Note: I get nothing from this banner and am not associated in any way (although I did speak to Mark and ask him before I linked it).  Poor technique in the lifts is rampant with very few exceptions and most people just don't have a good foundation for training information.  This is your answer.  Don't waste months and years reading bullshit in the mags and on the net trying to learn by watching the morons in your gym screw up the lifts.  If you don't take my word for it read Jim Wendler's review or the other ones.  You can purchase it through Mark's site, EliteFTS, or Amazon (beware Amazon being out of stock - this has been a problem for some as they don't keep enough on hand).


Programming Over Time

A Comparison Between the Intermediate and Advanced 5x5 Templates


News/Home ] Table of Contents ] Advanced 5x5 ] Intermediate 5x5 ] [ Comparison ]




1. Introduction

2. General Themes

    a. Summary Table

3. Comparison

    a. Core Tonnage by Week Chart





People need to understand that they should be choosing a program which is most optimal for them.  This is not an ego decision.  One wants to select the program that will allow them the fastest possible progression.  This is the goal for every lifter except that the closer one is to one's ultimate potential the harder it is to make substantial gains.  Where a novice might add 5lbs to the bar every squat workout 3x a week just by getting in the gym and doing it, an intermediate lifter might need a week to add 5lbs, and beyond there it might take 4-8 weeks to get a 5lbs increase on a lift.  Believe me, there isn't a lifter in the world who wouldn't love to constantly add weight to the bar in their core lifts, they would gladly trade all of their complex training theory to do it even for a brief time.


In short, keep training as simple and direct as possible.  Add weight to the bar as often as "you" can manage.  The best program for an elite lifter is a horrible choice for a novice or intermediate - at worst it will crush them quickly under unaccustomed and unnecessary workload and at best it will off very slow suboptimal progression.  It doesn't matter how long "you" have been training or what "you" can lift, the only thing that is important is what "you" can do to get the fastest possible progress for "your" body.




What one will generally find is that as a lifter progresses his ability to post frequent personal records decreases - as in the example above one might start with 2-3x a week in the same lift for a long run, eventually slide down to decent runs of 1x per week personal records, and wind up at 4-8 weeks for a single incremental record further out.  The magnitude of gain from a fixed increment of time will also decrease.  Getting a 20% gain on a lift for a novice can be measured in weeks.  An elite lifter putting 20% on his lifts is going to be a far far longer process or perhaps not even possible.  What they can accomplish in the same time frame is far less either in terms of percentage or absolute weight increase.


In addition, workload will also increase over time.  The idea of keeping everything constant and only increasing the weight used is rather nice but not realistic i.e. adding a rep a week from 8-12reps then resetting at the new 8RM turns an athlete from a 100x8 presser into a 376x12 presser within 40 weeks which is something in the realm of fantasy land for anyone but the most gifted genetic stud coming straight out of labor camp in a severely malnourished and starved state (calcs and description are in link here).  There are a lot of ways to get better at things and the body gets resistant to adaptation from a single method after time.  For example, say one has a current squat of 300x5 and one wants to get to 350x5.  One can try adding 10lbs a week and doing 300x5, 310x5,..., 350x5 for their top set.  This is very direct and if this option works for you, go to it.  Alternatively, one might try getting a lot better with a weight below one's 300 5 rep max like 275 and doing it for 5x5 and gradually trying to increase the weight.  One might also get better by using triples or lower reps above the 300lbs mark.  Any and all of these things can work at any point in time but the art of programming is knowing what to do and when to do it.  For example, a period of improving 5x5 with a lower weight, followed by a period of improving one's triples and then scaling one's top set of 5 might provide a longer term plan than trying to hammer one strategy indefinitely - then again, if one strategy works for someone - don't complicate it and do it.  In general though, as one gets closer to their potential total workload will expand not just in weight lifted but also in volume or number of reps required.  Implicitly, complexity of program design will also increase as will need for planning.


Change Direction
X Rep Maximum Lift Up
Volume Up
Complexity of Program Design Up
Frequency of Personal Records Down
Progress Over Unit of Time Down






This is basically the tonnage (volume X intensity OR the sum of the all reps performed and the weight lifted) in the core lifts for the same lifter in both program scenarios - which means the lifts are the same and the his max lifts are the same (likely not realistic but it helps to hold constant in order to clarify this).  I've included the relevant cuttoff of 60% in which lighter weights are not included - increasing this cutoff drops the Linear/Intermediate volume further and further.  This is week 1-6 which for the Periodized program is essentially a loading phase and 2 weeks of deloading - which unless one plans on peaking their lifts is enough for anyone unless they did something wrong.


Obviously the Periodized/Advanced program entails significantly more work overall and especially in the loading/volume phase.  Now some people don't mind doing more work but the main issue is not doing work but making progress.  Under this periodized scheme one is expecting a single increment of progress which might manifest in weeks 3-4 but for most people accustomed to this style program and loading hard will likely show up in week 6.  We have a single increment of progress over 6 weeks and a whole lot of work to get it.  In addition if this is done right, one simple won't be able to load for any longer and get more progress.  The stimulus is in the 4 week block and you are done accruing it and should be fatigued by the culmination. 


Contrast this with the linear program.  Volume is kept low to keep fatigue at bay and allow longer runs of progression.  Once one builds up over week 1-4 one might get a fairly long stretch of new personal records week to week.  It could be 20 weeks, it could be 8 weeks, it could be 6 weeks and this will depend on the lifter, regardless one is looking at multiple units of progression and is setup to be largely unlimited by fatigue. 


Essentially, don't do a ton of work if you don't have to.  Don't settle for a single increment of progression when you can get a lot more over the same timeframe.  Don't add weight to your personal record 1x in 6 weeks when you can get 2x in 6 weeks or 4x in 8 weeks, or 12x in 16 weeks.  Carrying that to the true novice or beginner, don't settle for the intermediate plan of varying training loads within the week for an increment of progression at the end of the week.  If you can add weight to the bar every session, do it.  Progression is the goal, work is what one does to elicit it and work should be appropriate; the program doesn't matter as long as verifiable progression is taking place.  Don't be dumb or let your ego or perceived training experience rule program selection.  Get in the fastest lane you can and only move over if you have to.