Last year I laid out the basic strength training principles because I like to mix in basic exercises and explanations with the actual concrete reasoning on why strength training programs work….and others fail.
I still get a lot of basic questions, so hopefully this expanded version of the original article will help clear things up!
(READ TO THE BOTTOM FOR AN ANNOUCNEMENT)
Often we talk about certain exercises on Synergy, but it is important to understand the WHY not just the HOW.
First, the golden rule, or better the golden law of training is adapting to physical demands.
Adaption, defined by Zatsiorsky “In the broad sense it means the adjustment of an organism to its environment. If the environment chances, the organism changes to better survive the new conditions. In biology, adaption is considered one of the main features of living species.”
Right after a workout do you feel stronger or weaker? If you did it right, chances are the fatigue has made you feel weaker. So why does doing this repeatidly yeild a stronger person? Adaption to the increased training loads.
Also, adaptation does not only apply to adding an external load, it also applies to other aspects of training including mobility, flexibility, and tissue quality.
There are 4 primary features of adaption that are important to real world and sport training.
The training load – the weight used – must be heavier than what the person uses on a regular basis. After adaption due to overload occurs in a new athlete, the gains will be lost within 7-10 days if that person stops the exercise.
This principle changes in well trained athletes. If you workout all the time for years (the right ways), expect to see your gains diminish within 3-5 days if exercise is halted. Does this mean your squat will drop from 500 to 100 lbs? No way, but it will diminish.
The above statement brought up some controversy in the original article so let me expand by first qouting Science and Practice of Strength Training, “In elite athletes many training improvements are lost within several weeks, even days, if an athlete stops exercising. During the competition period, elite athletes cannot afford complete passive rest for more than 3 days in a row(typically only 1 or 2 days).”
So if you stop exercising, how fast can you see a diminished strength level? Elite athletes as soon as 3-5 days, a regular lifter in 7-10 days. It happens FAST. I’ve witnessed this first hand with a number of athletes that go on vacations and miss over a week of training. They never come back stronger, rarely hit the same numbers, and often drop off slightly. For example, a 275 bencher might come back and get 270 lbs.
This is why I recommend an active deload (lower volume, bodyweight exercises, etc) to keep the muscles firing as opposed to taking an entire week off and sitting on the couch.
The only case of this principle not applying is in over trained individuals (which happens less often than people think). If their bodies have been pushed passed their limits and completely diminished of strength and energy stores a break may be beneficial.
If the same training load is used for an extended period of time, the body accommodates to the movement and the gains decrease.
Most of you probably don’t know this, but I also teach high school Economics, and this principle is referred to as the Law of Diminishing Returns. Here is the lesson I use in the classroom to make sure the student’s get this concept.
I have a student come up to the front of the classroom and eat a Reese’s PB Cup and rank it on a scale of 1 to 10 on how tasty it was. Then I pull another one out and repeat. Eat, rank, repeat. The student’s eyes always get big when I pull out 20 of them and tell him/her we will be continuing for awhile.
Usually after the 5th one, the student likes them less and less. Same goes for training. If you repeat the same load over and over, the gains will diminish.
Due to accommodation, it is extremely inefficient to use the same training program over a length of time.
Here is the difficult part, an good training program will be both variable, to avoid accommodation, andstable to satisfy the demand for specificity.
This refers to the distinct adaptations that come from a training program. These adaptations are LIMITED TO the physiological systems trained – ie the muscles, aerobic abilities, etc that are used during training.
And important part of specificity is to decide which exercise improvements will equal the best gains for your goals – such as which exercises is best for real world strength, or football, or basketball, etc.
Leg extensions will improve your ability to perform leg extensions. Now, do leg extensions improve your ability to sprint if you are a football player? Not really.
Additionally, can we specificy SPEED of a movement? Yes. While there is some strength carryover, strength at low velocity do not mean an increase in high velocity strength. Speed is a very specific skill to be trained.
People are different. An exercise program for one athlete may give different results when used by two different people. I’ll quote Zatsiorsky again as he stated something I’ve been saying for years:
“Innumerable attempts to mimic the training routines of famous athletes have proven unsuccessful.”
That is why any good training program will allow for variation. In the Bull Strength Program, there is a specific template, but different exercises to choose from once you find out what works best for you. No program should be written in stone and each person will respond differently do imposed demands.
===>However general principles and concepts will remain the same in good workout programs!
Every person strength trains to acheive certain adaptations. Strength training will yeild results through the person’s body accomdating to being overloaded (loaded greater than normal daily activities). If you bench more than you normally lift, then you will get better at the bench press.
After performing the same training program, your body will get used to the movement and adapt to that specific training loads. It is important to include variety AFTER getting goals from the program.
In less than 2 weeks I will be releasing my new Powerful Muscle Recovery Manual! In the meantime, stay tuned for tons of free content in the meantime including “Life Beyond The Foam Roller!”
- Joe Hashey, CSCS -
PS. I’d love to hear your thoughts! Please post them up in the comments.
- Hashey, Joe. Bull Strength Training Manual. Synergy-Athletics 2008
- Zatisiorsky, V. and Kraemer, W. Science and Practice of Strength Training. 2nd Edition. Human Kinetics 2006.
- Baechle, T. and Earle, R. Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning. NSCA 2000.