Most periodizations tend to enter in a phase when you are just trying to push too hard, specially if you try to sneak a bit of progression in the volume phase and you keep adding a few kg on the bar every microcycle, whilst trying to sustain the volume by doing at least the same number of reps in each session. There is a point in which you may find yourself training at a too high of an intensity for the volume you keep moving, and although in some cases (and I think for short periods of time) it may translate into faster gains, I am currently of the opinion that it ends up being counterproductive, as the adherence to the program falters (it just becomes too challenging to go every session to keep pushing the sets, ever closer to the body’s limit) and workouts start to become more distant, affecting negatively the training density by decreasing the effective frequency at which each lift is trained.
This is the situation I found myself in those past weeks: I was going to a daily max that was supposed to be reasonably easy, but I left my ego take the better part of me and kept pushing it higher and higher (to the point of beating my all time bench press PR not once but twice, as I reported in these posts: 1st BP PR and 2nd BP PR), although this was detracting more and more from my recovery capabilities. To make things worse, after the “daily” max I went for an AMRAP set with a weight that started being a 75% of my 1RM, but which I kept raising every week (the proverbial 2,5 kg for upper body lifts, and 5 kg for lower body ones), trying to equal or beat the previous week number of reps. To top it off, I did 4 back off sets with the same weight used in the AMRAP, for 6 reps each.
Of course, after 3 weeks running this little scheme the microcycles were not taking the mandatory 8 days (training every other day, three days devoted to each one of the main lifts and a fourth one to maintain a modicum of Oly lifting technique), but 10, 12 and even 14, as I realize now I was unconsciously searching for any excuse not to train (work, family, dissertation, cold, you name it) because I was scared shitless of getting to the gym and forcing me through an ordeal of truly close to failure attempts, crazy heartbeat rythms after getting barely alive from under the bar and epic soreness the day after.
So I’ve recognized the need to dial it back a bit and, in order to keep the volume higher, lower the intensity and stop pursuing 1RM equivalents (almost) every session. I`ve also decided to ditch the AMRAP sets and focus on sets across, trying to reach a certain number of total reps (around 40 when I train in the vicinity of 75%), distributed between more manageable sets (of no more than 6 reps each). My hope is that it will make the sessions more manageable both from the standpoint of the sheer stress they produce and the time required to recover from them (I suspect the inability to train as scheduled was the way my body had of indicating my will it was not ready to keep on taking this kind of abuse). Of course, one has to have a certain experience to feel confident making this kind of adjustment to a plan, as it can be just a way of pussying out of a demanding program, and thus reducing the rate of gains to achieve.
But now I'm quite certain I have to make the volume mesocycle all about quality reps in a higher range (5-6, totalling above 30 per session per move) to create a bigger foundation which I will not start bulding upon until the intensification phase, which will not begin until a couple of weeks hence. So let's keep the head cool and the muscles hot, and keep those fast & furious reps coming.