Strength 101: The Basic Rule Of Training


There is Science and Research in the post!  I know you want more than just fluff like a lot of other training sites.

If you hate science, there is a summary at the bottom!


Often we talk about certain exercises on Synergy, but it is important to understand the WHY not just the HOW.

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.

There are 4 primary features of adaption that are important to real world and sport training.

  1. Overload
  2. Accommodation
  3. Specificity
  4. Individualization


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. 


If the same training load is used for an extended period of time, the body accommodates to the movement and the gains decrease.

===>If you are skimming TUNE BACK IN!

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?  No.  


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 gamous 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.

===>However general principles and concepts will remain the same in good workout programs!


Every person strength trains to acheive certain adaptations.  Strength trainingwill 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. 

==> Conclusion. 

Don’t throw out the concepts behind a successful training program, individualize and change it for your needs.  Apply the concepts above and get your GAINS!

- Joe Hashey, CSCS -

Joe Hashey is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist and owner of Synergy Athletics, found on the web at Joe has authored the Bull Strength Manual, Bull Strength Conditioning, and is a sought after speaker at strength and conditioning seminars. He is currently giving away three cool BONUSES with the Synergy Athletics Newsletter – check it out and get on board!


  1. Hashey, Joe.  Bull Strength Training Manual.  Synergy-Athletics 2008
  2. Zatisiorsky, V. and  Kraemer, W. Science and Practice of Strength Training. 2nd Edition.  Human Kinetics 2006.
  3. Baechle, T. and Earle, R.  Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning.  NSCA 2000. 

Synergy Facebook Comments


  • Jay Ashman

    Reply Reply November 11, 2009

    good stuff, but I do disagree with the 3-5 days for an elite athlete. If that is the case then we would see a plethora of athlete’s squats dropping week by week, correct?

    How did you come up with that number and can you further clarify that?

    • Admin: Joe Hashey, CSCS

      Reply Reply November 11, 2009

      Here’s the qoute from Science and Practice of Strength Training – Basic Concepts of Training Theory – “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).”

      Like I wrote, ‘when exercise is halted’ as in if you are an elite athlete and you sit on your ass for 3-5 days, then you will not coming back as strong or stronger.

      Now in the instance of a elite squatter, halting training would mean no reverse hyper, no box squat, no deadlifts, no exercise whatsoever. I agree with Zatsiorsky’s reasoning when it comes to this concept.

      However, very few of us have to worry about that since not many people are elite athletes.

      - Joe

  • Jay Ashman

    Reply Reply November 11, 2009

    ahhh when you explain it like that, that makes total and complete sense. I was thinking you meant movement specific as in “squat today and 5 days later squat again and the weight goes down”. That is the way it read at first, but I see you didn’t mean that.

    But then how would you explain that sometimes taking a few days off for recovery and mobility means you come back at the same weight or a bit stronger then when you left? That has happened to me before.

    Of course we don’t have to worry about that, but we do have to worry about intermediate and advanced athletes, so lets average out the 7/10 and 3/5 to find our sweet spot.

  • bryan

    Reply Reply November 11, 2009

    good article…yet again

  • Admin: Joe Hashey, CSCS

    Reply Reply November 11, 2009

    thanks Bryan! I think you’ll really like one I’m on for next week…its been taking me forever to finish the research though!


  • Jack

    Reply Reply November 11, 2009

    Excellent stuff, Coach Hashey.

    With regards to point one, would planned overreaching be an exception to this? Namely intentionally overreaching, with the degree to which you do so determined by the subsequent down time, so that you actually rebound even stronger and/or gain muscle upon returning from the layoff?

    Obviously this would still only refer to a narrow window of 7-14 days or so, but I am just curious how you feel about the potential to keep intensity up and jack up training volume for a brief period before such a layoff.

    I also recognize that in your own training situation that this is likely a non-issue, as planning periods of intentional overreaching is unlikely, given the highly variable schedules and family demands of junior high/high school athletes. So this is more out of curiosity than anything else.

    Or would you consider this a different thing altogether, since you’d actually be running yourself into the ground (or close to it) and leaving the gym at a low(er) point only to come back to a peak, as opposed to hitting your peak and then maintaining? I suppose this doesn’t qualify as an exception, since the actual adaptation has yet to take place until during the down time, and if you took another week off after that adaptation and initial return to the gym, then you’d have some measure of drop off from that new point……… I am just thinking out loud.

    Sorry for posting yet another rambling post, hah, hah.

    I need to find that off switch on my brain. Train more, think a bit less, right? ;)

  • Jerry Shreck

    Reply Reply November 12, 2009


    First, excellent post!! But I feel like I might stir the pot a little by the remarks I am about to give and that is the beauty of strength discussions.
    I respect Zatsiorsky greatly and I have his books and agree with almost everything he has ever researched or wrote, but with my own experience with my athletes (these are not elite athletes); I do not see diminishing strengths taking 3-5 days off. I typically give our athletes 3-5 days off from training before we do our testing. My view on this is simple-I break the athletes down a little each off-season workout and I have found that about 3-5 days of none weight training allows my athletes to recovery fully and provide them with their maximal strength/power output. I think it starts to diminish after 5-7 days. Again, this is only my opinion and what I have seen from my athletes from years of training and testing athletes.

    • Admin: Joe Hashey, CSCS

      Reply Reply November 12, 2009

      Jerry and Jack – awesome thoughts as always! Jack – keep the rambling, its good to read! (and the training.

      Jerry I hear what you are saying. However, I’m still leaning towards his reasoning, but I think we both “could be right.”

      What Zatisorsky should do is quanitify how much of a decrease to expect – although that may be too much of a guess.

      I could see the decrease being very nominal (perhaps statisically insignificant) over the short period of time. So the decline in strength may not be even as much as 5 lbs, but it is still on the downward slide during extended NO exercise.

      Good stuff Jerry!

      - Joe

  • Larry

    Reply Reply April 4, 2011

    Awesome article Joe! Good to get the scientific reasoning behind the stuff that alot of us are attempting to mimic in the gym and not just simply going out there and doing it because someone heard from someone else that it was good to do. We really need a gym like yours down here in south Jersey! I know Zach Even-Esh and the Underground Strength are up in North Jersey, but we need you guys to spread the love down this way! I know a ton of people down here that can use your wisdom and techniques. I’ve been in the military for over 10 years now and it crazy going into the gym on base and seeing people that obviously have no clue as to what they’re doing end up hurting themselves or even worse share their bad techniques/ideas with younger guys who are eager to learn and get into better strength. Sorry for the rant, but I think you’re an awsome trainer and am always tuned in! Again, great article!!

  • Sam

    Reply Reply August 11, 2013

    Joe- Will accomodation occur if one continues increasing load (so fulfilling the overload rule of training) even if one continues a workout protocol for 2-3 months? If not, how often should a protocol be modified? Thank you.

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