“Liquid” Mesocycle 6 Review
Well a new year brings about a wealth of new changes, after 6 successful runs of my self taught “Liquid” program I feel pretty good. Learning a lot, but nearing that point where I need to move on to learn more. To go forward though, one needs to know where they’ve been…
Mesocycle 6 lasted from January 2nd (2015) to February 16th, great to start the new year on a new mesocycle. It had the most programmatic changes of any since I started my “Liquid” program. To bring you through to where I am today though, I’m going to paint a picture of where I was before.
To give an overall history of my training background, back in April of 2013 I knew nothing about weight training having only a couple months previous deciding to join a gym for the first time in my life. I avoided the weight floor because of my inexperience and the volume of big fit people who lord over the equipment. I had lost nearly 70lbs on my own over that last year, so joining a gym was my next logical step to explore new levels of fitness. Prior to the big weight loss, I had lived a solid 31 years of my life with no exercise or training plan of any kind, having never exercised even a day in my life. Now having just turned 32, I was feeling great about the opportunities that lie ahead.
Fast forward to October 2013. I was still a rookie as far as gym workouts go, knowing only a little from fitness Youtubers about lifts and the sophisticated form issues. I was still using the smith machine heavily for fear of failing to understand benching or squatting, and was relatively new to the deadlift. My early deadlift totals at this time were something along the lines of 225lbs. I started logging my workouts, via my website, which helped me keep my gains in context.
In short order, I began to “believe” in the merit of barbell training over regular bodybuilding exercises. I knew I needed to get away from smith machine work and start focusing on real compound lifts, and learned to value strength as a marker for progression. I was a novice through and through, but up to this point my motto has been “do it on my own” and I stuck to that by choosing to build my own beginner program. Knowing nothing about programming, I kept it simple to start, a 5 day training split one day for each major body area. This was probably not enough frequency for me as a novice to truly optimally gain, but it was a great platform for me to learn about my body and lifting. I now refer to this plan as “Solid” because it did net me some really concrete newbie strength gains. Solid had one facet that pushed me to progress fast as I frequently would try for new one rep maxes nearly every workout. Often hit them too, thanks to the novice training effect.
By May of 2014 (7 months on “Solid”), I had learned a wealth of new exercises, gained a basic proficiency in the squat, deadlift and bench press, although was fairly still weak by most standards only my deadlift was approaching anything considered “intermediate”. I had also on the cardio front completed my first half marathon, which was a huge fitness milestone for me. However my pushing to do new one rep maxes all the time started to creep up on me, I was damaging my shoulders (particularly the right one) by doing too frequent one rep max training on my bench press. It was becoming unmanageable, so I wanted to design myself a “novice-to-intermediate” program. Knowing a little more now – enough to be dangerous – I started producing my program “Liquid”. Liquid earned it’s nickname from making slight shifts as I learned more about programming, to eventually become more sophisticated as I learned more about programming principles.
Now it’s March of 2015, and I’ve been on Liquid for about 10 months, having completed 6 full training cycles. There were highs and lows but one thing Liquid did was it solidified in me a lot of knowledge about the principle lifts – benching, deadlifting and squatting – as well as gave me great benchmarks and ideas for progressing. With my last mesocycle I came to the realization that while I am progressing, I am not doing so optimally for someone of my training history. I realize rather readily that never being on a true novice program (now I know what the qualities are of one at least) and did not know in full detail what truly makes an intermediate plan shine. I also noticed my gains are good, but not where they could be – I project I could be getting 150-200% improvement on my gains if I were just picking a different, more conventional, adaptation cycle.
I’m still researching what plan to go to, starting to lean towards a powerlifting interpretation of the “Texas Method” but not fully decided, but there will not be a complete mesocycle 7 – I plan to decide in the next week ideally what exactly my training plan will be. It should be simpler, and more focused on my goals of being a stronger lifter and progressing through to full intermediate planning. Whatever plan I choose I hope the principles I garner from it will allow me to make further tweaks to “Liquid” so I can eventually come back to it and get better results than in my first go around. It’s a big decision though, I don’t believe in program hopping and whatever plan I pick has to be rock solid for at least the next 6 months.
So at the start of Mesocycle 6 work had given me a substantial amount of life stress – I closed a store and went through the entire holiday season at a new store as part of my company’s merger. I never did get a reprieve I had hoped for, still being assigned constant tasks and having to deal with cut payroll hours leads me to a workplace situation where things just are more stressful than they need to be. On top of this for the first time I chose to buy a house of my own and planning for that was another life distraction. So all said, lots of life-related stress during this mesocycle which absolutely does impact performance in the gym. To cope with it, I started using my free time for an old MMO I love – Eve Online – and getting into it again as a casual player has really helped me relax. It also eats up more time than I’d like, but by no means did training take any kind of back seat.
In fact, Mesocycle 6 had me set a new Deadlift PR of 345lbs, I set a new HIIT workout marker at doing 6 full M100’s without passing out and in general I saw a considerable amount of improvement in form and technique in most of my lifts and even accessories. I feel really utmost confident in my actual routines. I’m not sure the intensity markers are good for my workout plan though, while I know you’re supposed to hit the weights hard I feel sometimes a lingering sense of dread at going in to get the work done, which I’ve always personally associated with overreaching/overtraining. This could easily just be life stress.
My cardio is fallen completely to the wayside, as I am no longer training at all for any sort of running. I’m okay with this, because powerlifting is my focus and it’s not important to run like a half marathoner to be good at it (endurance progression does not translate to strength nearly as much as strength does to endurance). That said, it makes me a little sad to run for 4-5 miles and be “done”, at a pace considerably slower than where I used to be. This is in part though due to gaining a little weight, which makes me feel good knowing I’m mostly at a very good place on my weight and level of personal fitness, at least health wise.
Now to actually review the mesocycle itself. My most recent revisions to “Liquid” had me start with three 2 cycle/week “blocks”, first conditioning (first two weeks), second control (second two weeks) then third strength testing (final two weeks). These employed daily undulating periodization (DUP) which was a new facet to the plan, inbetween the block periodized “themes”. I felt good about this, but the realization set in as time passed that this is too sophisticated a program for someone who is not quite to that level. I am probably an early intermediate right now who can progress better on week to week plans than 6 week ones.
Regardless, cycle 1 started out fresh and optimistic and went well as did cycle 2. Cycle 3 & 4 were downright fun, cycle 5 had me really feel like I was grinding as I tried and failed to hit new maxes. This was exacerbated by entering the 6th and final cycle (my final strength test) starting to get sick and feeling particularly low energy. Part of me thinks this was the onset of sickness which did eventually pass (my final Dev Day is when I set my new deadlift PR, not on the actual Deadlift day in fact that workout I gassed out completely getting only two singles out at 330lbs) and part of me thinks my diet is contributing to some of the low energy days I’m having in the workout, as they are becoming more and more common lately.
Conclusions & Progression Updates
I’m going to stop using “training max” variables to track progress as I’m going to soon be choosing a completely new plan, and instead use my own real 1 rep max (RM) as a measure of progress. In this sense I did progress a little in every lift during this mesocycle, but all said in a month and a half I should have done a little better.
I’m giving myself a nice weekend off lifting then possibly a deload week to digest what my new plan should be for the next 6 months, and get settled into the new home I am closing next week. Then my next big project… a home gym! A new plan and home gym should really change my life around, I will still provide a program update when I’ve settled into that routine.
Deadlift: 345lbs 1RM (previously 340lbs)
Stated Goal: 400lbs verified one rep max
High Bar Back Squat: 225lbs 1RM (previously 205lbs)
Stated Goal: 315lbs verified one rep max
Bench Press: 185lbs 1RM (previously 180lbs)
Stated Goal: 225lbs verified one rep max
Some of my favorite pics during this training cycle… click the left/right arrows to see them all