What if I start off and don't get enough reps with the big-15 cycle?
This one is pretty easy. Just recalculate before the next workout and go from there.
Should I run the big-15 or strong-15?
I am always confused when I get this question. The big-15 should be used when you have a block of time that you want to dedicate to increasing muscle mass. Will you get stronger? Yes. You also can't really take advantage of this cycle without a surplus of cals. So make sure that is in place. If you're a really skinny guy, just run it as long as you can. Years? Sure. That's how I developed it. It was developed through my own training, methods, and how I built my base of mass and strength.
The strong-15 is a peaking cycle. Either for a meet, or just because you want to increase where you baseline or "everyday max" is. Just remember to properly taper off AFTER the program. If you do not, you will suffer that cliff fall off that I always warn everyone about with a peaking cycle. Start back light after that, and ride the wave "down". Because it will happen.
How do I figure out my "everyday max", in order to program with?
Pretty easy really. Take a "normal" feeling day, and work up to a single where you feel like 20 more pounds would definitely require some serious motivation. Your everyday max, is something that requires some "internal gathering", if you will, but it's something you know you can hit almost regardless of how you are feeling. This is your starting point for programming. I would take 95% of that, and program with that.
"Paul, that's too low!"
Yeah yeah, I keep hearing that and I keep having guy after guy, and chic after chic, smash the fuck out of their previous bests. It's amazing that all of the Russians that are strong as hell, RARELY go over 85% in their training. Yet the constant mantra you see among American lifters is, "go heavy or go home". Fine, I'll go home. I lift in my basement anyway.
But seriously, you need to start getting your mind around the fact that you DON'T need to train above 90% to get strong. I have no idea where this came from now, except geared lifting methodologies and guys who can't leave their ego at the door. The 75-85% range offers you plenty of weight in order to get maximally strong.
I hate to talk about "bar speed" because I hate that fucking term now. So I'm going to talk about "weight murder".
To give some preface before you read this, weight murder goes hand in hand with whether or not it's an 80% day, a +10 or -10 day. This sort of rounds out the whole thing, doesn't it? I will expound more on this after.
1st degree - Absolutely curb stomping and skull crushing a weight.
"Fuckin easy!" should be the phrase that enters your mind.
This is really what your goal is. Moving the top level %'s of the weight in your cycle, with 1st degree weight murder. If you never saw the fire hydrant scene in Irreversible, then it should look something like that. Just destroyed to a degree that no one even wants to look at.
You may not always hit this with the top end intensities in your programming cycle. However that is your goal. You need to teach yourself to apply as much force as possible early in the cycle in order for that to carryover later. So always try to crush the bar on the concentric portion of each rep to "learn" this.
Now, some people are natural grinders, and some people make everything look fast. This is why I don't always like the "bar speed" method. Something could look slow to the casual on looker, but feel stupid easy to you. Everyone moves top end weights very differently. With some people, if it goes, it's just going to look fast. For others, every set on the way to their top weight looks hard as hell.
So this is an internal judgment for you.
2nd degree -
"That looked strong! You got a lot left in you!" would be a common phrase associated with 2nd degree weight murder.
It's very possible, if you program correctly, that you end up here most of the time at the end of your cycle. You may not be destroying this weight in a 1st degree manner, but you pretty much owned it as hard as you can own it outside of a-bombing that shit.
This means a good 10 pounds or so can be added for the next cycle. Which funny enough, should STILL be under your max. Muwahahahaha!
3rd degree - You feel confident in the way you performed the set, or moved the weight.
This is still good, but it probably means that you're not ready to move up in terms of programming in a new max. In other words, you may have programmed very solid, however the top level percentages didn't feel as strong as you would have liked them to. This doesn't mean you did not have a very solid and successful training cycle. You did. It just means you may be be just right above the baseline. You can imagine that 20 more pounds over this would be a bit of a grinder.
If you moved a top weight in the cycle with 1st degree, you're still ok but you may have programmed just slightly high. Not a lot, but just slightly.
Now once you tie in weight murder with session grading, you can get a real good idea about how your programming has been going.
Ideally, this is what you'd like to see.......
80% session - 1st DWM - This means, you had just an average session (not good, not bad), but you had 1st degree weight murder. This is the most ideal scenario. This means the great majority of the time, you are crushing weights like Genghis Khan crushed trim. This is quality programming (I'm not sure how much quality trim ol Genghis had, but from a quantity perspective it was off the charts).
"But Paul, if I'm crushing it on an "average day" doesn't that make it a +10% day."
If you're crushing your programmed weights, it means you programmed correctly, and the cycle should mostly be made up of 80% days, with 1st and 2nd degree weight murder days.
-10% session - 3rd DWM - If you have a completely shit day, you should still be able to commit 3rd DWM because you programmed correctly. Now, it's possible late in the cycle, you could have a -10% day, and miss, or just feel like hammered shit. That's ok, if the rest of the cycle was awesome. Keep it all in perspective.
This is just a "fun" way to judge your training cycle and your programming.
Program low, PR high.