Fitness : Backfilling 101

Fitness : Backfilling 101

    Backfilling 101

    The grind phase uses a simple progressive strategy I call backfilling.
    Backfilling is the most straight forward rep progression strategy I know of,
    and it helps you understand precisely what you need to do to make progress
    in every single workout. Here's how it works.

    Step 1 Establish your reps the first time you do a given workout

    Each workout builds off the performance of your previous workout.
    However, your first workout doesn't have anything to work off of so you'll
    need to establish a rep baseline to start.
    To do this, select an exercise progression (covered in later chapters) that is
    pretty challenging for you to do between 5-15 reps. Do your first set and try
    to get as many technically clean reps as possible. Rest 2-3 minutes and now
    do the same thing for the second set. Again, rest 2-3 minutes and do as many
    clean reps as you can for your third set. Due to the accumulation of fatigue,
    you should notice the number of reps you can do will decrease as you
    continue the sets.
       Step 2 Backfill the lowest number set
    Now that you have your reps established for each set, your mission is to
    “backfill” the shortest set in the following workouts. At the same time, you
    want to perform the same number of reps in the other two sets.
    Doing this helps you progress in several ways. First, maintaining the reps in
    your first two sets allows you to work on the technical quality of those reps,
    so you improve your technical proficiency. You'll also become more
    comfortable with the given exercise since you won't have to push yourself to
    your very limit every set in each workout.
    The next benefit is it’s mentally easier to make progress when you know you
    need to increase the reps in one set. You don’t have to progress the whole
    workout, just that one small part. It also takes the mystery out of what to do
    each workout. You'll open up your workout log and instantly know you're
    trying to do more reps on a given set. That's your mission for the workout
    simple, clear, and direct.
    Be aware that as you build strength, you'll want to add reps to the first and
    second set. This tendency is perfectly normal, but I do discourage it. Adding
    reps where you can in the first couple of sets keeps the incline of the sets
    roughly the same and can result in inconsistent quality over time. Instead,
    work to apply that additional strength into better quality reps on the first two
    sets. The extra strength can then "spill over" into the last set increasing reps.
    Once you've increased the reps of the third set to match the second, then you
    increase the reps on the second set only. From there, you can repeat the
    process with the next workout where you increase the third set. Continue this
    process until you "level" all three sets.
    Once you level off all three sets, reset the whole thing by once again doing as
    many reps as you can for all three sets. Increasing the first set will result in
    another downward slope, and the process starts again.
    It’s a simple system, but it can take a little practice to get the hang
    of it. Here’s a simple flow chart I made up for you to make the
    learning process easier.

    How far do you go?

    Backfilling uses the same level of resistance as you increase the reps, but at
    some point, you'll want to increase the resistance of the exercise. The point
    you increase your resistance depends on several factors like if you want to
    focus on low, moderate, or high rep training.
    I raise the resistance once I can complete three consecutive sets of 15 reps.
    Some of the more "endurance" style activities I do, like knee tucks, go as
    high as three sets of 20 reps while heavier exercises, like dips, are increased
    once I hit three sets of 12 reps. It can take some experimentation to see where
    your sweet spots are so experiment with various rep ranges and see what feels
    best for you.

    Phase 4 Hypertrophy

    I like to think of this as sort of a "free play" phase like back when I used to
    take swimming lessons as a kid. Most of the class was structured around
    lessons, but the last 15 minutes of the class was free time when we could
    mess around and run off the diving board or go down the water slide.
    As kids, we loved it, and the instructors were brilliant because giving us kids
    some creative playtime had several benefits. It helped us develop a sense of
    creative autonomy, so we got used to making choices for ourselves. We also
    worked on little things we didn't feel were addressed during the lesson.
     So consider this phase as your chance to play around and finish
     the workout with a cherry on top.
    For example, you might finish your leg workout with a set of jump squats, or
    lunges for distance to make your legs suffer. Alternatively, you might hold a
    plank for 30 seconds to make your abs beg for mercy.
    Another option is to practice some exercises that focus tension in specific
    muscles, sort of like isolation exercises bodybuilders use. Maybe you'll finish
    your pushing workout with a set of chest flys or hit your biceps with some
    concentration curls after your pulling workout.
    Whatever you do, be sure this last phase is somewhat brief. Remember that
    the grind phase should be where you invest most of your effort. You should
    come to this phase with just a little bit left in the tank so one or two hard sets
    should be about all you can handle. This phase is also optional. If you're
    running short on time, energy or motivation feel free to skip it.
    So that is the basic structure of a GSC workout routine. To recap: it's about
    practicing tension control, working on stability, doing a few hard grind sets
    and then finishing off with some specialized work or exhaustive finishers.
    It may sound like a lot, but it's not that much. The first two sets only take a
    minute or two and the grind phase usually takes about 10-15 minutes or so
    depending on how much recovery you need between sets. From there, it's
    more of a matter of how many exercises you chose to do in a workout. Now,
    let's dive further into the exercise methodology of the GSC program.
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