What Drives Adaptation?
Adaptation is the entire purpose of a training program, to create enough positive stress (eustress) on the body to where it favorably adapts to the stimulus you are providing it. Adaptation can arrive in the form of strength gains, reduction of body fat, improved endurance, bigger glutes, or any other favorable performance or aesthetic goal you wish to achieve in the gym.
Here are the most influential variables in a training program when it comes to driving eustress and adaptation.
Load – The amount of weight that you lift. Getting stronger is easily the most influential variable towards physical goals. Strength not only develops muscle, but it drives central nervous system and even cardiovascular system benefits that help us do more work, as well as endocrine system benefits that promote a state of overall leanness. Strength rules.
Intensity – The pacing and macro effort you put forth in a workout. Contrary to common belief, you not only don’t need to work at a high intensity everyday, you shouldn’t. Different physiological outcomes require different workout inputs. For example, when you’re building muscle working as fast as possible is counter productive. The main portion of a movement that builds muscle is when we are lowering the weight (the eccentric state) and when we move with speed in mind we fly through this benefit and mute it.
This is why you might notice that on BUILD Fridays, we typically have a high volume, moderate to low intensity workout where we’re sustaining effort over a longer period of time.
On the flip side of that, take a “Density” format in the gym where we have three 8′ intervals. In this effort we’re looking for you to push intensity to a much higher level.
Volume – The total amount of work performed in a workout. Quality volume is always your friend on some level, but the purpose of the day is important to understanding volume. When building strength, we want a lower volume at higher loads. When we’re building muscle we want higher volume at moderate loads. When we’re developing muscular conditioning, we want a lot of volume. Impactful movements repeated many times, challenging our positional endurance, anaerobic, and aerobic capacity.
Recovery – I list this as a driver of adaptation because without it, we don’t allow homeostasis to occur and we don’t let gains sink in. This is why training everyday is ill advised.
So, what is the takeaway from this?
It all connects to the reason why we have purpose-driven days at Performance360 and how each day is skewing more towards on a specific variable.
Monday & Wednesday: Load
On Monday and Wednesday strength-intensive days, your focus should be on load. It would be a mistake to breeze through the first tier trying to get as many rounds as possible. That’s not why we’re here on those days. Slow down, focus on what’s on your bar and move with purpose and intent to get stronger. Not to accumulate reps.
Load – Max*
Intensity – Low
Volume – Low
*As much as you can move while still prioritizing your technique and ability to repeat the movement for at least 4 sets. ‘Max’ does not mean the maximum amount of weight that your body can possibly lift throwing everything else out the window.
Tuesday & Thursday: Intensity
On Tuesday and Thursday conditioning-intensive days, your focus should be on finding the appropriate intensity level, which is generally always going to be a noticeably higher effort than Monday, Wednesday and Friday.
Load – Moderate
Intensity – High
Volume – High
On Friday muscle-intensive days, your focus should be on quality volume at challenging weight. We aren’t concerned with getting as many reps as possible, we want high quality reps with a focus on movement control and time under tension.
Load – Heavy (but not Max)
Intensity – Moderate
Volume – Moderate
All of this is a generalization used to hopefully illustrate the importance of each training variable that we have. The reality is that really can’t mess this up. If you’re showing up and moving, lifting, and trying had – these are details that are ultimately only mildly relevant.
But for those of you really focused on getting the most out of each particular day, always be mindful that each day presents you a unique variable that we can use to drive further adaptation.