2024 Strength Block #1 – Ascending Reps Protocol

We’re starting off 2024 with some brand new strength programming.
We’re finishing December 2023’s intensification block where the theme was Greyskull Linear Periodization.

For January 2024, we are coming up on an Accumulation block again. The goal of an Accumulation block is to use as much total energy in a session as possible. This maximum energy expenditure increases muscle tissue and fitness levels while decreasing body fat. This strength block is called the Ascending Reps Protocol.

The Ascending Reps Protocol is a reverse pyramid strategy that will start with a lower rep number and finish with a higher rep number. The hope is that we get more from a hypertrophy standpoint.

What is Hypertrophy?
Hypertrophy means increasing muscle size through targeted training that aims to increase your volume of weight lifted over time (sets x reps).

What are ascending reps?
Ascending reps are simply sets of increasing reps, with the same weight, until a total number of reps are completed. This is also referred to as a ladder.

Why use ascending reps?
On paper, this protocol may not look that appealing – it surely looks like you’ll be getting more and more fatigued as the sets go on, and therefore rep quality would suffer.

Actually, it’s the total opposite. As the sets go on, the weight will actually feel lighter and the reps will become much easier. A key behind the Ascending Reps Protocol is that we are going to use two sets in a row at the same rep number to have the body recruit more motor units and muscle fibers for that exercise. As we progress to more repetitions per set we take with us the recruit motor units and muscle fibers. This exhausts more and therefore gets more.

How is that possible? A concept called Post-Activation Potentiation.

What is Post-Activation Potentiation?
A muscle is able to produce more force as a result of a previous contraction. Following a muscular contraction, a muscle is both fatigued and potentiated and as long as the fatigue dissipates first, the muscle will be left in a potentiated state, and capable of producing more force.

Since the first few sets of ascending reps are lower rep, fatigue is going to be very low, which means the potentiation effect is almost immediate.

A key behind this block is that we are stripping away the complicated details: taking out complicated tempos or intra-set rest. Instead focusing on simple but challenging work. The best programs are simple, not easy.

The other variables are still important but from time to time it is not about how creative a workout can be, it’s about getting back to just simple hard work. Doing a workout where all you see is a 2/0/1/0 tempo should immediately resonate as the slow eccentrics have been removed – it’s time to work. Other than the Ascending Reps Protocol of 4,4,6,6,8,8 reps it is just simply sets of 8 being pushed as hard as you can each workout. What this means is that we want to focus on just getting after it and not having to think about how to optimally load a set and rep scheme.

Our training team will review this but week 1 we are going to conservatively utilize a 12 RM weight for 8 reps. Meaning you want to use a weight that you could hit for theoretically 12 reps for a set of 8 reps, that’s approximately 71% of your 1RM. Each week we want to strip a rep away from the RM until you get to week 5 where you are using an 8 RM weight for your set of 8 reps. That’s over a 10% rep PR over the duration of this strength block.

As with any accumulation blocks we typically see a huge drop off from the beginning to the end of the month with attendance. This could be due to multiple reasons, this is where tracking comes into play utilizing RPE scale, the TrainHeroic app, and your Myzone Heart Rate monitors. We want a gradual progression from the first week to the last week in terms of RPE. However, with accumulation blocks we see a higher RPE range in the range of 6-7.

Ideally we manage the intensity throughout the five weeks to make it all five weeks of the training block. In this way we get the most from that set/rep/tempo/exercise scheme. The way we do this is listen to the metrics we are collecting and make the necessary adjustments to this. This is important because we are simplifying the program and rates of fatigue can be amplified if we are not careful.
With the Ascending Reps Protocol, we are aiming to use more weight. Unless you’ve used a weight that was too light in your initial session, refrain from increasing weights outside of the prescribed percentages of your TrainHeroic app, that is a very easy way to burnout. Stick to the program.

This is going to be a big-time block. We are pushing really hard with this block. Simple, not easy! Push hard, listen to the metrics and how we are feeling and let’s get five weeks of great training to kick off 2024 the right way!

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