So a little insight to how it came about....
I Can touch and go 200-220kg bench most sessions, but constantly failed a 200kg paused at competitions, and had trained pausing lots in sessions, but could never hit 200 paused or in comp. Due to a simultaneous move in job and house (was military) I had to train in my parents garage which wouldn't even fit a mini cooper!.
I had no bench, just a squat rack. The catch bars of the squat rack were far too high to bench with, but I had to anyway. All my benching was done from 6 inch above the chest (which is where I am really strong from already).
Had to train like this from December to the end of March, without touching a normal bench. Went to comp, opened with a very hesitant 180...EASY. 2nd lift 190...EASY. 3rd lift...200...EASY.
How was this so? I didn't train a weakness, I didn't lift any heavier? Was it beginner gains from a new exercise? Maybe...but I also knew that for every kg gained from beginner gains, I'd lose one from skill fade. What was it!??
This may hard to grasp, but hear me out... start strength is NOT the start of a lift. It is turning ON as many muscle cells on at once. I remember a debate on the forums where 'LessThanLuke' was saying rack pulls increase the deadlift from the floor...and everyone was disagreeing (and sadly, so was I...sorry mate!). He was right!
Rack pulls is simply turning the muscle on. It is start strength. Obviously the bias to what muscles are turned on are changed by mechanics (so a lockout on bench from near the top would be starting strength of the triceps, and lockouts from the bottom would be start strength of the chest. No longer did I care for positional strength, but how to truly become powerful in any movement...by learning to simply turn on more muscle in an instance (sounds pretty obvious reading back....).
So what does this mean? It means that pin presses from near lockout, will actually improve the opposite trait more than the one you think you are working.
It also means that.... paused squats, paused bench etc are NOT start strength!
Why!??? It is because the muscle is already turned on...THIS is why my paused bench NEVER improved. Paused bench did not, and will not improve my start strength. My paused bench is now stronger than my touch and go!
I applied this to all my lifts, and made some crazy improvements, but I found that I was turning the muscle on, and my starting strength of all my lifts rocketed, but my new weakness was lockout despite it being the best its ever been!
So, now I was left with learning how to keep the start strength muscle cells 'ON' and further recruit more, as I knew that rack pressing from lockout was not the way to improve my lockout.... enter COMPENSATORY ACCELERATION TRAINING (explosive work)...
So, CAT training will improve lockout.
For those not in the know, CAT training is accelerating a weight to overcome the zero acceleration curve of a lift. You may not know it, but every time you lift light unless done explosively, you are detraining your lockout and explosive strength due to the fly wheel effect and using the conservation of momentum.
The easiest way and guaranteed way to improve explosive strength is with bands. Bands require that following start strength, you must keep the muscle 'ON' and further and progressively keep recruiting more fibres.
Also, I need to express something I hear all the time...
'banging' off the chest is NOT explosive. If somebody says.. "bro! you are really explosive off the chest but then it slows down bla bla"... this is WRONG.
You can be explosive and still be relatively slow... explosive is the ACCELERATION. If the weight slows down half way, then it has stopped accelerating, and you are not explosive. You probably have great start strength.
Another thing I need to clear up, SPEED work is NOT explosive work. I'm still on the fence with the use of speed work in powerlifting, but CAT work is king. Speed work can contribute to a lack of explosiveness... if a bar leaves the chest fast then the effort required to keep it moving is less and less.
With bands, you can train to be explosive while lifting MAXIMAL weights. This can be against the grain to what most read, but to be explosive, is a skill of progressively recruiting more fibres at a fast/progressive rate.
May I also add, that skilled lifters can lift explosively or in a progressive/accelerative manner without bands (Tom Martin squat is a perfect example. I don't know if it is a conscious effort, or a trait of a natural athlete. Also Andy Boltons deadlift also has great acceleration curve).
So, we now have the two main components of strength: Start strength and Explosive strength (and ultimately Limit strength)......
and Component Based Periodization is born.
So, I will overview here why the micro/macro/meso is constructed how it is:
Easiest way for me to do this, is interrogate myself:
So, why 3 week phases?
Basically, 3 weeks have been shown time and time again to show great improvement, with stagnation quickly following if the same exercises and similar loading are used, and ultimately injury following further effort of replication.
Second to this, it takes OVER 3 weeks to lose an attribute (except endurance, this can be lost in 10 or so days). But strength/power can be maintained much longer. This means that we can come back to a phase without any skill fade (any a phenomenon to which I have no answer for, is actually coming back to an explosive phase from a start phase, you are MUCH greater at it than the previous visit).
Why are start and explosive phases separate?
Simple. Explosive strength is very fatiguing on the CNS, whereas start strength is very biomechanically draining on the joints, muscle and connective tissue due to resisting inertia. So, in one phase the CNS is pushed hard and the musculoskeletal is maintained, and vice versa. This gives the ability to push very hard every session and allows for a constant string of pb's to be had (I pb every week since following this, and used to pb once every 3-4 month!...even reading this back to myself sounds outrageous).
What about the accessory stuff?
Don't over worry. But, I tend to focus on a bit of isolation/hypertrophy in conventional reps (7-12 really) on weak muscles, problematic muscles or imbalances while in the START STRENGTH phase (keeping in theme with the musculoskeletal stress).
Once in the explosive phase, the accessory becomes more specific, using lower reps, heavy loading and compound type movement.
But AMH_Power, you advocate super specificity!
Correct, and I still do. Component based periodization IS specific, in fact, it is ultra specific. It is the building blocks of strength. Fred Hatfield utilized components and was the first man to squat over 1000lbs, and did so at only 255lbs and at an age of 45! He coined the start strength, explosive strength (and amortization) 'check mark' training, making the graph curve more like a tick/check mark.
So why do the main days have different efforts?
Time and time again, weeks or days of undulating intensity has shown to beat flat or slowly progressive ones in ALL levels of athletes. The meso follows:
Hard / V.Hard / Hard / V.Hard / Medium(rolling deload)/ Max
This caters for individuals tolerances also. I find that after a hard exertion, the following week I am battered, and my hard days will be considerably easier than my v.hard days. Beginners, will have a smaller difference between each.
So what is PTF and why is it used?
Post Tetanic Facilitation (or Post Activation Potentiation in some circles) is simply a phenomena where by lifting a lighter load following a bigger one, allows the lighter load to be lifted more powerful due to temporary spikes in rate coding amongst other voodoo...
"Post-Tetanic Potentiation (PTP) is a form of synaptic plasticity which is short-lived and results in increased frequency of miniature excitatory postsynaptic potentials (mEPSPs) or currents (EPSCs) with no effect on amplitude in the spontaneous postsynaptic potential"
So why are there a different number of sets on harder days?
Something has to give. If the effort is harder, the overall work must lower to stop overtraining.