Scientific & Logical Training
03-02-2003 07:37 PM
Scientific & Logical Training
You Call That Scientific Training?
By Nathaniel D. (Freethinker)
a few of u may remember my post Everyones different, I dont think so!, hes an article that helps illustrate my point
In the past 50 years we have seen quite a few changes in the development of science. Henry Fords first automobile probably couldn't outrun a horse, now we have vehicles that can break the speed of sound. We went from classical Newtonian physics, to the confusing world of relativity and quantum mechanics. Unfortunately there has not been any development in one of the most important aspects of mans health, resistance training (RT). Sure, we have developed machines which are capable of improving the quality of exercise, and supplements that can maximize an individuals genetic potential. However, we really have not established any principles or laws with weight training.
There are two causative factors that are responsible for the myths and misinformation that prevails our gyms:
Most of the information on RT comes from monthly magazines. The people who publish these magazines must have people buy them on a continuous basis. If any valid knowledge was published, the industry wouldn't last very long. Every month magazine "X" publishes articles on how to build powerful legs, massive chests, and bulging biceps. But yet what does the reader really grasp? That Mr.O does 3 sets of 5 exercises, and Mrs. O does 5 sets of 3 exercises? Instead of learning how to properly train, the readers memorize how the latest pro is training.
"No one can be certain". "No one can be certain what will work for you, what works for you may not work for me". Little does the general orthodoxy of strength training understand that this so called "principle" has actually held back the sport. It has held back any further development in RT because the statement doesn't allow any principles or laws. "No one can be certain" is essentially stating that every individual functions differently, and any scientific data on the subject is invalid (since it may not apply to the individual). "No one can be certain" can be broken down to stating that one can be certain that no one can be certain. It's a logical fallacy, and should be put to rest as we enter the year 2000. The hard truth is that although we have our genetic differences, we all function in a similar manner. Dorian Yates uses the exact same fuel to perform an incline press as Ronnie Coleman. Dorian must use anaerobic exercise to reach his muscular potential just as the reader. Similarly the skinny ectomorph at the gym has a slow recovery rate relative to the top 10 competitors in the Mr. O, however they both recover in the same fashion in order to grow.
In this article I hope to demonstrate that RT is a science that has universal laws, and show ways to view your training as a science for maximum results.
The Nature of Science
Science can be defined as "knowledge covering general truths or the operation of general laws" (Webster's New Collegiate Dictionary). Logic dictates that a statement is either true or false, and a true statement cannot contradict another true statement. In RT, we are looking for established principles, or laws that govern every individual, therefore leading us into the right direction with our training.
As explained above, the general information about RT today is contradictory. No matter how much the magazines try and convince you that everyone is different, understand that we all function in a similar manner. For example, when you go for surgery, are you confidant that the medical textbooks that the surgeon has studied applies to you also? When you are ill and see a doctor, would you be confident if he consulted his magic 8 ball, as a source to determine which prescription drug is for you? Of course not. If every individual was different then the entire field of medical science could not exist.
In the same context, bodybuilding is in the same boat. There are absolute laws in RT that must be followed. To say that there are no absolutes is an absolute in itself. For example, to say that every training approach has validity is not only dangerous, but misleading. Any program that leads to injury or over training is not a valid training approach, and by following a generic training program you are short-changing yourself of potential gains, since you are not training optimally.
Everyone is aware of the Newton's law, "For every action there is equal and opposite reaction". In philosophy this is called "The law of causality". Basically causality is the principle that nothing can happen without being caused. Every action has a reaction. That reaction cannot be contradictory to its nature. For example, if the force placed on your tendons exceeds the strength of those tendons, they will tear.
Although everyone is aware of this principal, few actually apply it in the gym. Most resistance trainers still operate under the mistaken belief that everyone is different. They run from exercise to exercise without recording progress, focusing on technique, or properly applying scientific principles to their training. Observations lead me to believe that most resistance trainers think that if they just persist with programs, they will eventually reach their goals. How many times do you see people sticking to the same program month after month without anything to show for it? How many people have you seen following everyone else's routines, simply because that someone else has favorable genetics? This is the law of causality, the result of their irrational behavior is a lack of progress. It's only rational to pursue your goals logically.
How to Train According to the Laws of Science
Hopefully in grade school you were taught how to perform a proper experiment. In a proper experiment, you can only manipulate one variable at a time. Otherwise you cannot understand which variable was responsible for producing the desired effect.
In RT there are 4 variables:
Volume: The total number of sets per body part and per workout.
Frequency: The number of days between muscle groups and between workouts.
Intensity: Percentage of possible momentary muscular effort exerted.
Duration: Duration of the set (number of reps or time under tension) and workout.
According to Mike Mentzer's theory, Heavy Duty, and the International Association of Resistance Trainers, one must manipulate each variable until one discovers where the trainee gains the most amount of strength. This is called optimal prescription of exercise. I would recommend using this term frequently, as it will force the reader to view his/her training as a dose/response relationship, explained in greater detail on Mike Mentzer's web site. Optimal prescription of exercise is the theory is that strength and size are related, however not proportionate. Size and strength must be related since the most efficient way to develop your muscles is weight training. When you weight train, you are lifting against resistance. If you improve your ability to generate force, i.e. you improve your strength, then you must be larger. As Mike Mentzer stated, "When is one suppose to get larger and get weaker?" I'm sure Dorian Yates was significantly stronger during his tenure as Mr. Olympia than he was as a young amateur first tasting competition.
Conclusion: Because strength gains are more noticeable than size gains, strength can be a measure of progress. By manipulating your variables until you find where you gain the most strength, one could find his/her "optimal prescription of exercise".
The Nature of Exercise
Basically there are two forms of exercise: aerobic and anaerobic. They differ because of their level of intensity. Intensity has been properly defined by Arthur Jones as, "the percentage of possible momentary muscular effort exerted." Unfortunately there are only two accurate measurements of intensity: 0% (complete rest) and 100% (momentary muscular failure). Anything in-between is simply an educated guess.
One characteristic of aerobic exercise is that it has a higher duration relative to anaerobic exercise. Generally aerobic activity is 15 minutes or more in duration, and anaerobic training set will last anywhere from 3-4 seconds (1 rep max) up to 2 minutes. After 2 minutes, your body will start using oxygen as a source of fuel.
Because aerobic training is higher in duration, it's obviously is lower in intensity. As the old saying goes, "You can't run hard and long." Since anaerobic training would logically be the opposite of aerobic training, one can conclude that anaerobic exercise is high intensity. After all, it would be safe to assume that one cannot build much size/strength from aerobic activity. If this wasn't true, long distance runners would be far more muscular than sprinters, and my girlfriend would be more muscular than I!
What always confused me were people who trained anaerobically for 45-60 minutes, but only spent 20 minutes doing aerobic exercise. These people clearly have the characteristics of exercise confused. Anaerobic exercise is high in intensity, therefore short in duration. I think it would make more sense to perform 20 minutes of anaerobic exercise, with 45-60 minutes of cardiovascular training. However, some people maintain that you can train anaerobically for 45-60 minutes. I disagree because resistance trainers are attempting to train fast twitch fibers, and fast twitch fibers fatigue quickly. As the fast twitch fibers are overused, slower twitch fibers (which characteristically can handle more stress) will take over the exercise, thus the anaerobic exercise takes on more aerobic characteristics. Also, since you cannot train hard and long (as you can not sprint for long distances) volume would be inversely related to intensity. The more you train, the more your intensity is affected which changes the form of exercise from anaerobic too more aerobic.
Conclusion: Since intensity is the most important factor in training for strength/size, and there are only two accurate measurements of intensity, the resistance trainer should carry each set to maximum intensity, complete failure. It should be mentioned that failure is not required to stimulate an adaptation (growth), however since any measurement between 0-100% is inaccurate, one cannot be sure that he/she has stimulated growth.
Wrapping it all up, where do You Start?
To determine where you gain the most amount of strength, it is only logical to start at a single set taken to failure. Why? If you start at 3-4 sets, you may decide to go up in volume, which could be a mistake. What if your optimal volume was 2 sets? You would waste valuable time. Starting at a single set once a week is logical since you can only work up.
After approx 3-4 weeks of training with a single set to failure, you will have an idea of how much you gain on average, training with 1 set every 8 days. After the 3 weeks, add in 1 more set to failure. Maybe a pre-exhaust movement, and observe your strength gains over the next 3-4 weeks. If you find that you gain more strength training with this other set scheme, you know that you could potentially gain more strength by adding more volume.
Keep adding 1 set to failure every 3-4 weeks until you determine where you gain the most amount of strength.
Once that is determined, try changing other variables. Try a hitting a body part once every 10 days. If you find that you gain more strength with 10 days, vs. weekly, then you know that you could be making better gains maybe hitting a body part once every 2 weeks! Don't be surprised if you find that once every 2 weeks produces the best results, the author knows many individuals who train less frequently!
Continue modifying the other variables of strength training. Basically strength training is just fine-tuning the variables, one at a time, until you discover where you gain the most amount of strength.
Summary in Point Form
Resistance training is a science, since there are absolute laws that can be discovered and applied in training.
The law of causality states that every action has a reaction. Proper application of the training variables will lead to optimal training.
Change only one variable at a time, otherwise you will never know which variable produced the desired effect.
There is a clear relationship between strength and size. Anyone that disagrees should try and find a better way to build muscles, other than progressive resistance. Weight training is resistance against force.
Because of the relationship between size and strength, any program with the purpose of developing the muscles should be geared towards building strength.
Anaerobic exercise is responsible for hypertrophy, since you are developing the faster twitch fibers. The characteristics of anaerobic exercise are high intensity, short duration contractions. The goal of the anaerobic athlete is not to see how much he can tolerate, but to progressively increase the intensity of the exercise. Rather than adding volume, thereby increasing the inroad into ones recovery, try increasing the intensity of exercise. Increasing volume will lead to aerobic characteristics.
Because intensity is primarily responsible for creating the desired stimulus for hypertrophy, train to failure. In any basic biology class you will learn that your body tries to maintain homeostasis, thus stimulus must be great enough to disrupt homeostasis.
Start viewing yourself as a doctor who is attempting to discover the optimal prescription of training to grow as quickly as possible. This way you will fine-tune your training, in order to discover what works best for you.
08-28-2004 01:22 PM
great article....its only fitting that ur a fellow follower of mentzer...check out john little's work,...its the next logical advance in maximally effective training
08-28-2004 02:07 PM
The article has a lot of good points, although its got some bias leaning towards HIT. I like the idea of continually adding volume until the optimal range is found, although for some reason the author mentions lowering frequency, but not increasing it. I have been doing DC training for a couple months now and I'm really starting to like it, which is why I suggest increasing frequency.
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