Most books on periodization are theoretical tomes that present lovely models, charts and graphs but leave the reader at a loss to put it into a practical training format.
Enter Practical Programming. Written by Lon Kilgore and Mark Rippetoe (with contributions from Glenn Pendlay), the authors of the excellent and highly recommended Starting Strength, this book presents an easy to read and practical approach to programming for strength training.
Written in an easy to follow style, using easily understood charts and graphs where necessary, Practical Programming maps out training from novice to the most advanced levels of training. Sample workouts, progressions, in addition to troubleshooting tips are all provided.
The book starts by covering physiological fundamentals of training, recovery, adaptation. This isn't a typical jargon filled book, the concepts are clear and presented for maximum understanding. This all provides the basis for the individuals chapters on programming.
The section on novice trainers picks up where Starting Strength left off. A basic routine around a handful of primary movements (squat, bench press, deadlift, overhead press) is set up based on repeat sets of 5's. Explanations for how to progress weight, what to do when the trainee stalls and everything else a novice needs to now is present here. The novice stage may last 3-9 months for the typical trainee.
In the intermediate section, a number of training models are provided. The intermediate needs heavier loading to make progress and rather than focusing on workout to workout improvements (like the novice), they start thinking in terms of weekly loading. Pendlay's Texas method (with one volume day, one intensity day, and one light day) is described in detail. Speed sets (ala Westside barbell), split routines and the original Bill Starr periodization model are also described here. Again, troubleshooting tips and progression options are well described here. The option of adding workouts as the trainee adapts is also discussed with 4,5 and 6 day training schemes (based around full body workouts) described. The inclusion of assistance movements for training is basically touched upon and I do feel that this is one place the book could have been expanded (noting that this would take a book of its own to completely cover). As well, some full workout routines illustrating how everything fits together would have been helpful here; instead only individual exercises are mapped out. The intermediate stage may last for the next 2 years of training and the book argues that the majority of strength trainers will never need anything more than intermediate level training anyhow. This is especially true of athletes who may only weight train heavily 8-12 weeks out of their competition year.
Finally, several advanced models are presented based around the idea that advanced trainees need to think even longer term in terms of making progress. This may mean a 6-12 week cycle (or more) to make what gains are still possible as the trainee is now approaching his or her genetic cieling. Several models are again presented including the pyramid model (which uses volume as a primary stressor for 4-5 weeks followed by an intensity peak), the 2 steps forwards/1 step back model (favored by many Olympic lifters) which is percentage based and progresses over many 4 week blocks to a peak of strength, the building blocks model (where you sequence different training targets one after another) and finally a model based on hormonal dynamics developed by Pendlay and Hartmann which uses a short build up to a 2 week block of extremely heavy loading to peak strength several weeks later. Full workouts are laid out for each (a sample strongman cycle is provided for the building blocks model) and, again, troubleshooting tips are given for each. Notably, in the section on the building blocks model, the book includes a discussion of a topic I don't recall ever seeing mentioned in any other book on periodization (and I've read them all): the idea that training should be sequenced in terms of how well or how poorly a given capacity is maintained. Since hypetrophy is maintained easily, it can be trained further away from a peak than aerobic conditioning or technique. This has important implications for how the blocks are put together.
The book rounds itself out with a brief discussion of special populations: youth, women, and masters lifters along with those rehabbing an injury. The same principles described in the book apply, but there are specific considerations. Finally, the book presents strength goals for different levels (novice, intermediate, advanced, elite) for men and women for several key lifts.
I should mention that the book doesn't discuss the ever popular 'conjugate' method (used by Westside barbell), undulating periodization of several other popular models. Nor does it discuss how to integrate strength training with other aspects of sports training (conditioning, technique) outside of a brief section in the building blocks model.
But what is described is described thoroughly and well and should keep any trainee with sufficient training options to keep them progressing as they get stronger.
This book is a must have for any trainees shelf, the authors bring over 60 years of applied training to the table and provide logical, down to earth practical advice for anybody who wants to get stronger.