Now that we know we are looking to utilise GAS (general adaptation syndrome), to ensure constant adaptation, what do we train first? Do we just sit on a bike and pedal hard and give ourselves a couple of days off? Do we hit the gym and start knocking out Olympic snatches?

No. We do not.

Fortunately, or unfortunately for some, we have to start getting into the minds of scientists. That means that I am not only going to tell you what you need to do, but also explain some of the foundations so that you understand why you are going to do it.

In previous years one of the biggest hurdles for new members has been getting over the shift in training styles.

Athletes would usually only ever carry out linear progressions of long slow duration endurance training.

It was only when they got to the endurance phase with us that they realised why they had undertaken all of the work that they had for the 4 mesocycles previously, and never argued again. So, to avoid that, let us dive in!

N.B. I will try my hardest not to slide into the rabbit hole and keep this from being as dry as possible with regards to the science. If it gets too much, skip to the end for the takeaway!

Order of Adaptations

Plateaus largely come about from a misunderstanding regarding the phases of training an athlete is supposed to move through in their training cycle. This in itself stems from not understanding the determinants of performance (the variables that affect your performance), and the best ways of initiating adaptation for those variables.

Determinants of performance can often be linked so that as one changes they elicit an ability to greater adapt other variables.

Take for example strength and Power. The scientific definition of power is the amount of “work” done over time. “Work” is the force over a distance. So, for example, let us apply this to weightlifting for ease.

A 100kg bar weighs 9800N (Newtons). If we move the bar 2m for one repetition it would be 19600N of work.

Now, this is where power becomes important. Strength is the capacity to exert force. Our athlete lifting 19600N for one rep over 4 seconds would be generating power of  4900W (watts).

However, another athlete who lifted the same bar in 2 seconds produced 9800W.

Although each athlete has the same strength, the second athlete has more power. It is possible for athletes with less strength to produce more power than a strength-trained athlete, but they are capped at their maximal strength!

However, in order to have more power, you have to train the underpinning variable of strength in order to get a maximum cap for higher power.

Adaptations are all inextricably linked…

The point I am getting to is that Power, Power Endurance, Speed, Speed Endurance and Endurance are all linked to the prior variable and ALL linked directly to strength 1 2 3 as the athlete’s maximal strength dictates the absolute capacity for each variable. Why is this you ask?

The argument here is a chicken and egg syndrome kind of argument.

You can end up going round and round and still not get an answer.

As a sports scientist, I have taken the evidence and placed myself in a camp based on the weight of said evidence, and until someone can prove unequivocally that I am in the wrong one, and my masters level athletes stop hitting podiums, winning fights or getting player of the match, then I will reassess.

The strength endurance continuum is a theory developed over the last 75 years that states that the number of reps needed to complete a task utilises a percentage of our 1 rep maximum (that is to say the maximum weight we can lift for 1 repetition).

So lifting a car off a child would utilise 100% of our 1RM, whereas going for a jog may only utilise a small % of our 1RM, which allows us to do it for hundreds and thousands of repetitions.

This can lead us to believe that the higher our 1RM is, the more strength we can utilise for running, and therefore our performance is improved.

We can create greater maximal forces and so the forces running demands of us are less of our %1RM and so we are better able to cope with and exert the forces required to excel at it.

For example, a lot of amateur runners have low strength and, although capable of running marathons and great distances, the event leaves them hobbling around for days or weeks afterwards…. and with wobbly legs at the end of an event.

This would indicate that they are in fact close to failure for the repetitions they carried out at the %1RM required for that event.

Now if we train strength so that the 1RM is higher, then the runners don’t have the fatigue post-exercise, due to their body better being able to handle the forces. This has been shown in multiple studies but for example in Aagaard & Anderson (2010) 4 it was found that increasing the strength of even mid-level athletes their capacity to perform and cope with the demands of the sport were increased and led to greater performance.

Once we have increased strength, the characteristics of strength that adapt to provide higher amounts can then trickle down enabling the variables that are direct determinants of performance for power, speed and endurance to increase.

For us at Faultless Fitness, this makes strength the single most important phase for making sure our athletes have a solid foundation that sets them apart from other athletes.

The takeaway from this…

The important thing to take away from this article/rambling is that a large section of athletes out there are starting their season with an endurance phase that will never increase their %1RM.

As a result, they are capped at the amount of endurance they can produce.

This is why you get some athletes that can go 4 years trying to get more and more efficient at endurance and seem to get nowhere.

They need to go back to their foundations of strength and up their capacity, which then lifts the ceiling off of their endurance.

Next up: The King of Phases – The Strength Phase: Aims, Exercise Types and Examples.

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