29 May #83 – Programming 101 with St. Vincent College, Pt. 2
Matt brings the programming lecture full circle by elaborating on why the Novice LP eventually must end, what factors are at play, and how to continue to drive progress in the intermediate stage and beyond.
One theory of why the NLP ends is that the fatigue generated from a workout is too great to recover from by the next workout 48 hours later. Thus the trainee comes to the second workout under-recovered and thus unable to exert the amount of force he is theoretically capable of. Matt’s theory fundamentally agrees with this, but expands further upon the fatigue, or stress, factor in the Stress-Recovery-Adaptation equation.
If recovery were the only factor at play, he reasons, then the trainee should be able to rest another day or two and continue to add weight to the bar. The SRA cycle of LP could be extended from 48hrs to 72hrs, to 96hrs and so on. Of course, we know from the SRA cycle (and experience) that, given too long a recovery period, a trainee will begin to detrain, and lose strength adaptations. Thus both the stress and recovery factors must both be at play.
Recalling that the driver of stress in LP is intensity, or the load on the bar (as opposed to volume, which remains constant at 3×5, or 1×5 for deadlifts, during LP), his theory is that the load cannot be increased enough to cause sufficient stress to drive strength gains. Toward the end of LP, the percentage of load increase workout over workout gets smaller each workout, as the trainee adds an absolute 5 pounds to the bar but the denominator of the weight on the bar continues to grow. Thus a typical male trainee adding 5lbs to a 300lbs squat at the end of his LP is increasing the load on the bar by only ~1.6%, compared to the beginning of his LP where adding 5lbs to a 100lb squat would be a 5% increase. Additional strength adaptation at this point would require an increase larger than what the trainee is capable of actually putting on the bar and squatting.
So, at this point, what do we do? Enter the “minimum effective dose” approach to programming, which was originally discussed in episode #53. LP is the simplest approach to programming, changing a single variable (intensity) at a time to drive stress. Once that stops working, we must change more than one variable. The logical thing to do is to perform more work, thus we must increase volume. 3 sets of 5 might become 4×5, then 5×5, and so on. At some point volume cannot be practically increased any further (imagine 10×5, it would take forever!), so we must manipulate both the intensity and the volume over time to continue to drive adaptation.
This approach — changing a single variable at a time until that no longer works — is essentially what is happening with the popular Texas Method intermediate training program. Monday is volume day (5×5 at 90% of 5RM), Wednesday is light day (3×5 at 80% of 1RM), and Friday is intensity day (1×5 at a new PR weight). However, most trainees simply jump straight from LP to Texas Method without changing the variables gradually from one program to the next, and thus they do not develop the theoretical tools to evolve their programming once Texas Method inevitably ends.
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