The Reverse Wave Strength Cycle

The reverse wave cycle. By Steve Pulcinella, owner of Iron Sport Gym

The back story of this article is that I came up with this particular plan for a long time client. We had been making great progress on the squat and deadlift but were having difficulty getting his bench to really move. He had some quirky problems regarding the bench mainly when it came time for high percentage lifts he would really tighten up and bring the bar down really slow and shaky, half the time he would just collapse and be pinned. Under 85% he had a great groove and blasted weights up as to be expected but above 85% everything changed in his technique.

Going back to what I was taught about missed lifts I knew it was one of three possible factors:

Physical (injury, illness, missing a limb etc)

Mechanical (poor technique, shitty leverages, etc)

Mental (going through a divorce, stressed out, being scared, etc)

I knew there was nothing wrong with him physically, his mechanics at lower percentage lifts were fine so it was clear to me that this was a mental issue more than anything. I came up with an idea for him to work in a lot of reps at high percentage low rep sets so I set him up with a wave routine that waved each three set waves with the weights steadily increasing so that the last three sets were the heaviest. We worked that for a few weeks but we hit a roadblock, it turns out that he didn’t posses the anaerobic stamina to do this, by the time we got to the last and most important sets he was already spent (and a bit psyched out I think). We then came up with the idea to start all over again but we would reverse the three set waves and do the heaviest first down to the lightest and it worked like a charm! He went from a 315 bench to a beautiful, non shaky 325 bench during the six week experiment.

This is the exact cycle we used for him:

Week 1

270 x 3

280 x pause

290 x 1 pause

265 x 3

275 x 2 pause

285 x 1 pause

260 x 3

270 x 2 pause

280 x 1 pause

Week 2

275 x 3

285 x 2 pause

295 x 1 pause

270x 3

280 x 2 pause

290 x 1 pause

265 x 3

275 x 2 pause

285 x 1 pause

Week 3

280 x 3

280 x 2 pause

300 x 1 pause

275 x 3

285 x 2 pause

295 x 1 pause

270 x 3

280 x 2 pause

290 x 3 pause

Week 4

285 x 3

295 x 2 pause

305 x 1 pause

280 x 3

290 x 2 pause

300 x 1 pause

275 x 3

285 x 2 pause

295 x 1 pause

Week 5

290 x 3

300 x 2

310 x 1 pause

285 x 3

295 x 2

305 x 1 pause

280 x 3

290 x 2

300 x 1 pause

Week 6

295 x 3

305 x 2

315 x 1 Pause

290 x 3

300 x 2 

310 x 1 pause

285 x 3

295 x 2 

305 x 1 pause

Week 7 test week

135 x 10

185 x 5

225 x 3

275 x 2

300 x 1

325 x 1 new PR

After benching we would do one major heavy assistance movement and a few lighter high-rep exercises. One week I would have him do triceps related assistance and we would alternate weeks with upper back work.

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