The topic of today's article is exercise, adaptation and how that relates to how, why and when to change an exercise program. First, we should discuss a little physiology so you getter a better understanding of how the body responds to the "stress" of exercise. Remember that not all stress is bad. Stress in the form of exercise is what our training program is all about. In physiology there is a response from the body to exercise. This
is called the SAID Principle. This means:
*** Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands (SAID) ***
The demands of the exercise program (weight training for example) would be the stress involved. The "imposed demands" of the weight training program would bring about specific adaptations by the body. This would translate to muscle growth resulting in strength gains, leaner body composition, improved range of motion as well as a host of other benefits associated with exercise.
Adaptation is specific to:
1) Mode – this is the type of training (strength training, aerobic training for example). This also involves more specifically the movement patterns, muscles involved, range of motion.
2) Intensity – this refers to the effort of the exercise, the resistance used, at what speed you move through the exercise as well as the metabolic pathways that are used.
3) Duration – this centers around the number of reps and sets of each exercise you perform in a workout. This also involves the rest between exercises. In an aerobic capacity this may refer to work intervals.
4) Frequency – the amount of recovery time allowed between exercise sessions.
The body requires a certain amount of stress imposed before it will respond with increased fitness (strength, aerobic capacity). If the body is not stressed (to a reasonable limit), it will not respond. In other words, you must have a tolerable amount of stress imposed to elicit a physiological response. The body adapts to this stress by building stronger muscles and once this adaptation has occurred no further response will take place.
Physical training is beneficial only as long as it forces your body to adapt to the stress of the effort involved.
So how does all this physiology relate to your workouts in the gym? One of the most frequently asked questions I get is: when do I change my exercise program?
The Boredom Factor:
This can be a killer for some people. Variety is key. The body does require a certain amount of continuity when learning specific exercises or movement patterns. But that aside it is important to allow some variety in exercise selection to keep the program fresh.
This is a topic for a whole newsletter in itself. But suffice to say you don't want to be doing the same number of reps and sets with the same tempos indefinitely. Not only are we looking at the boredom factor again, but the body will adapt to this quite quickly. The classic 3 sets of 10 repetitions is a killer to the body if done too long. Change up your reps, sets and training tempos every few workouts. Mix it up a little; vary the number of reps you perform. Vary the number of sets.
This is another way of changing the stress imposed. Mix up the rest/recovery time between exercises. Perform exercises in a circuit; perform supersets or giant sets.
An exercise program should be constantly evolving. Even within specific parameters of a given program there is always room to make minor changes. The key is to keep the body forever guessing and having to adapt new stresses. Each workout you should be striving to make progress, looking to see how you can improve each exercise, each set. The weights chosen for a particular exercise should be changing as well. Look to see
where you can increase the weight. If you are performing all your reps/sets with a given weight, it is probably time to increase the weight.
Overall program design should be reviewed and changed about every 3-4 months. If you are still doing the same program now that you were doing before Christmas, it is time for a change.
So in a nutshell:
1) Body adapts to stress – this is good
2) Exercise is stress – this is good
3) Each workout strive to see where you can improve
4) Don't perform the same workout longer than 3 months
5) Change the reps and sets every few workouts
6) Incorporate circuits, super sets, giant sets to add variety
7) Always look to improve – each workout!
8) Get help from a fitness pro to keep you always moving forward