Is It Block Training, Concentrated Loads, or…?
By Dr. Michael Yessis
I’ve been reading with interest—and amazement—the many articles that have been appearing lately on the use of the “block” method. What I haven’t seen is the definition of what the coaches mean by block training or how the workouts are any different from what everybody’s been doing the last few years. It appears as though they are just putting a fancy name or a different name on the same old workouts.
In true block training, there is an accumulation phase followed by a transmutation phase followed by a realization phase. Almost every program calling itself a block program that has been appearing with regularity on this and other sites has, in reality, only been an accumulation phase program. Need proof? Simply look to see how much improvement there was in the sports skill execution during and right after the transmutation phase. Most likely you never thought about this, but this is the beauty of the block system. You get improvement in sports performance!
A block program is intended to improve performance and prepare the athlete for competition. It isn’t used simply to get stronger. This is what concentrated loads are for as well as a typical strength training program, regardless of the system used. What is typically ignored or overlooked is that the block system consists of specialized exercises. They shouldn’t be run-of-the-mill common exercises like the ones typically used in the misleading “block” programs.
It should also be noted that in order for the block program to improve performance, it must entail technique. This means there is either improvement in skill execution or in the power of the execution or in the speed of the execution and so on. The transmutation phase is based on not only the effects of the initial accumulation phase but on the residuals that exist after the accumulation phase. In order for any gains to transfer to the competitive sport, the exercises must be a combination of technique and strength or speed or power. It isn’t merely accumulation of greater strength.
It is in the transmutation phase that we should see this improvement. I could go on with what occurs in a realization phase, which should be the culmination of all the work that allows the athlete to do better than ever in his competition. However, because the block training has been so misconstrued, I don’t see any need to do this at this time. It would only assist in confusing the confused thinking that already exists.
It is necessary to stress the fact that the block depends mainly on specialized strength and explosive exercises. This means that the exercises for strength duplicate the neuromuscular pathway seen in execution of the sports skill. In addition, strength is developed in the same range of motion as seen in execution of the sports skill. In speed-strength sports, it is also important to develop strength in the same type of muscular contractions as seen in execution of the sports skill. These are very specific criteria and they must be fulfilled if you are truly doing block training.
There is much to be gained from block training, but it must be used wisely and used when called for. It shouldn’t simply be an old strength training program made to sound like something new by giving it a buzzword title. This doesn’t lead to improvement in performance, which should be the ultimate objective of all training. Isn’t it about time that we clearly defined the different training programs and knew exactly what they are used for? If not, we are clearly spinning our wheels in this field with very little progress.
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