The Lifters “Longevity” Fallacy

Fallacy: a mistaken belief, especially one based on unsound argument.

Modifying demands due a musculoskeletal issue(s) is a one way road to decreasing your performance while ruining your joints in the process. Lifters FALSELY believe they are training “intelligently” and this modifying demands only approach will increase their longevity; however, when we view this thought process/”training method” through a systems perspective, it is NOT an intelligent training method. Modifying demands without addressing musculoskeletal issue(s)/expanding the individual lifters capacity in the process is what I refer to as the lifters “longevity” fallacy.

The capacity I refer to is termed intrinsic dynamics. Intrinsic dynamics is the set of movement capabilities that an individual brings with them to perform a lift. Longevity is acquired when the lifters intrinsic dynamics is equal to or greater than the demands of the lift. Simply, movement capabilities defined as: the joints involved in accomplishing the lift possessing optimal active range of motion

If the lifter does not have the movement capacity to optimally perform a lift; then they must specifically work towards acquiring the capacity required to perform the lift in an optimal manner. Simply, a lifter CANNOT modify their way out of a joint dysfunction. At some point the lifter has to specifically address the issue and restore functionality back into their system.   

When you start to the process of removing exercises (demands) you are now reducing variability. Decreased variability equals increased repetitiveness. Increased repetitiveness increasing the likelihood repetitive strain injuries, degenerative joint disease, etc., which are commonplace with individuals who lack functioning joints.

Common examples of modifying demands:

  • > removing/modifying exercises which induce pain
  • > taking an extra day(s) off from training

None of these modifications specifically address the musculoskeletal issue or directly increase the capacity of the lifter.

Achieving Real Longevity

Real longevity is achieved through increasing the capacity of the lifter. Specifically working to increase the intrinsic dynamics of the lifter. Increased movement capacity allows for the lifter to increase their variability. The human body functions as an adaptable complex system. By increasing variability, we increase complexity and adaptability of the body which enables improved emergent behavior while reducing simplicity, repetitive overloading, etc.

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

Systems Thinking: Applying Conjugate Method Thought Process to BOTH Extrinsic Demands and Intrinsic Dynamics

The conjugate method is system of training where exercises (extrinsic demands), that are similar in nature are constantly rotated. Rotating exercises avoids stagnation points (accommodation) and decreases the risk the repetitive strain injuries. Simply, variation is programmed into the training; thus, repetitiveness is reduced.

Viewing the conjugate method through the lens of varying only extrinsic training demands (exercise selections) will NOT yield optimal results from the system. To maximize the results of the conjugate method it must viewed and applied from a systems perspective. We have to look deeper than just adding variability to the exercise selection (extrinsic demands). Equally important is to apply the same thought process of adding variability to the individual lifter by means of increasing the lifter’s intrinsic dynamics (movement capabilities).

Adding variation into tasks is DIFFERENT than adding variation into the individual.

Intrinsic dynamics is the set of movement capabilities that an individual brings with them when performing a lift. Simply, the individual’s movement capabilities MUST optimally match the demands of the exercise (CAPACITY = DEMAND). In regards to this post, movement capabilities defined as, the joints involved in accomplishing the lift possessing optimal active range of motion.

For example, to perform a bench press that will induce adaption and not maladaptation (joint damage, repetitive strain injury, etc.); the lifter is required to have high functioning shoulder (glenohumeral) joints. If the shoulder joint lacks optimal of active range of motion; that joint lacks variability. Thus, we can rotate different exercises; however, due to the lack of active ROM and variability within the joint we are still stressing the same tissues repetitively.

Let’s play this very common scenario out on a lifter who only has 60% of shoulder joint active range of motion. The ONLY tissues that are being loading via training are within the 60% active range of motion. Thus, if the exercise is changed, and the intrinsic dynamics (active range of motion) has NOT been expanded upon, the same tissues within the unrestricted 60% active joint range of motion will be the ones exposed to the training loads. In this common scenario, even though the lifter has adding in variability to the training; he/she is NOT adding variability to the tissues they are loading. Simply, the lifter is not expanding his/her intrinsic dynamics.

The objective of the lifter should be to improve his/her lifts by means of expanding on his/her intrinsic dynamics. Simply, if intrinsic dynamics are expanded upon, the lifts will be improved. This is why it is imperative that lifters have a manual therapist who can assess joint function; and be able to apply principled treatment methods so that the outcome of the treatment is the acquisition of newly acquired increased active joint range of motion.

The only treatment system I have encountered that prioritizes joints is Functional Range Release (FR Release). I highly recommend lifters receive 1-2 FR treatments per month. FR treatment will expand the lifter’s intrinsic dynamics, aide in joints health, etc.

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

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

Implement an Fluctuating Overload System: Training in Waves and Deloading

“Seventy percent of the world is covered by water. It is constantly moving in waves. Some are just ripples; others as large as tsunamis. Yet they somehow are coordinated together sometimes by the seasons. Just as our training is. It is truly very natural to train in waves if one just thinks about it in a systematic way.” – Louie Simmons

I absolutely love this quote by Lou. He correctly explains how it is natural to train in waves by comparing the training of the human body to the flow of water within an ocean. What makes it accurate is the fact that both the ocean and the human body are open nonlinear complex systems.

There are levels to complex systems. For example, if we look down into the micro level of the ocean, we will see water molecules interacting with one another. At this level, the dynamic interaction of the water molecules appears to be random and chaotic with no predictable pattern. But if we zoom out and view the ocean at the macro level from the shores, we will see order and patterns in the form of waves and tides as a result of the interaction at the micro level.

It is natural for training stressors (frequency, load, duration, intensity, etc.) to be non linear; waving up and down in an ordered and patterned way just as the flow of water. It is not natural to apply linear training concepts (literal application of progressive overload) to nonlinear systems.

It takes time to adapt to training stressors; thus, regular phases of lighter loading should be prescribed following phases of heavier loading. This avoids accommodation and allows time for the longer term metabolic mechanisms responsible for structural adaptations to occur. Deloaded training combats the cumulative fatigue effective from the weeks of hard progressive training and allows the system to “realize” the effects of the previous training stressors. This method of training is a fluctuating overload system.

“Regular phases of lighter loading (deloading) are prescribed to facilitate recovery and growth, since increase in loading are associated with tissue stress and breakdown, whereas decreases in loading promote repair and restoration.” – Mel Siff

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.”

Your body is NOT a bank account

The human body is an adaptable complex system comprised of biological tissues. Biological tissues are stress responsive tissues which have the capacity to self organize and self repair. For example, when a stressor is inputted into the system, the tissues will self organize and self repair to better handle that specific stressor. The process of increasing capacity as a result of specific stressors is a biological principle known as the SAID Principle (Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands).

During the self repair process, the body will overcompensate (up to the individual’s biological limit); thus, increasing the capacity of those tissues to better withstand that stressor in the future. The body overcompensates in the repair process as it believes that that same stressor will occur in the future; however, the stressor will be worse; thus, capacity is increased.

Acute training/manual therapy stressors aid in enabling the body to increase capacity to better handle stressors in the future. If stressor inputs are removed from biological systems, the body will decrease capacity and become fragile and weak.

“Your body is a process. It starts when you’re born, ends when you die. Everything in between requires work.” – Dr. Andreo Spina

Optimal stressor inputs function as information to the complex system to overcompensate and develop increased capacity so that the organism is a better match for the demands being placed upon them. Thus, the absence of stressor inputs in biological systems is harmful.

A bank account does not have the capacity to self repair. Thus, when a withdraw is made (stressor) the account is harmed from the event.

Sadly, individuals in the training/rehabilitation, manual therapy fields do not grasp basic biological principles or complex systems. Because of this ignorance, trainers/therapists remove vital stressors from individuals, which hurts the system as a whole making the individual fragile and perpetuates the injury process.

Thanks to Dr. Michael Chivers who exposed me to complex systems and Donella Meadows book: Thinking in Systems.

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