Shock Workouts- The Why and When

Shock workouts came in vogue during the 90’s.  They were the stuff of legend.  The problem with these workouts was never the workout, but context.  Most articles involving these workouts never explained progression.  A shock workout should be the apex of a training mesocycle.  A mesocycle is a training period that can range from 6 weeks to 12 weeks.  Breaking down training into cycles helps us to plan training better and avoid overtraining.

The shock workout that I am going to purpose is a culmination of training that would have taken place after 4-5 weeks of a mesocycle.  During the mesocycle you should have a good estimate on your 10 rep maximum on each movement.  In order to do that we will cycle the order of the exercises so that there is less fatigue when you perform each movement.

Here might be an example of how the first 5 weeks may look:

Mesocycle #1

Week 1

  1. Lying Leg Curls 3-4x 8-12
  2. Leg Press 3-4×8-12
  3. Hack Squat 3-4×8-12
  4. Leg Extension 3-4×8-12
  5. Squat 3-4×8-12
  6. Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3-4×8-12

Week 2

  1. Lying Leg Curls 3-4×8-12
  2. Leg Extensions 3-4×8-12
  3. Hack Squat 3-4×8-12
  4. Leg Press 3-4×8-12
  5. Squat 3-4×8-12
  6. Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3-4×8-12

Week 3

  1. Lying Leg Curls 3-4×8-12
  2. Squat 3-4×8-12
  3. Leg Press 3-4×8-12
  4. Hack Squat 3-4×8-12
  5. Leg extensions 3-4×8-12
  6. Stiff legged Deadlifts 3-4×8-12

Week 4

  1. Lying Leg Curls 3-4×8-12
  2. Hack Squat 3-4×8-12
  3. Squat 3-4×8-12
  4. Leg Press 3-4×8-12
  5. Leg extensions 3-4×8-12
  6. Stiff legged Deadlifts 3-4×8-12

Week 5

  1. Lying Leg Curls 3-4×8-12
  2. Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3-4×8-12
  3. Leg Extensions 3-4×8-12
  4. Hack Squats 3-4×8-12
  5. Leg Press 3-4×8-12
  6. Squats 3-4×8-12

Now that we have cycled through 5 weeks and have a good idea on your strength on each movement then we can take a week deload.  From there we will prepare for the Shock Workout.  Here is how that will occur over the next mesocycle:

Mesocycle #2

Week 1

Straight sets. Challenge yourself, but stay 1-2 reps shy of failure on each set.

  1. Lying Leg Curls 3×8-12
  2. Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3×8-12
  3. Leg Extensions 3×8-12
  4. Hack Squat 3×8-12
  5. Leg Press 3×8-12
  6. Squat 3×8-12

Week 2

Attempt to use the same weights even on supersets. You may attempt to push the weights on straight set movements.

 Superset #1

  1. Lying Leg Curls 3×8-12
  2. Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3×8-12

Straight Sets

  1. Leg Extensions 3×8-12
  2. Hack Squats 3×8-12
  3. Leg Press 3×8-12
  4. Squat 3×8-12

Week 3

On quad movements you should be able to complete all sets within the given rep range.  The last set you can push to harder on squats this week.

Superset #1

1a. lying Leg Curls 3-4×8-12

1b. Stiff Legged Deadlifts

Superset #2

2a. Leg Extensions 3×8-12

2b. Hack Squat 3x-8-12

Straight Sets

  1. Leg Press 3-4×8-12
  2. Squats 3-4×8-12

Week 4

Attempt to go heavier or get more reps on squats.

Super Set #1

1a. Leg Extensions 3×8-12

1b. Hack Squats 3×8-12

Straight Sets

  1. Leg Press 3×8-12
  2. Squat 3×8-12

Super Set #2

4a. Lying Leg Curls 3×8-12

4b. Stiff Leg deadlifts 3×8-12

Week 5

This week focus on giving it your all on the leg press.  Stay a couple reps shy of failure on squats.

Giant Set #1

1a. Leg Extensions 3×8-12

1b. Hack Squats 3×8-12

1c. Leg Press 3×8-12

Straight Set

  1.  Squats 3×8-12

Superset #1

3a. Lying Leg Curls 3×8-12

3b. Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3×8-12

Week 6

This week try to keep all the weights constant.  On squats go hard.  On the last set of squats perform constant reps until you can’t then take deep breaths in between reps until you have gotten to 12 or more reps.  This should be excruciating.

Giant Set #1

1a. Leg Extensions 3×8-12

1b. Hack Squats 3×8-12

1c. Leg Press 3×8-12

1d. Squats 3×8-12

Giant Set #2

2a. Lying Leg Curls 3×8-12

2b. Stiff Legged Deadlifts 3×8-12

*optional add seated leg curls

After Week 6 either do low volume, low intensity training or take a week off.  If you use lower volume low intensity remember to focus on form, and feeling the muscles work.  This is a time to reestablish the mind muscle connection, and recover; not a time to endue micro trauma to the muscle.

Similar cycles of training can be done again, but I would prefer to focus on improving 1rm maximum strength for a period of time before returning to a blood volume style training routine.  This allows us to focus on different fibers and to improve the weights we use when we go back to such a program.  Whether we increase weight, increase reps, or increase training density as we did in this plan, if we want to improve, we need to have a plan and we must be progressive with that plan.

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