stress

Allostatic Overload: Stress and Emotional Context Part 2

What we have learned from Part 1 is that physiological adaptations during training are due to the planning of stress. As humans, we need the stress response to survive. Stress is training variables (i.e reps, sets, intensity, loads, velocities, etc.) and the cascade of the HPA axis is the window into performance. But we also need to be able to turn it off when it is not needed.

A chronic state of stress will limit adaptation and performance. A chronic state can lead to changes in environmental perception, behavior, and anxiety (level of tension). Allostatic overload is a term that reflects the pathophysiology that chronic over activation of the stress response of regulating systems can create. These changes can reflect compensation patterns for movement and be reflected physically, emotionally, and behaviorally. Part 2 will be dedicated to the physical adaptations to allostatic overload.

However, we need to appreciate that it is not just physical. Part 1 discussed emotional and behavioral overload such as heightened threat perception, anxiety, increased level of alertness and tension, and difficulty relaxing (parasympathetic access). “Hyperactivity of amygdala may be part of mechanism through which normal fear process translates into anxiety disorder in some individuals” (15). “Stress- related neuroplastic changes are associated with decreased behavioral flexibility” (4,5).

Everything is connected.

“Do whatever you want, just know that it has a consequence” - Chris Chase

What does this look like?

Wolff’s Law states that bone in a healthy human will adapt to the loads under which it is placed; if loading on a particular bone increases, the bone will remodel in order to support the increase in load over time. This law also applies to muscle, the muscle will hypertrophy if there is an increased demand on the muscle. For example, if the body is lateralized to the right, the vastus lateralis is eccentrically loaded to support body weight thus creating hypertrophy.

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The pictured athlete is lateralized TO THE RIGHT. Not only is it evident in this picture, but it was determined through testing.

Muscles are SUPPOSE to function in a specific way but the position that the muscle is in due to boney landmarks dictates the function. Function is dictated by position. Stress will pull athletes into an extended position due to an increase in muscle tone of spinal erectors, lats, traps, gastrocnemius, and superficial neck muscles. Performance can be effected due to overreliance on non-

oxidative energy systems in these muscles.

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Superficial neck muscles such as the sternocleidomastoid and traps will be recruited to pull clavicles up to create more space vertically when the diaphragm is not in the most efficient/correct POSITION to function. Both the tendon (attachment point) and belly of the superficial neck muscle will hypertrophy due to increased load. Hello, neck pain.

It doesn’t stop at physical properties of the muscle. Firing patterns can be altered, in which neural pathways for breathing are going to be normalized and directed to using superficial neck muscles instead of the diaphragm, internal obliques, and transverse abdominals to breathe. If the rib cage or pelvis positions are altered and pathophysiology develops, neural firing patterns needed for all three planes of movement (sagittal, frontal, and transverse) may be altered. This may lead to compensation patterns and limit function of major, powerful muscles such as the gluteus maximus.

Impingement may also be a symptom of allostatic overload. An athlete may experience impingement because of lack of anatomical afferent information of where the body is in space. Positional impingement is the instability from misaligned structural position or orientation. Often athletes who experience impingement symptoms (feeling of ‘pinching’ at a joint) lack sensation and resort to a safety pattern. Misaligned body structures can be the result of allostatic overload and impingement becomes the response to threat.

What to do?

Sensory processing will reduce emotional intensity and DE threaten the environment and/or task. A low- resourced environment due to a lack of sensory information is likely to result in high levels of stress. Use tempos to SLOW PEOPLE DOWN. Get people to think, find, feel, and process information. Can you feel this? Can you find that? Feel appropriate muscle working and utilize spatial and ground references to provide athlete with sensory information.

Ground and spatial references that provide perceptual feelings will provide brain with sensory information to respond with the appropriate motor signal. Finding and feeling creates stimulation and stabilization which will help assist symptoms of impingement.

We all need sensory processing for proper motor function; this in combination IS performance.

Consider the pelvic floor when you squat. Pelvic floor dysfunction can lead to pelvic floor pain, poor bladder control (adult diapers), vulvodynia, erectile dysfunction in males, and dyspareunia (painful sexual intercourse). “The pelvic floor muscles contribute to postural (control of lumbar spine and pelvis) and respiratory functions” (7). During periods of increased intra-abdominal pressure such as lifting pelvic floor muscle (puborectalis, puboccygeus, and iliococcygeus) activity is increased to prevent or limit rostral displacement (anterior tilt) of the floor, maintain bladder neck, and assist with urethral and anal closure. If the pelvic floor is not in a good position during activity, weakness and dysfunction may result.

If pelvic position is not restored after lifting (external load) and the pattern/position becomes normalized, it further leads to pelvic floor weakness and possible dysfunction. Improper consideration of the position of the pelvis and function (descent) of the pelvic floor during training can lead to allostatic overload. Improper consideration of the position of the pelvis and function of the pelvic floor muscles during external loading (lifting) OR the inability to return to a neutral position after loading may lead to weakness and dysfunction. Consider the health and function of the athlete years after they are done training with you. What are you leaving them with?

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Re-think and APPRECIATE how the athlete is anatomically positioned and how this position is allowing and creating movement. How do you do this? TEST. The most beneficial thing I have taken away from Postural Restoration Institute (PRI) course is a greater understanding of anatomy and exercise selection that provides the athlete with the most benefit and least amount of cost on the system. Let’s use the example of a kettlebell swing: The athlete (on right) demonstrated bilateral pelvic anterior tilt with testing. During the KB Swing, the athlete is not maintaining foot contact with the ground, externally rotating the femur into further ranges of external rotation without the ability to flex, adduct, and internally rotate (I know this via testing).

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So my question is, why would I prescribe an exercise that forces them to greater ranges of external rotation when I know that they are stuck in external rotation? If I force them to go into a greater range of motion in this position, I am driving them into pathology (overlengthening of ligaments, etc.). Is this beneficial? No. Can I find other ways to work on hip hinging and explosive hip extension? Yes. Be creative and understand the individual.

Address anatomical stress patterns. Promote exhalation and systemic flexion to change entrenched and automatic extension position. Get people to EXHALE. IF your athlete is stuck in extension, is giving more extension the best for that athlete? OR is it leading them down a path of pathology? This doesn’t mean stop training? NO, it means manage the consequences. Are they performing exercises in a safety pattern? Then DE threaten. DE threatening the task and/or environment will reduce stress on the system. For individuals who test as pelvic forward/anterior tilt, trap bar deadlifting may be more beneficial in terms of position to strengthen the posterior chain than squatting under high loads. (Understand the context: I work with collegiate athletes how are not competing for money and will most likely not compete at a higher level, so future health and function is a consideration.)

Create a comfortable, welcoming, and positive environment. Positively influence environment, mitigate athlete’s perceptions of both security and risk (2), create quality relationships/social interactions, and educate/provide awareness. Consider psychological stress, just as much as physical stress; know that they are interrelated.

“We spend so much time and energy designing programs and arguing about ‘best’ exercises or ‘best’ session designs, and yet so little time reflecting on how best to positively manipulate training and competition contexts to optimally reduce the negative impacts of stress.” - John Kiely

As a strength and conditioning coach, the best way to manage cost in consideration of allostatic load is with exercise selection. We shouldn’t just modify exercises if an athlete is injured or has physical restrictions, we should modify exercises to avoid unnecessary wear and tear. Choose exercises that avoid pain, provide appropriate position while maintaining intensity. For example, safety bar squatting instead of back squat to avoid shoulder wear and tear and allow athlete to maintain proper position throughout movement. We all have a tendency to want the biggest and best results as fast as possible, however focus on achieving sustainable long-term returns with the overall health and future of the athlete in mind.

About the Author

5ea55417297579193ee8ebe8e1f443ba.jpeg

Michelle Boland

– Strength and Conditioning Coach at Northeastern University (Boston, MA)

– PhD. Exercise Physiology, Springfield College

– M.S. Strength and Conditioning, Springfield College

– B.S. Nutrition, Keene State College

– Follow on Instagram: mboland18

– Visit: www.michelleboland-training.com

 

  • References
  1. 1. Anderson, A. K. (2005). Affective influences on the attentional dynamics supporting awareness. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134, 258–281.
  2. 2. Bingisser, M. (2017). How your emotional state can be more powerful than your rep scheme. HMMR Media
  3. 3. Bingisser, M. (2017). Training, Fast and Slow. HMMR Media Cerqueira, J. J., Mailliet, F., Almeida, O. F., Jay, T. M., & Sousa, N. (2007). The prefrontal cortex as a key target of the maladaptive response to stress. Journal of Neuroscience, 27, 2781–2787.
  4. 4. Cerqueira, J. J., Pego, J. M., Taipa, R., Bessa, J. M., Almeida, O. F. X., & Sousa, N. (2005). Morphological correlates of corticosteroid-induced changes in prefrontal cortex-dependent behaviors. Journal of Neuroscience, 25, 7792–7800.
  5. 5. Ganzel, BL, Wethington, E, & Morris, PA (2010). Allostasis and the human brain: Integrating models of stress from social and life sciences. Psych Review 117(1): 134-174
  6. 6. Hodges, P.W., Sapsford, R., & Pengel, L.M. (2007). Postural and respiratory functions of the pelvic floor muscles. Neurourology and Urodynamics 26: 362-371.
  7. 7. Lovallo, W. (2016). Stress & Health: Biological and psychological interactions. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.
  8. 8. McEwen, B. S. (2000). Allostasis and allostatic load: Implications for neuropsychopharmacology. Neuropsychopharmacology, 22, 108–124.
  9. 9. McEwen, B. S. (2004). Protective and damaging effects of the mediators of stress and adaptation: Allostasis and allostatic load. In J. Schulkin (Ed.), Allostasis, homeostasis, and the costs of physiological adaptation (pp. 65–98). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press
  10. 10. McEwen, B. S. (2007). Physiology and neurobiology of stress and adaptation: Central role of the brain. Physiological Reviews, 87, 873–901.
  11. 11. Öhman, A., & Mineka, S. (2001). Fears, phobias, and preparedness: Toward an evolved module of fear and fear learning. Psychological Review, 108, 483–522.
  12. 12. Samueloff, S. & Yousef, M.K. (1987). Adaptive physiology to stressful environments. CRC Press Inc: Boca Raton, FL.
  13. 13. Schulkin, J. (2003). Rethinking homeostasis: Allostatic regulation in physiology and pathophysiology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  14. 14. Schulkin, J. (2004). Allostasis, homeostasis, and the costs of physiological adaptation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
  15. 15. Schulkin, J. (2011). Social allostasis: Anticipatory regulation of the internal milieu. Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, 2 (111), 1-15.
  16. 16. Sterling, P. (2004). Principles of allostasis: Optimal design, predictive regulation, pathophysiology, and rational therapeutics. In J. Schulkin (Ed.), Allostasis, homeostasis, and the costs of physiological adaptation (pp. 17–64). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
  17. 17. Sterling, P., & Eyer, J. (1988). Allostasis: A new paradigm to explain arousal pathology. In S. Fisher & J. Reason (Eds.), Handbook of life stress, cognition, and health (pp. 629 – 649). Chichester, England: Wiley.

Allostatic Overload: Stress and Emotional Context Part I

Okay, I get it... ‘Allostasis’ has become the new catch phrase. However, I think it places an emphasis and understanding on the consequences of training adaptations. No, not every adaptation we make to training is positive for health and well-beingg; training can be associated with a cost. Consequence can have both a positive and negative result, but cost is associated with a price to pay. Training is stress. Stress can change the way we think, process information, and behave. As a coach, you need to be a thoughtful stress manager and understand that everything you do has a consequence.

Before an adaptation to training can be acquired, the payment in stress is required. The consequence of that stress depends on how it is managed. As strength and conditioning coaches, we are stress managers. Stress is a bodily or mental tension resulting from factors that tend to alter an existent equilibrium (8). Exercise is planned stress (i.e. periodization). The same chemical response occurs if you break up with your significant other, have an upcoming exam, or are lifting 90% of your max for multiple repetitions.

“Scientific understanding of stress and adaptation, have changed a lot in the past century, but periodization has not changed with them” - Martin Bingisser

The chemical response to an acute PERCEIVED stressor/adversity is initiated by a stimulus which activates the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis to globally effect the major organs of the body. The hypothalamus, specifically the paraventicular nucleus releases corticotrophin-releasing Hormone (CRH), this activates the anterior pituitary to release adrenocorticotrophin-releasing hormone (ACTH), which causes the Adrenal cortex to produce corticosteroids (cortisol in humans). The associated physiological responses are activated: sympathetic nervous system (SNS), release of catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine) accelerate heart rate, vasoconstriction of blood vessels, mobilization of energy resources, increased ventilation, inhibition of digestion, growth systems, and reproductive systems. This response will also be anatomical, humans will increase muscle tone and increase recruitment of extensors.

An inverted U-shaped relationship exists between stressor exposure and adaptation. There is an interplay over time between current stressor exposure, internal regulation of bodily processes, and health outcomes (6). On the adaptive side: small to moderate amounts of stressor exposure (stimulation or challenge) leads to increased health and improved physiological (immune, skeletal, muscular) and mental function (cortical plasticity and executive function). A tipping point occurs when a healthy challenge becomes a progressively unhealthy stressor (chronic, repeated exposure) and can result in long term, negative health outcomes (compromised immune function, neurogenesis).

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Figure A and B. Correspond to two different athletes reflecting how much stress they can handle with and without an associated cost. Some athletes may be better equipped to handle more stress without negative health outcomes than others.

Homeostasis is a term used to describe the regulation of internal settings or set points that the body likes to maintain within a certain range. For example, pH between 7.35-7.45, sodium between 135-145 mEq/L, total serum calcium concentration between 8.5-10.2 mg/dL, or blood glucose between 79.2-110 mg/dL). When homeostasis is disturbed due to a stressor/imposed challenge, the brain and the body do not immediately seek to return to homeostatic balance. “Homeostasis resets itself in response to stress exposure” (6). The resetting of set points is allostasis.

“Allostasis explains how regulatory events maintain organismic viability, or not, in diverse contexts with varying set points of bodily needs and competing motivations.”- Jay Schulkin

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Allostasis

Allostasis means adapting to change. Allostatic accommodation is an acute imposed stressor which IS a microtrauma; for example, an acute stressor elevates blood pressure. An acute stressor will activate the SNS thus increasing cardiac output, blood volume, and vascular constriction. This will temporarily increase blood pressure (allostatic accommodation), which your body should be able to handle without a system cost (return to resting levels). However, if the arousal becomes chronic the brain will respond to the elevated blood pressure by creating vascular system changes such as thickening arteriolar smooth muscle and increasing vascular wall-to-lumen ratio (allostatic load). Allostatic load is the physiological change required to respond and adapt to a stressor or repeated accommodation. Allostatic load is the wear and tear of central and peripheral allostatic accommodation. Allostatic overload and pathophysiology occur when a high blood pressure is needed to maintain the same blood flow through a stiffer vascular system, which turns into a feedforward system. Allostatic overload is the expression of pathophysiology (abnormal physiology) by the chronic over activation of regulating systems (6). For our

example of blood pressure, an individual’s normal blood pressure can now be reset to a higher level which is hypertension= pathology.

The Brain & Emotional Context

“The brain is the central mediator of ongoing system wide physiological adjustment to an environmental challenge.”  - McEwen, 2004, 2007; Schulkin, 2003; Sterling, 2004; Sterling & Eyer, 1988

The brain as the higher levels in the system modulate and coordinate the activity of lower levels (8). “Allostasis involves the whole brain and body rather than simply local feedback,” and this is “a far more complex form of regulation than homeostasis” (18). Stress can be physical and emotional events, such as pain, discomfort, injury, distress; however, stress can also be a sense of angst inside that you don’t know or understand (reflect for a second...I’ll wait). A stressed system on an unconscious level can create a cortical response that leads to states and resetting neural pathways.

Most of our behavior is dictated by an emotion or feeling, not a thought. We have to associate an emotion with a physical task via the brain in order to dictate the APPROPRIATE physiological response. “A stressor must have sufficient magnitude to activate the emotional circuitry of the brain or the stress response will not be invoked by the organism: conversely, stressors that are of a magnitude sufficient to overwhelm the mechanisms of allostatic accommodation will produce greater allostatic load” (6). Emotional context drives training adaptations. As stimulus functions as a stressor depending upon its emotional valence (whether it is judged to be harmful or beneficial), level of intensity (threat or challenge) and personal importance relative to environmental context and personal beliefs, goals, and coping resources (6).

Emotional regions of the brain include the amygdala and basal ganglia, combined to call the limbic system. Amygdala is associated with threat value and avoidance behavior. The basal ganglia is associated with reward value and approach behavior. These emotional areas are most likely to show evidence of allostatic load which can increase probability of injury and negative health outcomes (2). WHY? Emotions overlay the chemical consequences of the training stimulus. The chemical environment is not just based upon the emotional intensities of training, but also of life. If an individual is PERCIEVING stress from personal relationships and school then trains repeatedly with high stressors, the same chemical response is overlaid. “Load can accumulate from daily low levels of stress in the environment,” (6). Exercise input involves both context and the stressor itself. The context is the environment, such as the setting (i.e. color of the room, volume of the music, or behavior of the strength coach). In an exercise environment the stressor can be number of sets, repetitions, intensity, velocities, or load.

“If you are stressed about the session or some other aspect of your life- you are essentially OVERLAYING THE CHEMICAL CONSEQUENCES OF THE IMPOSED MECHANICAL TRAINING STRESSORS ON A SUBOPTIMAL CHEMICAL BACKDROP. As a consequence, adaptations are inevitably compromised and risks, of injury or illness, escalate.” - John Keily

“Under chronic or repeated stress, the short-term gains of allostatic accommodation dwindle over time, while its physiological adaptations, become entrenched and automatic.” - Sterling & Eyer, 1988

Chronic, repeated stress will cause overactivation of the HPA axis leading to dysfunction of the Hypothalamus- Pituitary-Thyroid (HPT) axis and Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Gonad (HPG) axis. In the words of Dr. Ben House, “axes that function together, dysfunction together,” so you are not just dealing with a dysfunctional HPA axis, chronic stress will lead to HPT and HPG dysfunction; hello thyroid and testosterone production issues.

“Factor in aging process is the ability to secrete more cortisol when necessary and terminate the elevated levels when not necessary” - Schulkin, 2011

Physiological changes lead to changes in environmental perception, behavior, and anxiety (level of tension). A stress can become perceived as a threat and chronic stress can create change in neural pathways facilitating heightened perceptual processing of threatening stimuli in the environment (6). This threatening stimulus will be associated with emotional significance. A feedforward system is created involving chemical response to stress, neural signaling pathways, perception of environment or task, and behavior.

“The body is an entry point to the mind and the mind is an entry point to the body.” – Dr. Mike T. Nelson

What should you do with this information? STICK AROUND FOR PART 2...

About the Author

5ea55417297579193ee8ebe8e1f443ba.jpeg

Michelle Boland

– Strength and Conditioning Coach at Northeastern University (Boston, MA)

– PhD. Exercise Physiology, Springfield College

– M.S. Strength and Conditioning, Springfield College

– B.S. Nutrition, Keene State College

– Follow on Instagram: mboland18

– Visit: www.michelleboland-training.com

  • References
  1. 1. Anderson, A. K. (2005). Affective influences on the attentional dynamics supporting awareness. Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, 134, 258–281.
  2. 2. Bingisser, M. (2017). How your emotional state can be more powerful than your rep scheme. HMMR Media
  3. 3. Bingisser, M. (2017). Training, Fast and Slow. HMMR Media Cerqueira, J. J., Mailliet, F., Almeida, O. F., Jay, T. M., & Sousa, N. (2007). The prefrontal cortex as a key target of the maladaptive response to stress. Journal of Neuroscience, 27, 2781–2787.
  4. 4. Cerqueira, J. J., Pego, J. M., Taipa, R., Bessa, J. M., Almeida, O. F. X., & Sousa, N. (2005). Morphological correlates of corticosteroid-induced changes in prefrontal cortex-dependent behaviors. Journal of Neuroscience, 25, 7792–7800.
  5. 5. Ganzel, BL, Wethington, E, & Morris, PA (2010). Allostasis and the human brain: Integrating models of stress from social and life sciences. Psych Review 117(1): 134-174
  6. 6. Hodges, P.W., Sapsford, R., & Pengel, L.M. (2007). Postural and respiratory functions of the pelvic floor muscles. Neurourology and Urodynamics 26: 362-371.
  7. 7. Lovallo, W. (2016). Stress & Health: Biological and psychological interactions. Sage Publications: Thousand Oaks, CA.
  8. 8. McEwen, B. S. (2000). Allostasis and allostatic load: Implications for neuropsychopharmacology. Neuropsychopharmacology, 22, 108–124.
  9. 9. McEwen, B. S. (2004). Protective and damaging effects of the mediators of stress and adaptation: Allostasis and allostatic load. In J. Schulkin (Ed.), Allostasis, homeostasis, and the costs of physiological adaptation (pp. 65–98). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press
  10. 10. McEwen, B. S. (2007). Physiology and neurobiology of stress and adaptation: Central role of the brain. Physiological Reviews, 87, 873–901.
  11. 11. Öhman, A., & Mineka, S. (2001). Fears, phobias, and preparedness: Toward an evolved module of fear and fear learning. Psychological Review, 108, 483–522.
  12. 12. Samueloff, S. & Yousef, M.K. (1987). Adaptive physiology to stressful environments. CRC Press Inc: Boca Raton, FL.
  13. 13. Schulkin, J. (2003). Rethinking homeostasis: Allostatic regulation in physiology and pathophysiology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.
  14. 14. Schulkin, J. (2004). Allostasis, homeostasis, and the costs of physiological adaptation. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
  15. 15. Schulkin, J. (2011). Social allostasis: Anticipatory regulation of the internal milieu. Frontiers in Evolutionary Neuroscience, 2 (111), 1-15.
  16. 16. Sterling, P. (2004). Principles of allostasis: Optimal design, predictive regulation, pathophysiology, and rational therapeutics. In J. Schulkin (Ed.), Allostasis, homeostasis, and the costs of physiological adaptation (pp. 17–64). Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press.
  17. 17. Sterling, P., & Eyer, J. (1988). Allostasis: A new paradigm to explain arousal pathology. In S. Fisher & J. Reason (Eds.), Handbook of life stress, cognition, and health (pp. 629 – 649). Chichester, England: Wiley.

When Training Hard is the Worst Decision You Can Make

Getting after it in the gym is one of the most enjoyable things a man can experience. And probably women, too, since I’m assuming most men leave a lot for women to still desire. Dani, can you chime in on that? I gotta tell you, and some of these other guys on here might disagree with me, but I don’t think training HARD is always a good idea. When I draw off of my experiences, my clients’ experiences, and stress physiology, I can’t always tell you what the best solution is, but I can say with certainty that you need to have (1) a reason for doing it, and (2) an understanding of the potential consequences of your actions.

At the risk of sounding even more like your father, you need to be aware of the decisions you’re making.

Sometimes training ovaries to the wall is the way to go, but not always. Let’s go into some definitions, nuances, and alternative courses of action.

What Does it Mean to Train HARD?

What does it mean to train HARD? It depends on who you ask.

Powerlifters say it’s about picking up a bunch of weight. And maybe screaming. And death metal.

But to Crossfitters, it’s about resisting the urge to puke for as long as possible. It’s about making your muscles burn. It’s about involuntarily peeing your pants and then telling the story to everyone you see.

To me, training HARD is about physical effort. I’ll even call it “dumb” training because you’re usually thinking less in the moment.

What Does it Mean to Train SMART?

SMART training:

- Is goal-oriented

- Respects a person’s individuality

- Manages stress

- Considers recent training history

Ultimately, SMART training acknowledges the individual and how they respond to stress.

Goal-oriented

You need to have goals if you’re training for any real purpose.

A long-term goal keeps your eye on the prize. It helps remind you to stay focused over months/years and gives you a picture in your head of where you want to be when you reach that goal.

Each short-term goal you set is an actionable step towards accomplishing your long-term goal. They are the blocks that build the monster you want to become.

Figure out where you want to go (long-term goal) and then figure out how you’re going to get there (short-term goal).

As a general example, if you want to lift in the national meet next year (long-term goal), start thinking about what things you might have to do along the way (short-term goals):

1. Find a place to train

2. Find someone to train with

3. Learn how to cook without burning the house down

4. Accumulate work capacity and size

5. Build maximal strength

6. Get in competition shape

7. Win

Respects a person’s individuality

“Training age” is used to define how long someone has been training in the gym. The higher your training age, the more experience you have.

A person with a young training age should probably not train HARD as often as a more experienced lifter should. They don’t have the motor control, endurance, and strength needed to do so safely.

Training is all about making you comfortable with the uncomfortable. Your individuality describes your current level of comfort.

Manages stress

More on this soon.

Considers recent training history

If you don’t use it, you lose it.

^^Cliché, but it’s true.

I don’t care what you did back in high school, college, 3rd grade, whatever.

That’s a lie. I do care, but I also care what you’ve done in the last six months. If all of you’ve done is supported side planks on the couch, then you can’t just pick up where you left off in college. Your gains are reversible.

What is Stress?

A stressor is something that alters your body and can be bad or good. The stress-response is what you do to deal with it. Allostasis is this whole process of trying not to get too out of whack. Allostatic load is how difficult the process is.

Gently place your mind back in 3rd grade mode and think of a seesaw. Your friend pushes into the ground to make you start falling toward the ground (stress). You catch yourself (stress-response) and lightly push back so you guys can go back and forth (allostasis).

Now imagine you’re both fighting to knock each other off. You’re going to push as hard as possible so that joker’s ass slams in the ground. You don’t just want him to quit, you want him to run home while screaming for his mommy. With tears in his eyes.

Now as hard as you try, you guys aren’t going to break this seesaw, so you will maintain some semblance of allostasis. The cost, however, is much greater. You will both incur more wear and tear during the process. So will the seesaw. You have increased the allostatic load.

Coming back to exercise, the act of lifting weights or going for a grueling, week-long run through the Gobi Desert (people actually do thatI know a medalist) is stressful. Exercise is still good for you, though, because your body learns to adapt and grow from the experience. Rinse, repeat, gains.

On the other hand we have psychological stresses. You know, the thing that makes you take a crowbar to the RAV4 who just cut you off. Or the one that makes your heart race when your girlfriend tells you she’s late (and I’m not talking about dinner).

These types of stresses are relatively harmless in the short-term and they’ve evolved to keep us passing on copies of our genes. When you get startled, you’re better able to react. Even nowadays, when you get cut off while driving, you get alert because, for a few seconds, you’re more likely to be in an accident. Your alertness helps you look for danger.

Problems arise when these stresses (1) don’t require physical action, and (2) keep happening over and over and over again.

All of these different types of stressors need to be managed. If you have too much on your plate at work, you can’t train as hard. If you trained HARD last week, then you probably won’t be able to do it all again this week.

The ebb and flow is constant. And remember: everyone is different. More on that later.

Stress can be bad or good

Stress is not inherently a bad thing. Stress hormones help you wake up in the morning. Stress keeps you alive by helping you react when a lion (either a literal or metaphoric lion) enters the room.

Problems arise when the lion never leaves the room. You’re always reacting to stress and you’re never resting from it.

Not all stress is the same

Lots of life stress--a big project at work, for example--can wear you down.

A heavy training session also wears you down. But as long as you remember to eat and go to bed before tomorrow starts, chances are you’re going to recover from it.

Necessary vs unnecessary stress

The act of waking up is stressful, but without it you have no life. Literally.

Another, more complicated example: worrying about what your boss is going to say about the project you’re working on is also stressful. And it drives you to be good at your job. But worrying about it for 6 hours straight is crippling and unnecessary.

A hard training sessions is stressful, but you grow from it. Do it for 3 hours and you’re probably beating yourself down unnecessarily.

Again, not all stress is bad. It is necessary to have a purpose in life. But ask yourself next time you’re in traffic if getting cut off is worth the freak out.

Overreaching vs overtraining

Overreaching is meant to represent the act of stressing yourself out enough that it brings you down a little, but your body can still recover from it. This is like a carefully placed HARD training session.

Overtraining, on the other hand, is about breaking yourself down over and over and over again until your body forces you to take a break. You get tired and weak. You don’t think as well.

Now, it’s not like there’s a switch that’s flipped and all of a sudden you go from overreaching to overtraining. This is why I try to teach everyone I work with to pay attention to their body. It will send you signals. Sometimes it’s best to ignore them, sometimes you need to listen.

I need to make one thing clear: I’m not demonizing hard training. I’m just trying to illustrate that it isn’t always the most appropriate decision.

Individuality

Everyone is different. And that means everyone will respond differently to stress.

What is your training age?

The longer you’ve been training, the longer you’ve had to develop your physical and mental qualities. Pro athletes have accumulated a lot of movement experience, so I can expect them to be better at that. They’ve also been playing and conditioning for years and years, so I can expect that they will have a certain level of work capacity they can use when training. A CEO who has trained 2x/week for the last year does not have that same capacity. These two people cannot be trained the same: the CEO’s training load would be too low for the pro athlete and vice versa.

Another example: kids are NOT just little adults.

- They don’t know how to perform lifts without massive compensation (that’s why Youth Nationals is only a good idea if you want to make sure your athletes peak too early)

- They can’t maintain high intensities for longer periods of time

- They’re still growing

- Their bones are softer

- Their brain is less developed

- They usually don’t comprehend healthy eating and sleeping habits

Main point: you and your training partner don’t have the same training history and won’t respond the same to the same type of training. So customize! All you can try to do is keep improving. The training process (and management of stress in general) works best if you be like water.

Reversibility

Even former athletes get fat.

Like I mentioned earlier, being a star athlete in high school doesn’t mean a thing if all you’ve been doing for the last six months are sidelying supported couch planks and remote clicks.

So even if you have years of training under your belt, you can’t just jump right back into doing what you did back in your prime.

What is important to you?

This is, in my mind, the biggest question everyone has to ask (I talk about this more in The Pyramid Method).

What are your goals? Are you willing to do what it takes to accomplish those goals?

If your goal is to be a monster, you need to train HARD often. That’s why every video you see of Triana and Zach Hadge gives you nightmares. They are pure savages.

But what if someone would rather focus on their career and just look good? They don’t need to train balls out nearly as often. Training stress competes with their goals of killing it at work.

I just had a conversation about this with a recent Rebel Performance contributor. He asked me to help him do some movement preparation for his upcoming powerlifting meet. He told me that this will be his last meet because he’d rather fight off a knee replacement for as long as he can. Powerlifting has just become less important.

What is important to you?

When You Shouldn’t Train HARD

When are some times that you shouldn’t train hard?

- When you’re sick

- When you’re really low on sleep

- When you’ve been eating poorly or not enough

- When your morning resting heart rate is way higher than it normally is

- When your subjective readiness to train before your workout is low

- When you’ve got other goals or life stresses

- When you’ve been training HARD lately and need a break

- When your training age is young

What to do Instead of Training HARD

Not training HARD doesn’t mean not training. Just turn your training session into an active recovery session.

Train easy

If you have a workout planned for the day, but you’re just not feeling it, then turn it into an easy circuit workout.

- Halve the number of sets

- Lower the weight 10-20%

- Shorten the rest periods to 30-60 seconds

- Try to keep your heart rate between 120-150 beats per minute

The goal is to keep moving, get the blood pumping, and get a sweat in. This is going to move nutrients around in your body so that you can recover.

Other low-intensity exercise

There are a few other options here

- Go for a walk

- Go for a jog

- Go for a hike

- Have some other workout planned

- Ride a bike

Get your heart beating preferably somewhere between 120-150 beats per minute so that you can maximize the efficiency of your heartbeats.

High Intensity Continuous Training

High Intensity Continuous Training (HICT) is a method from Val Nasedkin of Omegawave fame.

You have two types of muscle fibers: slow-twitch and fast-twitch.

The slow ones are really good at not fatiguing.

The fast ones fatigue quicker, but can contract more forcefully.

HICT attempts to make the fast-twitch fibers more resistant to fatigue. This focuses on your aerobic energy system and doesn’t fatigue you like a more intense conditioning method would (e.g. Tabata intervals).

HICT is usually more appropriate when you’ve already planned a rest day in your training week. It is a much more advanced method, so I would not use it unless you have a solid movement foundation.

How to perform

Get something that you want to do at a really high intensity over and over and over again for 5-20 minutes. My two favorites are HICT Step Ups (HICT Cycle Jumps if you don’t have a weight vest) and HICT Spin Bike. Videos for each are above.

Perform one rep every 3 seconds. Alternate sides. This gives you plenty of rest so that you can produce as much force as possible on each rep, but not get that “burny” feeling of fatigue in your muscle. If you start to feel that, you should slow down.

If you notice your speed is dropping off, cut the set. This is an example of when pushing through is not the appropriate decision. Train smart, not just hard.

Get a coach

Honestly, there’s a lot to this management of stress, fatigue, and training. There’s no way one article could discuss everything. And even if it could, most of it wouldn’t even be relevant to you anyway.

I’ve written more programs and seen more rundown people than non-trainers. And I’ve studied this for years and years. It is my job to make people enjoy training by helping them effectively manage their stress, fatigue, and training.

When in doubt, refer out.

Summary

- Training HARD is not always training SMART.

- Pay attention to your body to learn when to push forward and when to back off.

- Try out some low-intensity aerobic training or high intensity continuous training when you need a recovery day in the gym.

- Get a coach if you need it

Agree? Disagree? Let’s discuss it below in the comments.

For more Lance, go to www.lancegoyke.com.

P.S. If you liked this, send it to your training partner.

about the author

4bef86476243332d0681848e16f1df8b.jpeg

Lance Goyke, CSCS, is a Nerd Extraordinaire and secret admirer of lesbians everywhere whose expertise focuses on the human body. His clientele ranges from other trainers to kids to house moms to fighters to baseballers to anyone who needs to be taught how to exercise. Go invade his home base at www.LanceGoyke.com.

The Minimal Adaptable Load And What It Means For Your Training

As coaches and athletes we’re always in pursuit of the same thing:

PROGRESS

And that progress will come in many different shapes and sizes. For one person it may mean losing 15 lbs, for another it may mean deadlifting 500lbs, and for another it may mean winning a world championship.

At the end of the day, however, progress is always the uniting principle by which we can gauge the effectiveness of a training program:

Is it taking you/he/she closer towards their goal?

If yes, then you’re making progress.

If no, then you’re not.

BUT, here's the magical question:  how do I or my athletes make progress?

The answer...stress.

But not just any stress, it has to be the right type of stressor, at the right time, in the right amount.  If any of those factors are off, then you won't be incurring the type of positive adaptation you're looking for.

While there are many variables to consider when putting together a comprehensive training program, I'd like to focus today on one that I believe doesn't get enough attention, and the implications it has for training.  And that variable is called:  The Minimal Adaptable Load.

The Process of Adaptation

Before continuing, it's important that you know a thing or two about adaptation since that is, at the end of the day, how we make progress.

Thus, let's walk through the basic process.

In the graph below you'll notice fitness level is on the y-axis and time is on the x-axis.  The 0 point on the y-axis represents your current fitness level, while above it represents improvement and below represents decline.  It's important to note that any fitness quality can replace "fitness level" on the y-axis.  For example, you could easily get more specific and put something like speed strength, or starting strength, or absolute strength, but for today we'll just focus on the broader concept of fitness.

IMG_0425_2.jpg

As you can see in the above graph, the process of adaptation follows a pretty simple formula:

Step 1:  Provide a stressor/training stimulus

Step 2:  Fatigue

Step 3:  Recovery

Step 4:  Supercompensation

Step 5:  Involution

If you'd like to read more about adaptation, then checkout this post I wrote for Eric Cressey a little while back.

Let's take this a step further and consider three separate scenarios:

IMG_0426_2.jpg

Scenario 1:  Not Enough Stress (Purple Dashed Line)

In this scenario, the athlete has not been stressed nearly enough.  While they did accumulate low levels of fatigue, it wasn't enough to force a positive adaptation (notice how the purple dashed line doesn't cross back over the original fitness level).

Scenario 2:  Too Much Stress (Red Dashed Line)

This is the exact opposite of our first scenario:  the athlete has been stressed far too much (driven too low) and can't adequately recover.  In other words, they dug a hole too deep to climb out of (again...not surpassing the original fitness level and maybe even getting worse).

Scenario 3:  Just Right (Green Dashed Line)

Jackpot!  The athlete has been stressed enough to force adaptation to occur.  Fatigue accumulated, but it was the right amount of fatigue because the athlete could adequately recover from it.

The Minimal Adaptable Load

What you just experienced in Scenario 3 is the minimal adaptable load.  And seeing as this is a term you're probably not familiar with (I'm fairly certain I made it up this past weekend) let's go ahead and define it:

The minimal adaptable load represents the total amount of volume in tons/lbs/kgs that must be lifted over the course of a designated period of time in order to incur a positive adaptation in a fitness quality.

Hopefully I don't need to explain why this concept is important, but this value does change with time.  When you first start off training you can practically just look at weights and get stronger, but once you've been lifting for a while it takes a little more effort to keep putting weight on the bar.

Which brings us to our next big point:

The Beginner vs. The Advanced Athlete

I think the real beauty of the minimal adaptable load shows through when considering how you go about training a beginner vs. a more advanced athlete.

Since the beginner has a lower training age it won't take nearly as much stress/load to improve a given fitness quality.  The more advanced athlete with an older training age, on the other hand, will require significant stress/loading to improve a given fitness quality.

For example, take a freshman in high school who hasn't touched weights once his entire life and an all american going into his senior year of college.  Different scenarios?

You bet your ass they are.

And that has to show through in their programming.

PyramidImages_Pyramid.png

The beginner can afford to train several different fitness qualities at once because it doesn't take much loading to incur a positive adaptation.  For example, let's say it takes 300 lbs of volume (and this is a completely arbritrary number) for him to see improvement in maximal strength.  That's not much at all, so you can afford to go after multiple qualities at once.

The advanced athlete, on the other hand, might need 10,000 lbs of volume (again, made up number) to see progress.  Thus, he needs to periodize his programming to focus on one fitness quality at a time.  He cannot train max strength, strength speed, and speed strength simultaneously because it'll be impossible to make progress in any category.  If he actually did perform the necessary amount of loading in each category he'd be so overtrained that he'd get worse.

Keeping Track of Training

The other important thing to note is that you should be keeping track of your training (and your athletes training if you're a coach).

If you don't have these numbers, then how are you ever going to appropriately monitor training from month to month, and year to year.

For example, let's say you hit a 3 month block aimed at improving your deadlift.  At the end of those three months you retest and see very minimal gains.  What should you do next?

Well...you should consult you're training log.  Look at volume, look at intensity, look at how many different fitness qualities you're attempting to train at once etc.  In essence, bury yourself in the numbers and figure out where your program is coming up short.

Granted, there are other variables to consider as well:  nutrition, total allostatic load etc.  But having a training log is an invaluable tool when it comes time to making consistent progress over the long haul.

Key Takeaways

While we touched on some bigger concepts in today's article, here are the three major takeaways I hope you have:

1.  Identify your and/or your athletes training age because it will have a big impact on how you approach programming for them.

2.  Keep track of your and/or your athletes training with a detailed training log because it gives you invaluable data on training volume etc.

3.  Begin thinking in terms of the minimal adaptable load (i.e. how much volume needs to be lifted over x amount of time for me to see gains in y lift).

As always, feel free to post questions, comments, concerns and/or pictures of people curling in the squat rack below.

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.

Strength and Conditioning Programs: Understanding Stress and Adaptation

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Your body has its own bank account.

It’s an account full of what we’ll call adaptive currency, and it’s responsible for buying you different fitness qualities. For example, say you want to add 10 pounds to your deadlift…well, that’s going to cost you.

In fact, every decision you make in both life and training impacts the size of your bank account and influences how much “money you have to spend” at any one time.

For those of you out there who have aspirations to perform at a high level, and stay healthy doing so, it’s vital to understand this concept...

Be sure to checkout the rest of the post over at Eric Cressey's site by clicking the link below:

Click Me==> Strength and Conditioning Programs:  Understanding Stress and Adaptation

about the author

812f4cb124c2dda65e33a5f1c2f087ef.jpeg

James Cerbie is just a life long athlete and meathead coming to terms with the fact that he’s also an enormous nerd.  Be sure to follow him on Twitter and Instagram for the latest happenings.

We're Having a Holiday Giveaway!

Here at Rebel Performance we tend to be rather obsessed with human performance (and superheroes).

While we don't expect you to be as obsessive about this stuff as we are, we know you care because you're here right now--reading this in the hopes of finding actionable information you can use to get better.

CLICK TO ENTER THE HOLIDAY BOOK BUNDLE GIVEAWAY

Which is one of the best parts about what we do:  we get to help people on a daily basis find answers to questions that help them live their dream life.  Those questions often include things like:

How do I get bigger?

How do I get stronger?

How do I look like a superhero?

How do I build a conditioning base specific to the needs and demands of                      ?

How much volume do I need to get                        adaptation?

What about Intensity?  How do I balance that with the demands of volume?

How does adaptation happen?

What about behavior change?  How do I change my behavior, or the behavior of those around me, to live better lives?

What are the effects of stress on the entire system?  What does a stress response look like?  Will stress outside of training impact the adaptation reserves someone has to work with?

While these represent an incredibly small fraction of questions we encounter on a daily basis, we want to give you answers to all of them.

So we put our heads together and came up with 4 resources that we view as absolutely essential in your journey for optimized human performance:

1.  Science and Practice of Strength Training:  pretty much everything you need to know about strength training

2.  Ultimate MMA Conditioning:  the best conditioning book on the market

3.  Switch:  How to Make Change When Change is Hard:  your guide to behavior change

4.  Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers:  this will be the most important book you read all year

I'm sure you're wondering how this whole thing works, so let me give you a quick rundown:

First, you need to click the big bold letters below to go to the giveaway page.

CLICK TO ENTER THE HOLIDAY BOOK BUNDLE GIVEAWAY

Second, you need to enter your email address.

Third, confirm you've actually entered the giveaway by clicking the confirmation link we send you via email.

Fourth, you'll get a lucky url that's specific just to you, and you need/want to share this link because for every person who signs up through your link you get your name thrown in the hat 3 more times.

And that's it.  Just enter your email address, share your lucky url, and then sit back and wait for the winner to be announced on January 5th.

Happy holidays, and best of luck!