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Winter Lift Cycle Block Periodization Lessons Learned / Update

Stew smith

The 3 Week Strength / 1 Week Calisthenics / Cardio (PST related) Block Periodization Cycle Update and Lessons Learned  

The start of this Winter Lift Cycle, I decided to try something new as a long term strength training cycle can get stale with performance plateaus if you are not careful and actively pursuing recovery. You have to keep everything in near perfect balance in order to fully recover from hypertrophy and strength training cycles (nutrition, sleep, smart split routines, balanced overload principle with recovery / mobility days). You have a choice:
You can do a deload week which is very common during strength cycles or you can do a modified deload week and replace lifting with calisthenics and cardio.
That is what we did so far for two cycles:
1 - The first six weeks was 4 weeks strength / 2 weeks PT and Cardio focus.
2 - The second cycle we decided to try a 3 week strength / 1 week PT and Cardio focus.
Both worked well but depending on your needs, you can decide which one is best for you. Consider the strength cycle as a 12 week cycle. Here is what you get with either the 4:2 or the 3:1 cycle:
4:2 Cycle - This yields 8 total weeks of strength and 4 weeks of PT / Cardio focus in a 12 week timeline.
3:1 Cycle - This yields 9 total weeks of strength and 3 weeks of PT / Cardio focus in a 12 week timeline. Since this is a strength cycle (Winter Lift) three rounds of the 3:1 cycle makes sense if you need more strength.
Depending on your needs, one may make more sense for you to try.  If you need more strength training weeks, do the 3:1 cycle.  If you need to really focus on PT test scores and overall endurance, go with the 4:2 cycle.  Extending this type of cycle throughout the Fall and Winter (24 weeks) you can have significant strength gains as well as maintenance (or improvements as well) in the PST.

Check out the NEW Block Periodization Cycle we did Winter of 2020-21:

Increase Strength & Crush the PST / PAST
3 Weeks Strength - 1 Week PT / Cardio Focus 
(16 weeks)

If you are about 6 months out from BUDS or another Spec Ops selection and you need some strength as well as a high PT test scores, you may find some improvements in both using either of the block periodization models. 
Here is what you will see regardless of which one you try:
- RECOVERY - You can tell the difference between recovery needs from the two and the PST cycle was a "recovery week". In fact, during the PT weeks, the mobility day planned in the middle of the week was not really needed.  Well, at least we did not feel like we needed it. We still did it and included a really good pool skills workout after it and worked on drownproofing and conditioning. 
The biggest thing for me is we felt like we needed a mobility day during each week of the strength cycle, but did not feel we needed it during the PST weeks - though still did it. Do not skip mobility day - it is very helpful with Day 4,5,6 performance. 

- PST scores (pushup, situps, pullups) were improved in most after 4 weeks strength / PST on week 2. Same for 3:1 as well. 
- cardio scores were also maintained (run / swim) a few improved. 
The 4-2 or the 3-1 is a minor difference in a 12 week cycle but could be a difference maker for my guys who need more strength vs strength-endurance.

What is the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization?

Introducing the Block Periodization Cycle 

It is up to you the order you want to do the 4 / 2 week blocks of training.  My advice is to start with a 2 week block just to get a baseline test score - whatever your fitness test is.  For this case, we are doing the Navy BUDS PST (but it can be easily rearranged for the AF PAST or replaced by Army, USMC, other tests if you prefer. 

Two Week PST Phase - See the Classic PST Training Week and Double PST Workout week article for FREE workout details.  Or if you prefer you can do any of the PST based training programs for 2 weeks I have created.


Navy SEAL Workout Phase 1 Beginner Weeks 1-9 
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 2 - 3 - Intermediate Weeks 1-12
Navy SEAL Workout Phase 4 Grinder PT - Four weeks before Hell Week
Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness Book

Three to Four Week Lift Cycle - You can do whatever lift cycle you prefer.  This can be one of you own making, classic powerlifting cycle, hypertrophy, or whatever your like to do in the gym.  Or you can use any of my Fall / Winter Lift cycles below as they are also coupled with just the right amount of cardio needed to sustain PST levels of high scoring. 

4:2 Ratio - After you have completed the six weeks, repeat it again rotating between 4 week lift cycle followed (or preceded) by a two week PST Cycle / Test Week for a total of 12 weeks. 

3:1 Ratio - After you have completed the four weeks, repeat it two more times rotating between 3 week lift cycle followed by a one week PST Cycle / Test Week for a total of 12 weeks. 

Our plan is to do this for 12-24 weeks and see where we stand on our strength, speed, agility, PST numbers using the Assessment Tool Score Chart to compare our abilities with successful spec ops candidates of the past. 

Then, once we are in the Spring / Summer PT / Cardio cycle, we will try adding a 1-2 week lift cycle in the basically doing a mirror image block periodization cycle. Depending on your needs, you may not need a strength week in the middle of a PT / Cardio block of training, but a few well placed supplemental lift routines can be helpful if you are concerned with losing to much strength. For most athletes, they tend to maintain the strength well, even during a PT / Cardio based cycle.  See what is sufficient on the lifts with the Spec Ops Assessment Tool. 

Programs that are Fall / Winter Lifting Based with Faster / Shorter Cardio (More non-impact options)

Tactical Fitness, Tactical Strength, Navy SEAL Weight Training Workout, Weight Vest Workout,  Stew Smith's Fall Winter Cycle


Here are our options at that assist with doing this type of training:

Programs / Combos that have full Spring / Summer and Fall Winter Cycles: 

Maximum Fitness, Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness / Navy SEAL Weight Training Combo, Warrior Workout Vol 2, Tactical Fitness for the Athlete Over 40, Special Ops Prep - Seasonal Periodization Trilogy, and Spring, Summer, Fall Winter Combo.

Programs that are Spring / Summer Calisthenics / Cardio Based 

Calisthenics and Cardio Workout, Complete Guide to Navy SEAL Fitness,  Stew Smith's Spring Summer Cycle

Do You Want my REAL TIME Seasonal Periodization Training?
Get Weekly Unpublished Workouts Tested and Evaluated by local
Stew Smith Training programs. 

Stew Smith Fitness Membership – You have access to years of workouts for both beginner / intermediate and advanced / special ops levels of fitness. Each week you will receive new and unpublished workouts being tested by Navy SEAL veteran / Stew Smith CSCS and his local group of future tactical professionals in both basic training and advanced spec ops training programming. The latest videos, articles, and other programming will be part of the weekly data feed to members as well. We go through the Seasonal Tactical Fitness Periodization program one week at a time.

If You Need a More Personalized Approach to Fit Your Needs, Goals, Time per Day, Days per week, Facilities, Abilities, etc...Try Online Coaching

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