Training can be defined as the practical application of stress. Whether your goal is to lose weight, gain a few pounds of lean muscle or to increase your ability to sustain work over time, you need to correctly apply the appropriate levels of stress on your body.
Think about a few things when planning and identifying appropriate stimuli. Your body needs stress to create change; this change in your homeostasis will then elicit a response in the body (neurologically and metabolically). If you manage this new stressor correctly during the fatigue and rebuild phase, you will then look to have an increased level in your homeostasis (optimal compensation).
There are common pitfalls within the process that can be avoided. We can often apply too much stress and too often; this could be from constant testing and overloading. Athletes, in these cases, are maxing out each day on every lift and not considering their longevity and productivity. On the other side of the spectrum lie athletes who do not put enough stress on their bodies. These athletes are easily identifiable because they will have an aversion to “getting to big” or fear of getting too sore from difficult workout.
Adding optimal stress to a novice (low stress) athlete will garner immediate results because their bodies have never quite experienced it before. New stress is applied to the body, so it is creating change rapidly. It is important to focus on variety because the rut of monotonous training and programming will disallow variable stressors to occur. Fresh, evolved methods should be the main focus.
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: Your body has its own bank account (reservoir)
You want to add 10 pounds to your squat…well, that is 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 is vital to understand your body’s symbiotic processes.
Stress and Adaptation
1. Homeostasis: the body’s desire to stay within normal ranges needed to function and survive. For example, your blood prefers to stay within a pH range of 7.35-7.45 because that is where it is happy; that is where it functions well, and that is where we have the best chance of survival.
2. Allostasis: the body’s adaptive response to maintain homeostasis. In other words, how the body manages to maintain homeostasis in the face of a stressor. Think of it like those bumpers you set up in the gutters at the bowling alley; you need to stay within those set limits or else all hell will break loose.
Optimal adaptation of the body is a result of the following:
Step 1: You provide a stressor.
Step 2: Stressor threatens homeostasis and thus survival.
Step 3: The body, via allostasis, works to maintain homeostasis in the face of this stressor.
Step 4: You adapt to the original stressor in order to limit the amount of stress it can place on your system in the future.
There will be a decrease in performance while your body attempts to manage the unfamiliar stressor. Remember, your system is trying hard to maintain homeostasis, so you can stay alive.
Eventually, however, you adapt (super-compensate) above a level you were at previously. This is to ensure that the same stressor in the future won’t have as large of an impact on your system.
You have experienced this process; think back to when you first did back squats. What happened? I am willing to bet you were sore the next day.
What happened when you squatted again a few weeks later? Where you as sore as you were the first time? (absolutely not)
Squatting is a huge stressor; however, over time your body adapts to it in order to stay alive. That is why a proper programming is important for properly managing these stressors.
The Adaptation Reserve – this is how the body manages the function of reparation.
Staying with our bank account metaphor, inside your body you have so much currency. When you want to apply a stressor, you have to withdrawal money to pay for it. The currency will not fall out of the sky; one must manage their lifestyle and training consistency to “save up” for the big purchase.
Remember, your main goal is survival, and in order to increase your likelihood of survival, you have to limit the impact stressors have on your system.
Further, we must consider the exterior stressor in our daily lives. Wife, kids, work, etc… these things impact us! They wear on us like a one rep max deadlift, so we must be cognizant of managing these as well. It is not as simple as, “Oh, I lifted today, and that’s the only stressor I encountered.” There are an infinite number of stressors in our lives which all detract from our adaptive currency.
The Size of the Bank Account: So, how do I increase the size of my bank account?
Genetics aside, your focus needs to be on building work capacity. Depending on where you are at and what your goals are, you will have to focus on different energy systems and levels of training.
As your work capacity improves, however, you give yourself the potential to one day attack a more aggressive training program because you have the adaptive reserve in place to actually be able to handle large levels of stress.
Ultimately, if you have aspiration of being a monster in both training and life, you have to put in the work on the front end to build yourself a large bank account.
In our next articles we will discuss how to build your bank account for different levels of training.