Modified Super Accumulation Program For Strength & Physique Gains

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Over the years I have trialed and tested numerous programs on myself and with my clients. Programs for strength, fat loss, hypertrophy you name it I have experimented with it. My biggest mentor with programming early on in my life was my grandfather Ken McDonald, a commonwealth gold medalist and 1952 Olympian in weightlifting who also as many did back in the 1950’s, competed in bodybuilding and called such notables as Bob Hoffman and Reg Park friends.

In my late teen’s at my grandfather’s recommendation I looked into the works of Vince Gironda, who was another pioneer of the iron game. As I came into my early 20’s I began to come across the teachings of Strength Coach Charles Poliquin on the old Testosterone Nation.

Since then I have been an avid reader of his teachings and attended over 30 of his seminars since 2008. I have even been fortunate enough to lecture with him on tours such as the Klokov and Poliquin Strength Sports along with the Metabolic Analysis and iNutrition Pro seminars taught globally over the last few years.

One of the reasons I like Charles teachings is due to the fact that they are simple yet extremely effective, especially when it comes to developing strength and improving a client’s physique. As a personal trainer or strength coach the ability to hit these goals with clients as rapidly as possible makes the difference between being good at what you do or being great.

So whenever you get the chance to expedite this process I recommend you jump on it which is something we have all of our personal trainers do in our Clean Health Fitness Institute Sydney CBD and Chatswood gym’s so that they stay at the top of the game here in Australia.

This leads me on to one of Charles most famous routines, the super accumulation program first spoken about on T-Nation in 2007. The premise is basically that you over train for two weeks, you then rest and subsequently you grow!

Since first doing it myself in 2009 I have subsequently done it with various clients over the years close to 50 times. My colleague and friend, Strength Coach Sebastian Oreb, is also a proponent of the modified super accumulation program and also shares similar viewpoints on how I apply it, having also experimented with it a ton over the years with his athletes.

Having used this program with both genders, for different training goals I have tweaked it slightly, changing things such as:

  • Tempo
  • Rep rage
  • Rest period
  • Exercise choice
  • Recovery protocols
  • Nutritional recommendations

I will explain my take on how you play with those variables below, if you follow them I can guarantee you that you will be able to see an increase in strength gains of up to 10-25% and positive lean body mass changes in the range of 3-6kg. Keeping in mind though that the greater the training age and strength levels the lower end of that scale the results will be.

Here is Lauren on the front cover of a recent Oxygen Magazine publication prior to completing her modified super accumulation program

Here is Lauren on the front cover of a recent Oxygen Magazine publication prior to completing her modified super accumulation program

One of the more recent examples of how I used this program was with WBFF Pro Bikini Model Lauren Simpson in the lead up to her first ever raw powerlifting competition with Powerlifting Australia, which is the IPF affiliate in our country. Prior to her doing this program I would have rated her strength and physique levels to that of someone whom is an intermediate to advanced lifter, since then though it is a different story!

As part of her 12-week preparation into this first event I utilized the modified super accumulation program in one of her final phases as a way of developing her strength but also as a means to packing on some quality lean muscle, in advance of her competing in the WBFF Australian national championships, which she won and took her pro card home in. So what did her program look like? Read below…

Workout 1: Mon/Wed/Fri AM

  • A1. Low Bar BB Back Squat: 5 x 5 @ 40X0, rest 120
  • A2. Standing Leg Curl Foot Neutral & Plantarflexed, 5 x 5 @ 30X2, rest 120
  • B1. Powerlifting Style BB BenchPress: 5 x 5 @ 40X0, rest 120
  • B2. Supinated Grip Chin-Up: 5 x 5 @ 31X0, rest 120

Workout 2: Mon/Wed/Fri PM

  • A1. Snatch Grip Deadlifts From A Deficit: 10 x 5 @ 50X0, rest 180
  • B1. Seated DB Arnold Press: 5 x 5 @ 22X0, rest 120
  • B2. Bent-Over 1 Arm DB Row Neutral Grip: 5 x 5 @ 2011, rest 120

Workout 3: Tue/Thu/Sat AM

  • A1. BB Front Squat: 5 x 5 @ 40X0, rest 120
  • A2. Lying Leg Curls Feet Inward & Dorsiflexed, 5 x 5 @ 32X0, rest 120
  • B1. 60 Degree Incline DB Pronating Grip Press: 5 x 5 @ 40X0, rest 120
  • B2. Pronated Grip Pull-Up: 5 x 5 @ 40X0, rest 120

Now before you take this program and trial it on yourself or with one of your athletes, you must follow these 10 key points below otherwise you will not get the type of gains possible during this 19 day training cycle:

  1. Without tempo it is nowhere near as effective, summary you MUST use tempo to get results from this program.
  2. Without following the 120-180 rest periods it is not as effective, summary follow the rest periods prescribed to the number.
  3. With the load used, don’t ramp up weight each set. Keep the same weight for ALL of the working sets and then progressively increase the weight in the next workout. So you must ensure you pick the right weight, however keep in mind if on the final set you only hit 4 reps that it is not the end of the world!
  4. I have found keeping the reps at 5 for every exercise on each of the three workouts to be most effective, due to the fact that whether the goal is maximal strength of hypertrophy the frequency of training will still hypertrophy the client. Furthermore the lower reps allows for a greater % of 1RM to be used thus creating more stress on the CNS and subsequent myofibrillar hypertrophy, which from experience is the limiting factor for most people’s physique gains.
  5. Nutrition must be individualized dependent on the gender, goal and training age. So my general guidelines for how to program your nutrition are below, please remember these are very generalized, as a coach you will need to determine where your client is at in regards to their body composition and metabolic capacity when formulating their nutrition:
    1. Fat loss
      1. Mon/Wed/Fri: -10% TDEE on a medium carb plan
      2. Tue/Thu/Sat: -20% TDEE on a low carb plan
      3. Sun: Baseline medium-high carb plan depending on somatic type/body comp
    2. Hypertrophy and Strength
      1. Mon/Wed/Fri: Baseline on a medium-high carb plan depending on somatic type/body comp
      2. Tue/Thu/Sat: -10% TDEE to baseline on a low-medium carb depending on somatic type/body comp
      3. Sun: +10-20% TDEE on a high carb plan
  6. With females you might adjust the rest day to something more of an isocaloric model with higher fats, purely because their endocrine system takes more of a beating then males on this program and the higher concentration of fats can help here.
  7. Supplement selection I like to keep it simple:
    1. Use a high quality magnesium spread out over the last two meals of the day, I recommend taking 2-3 times the recommended dosage on the majority of labels you find. Trilogy Nutrition’s GABA Mag is my personal favorite.
    2. Peri-workout nutrition is paramount, so both intra-workout BCAA’s and post workout shakes are to be taken.
    3. A multi vitamin, fish oil and zinc supplements are all to be recommended whilst on this program. I prefer the Designs For Health range personally when using health related supplements.
    4. Inositol, which is a phospholipid and crucial for overall CNS and neurotransmitter health, both vital when doing such a demanding program.
  8. Exercise selection should be varied depending on the goal such as sport type, strength quality (Fat loss, hypertrophy or maximal strength) etc. As you will see below with Lauren, as she was competing in a powerlifting event we chose low bar BB back squats rather than high bar. We also chose a PL style bench press as opposed to a close grip or biacromial grip press.
  9. If you are going to use a belt, use it in week two when the RPE is high enough to warrant the need for it!
  10. Finally the most important aspect of the program in my opinion is in relation to the load used. I have found greater success using a more strategic version of the ‘balls to the wall’ approach, so I segment the RPE (rate of perceived exertion) of the two weeks in phases 1-4, as seen below:
    1. Week 1: Mon-Wed is RPE 7/10
    2. Week 1: Thu-Sat is RPE 8/10
    3. Week 2: Mon-Wed is RPE 9-10
    4. Weed 2: Thu-Sat is RPE 10/10

So how would that translate in relation to how you would set up the program? Let me explain…

With Lauren I wanted her to end the program with a 125kg squat for 5 sets of 5 reps with tempo, I knew this would translate to a 1RM of between 135-140kg depending on the day. When she started the program her PB for 5 reps was 115kg and her PB single was a slow 130kg.

Now even though I knew she could start the program in week 1 doing 110kg for 5 sets of 5 reps I didn’t, as that would have been an RPE of 9-10/10 for her, which would have placed way too much stress on her CNS initially thus leading to a reduction in load used over the two weeks rather than an increase, which I now have happen with literally 100% of my athletes who do this program following this format.

So her load progression looked like this for her low bar squat for all five sets:

  • Workout 1: 90kg (No belt), RPE 7.5/10
  • Workout 2: 100kg (No belt), RPE 8/10
  • Workout 3: 110kg (No belt), RPE 8.5/10
  • Workout 4: 115kg (Belt), RPE 9/10
  • Workout 5: 120kg (Belt) RPE, 9.5/10
  • Workout 6: 125kg (Belt) RPE, 10/10

This in turn translated to a 10kg increase in just two weeks on her personal best! Four weeks later when she competed she easily smashed the powerlifting Australia/IPF national squat record in the 57kg class with a 137.5kg figure. She has since hit 140kg in training since and is aiming for a 150kg squat in the nationals this October in the lead up to next years IPF world championships!

We also applied the same method to her snatch grip deadlift from a deficit with all 10 sets. This exercise is without a doubt the biggest bang for your buck movement one can do and the most effective tool that I use with my athletes for building up their posterior chain. Her previous best for 5 sets of 5 reps was 100kg, so I wanted her to beat this number for 10 sets by the end of the two weeks, so we loaded her as following below:

  • Workout 1: 80kg (No belt), RPE 7.5/10
  • Workout 2: 85kg (No belt), RPE 8/10
  • Workout 3: 90kg (No belt), RPE 8.5/10
  • Workout 4: 95kg (Belt), RPE 9/10
  • Workout 5: 100kg (Belt) RPE, 9.5/10
  • Workout 6: 105kg (Belt) RPE, 10/10

This translated to her hitting a personal best 145kg deadlift in competition that she completed easily, way ahead of her previous 130kg personal best! If you apply this loading schemes to all of the exercises you choose during the two weeks you will have success with your client, remember don’t let ego get in the way of both coach and client otherwise you will not obtain the level of results you want from this routine.

The final points you need to consider after completing the two weeks of training is the five day recovery period, this is the final and key ingredient to ensuring you get the most out of the program. The key points to remember are:

  1. I don’t like to take the entire five days off, I like my clients to come back in on day five and do some speed work at say 65-75% of your working weight. So in Lauren’s case on the low bar squat, we can back in on the Thursday and did 5 sets of 5 reps at 87.5kg. Why? There is no scientific rationale, I have just found getting the client back under the bar and into the movement pattern again to be beneficial.
  2. Supplements I like to keep similar to the above section, however I will usually slightly change the type of magnesium to be a magnesium/potassium blend, as potassium is vital to CNS health which you have just stressed extensively doing this program.
  3. The big key with your five days off is going to be the nutrition, dependent on the goal I like to use the following approaches as a general guideline:
    1. Fat Loss
      1. Sunday baseline high carb plan
      2. Monday baseline medium carb plan
      3. Tuesday -10% TDEE to baseline medium carb plan dependent on somatic type/body comp
      4. Wednesday-Thursday -10% TDEE low carb or isocaloric dependent on gender/somatic type/body comp
    2. Hypertrophy and Strength
      1. Sunday +20% TDEE high carb plan
      2. Monday +10% baseline high carb carb plan
      3. Tuesday-Thursday +5-10% TDEE medium carb or high carb dependent on gender/somatic type/body comp
  4. The final point you need to look at is the type of program you do post this training block. With Lauren I used this program as a peaking program, so the subsequent three weeks after it looked like this:
    1. Week 1: 3,2,1 Wave Load at 85%
    2. Week 2: 3,2,1 Wave Load at 90%
    3. Week 3: 3,2,1 Wave Load at 95% (Here she hit an easy 135kg squat for a single)
    4. Week 4: Deload and she competed that weekend

For you or your athlete, here are some examples of training systems you could go into post this program dependent on the goal:

  1. Fat Loss: Gironda System or 6-12-25 Method
  2. Hypertrophy: Omni Method or Wave Load (7,5,3)
  3. Strength: Modified Hepburn Method or Pyramid System
The first photo was Lauren initially; the second photo was 12 months later after finishing this program. She put on a total of over 10kg of lean body mass over this period of time!

The first photo was Lauren initially; the second photo was 12 months later after finishing this program. She put on a total of over 10kg of lean body mass over this period of time!

In summary, as you can see from the photo below of Lauren, this program can be very effective for building both strength but also an incredible physique. So if you want a program that will test your mental and physical capacity but also allow you to get a few months of results in short period of time then give this a try, I promise you wont be disappointed!