Implement an Fluctuating Overload System: STOP #ProgressiveOverload Training

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

If I could, I would stop the hashtag #MakeProgressiveOverloadGreatAgain. Literal application of progressive overload has never been great, ever. Fact is literal application of progressive overload does not, will not and has not worked. Progressive overload is a linear “training concept” (A → B → C → D and so on = linear process); that when applied to a nonlinear dynamic system (human body), fails to produce anything other than diminished results and injury.

Progressive overload states that strength and all other components of fitness increase if the training becomes gradually more demanding via loading.

Let’s play progressive overload out in regards to a 20 year old male who’s bench press is 225 pounds. Each week he will increase the load by 2.5 pounds. In his first year he would gain 130 pounds to his press, bringing it up to 355 pounds. At this rate by the time he is 25 he will be pressing 875 pounds and by 30 he will be at a world record of 1,525 pounds! It’s clear to accomplished lifters who understand training principles that this will not happen; even though there are severely unaccomplished Instagram “trainers” who would actually debate this issue.

“The major limitation with the gradual overload principle is obvious, namely, that a stagnation point is reached, despite further increase in loading. The performance growth curve flattens out and a limit to further growth is reached (accommodation). This phenomenon is what prevents the same person from constantly breaking world records.” – Mel Siff

Verkhoshansky and Siff state in Supertraining that It is inappropriate to apply this principle literally, since research has revealed that optimal progress is made if the increased loading phases are alternated periodically with decreased loading phases.”

Fluctuating Overload System

In a fluctuating overload system, continual increased loading does NOT occur for a prolonged period of time. Simply, there is not a continual increase in loading WITHOUT any decrease. Thus, the direction of loading is positive in the long term, but alternating between positive and negative during the short to intermediate. The rate of loading to apply an optimal training stimulus is dependent on the particular individual.

People in the fitness industry like progressive overload because it is simple and linear; however, the body is complex and nonlinear. It is easy to consume information that is simple and linear; thus, social media is filled with this easily digestible inaccurate information. Fast food is on every street corner and is equally convenient; however, it does not mean it is healthy.

The training system, much like the individual/athlete cannot be rigid; but must be adaptable in order to induce optimal results.

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John Quint NMT, FR, FRCms, FRA, ART, CAFS

The SAID Principle

“In matters of style, swim like a fish, in matters of principles stand like a rock.” Thomas Jefferson

The human body is an adaptable complex biological system which adheres to biological principles. To attain optimal results (adaptations) in regards to the process of training/treatment, one must adhere to and apply these basic principles. One of the most fundamental principles is the SAID Principle; Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. It means that when the human body is placed under stress, it will start to (up to the point of biological limit) make adaptations which will enable the body to get better at withstanding that SPECIFIC form of stress in the future. Essentially this Principle means that the human body is always trying to get better at EXACTLY what you do.

The SAID Principle is a law that fundamentally defines the process of training, treatment, and essentially life. The concept that the human body functions as a complex biological system which has the ability to adapt to stressors by building extra capacity and strength which are specific to that stressor, as the body predicts that it will be exposed that stressor again in the future. Extra strength and capacity is developed as the body prepares for what has YET to happen, assuming a worse stressor is possible. In training terms, if you lift 100lbs (your maximum), a certain amount of additional strength and capacity will be added as your body predicts the next time you may have to lift 110lbs.

In effect the law says that stressors act as critical information for the complex biological system. Furthermore, it states that the human body can benefit from stressors (make adaptations; build strength, capacity, etc.), up to its biological limit and the adaptations are SPECIFIC to the stressors.

Understanding that the body specifically adapts to stressors is CRITICAL to the success of any training or treatment protocol. It is empowering to the trainer, coach, therapist, etc. The training/treatment process can be defined as: applying specific physical stress via training/treatment stimulus, recovering from that stress, and thereby adapting to that stress by developing extra strength, capacity, function, etc. Thus, optimal adaptations reflect careful planning, coordination and implementation of training/treatment.

If you found this post to be informative, please share and subscribe to my blog to receive posts directly to your inbox. Thanks for reading and please check out my online services.

John Quint NMT, FR, FRCms, FRA, ART, CAFS

Managing Expectations: Soft Tissue Injuries in Weight Training

“Nothing happens to the wise man against his expectation.”
– Seneca

Injury prevention for weight training has become a mainstream topic. “Injury prevention” makes one assume that injuries are preventable. Having been involved in weight training as an athlete and therapist, I can tell you that injury prevention is a fallacy. Injuries are a part of weight training as much as barbells, deadlifts, etc.

Weight training (squats, deadlifts, etc.) is a non contact “sport”. Theoretically injuries in non contact sports should be preventable. But as Yogi Berra said: “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice they are not.” Thus, if you are under the assumption that you can prevent an injury from occurring; you are setting yourself up for failure due to unrealistic assumptions and expectations.

A pragmatic expectation is that injuries occur in weight training. If you do not manage your expectations and are surprised when an injury occurs, you are going to be miserable and the injuries will be that much harder to overcome.

All the greatest lifters, whether it be in bodybuilding, powerlifting, etc., all have encountered numerous injuries (see: Dorian Yates, Ronnie Coleman, Ed Coan, Louie Simmons, etc.). The injuries and overcoming them is what made these men some of the greatest of all time.

The bottom line is in weight training there is a lot of variables that we can control; however, there are just as many if not more external factors that we do not control. This means, by no fault of our own, it will not always go our way.

Great lifters understand the reality of external factors. Their mindset is to control what they can control and that is themselves. This mindset mentally prepares them for the adversity that comes with injury. Anticipate success but be prepared for both success and failure.

I have come to the conclusion that injury prevention is a fallacy. External factors make it impossible. Thus, we should immediately abandon the phrase injury prevention and replace it with injury mitigation.

With expectations now aligned with reality, we can look to what we can control, mitigating injury.

If you found this post to be informative, please share and subscribe to my blog to receive posts directly to your inbox. Thanks for reading and please check out my online services.

John Quint NMT, FR, FRCms, ART, CAFS

Part II Bulletproofing Your Spine: Reverse Hyper & Optimal External Loading

“You do not want to train maximal…You do not want to train minimal…You want to train OPTIMAL.” – Louie Simmons/Mel Siff PhD MsC

An optimal external training load will induce positive adaptations of increased fitness that will function to protect against injury. If the external training load is below optimal (minimal), positive adaptations of increased STRENGTH will NOT occur due to under training. If the external training load is above optimal (maximal), it can result in decreased physical fitness and at worse induce injury due to over training.

Part I detailed how strength acquisition of the spine requires a progressive increase in external training load. The aim of Part II is to enable you to understand what an optimal external training load is for you in regards to the reverse hyper. Strength acquisition requires an understanding of how to optimally apply/manage external loads.

“The ideal training stimulus ‘sweet spot’ is the one that maximizes net performance potential by having an appropriate training load while limiting the negative consequences of training (ie, injury, illness, fatigue and overtraining).” – Tim Gabbett PhD

Tim Gabbett’s approach to optimizing external training load to improve performance and avoid injury is the ratio of “acute: chronic load ration”. This ratio describes the acute training load (most recent week’s training load) to the chronic training load (preceding four-week rolling average of acute training load). He recommends referencing the change or increase of training load relative to the preceding four-week average, NOT just the preceding week alone.

For example, if the average amount of weight lifted on the reverse hyper over the previous four weeks was 8,000lbs per week and the current week was going to be 9,000lbs — dividing the chronic work load 8,000 by the current week (acute) of 9,000lbs the ratio is: 1.13. According to the work of Gabbett (pictured below), the ideal ratio, “sweet spot” is 0.8 – 1.3.

Gabbett’s work enables us a way to numerically define minimal training, maximal training, and optimal training in regards to external loading:

  • > Minimal is below 0.8
  • > Maximal is above 1.5
  • > Optimal is 0.8 – 1.3

Review:

  • > Optimal loading will induce positive adaptations of increased fitness that will function to protect against injury.
  • > Maximal loading increases risk of injury and/or decreased physical fitness/performance.
  • > Minimal loading results in under training.
    ***Under-trained individuals are also at a high risk for injury and/or decreased physical fitness/performance.

If you found this post to be informative, please share and subscribe to my blog to receive posts directly to your inbox. Thanks for reading and please check out my online services.

John Quint NMT, FR, FRCms, ART, CAFS

Reference: 
Gabbett TJ. The training-injury prevention paradox: should athletes be training smarter and harder? Br J Sports Med Published Online First: 12 January 2016. doi: 10.1136/bjsports-2015-095788

Part I Bulletproofing Your Spine Series: Reverse Hyper

“Clearly, for athletes to develop physical capacities required to provide a protective effect against injury, they must be prepared to TRAIN HARD.” – Tim Gabbett PhD

The reverse hyper developed by Westside Barbell owner Louie Simmons has been used by the strongest gym in the world for decades, generations of lifters and athletes, WITHOUT causing spinal injury. Critics of the reverse hyper claim it’s unhealthy and dangerous for the spine. The only thing dangerous and unhealthy about the reverse hyper is NOT regularly performing it.

For one to develop physical capacity, they must be optimally exposed to the hard physical stressors of training. Training loads, specifically external training load, will be the main stressor of focus in regards to the reverse hyper. External training load (i.e. physical work) is critical in understanding the work completed and capabilities/capacities of the individual. Simply, defined as the amount of weight lifted in regards to weight training.

It’s vital to understand training with NO progressive increase in external training load will NOT develop increased strength. All the high repetitions non loading back exercises (bird dog crunches, cat camel, etc.) do NOT develop strength. Strength development of the spine or any biological tissue requires a progressive increase in external loading.

“…the use of very mild back exercises will do VERY LITTLE to increase the functional strength of the large and powerful muscles of the back. To strengthen the back, one must CHALLENGE the back muscle adequately and gradually INCREASE the TRAINING LOAD which work the back through its FULL FUNCTIONAL RANGE, otherwise THE BACK WILL REMAIN AS WEAK AS IT WAS and recurrence of back problems is inevitable.” – Mel Siff PhD, MSc

High repetitions training with NO progressive increase in external loading will develop muscular endurance, some hypertrophy, but NOT strength. Strengthening the spine requires exposing the tissues to progressive external loading training stressors in an optimal setting. There is NO better exercise that allows an individual to progressively overload using external load to strengthen the spine than the reverse hyper

If you found this post to be informative, please share and subscribe to my blog to receive posts directly to your inbox. Thanks for reading and please check out my online services.
 
John Quint NMT, FR, FRCms, ART, CAFS

Maximal Effort Method to Optimize Lifting Mechanics

“It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.” – Mark Twain

The most effective training method to optimize lifting mechanics for compound movements (deadlift, squat, press, etc.) is Maximal Effort (ME) Method. There is an inaccurate thought process that lifting maximal weights is unsafe. This thought process is normally that of the physical therapist who weighs 100lbs and spends his time posting videos on Instagram practicing movements or the out of shape strength coach who is unable to deadlift his own body weight. In theory one can argue (incorrectly) that ME method is “unsafe”; however, the fact of the matter is in practice ME method is the best method to optimize the efficiency for compound movements.

“In theory there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” – Yogi Berra

The most efficient way to optimize lifting mechanics is to SUBTRACT the ways in which the lift can be accomplished. Since lifting light weights is easy, the body can formulate almost an infinite number of movement solutions that will accomplish the task. For example, if you squat down and pick up a 10lb kettlebell there are literally thousands of different movement solutions, with endless combination of options that would accomplish the task. You could be on one leg, or you could be on your tiptoes, etc. If you performed this light lift repeatedly, you would use your joints in combinations that you may possibly never use again.

Simply, lifting light weights enables the body to formulate more movement solutions, which increases the complexity; thus, decreasing the odds of improving mechanics or using optimal mechanics. Experienced lifters who train compound movements with heavy weights understand this concept; that is why their heavier sets “feel” and generally look better. Their non working warm up sets will not be as mechanically efficient as their heavier working sets, as they can get away with not being 100% on point. Once the weight gets heavier, the body narrows down movement solutions; thus, optimizing lifting mechanics.

The body is an adaptable biological complex system, which in this scenario gains knowledge by subtraction, NOT addition. By examining ME method through a systems perspective, we can see the load acts as a resistance to the musculoskeletal component part of the system. As the load increases, resistance increases which decreases the amount of movement solutions that will accomplish the lift. Thus, as the load increases it acts to assist the central nervous system component part of the biological complex system by narrowing the range of options (movement solutions).

Training compound lifts using ME method narrows the movement solutions down to very fundamental and powerful mechanics. For instance the mechanics of picking up a 10lb kettlebell is going to look very different from the mechanics of deadlifting 315lbs of weight with 200lbs of band tension. Therefore, if the aim of training is enhance lifting mechanics (which it should be), Maximum Effort Method must be applied.

The method of maximal effort is considered superior for improving both intramuscular and intermuscular coordinations; the muscles and central nervous system (CNS) apart only to the load placed on them. This should be used to bring forth the greatest strength increments.” – Vladimir M. Zatsiorsky, Science and Practice of of Strength Training

In both Science and Practice, the ME method is superior for improving both intramuscular and intermuscular coordination. Simply put, muscles are composed of muscle fibers which are under the control of motor neurons. This relationship when viewed from a systems perspective is referred to as the neuromuscular system. Lifting maximal weights enhances the performance of the neuromuscular system by removing movement solutions for which the system can formulate, thus optimizing lifting mechanics and enhancing long-term potentiation**.

I was exposed to the method of maximal effort by Louie Simmons of Westside Barbell. I am beyond grateful for all I have learned from Lou, Tom Barry and all the individuals at Westside Barbell.

If you found this post to be informative, please share and subscribe to my blog to receive posts directly to your inbox. Thanks for reading and please check out my online services.

John Quint NMT, FR, FRCms, ART, CAFS

**In neuroscience, long-term potentiation (LTP) is a persistent strengthening of synapses based on recent patterns of activity. There are patterns of synaptic activity that produce a long-lasting increase in signal transmission between two neurons. > “Cells that fire together, wire together.”