Variety And Its Relation To Adaptation

Carrying on with the theme from a couple of days ago, the Evolution post essentially dealt with the theory that if new cells are being created due to real and measurable growth in areas such as tissue growth, bone density and lung capacity to give examples, then the body is arguably becoming younger. Today I thought we could talk a little bit about how to accomplish that. For the novice lifter or athlete, the path is painfully simple to follow. For the advanced lifter or athlete, the path is well… just painful.

If you’re new to the world of training in whatever capacity, be that weights, sports or many of the other possibilities, then the exponential growth that you will experience at the beginning will be larger and faster than you will ever experience again. Every system of your body will be experiencing the training stimulus for the first time, and like we learned previously, adaptation will occur at an amazing rate at this early stage.

For those of us that have been doing this for a while the reality is a harsh one, and you need to be very strong willed in order to move forward. We are going to be required to work a little bit harder each and every time we train. Of course there will be periods of detraining or a technique I like to employ, a complete change in strategy. I find this to be particularly effective because the first few weeks on any new program will take some time to get the rhythm and intensity back up to its normal levels. By the time I’m back to my normal speed my gains from the previous program have had a chance to catch up. Also my recuperative reserves and over stressed hormone and adrenal systems, to name a few things in need of recharging, will be back to their full output and capacity. This is a way to employ variety as a method to allow adaptation to take place.

This got me thinking a little more along those lines this morning as my good friend @ryancaicco dragged my weary body through a really great mix of medicine ball core exercises. Ryan has a seemingly endless supply of drills that all accomplish something different. In the time we’ve been training together I’ve done hundreds of different drills with weights, ladders, medicine balls, treadmills, jump ropes, rowing machines, kettlebells, and on the list could go. I have yet to do the same thing twice. Give him a big rock and a tree branch and I bet he could put a program together on the spot that hits everything from head to toe. Link everything is his motto. Make the body work as one.

Getting back to that thought I had, a rank beginner adapts incredibly quickly to the new training stimulus or else they will literally break, and the advanced trainer, because he or she has adapted to an already very high level of training stimulus, needs to constantly push that much harder. We covered this I know, but bear with me. I definitely qualify as an advanced trainer, but I’m a raw beginner as far as all of these new drills are concerned.

I have very little experience with this type of training, essentially an athletes training program with a serious focus on functional strength, mobility and agility. The messages my body is constantly sending me are backing up what my brain is telling me. I am being forced after many years of training more or less one way, to rapidly adapt due to an entirely new training stress. Adaptation is occurring with me lately like it would for a beginner!

In fairness though, this is some serious training. I’ve never trained harder, so yes there is always going to be the need to push for more. The positive side of this is that the gains are adding up very quickly. The negative, if there is one, is the pain in strange places that up to this point have not been put under a training stress as severe as this. The pain I can live with a lot more easily than the alternative, which would be staying in the same place and not progressing. That is a reality I just don’t want to accept.

As I stated in Evolution, I believe that incremental progress is always possible, and taking on an entirely new training method may be a way to inject a healthy dose of new adaptive changes to one’s physique. There are of course other ways to introduce variety to elicit new adaptation aside from the specific type of training I’ve been doing.

If you aren’t as fortunate as I am to have an extremely knowledgeable and driven person willing to teach you as you train together, then there are always changes to your program that can help speed along the adaptive process. If you read Finding Your Rhythm, then you know that there is a groove to any exercise or drill that you need to find in order to receive the gains that the specific exercise or drill has to offer. In that same article I briefly discussed tempo as it pertains to repetitions. I’d like to suggest here that by simply increasing your tempo, that change in pace will force new adaptive progress. The changes to your program don’t have to be wholesale as I am a proponent of, as minor tweaks will still give you some new and added benefit.

If continuous progress via continual adaptation is on your to do list, then chances are that variety will be a key component of your long term training strategy. Unless you’re an athlete training for a specific sport, you won’t be limited by your options to the approach of your training program. I’m going to get into what those athletes that are constantly trying to progress at their chosen discipline do to continually make gains in another article. Continual progress isn’t always possible for everyone under these conditions, because it’s the truly gifted that excel in the arena of the elite athlete. Until next time,

Happy Lifting!


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