If I can get anything across in this article it would be that very little should change from an off season phase to a pre contest phase, in my mind the only real changes are more so mentally in terms of how far I am taking the set in my head. As we get leaner or leverages change, body fat is dropping and the amount of water we hold around our joints becomes less so I do think it is wise to think about these things when you are approaching your sets in the gym. This is not at all to say I do not train hard or suggesting you to not do so but what I am saying is the rep that I would go for in the off season knowing in my head there might be some risk involved I do not go for in prep. Over time I have learned what my body is capable of in terms of true reps completed vs going down that last time and knowing that you might not be able to get back up. That is really the only change for me during a prep is that last rep is the one I might not go for but I will always go for the reps I know I can complete to true full rep failure on my own. The partials, forced reps, “these types of set extenders” is what I more often than not avoid in the final phases of prep.
This is something that really comes into effect the final weeks of prep. During the middle phases of prep IE the 12-6 weeks out mark realistically if all variables are lining up correctly you should be at your strongest. For guys who are tipping the higher end of the scale they might even note that their training improves during prep as they lose some of the un needed fat that they might be carrying which improves their ability to work more and push harder as their work capacity improves.
Here is a training system example of how I was approaching training during my final phase of prep.
Chose either cables or machines based off of the muscle group that is going to be trained on that day to get some blood flowing and get the muscle warm prior to training your specific movements.
Exercise 1: Compound Movement
Warm up scheme would follow the same rep pattern as the working rep scheme
Working Set 1: Max set to be completed to true failure without forced reps in the 6-8 rep range,
Working Set 2: Reduction in load by 10-15% then complete another Max set this time with a possible forced rep added seeing as the load / nervous system and joint impact not as great.
Exercise 2: Compound Movement OR Plate Loaded Movement
Emphasis here changes just slightly from aiming to move max weight with solid form to slowing the reps down a bit more and forcing a hard contraction on each rep so the load will drop slight due to rep tempo involved.
Warm up scheme would follow the same rep pattern as the working rep scheme.
Working Set 1: Forcing a hard contraction and full stretch on each rep aiming for a max set of 8-10 Reps
Working Set 2: Forcing a hard contraction and full stretch using the same weight as set 1 but now turning it into a double drop set. If you complete this correctly using the same weight as set number 1 you should not be able to complete the same amount of reps. So here I would say if you got a true set to failure of 10 reps on set number 1, on set 2 the reps should drop by 2-3 reps so that is where your double drop begins, reduce about 20 lbs per arm per drop.
Exercise 3: Plate Loaded Movement OR Stretch Emphasis Movement
(Example: Fly’s, Holding a row in the stretched position, pause reps at the bottom of a squatting movement ect)
Here we want to train from a fully stretched position so that portion of the rep needs to be emphasized through pause reps with the muscle being fully lengthened and also eliminating momentum out of the stretch.
Slow acclimation working sets here aiming for 4-5 increases in weight until you can no longer complete a set of 10 hard reps with a full contraction. These should be slow increases in weight not large jumps. We want to accumulate some volume here seeing as we cannot push loads to the same extent to true failure that we could in the off season.
Exercise 4: Contraction emphasis movement
(After the heavy loading and training from a stretched position working the muscle through a full range of motion going back to emphasize the contraction to get every last bit out of the muscle before we call it a day) This is also a time to visualize hitting the reps like you would through full muscle contractions on stage
Choose a weight here where you can get 2-3 sets of 10-12 reps with full hard contractions overly emphasizing the pause through a hard contraction on each rep.
Loaded stretches to finish stretching the muscle out through 30-45 second holds under load (example DC type stretching)
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