The first principle is adaptation. We are trying to cause our body to adapt. Technically, we’re looking for Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID).
In the first chapter of FIT, the authors describe Hans Seyle’s General Adaptation Syndrome. In his experiments, Seyle discovered that in response to a non-lethal stressor, the organism would get stronger. We all know this colloquially now as “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.”
Following the general adaptation syndrome, we know that we want to impose stress on our physical capabilities, and in turn we will recover and get stronger. This brings up two important questions. First, how much stress? And second, how much recovery?
What we’re looking for in terms of stress is an effective dose. We’re not trying to push ourselves to the brink of death, rather, we’re trying to be efficient and leave ourselves a margin of error. Going too far leads to illness (rhabdo) and injury.
How much recovery depends on a number of factors such as age, hormone profile, sleep, and nutrition, along with lifestyle factors such as having a stressful job.
When you combine these three concepts – adaptation by way of stress and recovery, a cycle begins to appear. First, we impose stress – our capacity for physical activity decreases, then we rest – our body compensates for the stress, and bolsters it’s capacity in expectation of future stress. We call that second part supercompensation. This is what is going on behind the scenes in every successful training program.
At first, the body is not well adapted to our new stresses, and the super-compensation wave happens quickly. The continual process through wave after wave results in rapid adaptation. As the number of passes through that cycle increases, however, the rate of adaptation slows.
John Welbourn and the Power Athlete crew refer to this as “training age.” A person may not be young, but if they have not been exposed to that specific type of training, their training age is young. Strength programs such as Linear Progressions (LP) fit well with this “young” training age and the associated rapid adaptation. Similar programs exist on the endurance side, including Couch to 5K, which is where I started en route to winning a handful of 5K races and Pump n’ Runs. As training age matures, a more complex method of applying stress and recovery is required.
Instead of the cycle completing in a number of hours, the imposed stresses will take days and even weeks to recover form. Planning for this, in conjunction with individual attention to hypertrophy, strength, power and strength endurance, is called Periodization. Balancing stress and recovery over longer periods of time prevents problems such as over-reaching and over-training, which in time can lead to further obstacles like Adrenal Fatigue.
In the next post we’ll get into specific biomarkers and pairing your training with your performance goals. In the meantime, be sure to check out Garage Gym Guy on Facebook!