By: Louie Simmons

Circa Maximal Phase

Success in powerlifting requires a process known as periodization. This simply is a yearly plan divided into several phases. The final phase is, of course, the competitive phase. Many coaches fall to plan the training of their lifters correctly, resulting in premature peaking and a less than top performance at contest time.
        The next time youíre at a major contest, listen to all the gym lifts that were done just prior to the contest that somehow are reduced 50-100 pounds at the contest.
        While we at Westside use the three methods of strength training (the dynamic, the maximal, and the repetition method), they are applied in a yearly plan consisting of many microcycles.
        The circa-maximal method involves training with loads that are close to oneís 1-rep max. The reps may be performed without a prolonged rest period.
        The circa-maximal phase is not to be confused with the supramaximal phase, which can involve forced repetitions. We never do these. They are designed to build muscle, which is already a byproduct of our training. Cheating is also a supramaximal method. Although this overloads the body in some areas, it neglects other areas. Ballistics is the third supramaximal method. This we do while speed benching with great success. It consists of lowering the bar very quickly with about 60% of a 1-rep max, catching it 2-4 inches off the chest, and reversing it as quickly as possible to the top.
        Here I introduce a 5-week phase called the circa-maximal phase. In the literature the weights used during this phase are in the 90-97.5% range of a 1-rep max. The reps arenít forced, nor are they assisted by the lightened method, and they arenít performed in a limited range of motion. Rather, full range movements are done.
        Four lifters experimented with this training phase: Todd Brock Dave Tate, Rob Fusner, and myself. They had official squats of 810,820,875, and 900. After completion of this phase the average gain in the contest squats was 36 pounds (30-50 pound range).
        The training was done in a wave cycle, moving up for 3 weeks and then starting over the fourth week. Bands were attached to the squat bar. For 6 weeks, the weight on the bar was 365 (weeks 1 and 4) for 8 sets of 2 reps, 385 (weeks 2 and 5) for 8 sets of 2 reps, and 405 (weeks 3 and 6) for 8 sets of 2 reps. This represents two waves. The band tension on the box was 70 pounds at the bottom and 115 pounds at the top.
        Tension is calculated by standing a 2 x 4 vertically on a scale under the bar with the bands attached to the Monolift. Read the scale with the bar at shoulder height and then at the height that it would be while sitting on the box. Subtract the bar weight and this will give you the tension of the bands in pounds at the top and bot-tom of the squat. The first 6 weeks look like this:
 
 
 
Week 1
Week 2
Week 3
Week 4
Week 5
Week 6
top
480
500
520
480
500
520
bar weight 
365
385
405
365
385
405
bottom
435
455
475
435
455
475

 

Now weight plates are added.

 
Week 7
Week 8
Week 9
top
540
570
590
bar weight 
425
455
475
bottom
495
525
545

 

The tension on the bar is 115 at the top and 70 at the bottom. 
       For weeks 10-12, more band tension is used, by looping the bands around the bottom of the power rack. The tension is now 220 pounds at the top and 130 at the bottom. It looks like this:
 
 

 
Week 10
Week 11
Week 12
top
645
675
695
bar weight
425
455
475
bottom
555
585
605

        Now we enter the circa-maximal phase. It is 5 weeks. More bands are loaded on.
 
 

 
Week 13
Week 14
Week 15
Week 16
Week 17
top
685
715
735
685
715
bar weight
425
455
475
425
455
bottom
585
615
635
585
615

        During this phase the tension on the bar is 260 at the top and 160 at the bottom.
        During weeks 18 and 19 a deloading process is implemented. For week 18 the bar weight is at its heaviest, 475, and is reduced to 425 week 19. The band tension is reduced from 260 at the top to 115 and reduced from 160 to70 pounds at the bottom. This period is to restore quickness and acceleration.
       The following week, the average increase in the squat for the four par-ticipants was 36 pounds, and remember the weakest squatter had an 810 squat. This is a very respectable jump for the high caliber squatters that were tested.
        Donít let the amount of band tension plus bar weight fools you: the average box squat record among those tested is 750 pounds. Also remember that this training is always done off a just-below-parallel box.
        During the circa-maximal phase, the literature recommends the percents to be in the 90-97.5% range.
        During our circa-maxima] phase, our percents on the bottom are about 77.5% (585 pounds) and at the top 97.5% (735 pounds), as advised in Supertraining by Siff and Verkhoshansky.
        Why does this system work?

  1.  Training with near-max weights will undoubtedly make one very strong.
  2.  It doesnít tax the CNS because a wave form of periodization is used, going up for 3 weeks and starting over with week 1 weights, roughly 77.5%. We know that if weights of 90% and more are used for 3 weeks or longer, the CNS will surrender to the stress. That is why it is necessary to reduce the percentage for one or more weeks.
  3. By using a large percentage of resistance with the bands we have achieved a method of forcibly stretching the muscles during an active contraction, which produces a greater force than would be developed with just bar weight. The bands magnify the role of the reflexes through yielding to overcoming the load.
  4. The final 2 weeks area deloading phase, which carries with it a delayed training effect.
        In summary, this is a 5 week circa-maximal phase that is introduced only after a 12 week preparatory phase, followed by a 2 week deloading phase, which acts as a restoration process as well as testing the ability to accelerate and reverse a load.
The special exercises that we used on the speed day were reverse hyper-extensions, pull-throughs, glute/ham raises, sledwork, top half of deadlift for high reps, and ab work.
The speed day/circa-maximal phase day was Friday. Max effort day was Monday. The test subjects switched a max core exercise every week, followed by 2-4 special exercises.
 


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