The 70% Volume Cycling Method

June 2, 2004 07:56 AM

Recently, being the mad doctor that I am, I've been playing around with a different way of cycling for the impatient-gotta-have-it-all-now-type of lifter. It comes from the realization that you can't go all out everyday, and the confusion that comes from no one agreeing how often you should test yourself, or go to positive failure.

I test and cycle the volume, or total reps, rather then the intensity. In a nutshell, I alternate a test day with one or more days where I do only 70% of the PR reps. I got the 70% concept from the writings of Bill Starr. But rather then raise or lower the weight, I want to keep the weight constant and cycle the total amount of work able to be done. The reason being that I want to keep my nervous system used to always handling the very weight I am seeking to overcome. Besides, always counting the number of 1 and 2.5 plates, and rounding up all those fractions needed for the barbell on every set gets a tad loathsome. Hey I gotta have some time for the girlfriend, don't I?

This cycling has worked equally well for Party style high sets/low reps and for a single high rep set a la Super Squats. Using one set of squats as an example, if I got 1x9RM, next workout I will do 1x6 with the 9RM weight. If I got 21RM leg raises, next time I will do only 15. You get the idea.

Here is how it works with high sets of low reps. I do as many sets of a given number of reps ?say, two ?with one minute rest breaks. I stop the test when my reps drop. Last week I maxed out my rows with a given weight at 7x2 and 1x1, or the total of 15 reps. So for this week, the 70% day means I take the same exact weight, but I do 5 sets of 2, 10 being 70% of 15 total reps.

I train 2-3 times a week, high volume for some exercises and one set for others, working my whole body each time. I spread the test days for different drills out throughout the week. Once I have reached my rep goal, 20x2, 1x20, or whatever, I will add weight.

Note that I do not always alternate test and back-off days 1/1. Here is the ratio of test and 70% days I have been following lately:

Press- 1/2
Row ?1/2
Squat ?1/1
Leg raise ?2/1

The easier to gain on an exercise, the fewer back-off days I use. But things do change; you need to add more easy days once you plateau. I was training my leg raises with the 2/1 ratio of all out and easy days and making great gains. Then one test day I only got 19 reps, when my all time high was 21. If I ever get less total reps then my PR, or even if I only got 21 and nothing more, then I know it is time to add an extra 70% day to the lineup. That is a way of cycling. So I will follow that 1x19 day with a 70% day, which is 1x13, then another test day. If I do not get more then 1x21, then I will add another 70% day. I keep testing, and every time I make no improvement I add another 70% day. If I find I had to alter my cycle to 1 test/4 70% days to finally get something like 1x23, then from then on I keep it to 1 test/4 70% days on the leg raises until I hit the wall again- at which point I will go for 1/5, and so on.

What are the results of this type of cycling? In a month and a half I have literally put more then an inch on my arms and gained about 3 pounds, while my waist has gotten a bit smaller, and this is after years of complete stagnation. I am actually in better shape now then I was when I was 17 and experimenting with all kinds of HIT and Super Slow? nonsense. I hope it helps any other serious lifter as much as it helped me.