The Art of Being Flexible with Your Training Part 1
By Chris and Eric Martinez
If only we could travel back in time and know what we know now, maybe we would be world-class powerlifters or competing at the Olympia 😉
All Joking aside, we remember following cookie cutter training programs out of muscle magazines, copying trainers workouts at gyms, following workouts out of books, basically doing whatever we could to grow and get strong.
Our effort and desire were great, but the main issues were we were too rigid with our training, didn’t focus on training quality, and weren’t 100% in-tuned with our bodies and thus realizing that environmental and lifestyle factors played a significant role in our daily training performance.
To quote John Kiely (Kiely 2012):
“In addition, consider the influence exerted by environmental and Lifestyle factors on biological responses. For example, a wide range of imposed stressors such as:
These all have been demonstrated to variously down regulate the immune system, dampen adaptive response, and negatively affect motor coordination, cognitive performance, mood, metabolism, and hormonal health (Rogers 2001; Aubert 2008; Stranahan 2006; Savtchouk 2011; Carl 2001), and these all consequently reduce performance (Paulus 2009) and elevate risk injury (Kelman 2000).”
And this is where the art of being flexible within your training comes into play.
Treat Your Body Like a Garden
“When you think about your body as a garden, it’s almost ludicrous to even consider the idea of forcing some type of adaptation (strength, power, muscle growth). All you can do is nurture it and provide it with the best conditions for growth. You fertilize it, tend the soil, uproot the weeds, water it, leave it in the sunlight, and give it the best conditions for growth. It will only grow as well as its circumstances allow.
That’s a much more accurate metaphor for how training works. A holistic view of training treats sleep, nutrition, stress management, and enjoyment and motivation as conditions just as necessary for growth as the actual training itself.” – Greg Nuckols
This aligns very well with what Kiely spoke about needing to focus on environmental and lifestyle factors within your training. In order to keep progressing in your training, there comes a time when you need to grow up, just like a plant does, and start being in tuned with your body and lifestyle surrounding it.
Going through the motions daily and not observing your training will lead to mediocre gains, and that’s okay if you want to remain looking the same and lifting the same weight year after year. But if you want to progress, get stronger, get bigger, have more quality workouts, and be more in tuned with your body then something you should consider trying is…
A Better Way to Gauge Intensity During your Training
We’ve been experimenting with “informal note taking” during our training.
This is a great way to gage your effort during sets when not lifting to muscular failure, and could therefore help with the planning of your training, help reduce the tendency to train to failure on every set of every exercise, keep you healthy, have more quality workouts, and be more in tuned with your body, and have you increasing your training volume over time (which has been shown to be the most important training variable that increases strength and muscle mass). There’s some good data supporting this from the Journal of Sports Sciences (Hackette 2012) and the Journal of Strength and Conditioning (Zourdos 2015).
Try using informal note taking on the main lifts like this:
- Feelings like: “easy,” “medium,” or “hard”
- Use a 5 point scale where 1 was easy and 5 was hard
- Use the RIR scale (repetitions in reserve scale of 7-10) 7 being you had 3 reps left in the tank, 8 being you had 2 reps left in the tank, 9 being 1 rep left in the tank, and 10 being you had no reps left in the tank and it was maximum failure
These informal notes helps us look back at the main lifts and forces us to pay attention to them more, helps us assign and adjust load and volume depending on environmental and lifestyle factors, helps us reflect on and honestly evaluate each set, and this will help keep our working sets dialed into that zone of quality.
Stay tuned for part 2 of “The Art of Being Flexible with Your Training”….
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