There is a famous quote that says in order to… something like finding where you are now so you can determine where you are going?
In this section it is my goal for you to have a general understanding of the programming phases or of how to define what phase you are in right now and what you need to do to get where you want to be. The phases include foundational work, strength, power, hypertrophy (or increased muscle mass) and muscular endurance. Each will be examined below:
This is the first phase because it builds the initial layers of muscle and mentally prepares you for the future programs. This phase can last 3-4 weeks and should be performed 2-4 times/week. The better your foundational work is, the better everything else can be. You should be doing 3 sets of 6-9 reps. I give the range because for some movements 6 will be extremely challenging and for others 9 may be.
The strength phase is intended to give you exactly what it says, gained strength. This phase will last 3-4 weeks and should be performed 3-4 times/week. This will start to build upon the foundation to provide you with greater gains in the following phases. Your sets can range from 3-6 and your reps should be between 2-6. For certain movements like the squat, I have found that 3-5 reps is the most optimal range with a set count of 4-6 sets depending on the week of the phase.
Power work should be intertwined in each phase of your programming. Typically it will have a low rep range of 1-5 reps depending on the movement and the phase you are in. it has been studied and found that people lose their ability to generate power faster than they lose their strength. In other words we often overlook the power and try and replace it with strength, which is not the same thing. Power is about explosiveness. You generate power by adding strength and speed. For example it would consist of the Olympic lifts or tossing a medicine all against the wall as hard as you can. These things take into account speed and strength simultaneously.
Hypertrophy and Muscular Endurance:
In these two phases, there is technically a 1-rep difference from one to the other. I lumped these together because they function very similarly. The goal of hypertrophy is to gain size and muscle mass. It is simply a time under tension result. The more time you have under tension the more mass you will generate. However, it is true up until a point; After 12 reps you start to build more endurance than mass. The other major difference is that you are still safe to perform 3-6 sets of the hypertrophy if it was designed that way, but once you get to the muscular endurance I never perform anymore than 3 sets.
So what phase are you training in right now? How long have you been there? Are you getting the results you are looking for? Are you stuck? The above criteria will help you determine answers to most of all those questions. It should give you a game plan to know what direction you want to gravitate toward.
The last phase, which I did not include, is recovery and regeneration. This phase is so important and underutilized that it deserves its own section.