up to a meet. The training blocks that are further out from
the competition date will often include higher rep work and accessories tailored to the
competition lifts. Then as the athlete gets closer to their competition date, blocks start to
become much more finite in exercise selection with lower reps and higher intensities
used on the main lifts. Every block entails specificity training, however, the scope shifts
from wide to narrow to facilitate the highest potential adaptation one can achieve.
In the gym, arguably the most important aspect of the SAID Principle is understanding
the intent in which a training methodology is being used. Exercise selection and workout
structure should all reflect an athlete’s overall goals in a fashion that best suits their
current training state, history, and needs.
Putting It All Together
Theory to Application
The above three concepts of energy systems, muscle contractions, and skills are not
intended to overcomplicate the training process. In reality, what’s most important is
identifying the ​why​ behind programming movements for a specific training adaptation,
then testing that ​why​, retesting it, and progressing by the best means possible — utilizing
the SAID Principle.
If one can understand the above three physiological aspects of specificity training, then
training can be broken down by movements, reps, sets, and methodologies to best
achieve a specific goal. In this respect, the three concepts will all shift in a hierarchy-like
fashion based on things like one’s strength sport, training strengths and weaknesses,
and so forth.
It’s important to note that while these three components can help suggest the best
means available to train for specificity — the research is far from complete on this topic.
From the 2009 review discussing specificity authors write,
“The main aims of physiological assessment are to identify determinants of
performance, profile athletes, establish efficacy of training prescription, and provide
support for translating observations into training prescription, and provide support for
translating observations into training prescriptions. (6)”
Essentially, we know a great deal about specificity, but there are still no set-in-stone
suggestions for its application to ​every​ athlete. This is why there are so many
interpretations for optimal training in every sport, as every coach uses their best
judgements to create efficacious training programs for their athlete’s strength and
So with everything we know about training, why isn’t there a consistent way of applying
specificity. To answer this question, researchers stated in the 2009 review,
“While laboratory testing may enhance reliability and sensitivity associated with the
control of environmental conditions, pre-exercise behaviour, time of day, diet, and other
factors that can affect physiological response, it can be very difficult to recreate the
exact movement patterns and limb velocities when using lab-based ergometers
compared with sport performance (6
​ )​ ”
In layman’s terms, it’s incredibly difficult to replicate field and lab based tests, as in the
field settings will always be slightly different per the individual and setting.
● What we know about specificity​: Specificity is important to become great at
anything and we have multiple ways to train, program, and work towards a specific
adaptation (physiologically, physically, and mentally).
● What we don’t know about specificity​: What training methods will ​always​ work
once a certain level is reached in any given sport, skill, or activity.
Consistency Wins
The overload and specificity principles are both incredibly important for progress in the
gym. Both of these principles go hand-in-hand in strength training and their best uses are
facilitated with consistency, objectivity, and calculated progressions.
The simplest way to utilize these principles is by defining an overall training goal,
selecting short-terms goals, then creating micro, meso, and macrocycles to achieve
Chapter 6: Muscle Contractions (A Brief Overview)
What do bicep curls, shrugs, and deadlifts all have in common?
Muscle contractions.
Contractions of the muscles are at the base of every movement. The muscles are
continuously and tirelessly contracting, releasing, contracting, and releasing to produce
force and propel our bodies through time and space.
In the gym, contractions come in multiple forms and understanding each is critical for
one’s long-term success in training. Every type of contraction is important, and each can
play a large role in facilitating a particular adaptation. Concentric, eccentric, isometric,
isotonic, and isokinetic muscle contractions all come with their own lists of strengths and
applications, which will correlate with your overall training goals.
Sliding Filament Theory
Before diving into muscle contractions, it’s a good idea to first understand how muscle
contractions occur in the first place. Every muscle contains multiple muscle fibers, which
contain actin and myosin proteins. Actin forms thin filaments within each muscle fiber,
while myosin create thick filaments.
These two filaments interact with one another by sliding over each other during muscle
contractions, which brings us to the sliding filament theory. The sliding filament theory
explains how actin and myosin create cross-bridges within a muscle’s sarcomeres to
produce contractions by sliding over another, binding, releasing, and repeating.
“A good way to picture muscle contraction is to imagine Myosin Filaments as a rowing
boat, while Actin is the water. As a concentric contraction takes place, Myosin is
“actively rowing” on Actin.” - E.
The sliding filament theory was first proposed in 1954 by AF Huxley and Rolf Niedergerke
(1). For decades, it was thought that actin and myosin were the two main filaments at play
during the sliding filament theory, however, science has since suggested that a large
third protein is at play during muscle contractions: Titin (​10​, ​11​).
While research still hasn’t concluded titin’s exact role on muscle contractions, it’s thought
that this large protein plays a role in decreasing the length of actin and increasing actin’s
stiffness when CA+2 is present (​12​), producing force by resisting deformation. This is one
of the reasons why eccentric contractions are able to produce more force than
concentric contractions, since more elements come into play:
While Concentric-only contractions produce force mainly through the formation of
Actin-Myosin Crossbridges - the actual Contractile Machinery of the muscle - also called
‘Active Elements’, Eccentric-Only contractions can produce additional force — up to
25-30% of 1RMs — thanks to the ‘Passive Elements’ such as Titin & Collagen, which is
something to remember especially when designing hypertrophy blocks, in order to
maximize results (​13​).
Actin, myosin, and titin (among other proteins) all exist within sarcomeres of myofibrils.
Sarcomeres can best be described as the functional units within striated muscle.
Basically, they are a darkened portion of striated muscle that is separated and identified
by z-disks.
In order to contract, a muscle must receive an electrochemical impulse (​action potential​)
from the sensory organs in the periphery to the spinal cord, and the brain ​(CNS)​. The
nerves that innervate the muscle fibers are called ​motor neurons​, and together with the
fibers they attach themselves to, they make up the ​motor units​ (nerve fiber + muscle
fiber). This impulse travels down the motor unit and relays a ​message​ through a neuron
to its respective sarcomeres, which ​(after a cascade of events)​ will then result in
muscular contraction, AKA the sliding of thin and thick filaments across one another.
We know a fair amount about muscles contractions, but there are still many unanswered
questions. For example, titin’s exact role is still relatively undefined, how many actin and
myosin heads connect during particular contractions is still unknown, and the list goes
The Takeaway​: Every muscular contraction is the result of a motor neuron relaying an
activation message to multiple fibers to contract and produce force. The exact amount of
fibers per each contraction is still unknown.
Types of Muscle Contractions
There are a few main types of muscle contractions — most of which you probably know
— so we’ll briefly cover the different types below and highlight what they do.
● Isometric​: Contraction with no muscle lengthening.
○ Example: Pausing a curl mid-rep and holding it.
● Isokinetic​: Contraction with change in length, but with consistent speed.
○ Example: Lifting on a machine that controls and produces equal tension
throughout a full movement.
● Eccentric​: Contraction in which a muscle lengthens.
○ Example: The quad lengthening in the squat on the descent.
● Concentric​: Contraction in which a muscle shortens.
○ Example: The bicep shortening in upward portion in the curl.
It’s important to train muscles with every type of contraction to be dynamic and resilient
in the gym and sport. For example, let’s look at the hamstring and how different types of
contractions can improve its performance.
Eccentric training will help with the hamstring’s control and stability when decelerating
and put into positions where the body would usually be a little more unstable. Concentric
training can improve the propulsion of the leg, so accelerating in sprints and when
producing force. Isometric contractions can be useful for building endurance and stability
when undergoing prolonged activity.
And the above is only scratching the surface as to why the hamstrings should be trained
in multiple types of ways. There are multiple ways to approach training every muscle with
multiple forms of contractions.
If you apply this type of logic to every muscle and activity, then you can broaden your
creative and “why” behind your training.
“The moral of the story is to avoid neglecting any type of contraction when
training muscles.” - JB
Chapter 7: Tempo
Tempo is an incredibly useful training tool that is utilized in most Concrete Pheasyque
programs. We like to use tempo for three specific benefits.
1. Increase Time Under Tension (TUT)
Time under tension entails how long a muscle is under a constant training stimulus. In
short, it’s the time it takes you to complete a movement. Time under tension can be used
for a full set, or even broken down into an individual rep basis. Increased time under
tension can be useful for improving muscular hypertrophy, and it’s especially useful when
first learning exercises.
2. Strengthen Lifting Postures
Tempo is a great tool for teaching positional awareness during reps. This is essential for
perfecting movement mechanics and reinforcing advantageous mechanical properties.
3. Consistent Reps and Self Awareness
A major key for success when working with
heavier weights is consistency. Tempo is a great
tool to help you dial in consistent reps and to feel
out weights accordingly. For example, tempo can
help you learn how to displace force under
heavier weights, as opposed to dive bombing and
so forth.
In addition to building consistency, tempo can
also teach self awareness when it comes to
thoughtful contractions (mind muscle connection)
and how your body is moving that day. For
example, if you have a slow eccentric
programmed and your left knee feels a little ​off​,
then using tempo is a great method for identifying this feeling and creating a game plan
for that day.
An Awesome Way to Conceptualize Tempo
The reason we love employing tempo specifically is because it provides a better gauge
of targeting a stimulus we want for clients through specific ranges of motion. Not every
range of motion is created equal when it comes to increasing time under tension with the
use of tempo.
For example, when a muscle is fully lengthened and contracted it will produce less for
force/receive less stimulus than when it’s halfway through a contraction.
Since we handle most clients remotely, tempo is a useful tool we like to use to get more
shots on goal when it comes to improve strength and hypertrophy for various muscles
through multiple ranges of motion. Tempo, in our programs, will always reflect an
adaptation I want to create for certain movements based on leverages, loading, volume,
and so forth.
How Tempo Is Written
When tempo is written out in a program it will have either three or four numbers. I prefer
to use the four number method for writing tempo because it’s slightly easier to
understand, in my opinion. Also, some movements can benefit with the use of the fourth
Each number in tempo stands for a portion/range of motion in an exercise and the
numbers equate to seconds spent in each range of motion. Tempo will be used for
particular training adaptations as mentioned above, so always ask your coach for
rationale about tempo use when you see it on your program!
Example​: Back Squat 3 x 5 / Tempo: ​4110
4​: Eccentric / lowering porition
1​: Hold at the bottom
1​: Concentric / lifting portion
0​: Hold at the top
Chapter 8: Rest Times
Rest Times: The calculated time spent in-between each set resting.
Rest times are a fantastic tool for tracking progress, managing time spent in the gym, and
working towards specific goals. Often times, rest times get overlooked, but they can hold
a ton of weight for a program’s success.
Personally, I love using rest times for three specific reasons.
1. Time Focused Workouts​: Rest times help me estimate how long certain workouts
will take, which then helps clients budget their time accordingly.
2. Keep You Honest​: Are you pushing too hard? If you’re abiding by programmed
rest times and you start missing reps set after set, then that’s a great indicator that
you’re pushing too hard for the goal at hand.
3. Training Adaptations​: Rest times are also great for working towards certain
training adaptations.
a. Trying to improve your muscular endurance? Drop rest times to increase
heart rate.
b. Working towards your top-end
strength? Increase rest times
to ensure no reps or sets are
If you want to start employing rest times
more thoughtfully in your program, then
we’d recommend using ranges for certain
training adaptations (hypertrophy, strength,
power, conditioning, etc.). Ranges are great
to use because they can help you
understand your body better, push you, and
ensure efficiency.
There are multiple ways to consider rest times when implementing them into a program.
You can base them on the energy required for a movement, the intensity being
employed, or the flow of the workout.
Below, we’ve provided a few of the rest time ranges we like to use for certain
adaptations, movements, and so forth.
It’s important to note that rest time ranges can vary based on training status, needs, and
goals. For example, newer clients can usually get away with less rest time because
intensities are often much lighter in nature, while experienced lifters working at higher
intensities will require longer rest times — or not employ rest times at all.
Rest Time Ranges In Practice Examples
Rest Ranges
Intensity Examples
90-seconds - 4 minutes
70-90% 1-RM
2-minutes - 5+ minutes
<90% 1-RM
30-seconds - 75-seconds
Compound Movements
90-seconds - 5-minutes
60% - 100% 1-RM
45-seconds - 2-minutes
Sets & Reps Decide
Body Composition
45-second - 2-minutes
Sets & Reps Decide
The Takeaway
Rest times can be an awesome tool for every level of fitness enthusiast. They can keep
you honest with your program and adapting towards a certain goal. Additionally, they can
be useful tools to help you adjust workout lengths when life has you on a time crunch.
Our piece of advice: find what rest times your body responds best to, then adapt them to
your training goals!
Chapter 9: Periodization Basics
In this chapter, we’ll cover periodization basics and how to efficiently build programs, and
more directly, how I like to view periodization. Periodization entails the way we calculate
and coordinate the variations and progressive overload methods we you use in training.
I like to think of periodization as a roadmap for training. It’s the long-term plan for getting
you somewhere and the mesocycles/microcycles are the means of getting there (the car,
gas, and so forth).
Periodization Timelines Broken Down
Periodization is generally broken into three groups that represent strategized timelines
and these include macro, meso, and microcycles. Each of these cycles will be
thoughtfully curated to target specific goals and adaptations.
In a great periodized training plan, there will be an overarching macrocycle plan with
“bigger” training goals, then within this macrocycle there will be multiple mesocycles that
vary in length to support timely training goals, shifts in lifestyle, and so forth.
Every mesocycle should have a plan behind it and a rationale. Mesocycles should not
simply be time frames where exercises are haphazardly swapped in and out. They
should include strategic varied training that’s matched with specific training adaptations:
Strength, hypertrophy, power, body composition, etc.
There are no definitive timelines for macro, meso, and microcycles and coaches will each
use their own methodologies when building out each respectively. A few examples can
be seen below,
● Macrocycle: 1 year+
● Mesocycle: 3-8 weeks
● Microcycle: 1-2 weeks
Mesocycles and What’s Actually Important
In this section, we’re going to discuss mesocycles and what they should account for.
To build a great mesocycle, you need to account for multiple training variables. These
variables are the pillars of great programs and are geared towards specific adaptations.
My favorite training variables to account for in mesocycles in no specific order of
favorites include:
Intensity ​- Weight used
Volume ​- Amount of sets/reps
Rest Times​ - How long you’re resting between sets
Exercise Selection​ - How/Why you’re choosing certain exercises
Frequency ​- How often you’re training a lift/muscle
Exercise Choice/Order​ - Rationale for exercises and their order
1. Keeps Things “Fresh”
Note the parenthesis around “fresh” above. Fresh, in this scenario, does not mean
program hopping without a plan, but instead varied with strategy. Most fitness
enthusiasts gets bored easily performing the same movements day-in and day-out.
Generally, 4-weeks is a good time frame to achieve certain training adaptations before
either 1) deloading or 2) modifying variables. It’s important to recognize that every
4-weeks, while you might be starting a new mesocycle, there will be some consistencies
throughout the program. For example, some movements may remain the same, along
with some volumes/intensities, and so forth. These consistencies should coincide with
larger overlapping goals.
Sometimes the goal is to simply keep trainees interested in training, so 4-week changes
to a program are a good middle ground for achieving bigger goals, but giving a client a
fresh taste. This is where the art of coaching comes in and understanding how to achieve
what you need/want to see, and what a client wants.
2. Easier to Recognize When Deloads Are Needed
Deload time frames will vary from coach-to-coach, but generally a 4:1 / training:deload
ratio is a good bet for intermediate/advanced fitness enthusiasts. Note, beginners can
get away with much longer ratios (6:1, 7:1, and even 8:1), however, this will vary highly
based on training history, status, and current lifestyle.
Be aware of the signals of overreaching and don’t worry about “not lifting as heavy” as
you’d like to for a week or something.
‘​If your performance goes down, recovery slows down, hunger decreases/increases,
mood swings, you’ve got trouble falling asleep/resting enough.. chances are you need to
take a deload. Your body will thank you, and reward you with an improvement in
performance, so make to implement it when needed !’ - E.
3. Realistic for Life Changes/Events
Another reason we love 4-week mesocycles is that they’re easier to adapt to busy
lifestyles. Crazy work schedules, travel, and major life events can all cause a shift in how
much energy is available for training. This is where being realistic with goals and
adaptations is of the utmost importance.
As coaches, it’s our job to adapt what’s realistic for clients based on their feedback. For
example, if a client tells us they’re traveling for a majority of the month, then our goals will
shift from something like strength to maintenance and body composition. We push
adaptations that we can and maintain what we’ve built.
Periodization Takeaway Points
When it comes to progressing on a consistent is incredibly important to define how you
like to periodize programs. Macro, meso, and microcycles will all change based on one’s
goals and needs. Our advice, break goals into two sub-categories large and small.
Structure your macrocycle around the large goal(s), then break mesocycles into smaller
goal-focused blocks.
“If you don’t get it right the first time, or are overwhelmed, take a step back and breathe.
It took me two years before I decided to structure my mesocycles into 4-week blocks,
and I’m constantly changing how I view them and modify them on a regular basis.” - J.
Once you’ve established how long a training block will last, it becomes easier to then
structure the above training variables for a client’s needs and goals. We’ve included a
mock workflow below for building programs.
1. Establish Long-Term Goals
2. Build a Macrocycle
3. Establish Short-Term Goals - Base these on life events, competitions, seasons,
or however you wish.
4. Build Short-Term Specific Mesocycles Within the Macrocycle
5. Build Microcycles When Short-Term Goals Have a Time Specific Need
A Brief Look Into Training Adaptations
Training adaptations could best be described as the groundwork to every single training
plan. Every workout, lift, and sport-based activity is performed for one reason — to
facilitate a training adaptation. Consider training adaptations the intent of any
well-constructed program.
For many, there tends to only be one training adaptation that is always on the mind, and
that’s of course, strength. Everyone wants to get stronger and this adaptation is often the
most glorified on public facing profiles. Think about it, most are in the gym simply to get
stronger, and as a society this trait has long been glorified.
However, strength is only one of the many training adaptations that can be sought after.
In fact, employing multiple training adaptations at various times is often one of the best
ways to not only create a dynamic body, but to also create longevity in training.
A few of the most popular training adaptations include,
In this chapter, we’ll briefly cover ther umbrella definition of training adaptation, training
adaptation guidelines, examples of how each adaptation can be trained, and how they
can vary in the scope of an overall program.
What Is a Training Adaptation?
In short, a training adaptation is any given response produced by the body in order to
accommodate and overcome a stimulus. Simple, right? Train a certain way, get certain
results. Not so fast.
The concept of training adaptations become incredibly more nuanced when we account
for all of the factors that make up individuals. Some of these factors can include
someone’s training age and history, overall goals, current training readiness, sport
timeline (in-season vs. off-season), and more. Additionally, most lifters require​ (and want)
multiple training adaptations all at once, which then takes a simple concept to a much
more dynamic being.
This isn’t intended to overcomplicate the idea of training adaptations, no, the goal is to
simply highlight how they can vary based on an individual. Every training adaptation
listed above will be variable based on a lifter’s overall goals and needs.
For example, an elite powerlifter’s plan to create a strength adaptation in their program
will look much different compared to the general lifter. The elite powerlifter’s adaptation
plan will be constructed with their training age, sport timeline, readiness, weaknesses,
and so forth, while the general lifter will most likely have much less emphasis on the finite
factors and simply on the work at hand.
Note, this is only ​one​ training adaptation that these athletes are working towards, and
they’re vastly different in regard to their additional factors to consider.
The beauty of training adaptations materializes when a coach is able to shift the smaller
aspects that make up an individual to optimally create a plan to accommodate for the
goal at hand.
In layman’s terms, adaptations need to be thought about as complex concepts, as
humans are complex in nature. Every athlete will have different needs and these will shift
a program’s ability to facilitate certain training adaptations.
Training Adaptation Guidelines
As with most training concepts, adaptations will be highly variable between coaches and
athletes, and they can be as nuanced as you want them to be. This variability is why
there are so many different training ideologies, programs, and methods in sport, as
everyone has their own idea of how to adapt athletes towards certain goals.
While everyone tends to have their own methods to progress towards a desired
adaptation, there are a few general guidelines to do so in the best means possible.
We’ve included our two favorites below.
1. Adapt Gradually and Wisely
This guideline is similar to the tortoise and hair story, and is often a lesson that is learned
by athletes once an overuse injury occurs. Gradual adaptation — no matter the
adaptation type — will always win in the long-run.
Example​: Bill’s goal is to start squatting big weight again, but hasn’t done so in nearly
four months. His first day back at the gym, he feels great, the weight is moving and he
instantly starts hitting the weight he did four months prior for multiple high-rep sets. He
leaves the gym feeling accomplished, but is brutally reminded the next day.
Upon waking up, Bill can barely lift his legs out of bed and it feels like he got hit by a
truck. Instead of adapting to his current training readiness, Bill overshot and now has
DOMS and a degree of neural fatigue. This is a basic example of Bill not accounting for
his individuality before working towards his desired training adaptation.
Now, this guideline isn’t to say that one can’t rush adaptations at times, however these
scenarios will often be rare and reserved for more advanced athletes.
An example could be a weightlifter jumping into a meet last minute with 8-weeks to prep.
Obviously, they will have to adapt and build at a faster rate towards their training
adaptations, but again, this is a rare and situational-based scenario. When in doubt —
remember — gradual adaptations will always win in the long-run.
2. Focus On ​ONLY​ a Couple Adaptations At Once
The next guideline for training adaptations is limiting how many adaptations are being
trained towards at one time. This type of training is typically most prevalent in beginner
and intermediate lifters that want to accomplish everything all at once. They want to
become powerful, strong, have better mobility for movement, improve their endurance,
and the list goes on.
Now, one can in fact train towards all of these things, but generally speaking, it’s a
sub-optimal way to train and will take quite a bit longer. This rationale occurs due to a
few reasons.
1. It’s harder to track true progress in any ​one​ given adaptation.
2. Most overshoot volume in at least one variation, which can result in decreased
performance in another.
3. Strength and weaknesses get neglected and unaccounted for.
In terms of what is best, there really is no gold standard, however, there are best
practices. Best practices will be based on goals and needs.
● Goals include the adaptations lifters want on both an acute and macro scale. An
example of this would be achieving a 600 lb deadlift.
● Needs include the adaptations that athletes lack and need more work on. An
example of this could be mobility for a weightlifter.
Chapter 10: Program FAQs
What is the intensity scale?
The RPE scale, or “Rate of Perceived Exertion” scale is used to measure the intensity of
the exercise you are performing. Generally, it goes from 0 to 10, in which 0 is basically no
effort/sitting on a chair to a 10 where the effort is maximal.
For the Concrete Pheasyque Templates, we’re using two different RPE scales: one for
the ​strength training program​ and one for the ​cardio regimen​.
When you’ll open the ​Concrete Pheasyque strength training Templates​, you’ll notice that
aside from the exercise selection, Tempo, Rest time, sets & rep scheme, there’ll also be
an “​Intensity Scale​ ​index” (ISi) ​that you’ll have to individually rate on a scale that goes
from 1 to 5.
That Intensity Scale accounts for how hard the sets of each exercise were, from a scale
that goes from 1 to 5. With the ISi we’ve tried to adapt a slightly more complex training
methodology and make it understandable for newer athletes.
Every athlete can benefit with objectively learning more about their bodies and what they
believe they can handle in acute situations (during exercises). We believe it’s imperative
to help beginner and intermediate fitness enthusiasts to develop this skill early on in their
training career.
How to Read and Use the ISi Scale
● 1-2, “Easy-Moderate”: w
​ hen an exercise is rated “1” or “2”, that means that the
sets were quite easy and you could have easily performed at least 3-4 more reps
for each set.
● 3-4, “Moderate-Somewhat hard”: ​when an exercise is rated “3” or “4”, that
means that the sets were moderately hard but you could have definitely
performed at least 2-3 more reps, for each set.
● 4-5, “Somewhat hard-Hard”: w
​ hen an exercise is rated “5” that means that the
sets were hard and you could have performed a maximum of 1-2 reps more,
before reaching task failure.
True Beginner Intensity Scale Guidelines:​ T
​ rue beginners should focus on learning the
exercise through a slow execution, prioritizing technique and body awareness. Weight
should move up as they gain confidence with movement. The goal should be keeping
the working sets within the 1-2 ISi, with the goal of moving up to a 3-4 ISi as they
approach the end of the training block.
Novice Intensity Scale Guidelines: N
​ ovice trainees should still prioritize proper
execution of the exercises as that’ll be the foundation of their strength. Keeping training
sets within the 3-4 ISi would be a good recommendation, moving up to a 5 for the last
exercise sets, as they approach the end of the training block.
Intermediate Intensity Scale Guidelines: ​Intermediate lifters should have a good
understanding of the execution of the main lifts, if not, that should be made a priority
before advancing to heavier weights. Trainees at this stage should get comfortable with
lifting within a 4-5 ISi at least for the last set of each exercise.
When implementing the ISi scale, it’s important to remain objective with yourself on
training days. We’re essentially trying to make the concept of RPE quantifiable and
understandable at every fitness level.
As you use the scale and learn more about your body it will be important to define what 1,
2, 3, 4, and 5 mean in relation to your performance. Just like RPE, an 8 for one athlete
may be different for another in regard to how they perceive it, so be vigilant and honest
when logging number each day.
For the cardio recommendation, RPE Scale goes from 0 to 10, where zero is
“absolutely nothing” and 10 is “maximal effort”​. In the two Cardiorespiratory Guideline
sheets provided in this eBook, you won’t go beyond an RPE , labelled as moderately fast.
RPE 0 = absolutely nothing.
RPE 2-3= “warm up”.
RPE 3-4 = “Steady State”, you can talk comfortably.
RPE 5-6 = “Moderately Fast”, can no longer talk comfortably.
RPE 7-8 = “Fast/Very Fast”, Can be maintained only for short bouts/sprints.
How do I use rest times?
Rest times are a valuable tool for any program and how you use should be dictated by
your goals and needs. When it comes to effectively using rest times you need to first
define two things,
● 1) Do you have a time constraint on your workouts?
● 2) Are you trying to maximize your energy availability every set?
Answering these two questions can help lay the groundwork for the rest times you’ll then
use for your training block. Each of the questions above will
How to read exercise flow (B1. & B2)?
When you read something like B1. Incline Dumbbell Bench Press, and B2. Chest
Supported Dumbbell Row, then they are intended to be performed one after another, but
with rest in-between them.
They’re similar to a superset, however, they utilize a rest in-between them. We use these
to increase overall work capacity and to save you time during your workouts!
How many days of rest do I need?
You should scale your rest days based on your energy levels and overall recovery. There
isn’t a perfect amount of rest time that any fitness enthusiast should employ, but there
are guidelines one can use.
Use these four questions below to help you decide if you need a rest day. If you answer
three of the questions below with yes, then it’s probably a good idea to take a day of
Am I incredibly sore?
Does the thought of working out make me unmotivated?
Have I trained 3+ days in a row?
Are my program numbers staying the same or declining?
Again though, it’s up to you to take the rest you need within your own means.
Do I need to know my 1-rep max?
No. While it’s useful to know your 1-rep max, it certainly isn’t required!
Chapter 11: Cardio Guidelines
General cardio guidelines for the program:
Since we’re dealing with different people with different training backgrounds (​and even
zero training backgrounds)​ , cardio guidelines will be different based on current health,
fitness levels and goals.
First of all it’s important to mention that it’s not necessary to include a cardio regime in
the training program, especially if the goal is to build muscle or even to lose body fat.
However, it can be a great tool to include to increase daily energy expenditure
(therefore speed up fat loss), improve health, endurance, possibly mood & much more.
You may be a runner in your heart and you never knew, so it’s always a good idea to
give cardio a chance.
For the Concrete Pheasyque® program, the cardio guidelines will cover two main
phases, which are also the phases that most trainees will train in during their training
career (​unless they have to meet specific performance goals)​ .
These phases are:
1. The Aerobic-Base training
2. The Aerobic-Efficiency training
It’s important to mention that the two phases don’t match your own, current ​strength
training status​. In fact, the two things are distinct: If you’re an intermediate lifter, it
doesn’t mean you should skip phase (1) unless you’ve been implementing cardio in your
training regime already.
For instance, you may be an intermediate lifter but a beginner “​runner​”. Vice versa, for
those who haven’t been resistance training but have been doing cardio for a while,
chances are they may want to skip phase 1 and start with (2), even if they are starting the
true beginner/novice strength training program. Anyway:
1) For the first phase, the focus should be to create a positive exercise experience that
may help sedentary clients to become regular exercisers. It’s important to learn to enjoy
the program and start with something easy and doable ​in order to increase adherence,
which eventually leads to greater results in the long term. You don’t really want to go ​“all
out” ​here, what matters now is that you develop a training flow that allows you to be
2) Before we get to the second phase of our cardio guidelines, it’s important to
determine VT1 through the “Sub maximal talk test” in order to program the next phase
which will be revolved around it.
Keywords You’ll Need to Know This Chapter:
HR = Heart Rate
VT1 = Ventilatory Threshold 1
bpm = beats per minute
RPE = Rate of perceived exertion
VT1 is the “Ventilatory Threshold 1” or the point during exercise at which ventilation starts
to increase at a faster rate than ​VO​2 (oxygen
In other words, this is the stage at which breathing rate begins to increase and talking
becomes no longer comfortable.
This test is certainly not 100% accurate (​what really is 100% accurate anyway?)​ but it can
be a valid and reliable alternative ​[1]​, and it’s needed to design the ​Phase 2​ program. It’s
a very versatile method to use and it can be performed by anyone, in any type of
environment (treadmill, cycle ergometer, elliptical, what have you).
This test’s goal ​is to measure VT1 ​by incrementally increasing intensity to identify the HR
that matches it, which is the HR at which the ability to talk continuously becomes
RPE should be kept around 3-4 (out of a scale of 10) so it should be felt as “moderate to
somewhat hard”, at an intensity at which it feels comfortable to talk.
Start small: 60 minutes/week to begin with (for week 1), going up to 90 minutes/week
before moving to the next phase, (at week 4-5).
Cardio Aerobic Efficiency Training | Phase 1
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
4/5x week
Weekly Total
(+10% weekly
60 min /
66 min /
72 min /
80 min /
88 min /
Durations of
4x 15-min
4x 16.5 min
4x 18 min
4x 20 min
4 x 22 min
(heart rate)
Below VT1
Below VT1
Below VT1
Below VT1
Below VT1
Steady State
Steady State
Steady State
Steady State
Steady State
It is not necessary to conduct a submaximal talk test to determine HR at VT1.
Depending on how sedentary an individual is, this program should be continued for as
little as 2-weeks and run for up to 6-8 weeks.
The beginning duration of the exercise should match what they client is able to perform.
For some, it can be 15-minutes continuous, for others it could be bouts of 5-10 minutes.
From that point, duration should be increased by 10% each week until the client is able to
perform 30-minutes of continuous exercise.
Once you’re able to sustain the activity to 20 consecutive minutes — move to phase 2
The Aerobic-efficiency training:
The Aerobic-efficiency training is dedicated to enhancing the client’s aerobic efficiency,
fitness & health by focusing on increasing the duration of exercise and the introduction of
At this point you’re quite familiar with exercising and you’ve also built up enough
stamina to get your cardio to the next level. Most trainees will stay in this zone for years
(especially physique oriented ones), while endurance-performance oriented trainees
might want to take things up a notch (​not included in this program)​ .
You’ll start out with a frequency of 3 cardio sessions per week, increasing it to a
maximum of 5.
RPE should be kept to a 3-4 for warm up, cool down and recovery intervals, while
intervals should be around RPE 5-6, out of a 0-10 RPE scale, carefully increasing duration
of the workout session by 10% each week.
Note: a general rule to keep in mind as you start this second phase, is to keep
hard-to-easy intervals to a ratio of 1:3, meaning that if you do 60 seconds at an RPE 5-6,
you’ll do 180 seconds at an RPE 3-4. The goal is to get the ratio of 1:1, where 60 seconds
of RPE 5-6 are followed by just 60 seconds of RPE 3-4.
Cardio Aerobic Efficiency Training | Phase 2
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
3/4x week
3/4x week
4/5x week
3-5 min @
110-120 BPM
3-5 min @
110-120 BPM
3-5 min @
110-120 BPM
3-5 min @
110-120 BPM
3-5 min @
110-120 BPM
Durations of
45 min (X
50 min (+10%
55 min (+10%
60 min (+10%
66 min (+10%
Steady State
Work to
2-3 min
3-4 min
3-4 min
4-5 min
4-6 min
steady state
6-8 min
steady state
4.5-6 min
steady state
4-5 min
steady state
You can use any machine that you like and enjoy doing cardio on. You can also o outside
for a run.
The goal of this program is to improve Aerobic Efficiency by raising the intensity of
exercise, improve the ability to utilize fats as fuel, and add variety to the program.
● As a general rule, intervals should start out relatively brief — starting with a 1:3
work:rest ratio — eventually progressing to ratios of 1:2 and 1:1 work:rest ratios.
● To find out your VT1 HR, you’ll have to complete the submaximal talk test.
How to do the test:
a. Start off with a 3-5 minute warm up with a HR of <120 bpm (RPE 2-3)
b. Increase intensity and aim for a HR of approx. 120 bpm (RPE of 3-4) within the next 1-2
minutes (60-120 secs).
Keep increasing intensity through a small percentage (+5 bpm) every 60-120 seconds,
and for each “round” go through points c. and d. (Each stage should last 60-120
c. As you increase intensity, recite the alphabet during the last 20 seconds of each
stage: “A, B, C, D, E, F, G…”
d. As you complete reciting around 5-10 letters, ask yourself whether the task felt:
● “easy”​: you can comfortably talk.
● “uncomfortable-to-challenging”:​ you can recite a few letters before going out of
breath for the next ones.
● “difficult”​: you can’t talk.
The goal is to record the HR at the “uncomfortable-to-challenging” phase, which equals
to VT1.
e. If you still haven’t reached it, keep increasing intensity by a small percentage (+5 bpm)
for each round, and repeat stage c and d.
f. If you did reach it, then record your HR at that speed. That will be your VT1 HR.
f. The test should last 8-16 minutes.
g. Finish the test with 3-5 min cool down (warm-up intensity).
Once we’ve estimated VT1 through the HR at which we can’t talk/recit the alphabet
comfortably, we’re able to program the training for the next phase.
Note: VT1 will need to be re-assessed periodically as fitness improves, because training
intensities will need to be adjusted accordingly.
Chapter 12: Nutritional guidelines/Disclaimer
Although this file doesn’t include in-depth nutritional guidelines (that will come in a later
book!), it’s important to mention that nutrition obviously plays a crucial role in how well
the training program will work for every individual’s goals. Here are a couple things to
keep in mind:
- If your goal is to maximize muscle gaining results, our suggestion would be to eat in a
caloric surplus (eating more total calories than your body expends daily), therefore make
an effort to increase your food intake a little. ​[2]
- On the other hand, if fat loss is the goal, slightly reducing your food intake/increasing
your daily energy expenditure (through cardio or Non-Exercising Activity), or a mixture of
both, may be your best option ​as creating an energy deficit is the only way to allow fat
loss to occur.​ ​[3]
AUTHOR’S NOTE: Keep in mind that dieting while trying to gain strength, while possible, may
allow slower results due to the nature of things. You eat less food so you have less energy (as
opposed to being in a caloric surplus), but that’s the trade off for wanting to lose body fat. Don’t
use this as an excuse not to progress though, because doing both, especially at an early stage is
definitely not as bad as you may think.
1. Ralston, G., Kilgore, L., Wyatt, F., & Baker, J. (2017). The Effect of Weekly Set Volume on
Strength Gain: A Meta-Analysis. ​Sports Medicine,​ ​47​(12), 2585-2601.
2. Peterson, M., Pistilli, E., Haff, G., Hoffman, E., & Gordon, P. (2010). Progression of volume load
and muscular adaptation during resistance exercise. ​European Journal Of Applied Physiology​,
111(​ 6), 1063-1071. doi:10.1007/s00421-010-1735-9
3. Hostler D, e. (2019). ​The effectiveness of 0.5-lb increments in progressive resistance exercise.
- PubMed - NCBI ​. ​Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.​ Retrieved 6 April 2019, from
4. Peterson MD, e. (2019). ​Maximizing strength development in athletes: a meta-analysis to
determine the dose-response relationship. - PubMed - NCBI.​ ​Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov​. Retrieved 6
April 2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15142003
5. Colquhoun, R., Gai, C., Aguilar, D., Bove, D., Dolan, J., & Vargas, A. et al. (2018). Training
Volume, Not Frequency, Indicative of Maximal Strength Adaptations to Resistance Training.
Journal Of Strength And Conditioning Research,​ ​32(​ 5), 1207-1213.
6. Reilly T, e. (2019). ​The specificity of training prescription and physiological assessment: a
review. - PubMed - NCBI.​ ​Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov​. Retrieved 27 April 2019, from
7. Schoenfeld BJ, e. (2019). ​Hypertrophic Effects of Concentric vs. Eccentric Muscle Actions: A
Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. - PubMed - NCBI ​. ​Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.​ Retrieved 27 April
2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28486337
8. Serrano, N., Colenso-Semple, L., Lazauskus, K., Siu, J., Bagley, J., & Lockie, R. et al. (2019).
Extraordinary fast-twitch fiber abundance in elite weightlifters. ​PLOS ONE,​ ​14​(3), e0207975.
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healthy subjects without low back pain: normal values and sex differences. ​Journal Of
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10. Maruyama K, e. (2019). New elastic protein from muscle. - PubMed - NCBI .
11. JA, T. (2019). ​End-filaments: a new structural element of vertebrate skeletal muscle thick
filaments. - PubMed - NCBI .​ ​Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov​.
12. Herzog W, e. (2019). ​Residual Force Enhancement Following Eccentric Contractions: A New
Mechanism Involving Titin. - PubMed - NCBI ​. ​Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov.​ Retrieved 22 December
2019, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27252165/
13. Herzog, W. (2018). The multiple roles of titin in muscle contraction and force production.
Biophysical Reviews, 10(4), 1187-1199. doi:10.1007/s12551-017-0395-y
About the Authors
Jake Boly, MS, CSCS
Jake Boly is a weathered veteran of the fitness
industry. He currently serves as a Fitness Editor at
BarBend.com, and maintains a personal training
business on the side. In 2015, Jake obtained his CSCS
from the NSCA, and in 2016 he completed his Masters
in Sports Science at Hofstra University. To date, Jake
has written over 1,500 articles about fitness and health,
and continues to push the boundaries for fitness and
health content creation.
When it comes to fitness and health, Jake take an
approach that encompasses the idea that there’s no
one-size-fits-all style of doing either.
Eugen Loki, CPT, PN1
Eugen Loki is the owner and creator of the
@Pheasyque Instagram page, website &
Personal Training Business.
He’s worked with hundreds of clients in person
& around the world, and his specialties include
improving fitness and body composition
through a combination of specialized strength
training programs & the building of sustainable
eating habits, based on the goals of each
individual athlete.
Congratulations, you’ve made it to the end of the E-Book!
Hopefully you’ve taken something away from the above information and can adapt some
of the methodologies to your training. At the end of the day, what’s most important is
developing processes that make the most sense for your training style, then adapting the
best/current methodologies for accomplishing goals.
If you need clarity on any topics, please feel free to reach out!
● Instagram: ​@pheasyque
● Instagram: ​@jake_boly