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Principles of Proper Training part 2
Reading & executing programs effectively for maximum results
Exercises are core tools for producing adaptations.
However, they are one of many essential training variables.
In principle #1, we discuss the importance of proper exercise technique, as well as what it is and how it’s achieved.
Optimizing movement quality (i.e. using “good technique) allows us to apply mechanical tension to specific tissues, producing an adaptation stimulus while minimizing undue stress on the body or collateral tissue damage, allowing us to get greater results in less time with decreased risk for injury.
Good technique allows you to train more effectively, and more often.
That said, exercise selection is only 1 training variable.
Not only does an effective program depend on proper application of training variables, these variables determine the specific adaptations produced more than the choice of exercises.
What Are Training Variables?
The order in which your perform exercises, the number of sets and repetitions per set, the length of rest periods between each exercise (or even within sets), and the tempo at which each repetition is performed - these are training variables.
Together, these variables dramatically influence how you will respond to training, especially when we consider unique strengths, weaknesses, and personalities among athletes.
For example, some athletes cannot bare the thought of resting more than 30 seconds; and some athletes wouldn’t rest less than 2 minutes if you beat them with a lead pipe.
Some athletes think more is better, so they double the repetitions; and some athletes think heavier is better, until they can’t perform half of the prescribed repetitions.
Why Are They Important?
The problem is, you can completely change the type of adaptation by modifying the rest periods or repetition brackets so significantly.
There are two key concepts to understand: time under tension and work-rest ratio. These two factors largely determine the type of adaptation.
If you rest less than 60 seconds, you don’t allow for complete recovery of ATP in the muscle cell, nor do you allow for recovery of the nervous system. This prevents you from using the intensity (weight) necessary to increase maximal strength and power. Instead, depending on the exercise and how many sets are performed, you will have more of a cardiorespiratory adaptation.
We use a personality assessment with every athlete because there is extreme variation in adherence to certain parameters.
Some athletes simply cannot train effectively at higher repetitions, and some athletes simply cannot access the power (be it fiber type or personality) to progress efficiently with higher intensity training (ie lower reps, heavier weight).
The point is, however, you dramatically influence the efficacy and specific adaptations produced by a training program by manipulating training variables.
Thus, it is critical to precisely adhere to them.
Case & Point
A1 Conventional Deadlift 5 sets of 5, 3/1/X/0 tempo, 4 minute rest
B1 Hanging Knee Raise 5 sets of 5, 3/0/1/1 tempo, 4 minute rest
As you can see, there are 6 major training variables to note in the above training routine: exercise order, exercise selection, sets, repetitions, tempo, and rest period.
Typically, there is zero respect for tempo and minimal regard for rest periods. The tempo noted for the deadlift means “lower the weight for 3 seconds, pause for 1, then bring up the weight explosively and do not pause at the top”.
Naturally, for lifters who do not consider tempo, their tempo is something like 1/0/X/0. This dramatically changes the time under tension from about 25 seconds to roughly 10 seconds, which changes the training effect.
Imagine if we doubled the tempo instead, to 6/2/2/0. That would dramatically change the training effect as well, with 50 seconds of time under tension per set. The type of adaptations in regard to hypertrophy as well as the neurological and energy systems would be completely different.
The 4 minute rest period allows for nearly 100% repletion of ATP, allowing for maximal power output each set. If we cut that rest period in half, it would be a completely different adaptation; and if we cut it in half twice, another adaptation still.
We can also make this program far more efficient by changing the exercise order. Instead of 2 separate sets, we can superset the exercises and making the Hanging Knee Raise A2 instead of B1, meaning it is performed immediately after the deadlift and then a 3-4 minute rest is taken. Since these muscle groups are antagonistic, it allows the posterior chain to recover while the anterior chain is trained. And since the deadlift fatigues the posterior chain, you decrease reciprocal inhibition to the anterior chain and vice versa - increasing your strength each set. And further still, it allows you to accomplish nearly twice as much work in the same amount of time since we only rest after A2.
This antagonistic superset method was developed and popularized by Charles Poliquin.
The second principle is “adhere precisely to training variables and loading parameters.”
That means, read your program carefully and precisely adhere to each workout. Do not add, do not subtract, do not modify (unless you understand what and why you are making a modification; an effective coach will actually modify sessions quite often).
There is much to discuss regarding manipulating training variables and loading parameters to produce specific adaptations, but all of this is irrelevant if you as an athlete do not adhere precisely to them.
If it is in your program, it has an important purpose.
Hopefully this allows you to get more from your training.
Future writings will go deeper on how to design training programs to maximize specific adaptations.
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Daniel J Furtado, CPT, LMT, Owner of Honor Strength
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