What is a Training Block?

Let’s shift away from the mindset of “Exercising” and towards the idea of Training.

The fancy term for the type of training we employ at Paragon is called Blocked Periodization or Blocked Programming. A training block refers to a period of time when the primary focus of each workout is directed towards achieving a specific response in the body.  There’s nothing necessarily wrong with exercising for the sake of exercising.  The act of getting to the gym and checking off a box saying you worked out that day has plenty of psychological benefits to go along with some health benefits if you’re able to keep checking that box off consistently over the long term.  

However, if you’re making an investment of both time and money to go to the gym, we believe that you should be getting the greatest return on that investment possible.  Regardless of your personal goals, training with a purpose is essential to continued progress.

Training vs. Exercising

Training in blocksExercise for the sake of exercise
Outcome-oriented: each block has its own objectivesShowing up and working out becomes the goal
Time-constrained: You have a set period of time to achieve specific results, leading to increased accountability and adherenceUndefined and unregulated time constraints, making it easier to skip workouts and lose focus
Specific stimulus=specific response. We provide a well thought-out set of parameters for each block: Exercise selection, Intensity, Volume, Rest and recoveryNo actual program design, making it easier to get distracted by the latest random movement on Instagram …without ever actually getting strong in any one movement.

As you can see, taking a long term view of your health requires a more thorough planning process than just showing up.  Blocked programming brings these complex topics into focus and gives you the tools to have it all.

Types of Training Blocks

Setting aside competitive athletes who have specific seasons for the sport they play, there are three primary training blocks that Paragon clients utilize throughout the year:  Work Capacity, Hypertrophy, and Strength.

Each block has its own set of goals as well as volume and intensity targets for each session.   If you need a reminder of how to use Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) and Reps in Reserve (RIR) to monitor intensity, refer back to this awesome post that Paragon coach Christie wrote a few weeks ago.

  1. Work Capacity

Goals: Improve the amount of work that your body can tolerate.  This includes improvements to your cardiorespiratory fitness as well as local muscle endurance.  Want to be able to take on any challenge and participate in all of life’s adventures?  You need to be able to tolerate some work.  If you find yourself out of breath during relatively low-intensity tasks or have a hard time recovering between sets at the gym, chances are a work capacity block should be in your near future.  Week by week, we want to see a progressive increase in the total amount of volume (sets, reps and load) that your body can handle.

Intensity: RPE between 4-6 per set.  No single set during a work capacity block should be taken close to failure, but you’ll feel fatigued by the end of each session as you’re continuing to challenge your cardiorespiratory systems.

Volume: Total session volume as high as possible, increasing week by week.

Recovery: Incomplete recovery between sets, allowing the heart rate and muscular tension to decrease, but not reaching a point of baseline.

  1. Hypertrophy

Goals: Increase the overall size and density of your muscle tissue.  This may sound intimidating at first, but keep in mind that these studies show a clear link between the amount of muscle you have and your length and quality of life, while these studies show a significant improvement in metabolic flexibility in individuals who increase their lean mass.  Bottom line: bigger muscles make you healthier and improve your ability to lose excess body fat if that’s the route you’re going for.

Intensity: RPE between 6-8 per set (though this does vary person to person), with a greater focus on specific muscle tension.

Volume: Per muscle group volume as high as possible, with sets/reps and load increasing week by week.

Recovery: Increased rest time between sets per muscle group, allowing complete or nearly complete recovery.

  1. Strength

Goals:   All of that muscle you built in the hypertrophy block might look cool, but it doesn’t do much if you can’t use it, and that comes down to learning to create a ton of force and move heavy things.  If you want to be independent, capable and healthy long term- strength might be the most important aspect of your physical health.

Intensity: RPE 6-9 per set with more sets taken closer to RPE 8-9 than any previous block.

Volume: Kept low to ensure that heavy enough loads are being lifted to maximize strength benefits and allow for complete recovery between sets.

Recovery: Complete rest between sets.  If heart rate is being tracked, it should recover close to your working baseline between sets.

By training these elements individually and consistently, you get stronger and conditioned much more efficiently than trying to train them all at once.

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