Sunday, April 6, 2008

Everything Works...

"Everything works. Nothing works forever."
- Charles Staley

Charles Staley is a strength and conditioning coach in Arizona. He trains everyday people who want to lose weight, get in shape or gain muscle as well as elite athletes ranging from professional and Olympic sports to martial artists and strongman competitors.

The quote above is one that Charles mentioned several years ago when someone asked him about a certain training program and if that person should use it. Charles mentioned that any program will work if you put in the effort but it won't continue to work after a certain period of time (once the body adapts to the stimulus).

You may have heard the term: periodization. This is simply a way to plan your training to make consistent progress throughout the year. There are several methods of periodization that are commonly used which I will address in a future blog. The main goal of periodization is to incorporate a planned method of progression in your training program.

There are a plethora of training programs available online and from a variety of books. And all of them work, but none of them work forever. This means that you cannot stay on the same training program forever. For most people, some sort of change (progression) is needed at a minimum of every 8-12 weeks (for beginners) and preferably every 3-4 weeks.

Most training programs are goal specific. They are designed to help you lose fat or gain muscle in a specific period of time. For the most part, once you finish the program, you cannot continue to stay on the program and reap the benefits if you go beyond what is recommended. This is why some people make incredible progress following the Body for Life plan for 12 weeks only to quickly stagnate if they don't make changes once the 12-week training period is over.

Let's say that your goal is fat loss. Then you should attack that goal with a plan specifically made to accomplish that task. It could be a periodized 12-16 week program (or possibly longer or shorter). However, once you reach the end of the program, it's best to make changes so your body will have to adapt once again. Now, if you have a lot of fat to lose and it cannot be done in 8-16 weeks, you can continue to follow a fat loss plan, however, you must incorporate some sort of progression method so the body won't continue to adapt.

The body is highly adaptive. In some cases, it only takes a few days for it to adapt to a particular training program. If your training program is well planned, it will take longer for it to adapt, thus enabling you to continue making progress.

If your training program doesn't incorporate a planned progression of change every 3-4 weeks, then you may want to re-evaluate what you are doing. A good training program will make changes every 3-4 weeks by changing exercises or hand positions, manipulating sets, reps or rest, or through total workout volume and other factors.

Also, don't forget to focus on training programs that focus on movement patterns rather than body parts. Ideally, you want to train using full-body workouts or upper body/lower body splits. This way, you can train more frequently. Research has shown that training more frequently is better than training with a high volume of work less frequently. This means that "body part" training and "bodybulding split plans" are less effective because they typically have you training each body part once a week with a high volume of sets and reps.

With full-body or upper body/lower body split plans, you can train the same muscles 2-4 times per week thus increasing strength and mass much quicker while using a lower volume of work.

The training plan you're following now may work for a while, but once you begin to notice no further increases in strength, fat loss, fitness levels or muscle gain, then it will be time to change to something different.

At Christian Athlete Fitness Training, we utilize training programs that incorporate changes every 3-4 weeks (and sometimes weekly) in order to make progress. This is done through a variety of methods including manipulation of sets, reps, rest periods, exercises and total volume in order to make consistent progress. We use programs that focus on full-body or upper body/lower body splits to train the muscles more frequently thus giving us more strength and muscle (as well as fat loss when using fat-loss specific training methods).

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