Recently, a gym buddy of mine experienced a horrific injury during a “workout” (a nonsense term I avoid using at the greatest possible costs) and it brought to mind a conversation he and I had a few years ago about my methods of coaching for improvement.
He had finished his workout and on his way out the door, was watching me go through a few sets of the Turkish Get-Up with my 32kg bell (the heaviest I had at the time). I finished my final set, and he asked me, “What’s that do? I mean, what is it working?” Anyone who has performed TGUs in a corporate gym environment over any length of time has heard either or both of these questions. Sometimes they come from members, and sometimes (frighteningly) they come from staff.
I contemplated my answer for a moment. And not because I didn’t know.
I paused because I didn’t know how much he was ready to hear.
Keep in mind, to this very day, he is an incredibly strong individual, and has an impressive physique to boot. I know he has been in and around the ‘iron game’ for his entire adult life, and likely, much of his younger years, as well.
I had watched his training regimen in the past, and knew his approach was pretty classic 80’s/90’s hypertrophy stuff. Drop sets, pyramid sets, giant sets, supersets, all the sets.
When we talked, we rarely discussed the kind of training we did, but he was open in his respect for me and my commitment to my approach. He was outspoken in his opinion that I was “wasting my time in a place like” 24 Hour Fitness, and that I could be earning 5 or 6 times what I was making with them. He thought I deserved to be working in a Los Angeles or Beverly Hills kind of market, and that I ought to move to Santa Monica to make real money. He never asked me outright to explain my philosophy. Yet, what he saw in 5 years’ time, he deeply respected.
(Oh, this might be a good time to point out that he also is a trainer. Not employed by the company, but instead wisely uses it as a way to guerilla market his brand, and to build his outside business. I knew a few people who had worked with him. They liked him as a person, and felt he was ‘pretty good’ for what he did as a trainer. He understands much of the science, and employs a great many sound techniques in his work.)
Despite all that, I never saw him spend a moment on a foam roller. I never saw him stretch. I saw him occasionally on the stair climber, and sometimes he would perform strange sprints on the elliptical machine, yet I didn’t see anything resembling recovery protocols.
Instead, it was loading, loading, loading. Heavier, heavier, heavier.
Then came the adaptive techniques. Barbell back squats with chains. Barbell back squats with a box. Barbell back box squats with chains. Barbell box jump squats with chains. (I just made that last one up. NONE OF YOU TEENAGE MEATHEADS DO THAT.)
My point is, it was all + and then + and then + and then + and then +, ad infinitum.
The body ain’t designed for that, kids. Ya gotta take yer breaks. Every loading week needs a day off, every loading quarter needs a week off, and every loading year needs a month off.
Seriously, you have to take time off. And I don’t mean a rest day every week. The whole point of resistance training is to give the body some stimulus to change. Adaptation is the name of the game. And the older we get, the longer it takes for our adaptations to occur.
It just is what it is.
Where we often go wrong in the whole process is in thinking the body and the person are somehow disparate and distinct entities. As if the stressors of life that affect the emotions and mind don’t in some way affect the body.
We are entire and complete organisms.
Enter seasonal training, or training that rotates in its points of emphasis throughout the year.
Looking at it from an athlete’s point of view, we could call them In-Season, Post-Season, Off-Season, and Pre-Season:
- In-Season, we’re looking to maintain performance, work on elements of flexibility and mobility, and to keep the athlete as injury-free and bulletproof as possible.
- Post-Season, we will look at any imbalances the sport might encourage, address nagging pains and dysfunctions, and encourage recovery from the Season’s demands.
- Off-Season, we will look at building some armor for the frame, adding some muscle and using the time to focus on accumulating and accentuating the physical skills necessary to perform in the coming Season at a higher level.
- And finally, in Pre-Season, we will start prepping the system for the demands of the sport, pursuing strength and bolstering the transmission joins of the body, while at the same time peaking the skillset preparations launched during the Off-Season.
This is waving the loads, only on a macro scale.
Treat yourself like a champion athlete and train in seasons.
Is this a blueprint for YOU to follow? Heavens, no. You might need just the opposite in your training demands. You might not think in terms of seasons. You might be thinking, “I just need to lose weight,” or “I just want to get toned,” or “I just want to lose fat, get toned, and look good naked,” or none of the above. No matter your goals, you will see greater long term and permanent changes by seeing your training life as a seasonal thing. If you have questions, ask me.
As for my buddy, I hope that the physical therapy protocols instill a respect for the awesome powers of recovery our bodies have, and that they become a regular part of his training life.