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Learn the advantages of the BFS system over the periodization system

By Greg Shepard


Periodization or BFS?

For high school athletes, especially those who play more than one sport, the BFS rotational set–rep system is superior to the most sophisticated periodization systems used by many European countries. This is because the BFS system flows perfectly from one sport season to the next and is ideal for a team approach. But the BFS system can also work well for single-sport athletes because the Tuesday–Thursday program develops speed, agility, and overall athleticism. These are bold statements, so let’s analyze why they are true.

Periodization is dividing an annual plan of training into phases to attain peaks during the most important competitions. Some people categorize these phases as preparation, competition, and transition. These phases are normally broken down into subphases called macrocycles or microcycles. Each cycle varies the sets, reps, exercises, and training intensity (i.e., the amount of weight lifted).

On the surface, the periodization cycles used by elite athletes in the former Eastern Bloc countries seem to have great merit. Many top universities espouse periodization. So why shouldn’t high schools do the same? Here are five reasons:

1. Training teams. Periodization was originally intended for individuals. Many universities train their athletes in small groups, whereas high school athletes usually train as a team so that coaches can organize the workout as they would a practice. With the BFS system, the intensity levels of teams and individuals can reach incredible heights because it’s possible for all athletes to see progress on a daily basis, and their enthusiasm for their success becomes contagious.

2. Peaking for competitions. When do you peak in a periodization program? Do you choose to peak for homecoming, the conference championship, or the playoffs? In many periodization programs, you would peak for one major contest each year. In American football, you had better have some sort of peak every week, or you won’t have to worry about peaking for the play-offs.


3. Training the multisport athlete. Universities and Eastern European national programs normally deal only with one-sport athletes. Administering a periodization program for a large group of high school athletes would be a nightmare. For example, after the football season, let’s say 15 of the 65 players go into basketball, 20 go out for wrestling, and the remaining 30 are in an off-season program. Then in March, 12 of the football players who play basketball go out for a spring sport; 7 go out for baseball and 5 go out for track. The other 3 basketball–football players join the off-season program. The 30 kids who were in the off-season program now split into groups. Twenty have decided to enter a spring sport. In the summer, 17 football players also play baseball, while others attend basketball, wrestling, and football camps. Got all that? Athletes would be running in and out of phases and cycles all year long, requiring many schedules and programs.

4. Obtaining accurate maxes. An athlete has a 175-pound (79-kilogram) clean, and he’s supposed to train with 60 percent at 105 pounds (48 kilograms), 70 percent at 122.5 pounds (56 kilograms), 80 percent at 140 pounds (64 kilograms), and so on. Yet after the athlete goes to a BFS clinic and learns about intensity and technique, he will typically clean 225 pounds (102 kilograms). So now what? In all probability, much of his training with 110 and 130 pounds (50 and 59 kilograms) during an eight-week periodization cycle was unproductive because the weights were too light. The percentage system used in most periodization programs doesn’t account for the variety in the athlete’s training state. Some days the athlete may be a bit down in strength, and as a result the weights prescribed would be too heavy and technique could be compromised as the athlete attempts to lift weights he is not ready for, especially in the power clean and other quick lifts. Some days the athlete may be capable of lifting much heavier weights, so the weights prescribed would be too light and as a result the athlete would not get the optimal training stimulus to become stronger.

5. Making rapid progress. The BFS rotational set–rep system provides intense, challenging, and motivating training sessions. Periodization programs don’t allow for daily variance in strength. The BFS system corrects itself on a set basis during the workout. Athletes don’t have to wait for a long time to break a record. On the BFS system they break records every workout. Periodization can hold high school teams back because the weights prescribed are often too light or too heavy, whereas the BFS system propels teams forward week after week at breakneck speed.

It’s true that we’ve borrowed selectively from periodization and Eastern European systems. We’ve packaged the most appropriate training practices into a system that works amazingly well for high school athletes involved in team sports while taking into consideration their time and logistics constraints. Let your competition try to sort out all the research and come up with a periodization program. Let your competition copy the system of a Russian weightlifter. Let your competition use a university program and scramble to adapt it to the high school situation. Meanwhile, with the progressive and reliable BFS system, you’ll be getting all the results you’ve been looking for.

This is an excerpt from Bigger Faster Stronger, Second Edition.



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If a team is used to training in the off-season and doesn’t train during the in-season, the players will be mentally down at play-off time.
With any form of strength and conditioning, athletes experience plateaus, or a leveling off or even a dropping off in performance.
During the off-season, athletes should perform speed training on Tuesdays and Thursdays and lift on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays.


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