Get a better body the smart way
You’ve probably either heard a similar story from friends or experienced it for yourself: you go to the gym, or start running, but after a while the same exercise routine becomes a little repetitive, your enthusiasm dries up and so do your results.
You might even decide that working out isn’t for you and stop altogether.
Which would be a shame, because with a few simple tips you can take control of your workout, totally banish any thoughts of boredom and get the results you want in record time.
Evolution and adaptation
Your body has developed over millions of years with one thing in mind: how to preserve energy and limit calorie expenditure, so that limited food resources go further.
To do this our bodies have learned to adapt to new internal and external factors very quickly.
This means that the same movement with the same load uses less energy and creates less muscle the longer you use those same factors.
So if, say, you deadlift 80kg for 5 reps, or you run the same route four times per week for a year, you’ll expend far less energy and it’ll be far easier to achieve at the end of the year than at the start.
You’ve adapted to the factors you’ve exposed your body to: things that were hard become easy.
After two weeks, depending on the frequency and intensity of your training programme, your body will have started to adapt.
After four weeks, the show is almost certainly over and your muscles are coping with both the movement and the load you’re using without being particularly challenged.
To keep progressing, whether it’s in running, lifting, muscle gain, or fat loss, and to achieve consistent and better results in developing your body or physical performance, you have to understand and manipulate the concept of adaptation.
To achieve our goals and progress beyond them, we need to challenge our evolutionary ability to adapt, and one way of doing so is through adopting what is known as periodisation.
So why is periodisation so effective?
Training terminology can sometimes appear daunting and complex.
But all ‘periodisation’ means is changing the variables of your training every 2-4 weeks (depending on training frequency), so that your body is given sufficient stimuli to adapt, according to your goals.
Research, and our own extensive experience shows that changing variables through a logical path of progression is an extremely effective way of achieving results.
There are many variables you can alter, such as load, repetitions, sets, and speed of movement (tempo).
Depending on what your goal is, the variables and path of progression will be different.
Designing a programme for fat loss might be very different to putting together a programme for a bodybuilder, or a runner, for instance.
Each phase demands its own specific programme design, and this what a good personal trainer or strength coach will be able to develop for you.
You may be able to use the internet or your own experience to put together your own program, but if not investing in a good personal trainer often proves to be just that – an investment in your health and fitness, not to mention your goals.
So what can – and should – you change in your exercise program?
In our experience a lack of variation in training (whatever your method or goals) can lead to:
• Injury through repetitive strain – using the same movement over and over again
• Performance and progress plateaux due to under-stimulated muscles and a lack of physiological adaptation
• Mental and physical boredom from a lack of new stimulus
Every 2 to 4 weeks depending on the frequency, intensity and your training experience, variables should be changed to enhance performance and limit the potential plateau. Six possible variables to play with include:
1. Exercise type
3. Speed of movement (tempo)
4. Load (weight)
5. Number of repetitions (individual times performed)
6. Number of sets (groups of repetitions – duration)
Or for runners, you could play with these variables:
3. Terrain (hills, off road, etc)
4. Load (using a weight vest, for instance)
5. Adding in cross training using your natural environment, for instance jumping and landing, pull ups, push ups, and so on). This is a great way of becoming an all-round athlete
And what variables can I change within each phase?
As we’ve mentioned above, there are a number of variables we can change, other than just the training phase.
These other variables include the number of sets we perform per exercise, the number of exercises we use in a session, the load (weight), the number of repetitions in a set of exercises, the speed with which we perform a movement and, importantly, the amount of rest we take between each set.
The key to periodisation is being organised enough to plan your next phase.
When you’re organised and have planned in advance, you can move on as soon as your body has adapted to the current physical stimulus.
You’ll know when you get there because you’ll feel things feel easier. This is when you need to push yourself and move to the next level.
Otherwise, you’ll just keep on doing the same old thing, and your results will fade as quickly as your motivation to succeed.
Through careful planning using the principle of variation, or periodisation, plateaux can be broken and continuous, dramatic results are possible.
For those who are new to these strategies, we hope you decide to take the time to implement the basic plan we’ve covered here – it’s worth every second.
Get yourself a few blank sheets of paper and pen, or a spreadsheet, and start taking control of the next 12 weeks of your exercise program now!
To your lean, healthy, optimised future
Matt & the Optimised personal training team