As we move into spring, many of us run the risk of making fatal errors to our training for the remainder of the year, and of those errors program overhaul is one of them.
This is not saying however, changing things that do not work isn’t warranted, rather, when starting out, frequent changes in programs don’t allow for adaptation. The renowned scientist Hans Seyle is known for the concept “general adaptation syndrome” (GAS) which describes the three physiological stages the human body goes through while under stress. These include the alarm reaction stage, resistance stage, and exhaustion stage.
In an effort to create a sound training program, the American College of Sports Medicine along with the National Academy of Sports Medicine uses the guidelines of GAS as a means to create resistance programs for the general population to ascertain rep ranges, exercise choice, etc.
This is done in an effort to maximize muscle development. However, the work of Dr. Seyle is best suited to avoid overtraining research on GAS done by Samuel Buckner and others on potential misapplications to resistance training.
In order to understand the dilemma, Buckner did a review of Seyle’s original work and found that his work was a result of exposure to toxic levels of pharmacological agents and stimuli.
Furthermore, the everyday lifter may follow a periodization plan for muscle size and strength in which the athlete is subjected to constant stress outside of resistance training such as in sport and life. This amount of life stress and the like doesn’t account for how the athlete should adhere to a training program to maximize gains.
Resistance Training Versus Aerobic Training
Resistance training and aerobic training are different in their own respects, according to Knuttgen. Strength training performed under high intensity for greater than 20 reps isn’t feasible. Knuttgen explains that it takes a few weeks in order for one to physiologically adapt to this form of training.
However, aerobic training uses at most 20% of maximal power and thus is dependent on oxygen delivery and small organelles called mitochondria which supply energy to tissues. He further expresses that rep ranges are a more sensible conversation when referring to strength training, while time and heart rate are vastly more important in sports such as cycling.
This doesn’t mean you cannot talk about reps during aerobic training. However, it's more useful to consider the time and type of cardio performed while allowing your body to become adapted to improve overall performance. As one advance in strength training, sets may decrease in favor of higher percentages of one’s 1RM being performed to an adjustable volume per week.
In my experience as a natural athlete, overtraining in Seyle’s definition isn’t typically reached by most general weekend warriors and focusing more on a consistent program is far more useful. In my professional recommendation, cardiovascular training should be challenging but not impossible.
Stairmaster, kickboxing, Taibo, sled pushes, battle ropes, or jump rope are some examples that help support healthy joints. Otherwise, the world is your oyster with stationary bikes, Zumba, etc. However, choose two types of cardio per week and strive for the maximum time while increasing tolerance every week. Do not begin to frequently change cardio because this along with changing strength training can become a daunting task.
My clients often have three types of cardio to complete. Most get two types done but rarely all three—and that’s alright. It's better to increase one’s time running than worry about how many mountain climbers one completes in a minute.
Strength training, as of late, has become an atrocity on social media. It seems that everyone has the latest and greatest workout plan. Some swear by having the exact exercises needed to reach your goals.
However, exercise encyclopedias do not improve your performance. They may educate you on different movements encourage you to keep an open mind, however, the main exercises are universal.
These exercises include, but are not limited to: push up, pull up, dip, squat, deadlift, hip extension-based, knee flexion, knee extension, plank, overhead press/shoulder press, row, bench/dumbbell press, and mainly patience.
Don't Make It Complicated
Confusing your body with stability ball renegade rows or jump squats on a half Bosu ball is a recipe for disaster, injury, and an award recognition on YouTube. In the words of Bruce Lee, keep it simple. Track your progress weekly and aim to keep eating and training as regularly as possible. For example, eat four meals a day and train each body part differently each day.
It’s important to leave your ego at the door and actively pursue function and strength not muscle confusion and gimmicky techniques that promise to help you reach your goals quickly. My parents would always tell me “what comes fast goes fast.“
For the advanced lifters, don’t skip the gym and don’t fix what isn't broken. Form creep may happen on certain movements, indicating tightness and mobility concerns, however, don’t seek to change your program every week.
Instead, replace an exercise or two with something different. This will provide overall well-being. Operate for success while keeping in mind failure happens—and consistency is key.