Baker Personal Training & Fitness

Continuous Adaptation: Why you don’t need to change your program every 4 – 6 weeks

As you know, I’m a classic ‘bright shiny object’ person – I start many projects, being all enthusiasm and energy for a while, until the shine starts to wear off i.e its not challenging anymore and I find something else bright and shiny to jump into.

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Every now and then though something sticks, and when it does, it sticks good and tight and I end up completing whatever project it is exceptionally well, often exceeding my own very high standards or expectations in the process.

Why am I reminding you of this?

Well, I got involved in a discussion with a well known industry person who was touting the theory that competitors only 4-6 weeks out from their competition should all be feeling miserable, cranky, deprived, hating their training, doing hours of cardio and by this point should be changing their training program from heavy weight low reps to light weight high reps.

After immediately thinking ‘why?’, I suggested that this might be an overly generalized, narrow perspective, as I was loving my training, was not miserable, cranky or deprived, was definitely not doing hours of cardio and had not made any changes to my program in ages.

And there in lies the can of worms.

The repsonse (rather smug in tone) came back suggesting that I might want to look at the fact that my program had not changed as I should be changing it every 4 weeks.

huh.

reeeeaaaally.

Well, lets just look at my training in detail and you decide. This is the bit that was unfortunately not included in my training vid by the muscle project guys – I explained it all before the cameras were rolling 😦

Firstly I did some googling to see if I could find out some research based scientific reason for changing training programs every 4 weeks. 6 and 8 weeks are also common mantras. But I came up with nothing. No studies proving that changing training program every 4 weeks is optimal. So where did this much mentioned ‘fact’ that you must change your program every 4-6 weeks to make progress come from? If anybody knows of any such study, please point me in that direction.

Now I know that the reason for changing programs regularly is to prevent your body adapting and becoming more efficient meaning less energy expended/growth/plateaus etc. But think about it, your body is a super adapting machine – how long does it take to switch into fat storage mode when you drastically cut calories?

2-3 days.

If you water load, think how quickly you get used to it and start feeling thirsty even when drinking 7+ litres?

2-3 days.

When you cut water the day before a show, how quickly does it take your body to realise that its not drowning and you stop peeing every 5 minutes?

less than 36 hours.

Given this do you think that it would take your body 4 whole weeks to adapt to a training program? May I suggest it could adapt within 2-3 days…?

bean

Which brings me back to the whole bright shiny object discussion.

If my training program was exactly the same for 4 whole weeks, I would be bored out of my brains by now and would probably have quit.

But I haven’t. Bodybuilding has stuck and it has stuck good and tight.

Why?

Because although my program rarely changes, Aiden changes the elements within my program every single session which not only keeps me guessing (very important!), but it keeps my body guessing and challenged – it can never adapt to the infinite variety and stimulus provided and hence is constantly growing and growing symmetrically.

This is the principle of Continuous Adaptation.

It’s very smart.

Before I go any further, I think I should just clarify my definition of ‘program’ as I suspect it’s not the same as yours.

By Program I mean the overall goal/purpose of the training. The ‘Why’ and ‘What’.

Elements are the bits that make up the program and get me to my goal.  The ‘How’.

My overall purpose and outcome of my program is to grow as much muscle as possible in as symmetrical way as possible. Pure hypertophy. And its working exceptionally well as last years comps clearly illustrated.

With respect to this aim, my program has not changed for 2 years, and nor is it likely to, until I achieve my ultimate goal of competing at Natural Olympia.

The elements within my program include split, sessions/week, exercises within a session, tempo, emphasis, intensity, volume.

So the bits that I call elements, equates to what most people would call their program.

Now, let me show you why I do not need to worry about changing my ‘program’ every 4 weeks.

Some of the elements within my program change less than others, for example my split (Legs, Back/Tri, Shoulder/Ab, Chest/Bi) has been the same for well over a year.

Sessions/week have also remained much the same (4 or 5) for well over a year. There were 5 weeks during comp prep when I went up to 6 sessions, but that was just to give my prep a quick turbo boost, before going back to normal.

With my split I can keep it to straight 4 days on 3 off, I can break it up 2 on, 1 off, 2 on, 2 off or 3 on 1 off, 1 on 2 off or if I want to ramp up the intensity roll straight into 4 more days with no rest.

If I go up to 5 days/week I tend to roll the split and do 5 days straight with one body part getting hit twice in 5 days, then 2 days off, then the next set of 5 days starts with a different body part which gets hit twice – so I roll the split within the roll.

for example:

week 1: Chest/Bi, Legs, Shoulders/Abs, Back/Tri, Chest/Bi

Week 2: Legs, Shoulders/Abs, Back/Tri, Chest/Bi, Legs

Week 3: Shoulders/Abs, Back/Tri, Chest/Bi, Legs, Shoulders/Abs

etc

And then I could split the 5 sessions:  3 on, 1 off, 2 on, 1 off or 4 on, 1 off, 1 on, 1 off or…

Even if I didn’t change any other elements (exercises, tempo, emphasis, intensity, volume) within a session, already you can see I have months of sessions before I get back to the same split/week combination.

Now lets really get down into the nitty gritty…the actual exercises, tempo, emphasis, intensity and volume within a session. To keep it simple I’m just going to illustrate how Aiden might stack 2 exercises from my shoulder workout:

The theory behind my shoulder workout (indeed all of my workouts) is to hit each of the delt heads at least twice in a session from different angles, I usually start with a shoulder press supersetted with a front raise.

so I often do DB Shoulder Press w BB front Raise

or DB Shoulder Press w Plate Front Raise

or DB Shoulder Press w DB Front Raise

or DB Shoulder Press w Single Arm Cable Front Raise

or DB Shoulder Press w Cable Bar Front Raise

We might dropset the last set of the DB Shoulder Press or dropset the last set of the Front raises or dropset both last sets or we might wave load/dropset the DB Shoulder press and not do a last set of front raises.

We might just do the DB Shoulder Press and go really heavy, low reps – to add strength as well as mass.

We might do 3 sets of 12 reps or 4 sets of 8 -10. We might do a 2 up 2 down tempo, or 1 up 4 down tempo, we might go explosive on the last set to make sure both fast twitch and slow twitch fibres are hit.

We might switch the DB Shoulder press to machine, cable, behind the neck BB shoulder press or smith machine shoulder press with all combinations of front raises…

And then if we giantset the press and front raise with rear delts or another medial delt exercise…

So just with these 2 exercises alone and the combinations that I’ve mentioned there is at least unique 85-90 training sessions even if every single other factor remained the same.

Multiply all of that by another 3 or 4 superset combos for rear/anterior and more medial delts over the course of the session…

The levels of combinations grow exponentially…

So just with my shoulder session alone, I have YEARS worth of completely unique training sessions before I get back to the exact same session that I started with.

And I haven’t even mentioned abs…

And then there’s the other 3 body part splits….

Another issue I see with the ‘4 weeks’ is, as  I mentioned before, boredom, which reminds me of another conversation I had relatively recently about being stuck in a training rut…I don’t think that’s something I’ll have to worry about as that would only happen if the same thing is done over and over again.  

As you can see, Continuous Adaptation provides endless variety, constant stimulation/challenge/growth for my body because we hit every muscle from every angle with a variety of tempo’s, intensities and volume. No equipment is overlooked, there are no favourite types of equipment and because of this my body also does not get used to moving and activating in the same way each time. The benefit of this is that muscle fibre recruitment is maximised, whilst dominance and imbalances are minimised, leading to improved symmetry.

Admittedly when I write it down it may does sound complex (and Aiden has it all logged away in his head!), but once you understand the purpose behind the the structure it becomes very easy. I don’t have to think about it anymore and can create any workout on the fly knowing that it will still achieve the aims of my program.

Which of course its perfect for someone with the attention span of a goldfish with A.D.D!

If 4 week programs work for you then do what works for you, but if you’re stuck in a rut, or don’t know how to change your program, or you just want to try something a little bit different – maybe you could borrow Aiden’s bright shiny object for a while

🙂

BAKER Personal Training & Fitness

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Post Comp Part 2: Training

I have lost count of the number of people who have asked ‘Am I back in Training yet?’ or stating ‘You’ll be taking a break then won’t you?’

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They then seem surprised when the answer to the former is ‘I haven’t stopped training’ and the answer to the latter is ‘No, Why would I?’

Why is this strange?

Why would I stop training?

Why would I be taking a break?

Ok, so I’ve finished competing for this year, am I supposed to just stop training as well? That’s it, we’re done and dusted, everything is great, and because I did so well this year I can just cruise along until comp season next year?

Not a chance.

Off season is when the real magic happens. In fact there are plenty of studies out there that show the (up to 12 weeks) immediately post comp are when you can make some significant ‘muscle rebound’ gains, so I am not about to waste such a window of opportunity.

Google the phrase ‘Champions are made in Training’, you’ll get approximately 150 million results. It’s something that I believe very strongly in…

Those that reach the top of their chosen sport or profession are different from those that don’t quite make the cut. Champions are made of different stuff, there is something indefinable that comes from inside. You can’t teach it, you can’t learn it – it is there or it is not.

I believe that I have it, which is why I find the concept of taking time off just because I’ve stopped competing for this year, quite odd.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying you should never take time off – there is an excellent article here (http://blog.trainingpeaks.com/posts/2012/11/30/how-much-down-time-is-too-much-the-concept-of-detraining.html) that talks about how much time off is too much time off, so I won’t go into that and I’m well aware that rest is just as critical a part of your whole process, as the training (and diet) itself. Timed, scheduled rest is crucial to growth and I do take my rest phases when they are due.  I very much enjoy them, but I’m always glad to get back to my training. It just so happens that I will be taking a break over Christmas and by an amazing coincidence it also happens to be 12 weeks after my last comp…perfect timing for a scheduled rest!

🙂

Roast Turkey and Stuffing

Another thing that appears to surprise people when they ask me about my training is how many times a week I train with Aiden. At the moment the answer is 3 a week and after Christmas I want to bump it up to 4. Now that might seem a little excessive, I mean, I know exactly how to structure my program myself, I know exactly how to manipulate my split, I know exactly how to rotate exercises in and out, when to superset, giantset, waveload or dropset to provide variety, change the intensity and keep my body growing…so why go to the trouble and expense of paying for a trainer so often?

Well firstly, lets go back to the champions argument – champions do whatever it takes to win/be the best. There is no greyness about their process – they do it or they don’t, end of story. I want to stand on the stage at Natural Olympia next year with the best physique and be in the best shape I can be in,

I want to win it and I will do whatever it takes to get there.

I am acutely aware that my muscle building window of opportunity is very short – my age, being female and the fact that I am so injury prone seriously counts against me. I am well aware that I am up against people sometimes 15-20 years younger than me and with many more years of training in their bodies than me. It means I have to wring the most out of every training session that I do.

Amongst the many reasons why I enjoy training with Aiden, and probably one of the more ‘forgotten’ reasons is that I can push, pull, lift or squat heavier for more reps because he spots me. I’ve done plenty of programs created by other trainers then been left to my own devices – quite often they consist of a lot of numbers and x’s – 10×0, 4×20, 2×20 –  I know thats all about timing, tempo and stuff, but I find this distracts me from what  exercise I’m trying to do – I spend all my time wondering what the ‘x’ means or the ‘0’, is the 2 the up or down bit? Yes I know there’s a lot to be said for this format and its purpose, its industry standard, proven etc, I just don’t like it, it de-motivates me. I overthink it.

The gym is my down time, I don’t like having to think when I’m there, I just want to lift stuff…and the first training session when Aiden spotted me was a revelation. I could lift more and heavier which meant I was getting more work done in a shorter space of time and I didn’t have to think! Who’d have thought!

So 4 sessions covers my whole split, meaning every body part gets hit as hard as it can at least once every week. Over the course of a year that adds up to a whole lot more work and hopefully will maximise my muscle building potential.

Think about it. When I train legs by myself, I can’t (won’t!) squat more than 70kg, because I just don’t feel safe. When I fail, I fail catastrophically and I really don’t like suddenly finding myself on my butt with 70kg of metal landing on me. Same thing with the bench press – I don’t like the idea of failing and having 60kg land on my chest.

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Even DLB takes a spot!

When I train with Aiden, I squat 80+ for however many reps/sets and if I fail there is someone to catch the bar and stop it falling on me. In addition to that,  when I’m getting close to failure, and I’m struggling to break out of the hole, there is someone who can help me get the bar past the sticking point and get out those few extra reps.

Doing some very simple maths, let say I train legs once a week for 48 weeks, do 3 sets of squats with 70kg for 12 reps thats:

70 * 12 * 3 * 48 = 120960 kg moved (120.96 metric tons)

Training the same reps/sets with Aiden spotting me at 80kg

80 * 12 * 3 * 48 = 138240kg moved (138.2 metric tons)

18 extra tons of metal moved?

Lets take a look at my dumbbell Shoulder Press – by myself I can just about get 17.5kg into the starting position or down to the floor without something being pulled or jerked the wrong way. With Aiden, I start at 22.5kg. He can place the dumbbells into my hands when I’m already in the starting position and take them off me just before I fail.

5kg is a big dif on a dumbbell shoulder press.

Think how that adds up across all exercises, for all body parts, every week over the course of a year…

How much extra muscle would that translate to?

If this is what we can achieve in a year with 3 sessions from such a low starting base, we know there is room for improvement and I intend to make the most of it.

front change

back sym

Does your trainer spot you? Why not? Isn’t that why you hired a trainer in the first place – to get results that you wouldn’t be able to achieve on your own?

So what is the focus of my training? Well, having done my retro (you HAVE done your retro…?), scoured photographs and talked it over endlessly with Aiden, Biceps and Abs are the key, with Chest/Tris next, and of course it never hurts to make improvements in the good bits as well. Biceps have been a victim of ongoing elbow tendon issues – I didn’t train them directly for 8 months prior to comp prep and already after just 3 weeks of ramping up the intensity, they are falling apart…again, so I’m back doing the rounds of physio and doctors trying everything they can come up with to adjust my technique, fill them full of blood/cortisone – whatever it takes, I want them fixed ASAP. If that means I do have to stop direct arm training for a period of time prior to Christmas, then so be it…I’ll just work on those abs and making my shoulders, glutes and legs even better!

At this time immediately post comp, now is your opportunity to really make an honest assessment of yourself. If you’ve done your retro, you know where you’re at and where you want to be. The next question to ask yourself is how you’re going to get there.

I love my training. I have the right trainer, with the right knowledge, by putting training at the top of my list we’re making the progress we expect and getting the results we want to see. We have a shared vision and the commitment to see this through as far as we can take it.

back progression 1 year

How many of you are lucky enough to be able to say that?

If you’re not, I’m going to challenge you as to why not? Why are you training that way, with that program, or those methods that are not getting you to where you want to be…

If you want different results, you’re going to have to do something different, now is the time to do it, and one of the key areas to make some changes is your training, especially if you’re aiming for the comps at the end of next year, you have a really good 9 months to see if what you change is working.

It’s up to you – are you a champion? Are you willing to do whatever it takes? The ball really is in your court, you just have to decide what you want and how much you want it…

If so, its time to assess, maybe overhaul and prioritise your training!

2b

Post Comp Part 1: Retro!

In a former life in one of my many alter ego’s I used to be a computer programmer. Yes, I know, you’re already skulling that extra scoop of white lightning pre workout to keep you awake at the thought, but bear with me, this will go somewhere!

Now that I’m not a computer programmer any more,but am a Business Analyst….

(Aaargh!!! it gets worse! More white lightning!!!)

Look, I’m in I.T. Ok and in I.T there is a methodology called ‘agile’, I have posted about this before and it’s a particular methodology that I really enjoy using….it’s quick, high turnover, small chunks of work, fast paced, just enough information to get the job done and deliver something usable to the customer in short rapid iterations, showcase (present) your Stuff to the customer, get approval, get them using it and move on to the next small chunk of work. You work on ‘stories’, you groom them, flesh them out and work out the details, the when your current collection (iteration) of stories are finished, you check in with yourself and the team to see how you did.

You hold a retro…

Retro as in ‘what we did yesterday is sooooooo 3 decades ago…’

As with anything retro, some things worked, some things didn’t, some things should never see the light of day EVER again (thinking stone washed patterned jeggings here….in fact jeggings,full stop…and neon coloured thong aerobics gear….and…ok that’s enough, get on with it!)

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and there are always some things could be improved upon.

I know a very select few of you are still in comp mode, but for the vast majority of us, this ‘iteration’ is done. How did you do? Did you go as well as expected? Did it all suck? Did you do better than expected? How was your conditioning, your prep, your diet, your energy, your training?

Do you know what you need to do to get it right next time?

As your resident Victorian, Australian intermediate and Agile ‘champion’ I strongly suggest you hold a retro on yourself.

The format of a retro is totally…informal, you sit on your couch, the beach, plugged in to your favourite death metal album, in your favourite cafe with a full fat mocha-frappa-latte-chino with 2 and a side of mud cake (you’re in off season! Chill out!)

You need something to write with, lots of colours are good and something got write on – the wall, the floor, back of a fag packet, spray can on factory wall….I don’t care, just don’t get caught.

Ask yourself these 3 questions:

What went right?

What went wrong?

What could be improved?

Or another way of looking at it

The good, the bad and the ugly.

This is a legitimate exercise….do it, don’t just go through it in your head or go ‘yeah, whatever’, writing it down makes it real.

I can’t tell you the number of competitors I’ve been following and watching over the last 2 years, with all the shows, workshops I’ve been to, photographed and written about, but it’s a lot.

Yet I see some competitors who go round show after show and they don’t change. I’m seeing competitors with great physical potential not going anywhere or even going backwards. There are competitors who are serial offenders at not hitting their conditioning.

Don’t shoot the messenger, I’m telling you as it is.

None of these competitors is holding their own personal retro…or maybe they are, but they are clearly not learning, changing, adapting from their competitions and results. Maybe they don’t care…I don’t know.

To my way of thinking that’s strange….why put yourself through a comp prep time after time, get results that don’t change or get worse and then don’t do anything about it? Maybe that’s just me, I always strive to learn, grow, seek new goals and challenges and if something appears to be broke, I’ll shake it until it rattles to find out why and then I’ll bust my arse to fix it.

So do it.

Write it down.

Look at it

Learn from it

Come back next comp with the weakness fixed and smash it.

Ok, now that I’ve got off my soap box, here’s my own personal retro.

Starting Weight: 64.5kg

BF%: approx 23%

Stage Weight: 53.7kg

BF%: approx 5-6%?

Fat Loss: 10.3kg

BF % Loss: approx 18% in 20 weeks

Muscle Loss: Minimal

What We Did Right:

– The whole prep! It was text book and it worked.

– Due to off season over compensation, early start was necessary – 20 weeks was a good amount of time, no extreme measures were ever required.

– Diet: Small frequent changes and tweaks kept my body guessing.

– Diet: No drastic calorie cutting – Aiden wanted me eating as much as possible for as long as possible to ensure my metabolism stayed in top gear. It worked. Perfectly.

– Diet: Fat loss consistent rate of 0.5-0.7kg for majority of prep.

– Diet: Never got down to starvation levels, always managed a relatively substantial amount of effective food. People at work could not get their head around the fact that my plate was always full of food right to the end, yet I was disappearing in front of their eyes. They could see it, but they couldn’t believe it.

– Diet: Weekly cheat meal, until 4 weeks out

– Diet: going fully ketogenic – cutting out all carbs early, approx 8 weeks from main comp.  Totally works for my body, energy levels high all day, no peaks or dips.

– Diet: Carby cheat meal 2 days prior to comp to fill me out

– Diet: Big High Protein virtually no carb meal post comp gave me plenty of energy to back up in better condition the following day.

– Training: Increasing exercise intensity intra sessions rather than increasing number or duration of exercise did not deplete my energy levels or overtrain me and meant I recovered well, was always fresh, could take days off.

– Training: Max 2 HIITs/week and only for 2 weeks

– Training: Not overtrained so energy and strength good all the way through.

– Training: Not overtrained so recovery excellent.

– Training: Not overtrained so able to backup well – stamina excellent.

– Practice Comp: Allowed a trial run at the process – water loading, carb loading, tanning, hair/makeup, look, backstage routine, pump up process and timing.

– Practice Comp: Nailed process first time, allowed repeatability.

– Practice Comp – to get nerves out of the way, very much needed.

– My look – attention grabbing – best bikinis, crowd loved ‘Pink’.

– My Conditioning – perfect at each point in time (except the last show)

– Pumping Up Process – short intense bursts leaving it as close to stage time as possible, no pumping up constantly and for hours beforehand, wasting energy that will be needed on stage.

– Timing

– Backstage attitude – relaxed until game time, then purposeful and efficient

– Posing: when I nailed it was excellent

– Physique: Legs!

– Physique: Shoulders!

– Physique: Back!

– Physique: Glutes!

– Competing: Trying out all the federations to find out what I’m best suited to

– Competing: always putting myself in the strongest categories, brings out the best in me.

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What We (I) did wrong:

– Over competing – backing up on consecutive days in different states, cost me conditioning for the 2nd show which was the more important of the two.

– Entering wrong category at IFBB Vics, having to change on the day – not a good idea to piss off event organisers!

– TAN! Feedback at most shows was about tan, rather than physique.

– TAN! Backing up using different top coats resulted in blotchiness and cost a placing.

– Entering too many categories in a show – turns out more pressure brings out the best in me not more categories

– Posing – being told I looked arrogant when I had finally managed to relax and really get some confidence at first show was a bit of a kick in the guts

– Posing – allowing previous negative feedback to undermine my confidence in every subsequent event. Affected my performance prevented me showing my physique to the best of my ability.

What Could Be Improved:

– Physique: Biceps

– Physique: Abs

– Physique: Chest can improve

– Posing: Flow

– Posing: Stage Presence

– Diet: Do not blow out so much off season

– Diet: No more crazy diet experiments, we know what works for my body so stick to it.

– Competing: Do not back up on consecutive days in different states

– Competing: Allow a full day recovery if flying interstate, 2 days if international

See, it’s easy to do.

Have a go, you might uncover something you hadn’t thought of and it might just be the difference that makes the difference next time…

2b