This Is Why You Will Get Incredible Results At Unity Gym
You hit the gym two or three times per week. You’ve got a great trainer and the program you’ve been given seems legit.
So why isn’t your body changing much?
Research on weight management and health indicates that to lose weight you must exercise a minimum of five days per week.
That’s a minimum!
Although there are still benefits to training two or three times per week, the reality is, you will NOT get much of a change in how you look.
That’s just the way it is.
This is exactly why the Foundation Movement System program spans over five days at Unity Gym. And our membership structure supports the five day philosophy.
In this article I will discuss:
- The benefits to using proper program periodisation
- What program periodisation is and why was it invented
- The different variables you can manipulate to enhance your workout
- The risks you take if you’re following a program that has not been designed properly
So now that we know that amazing results won’t come unless we exercise five days per week, how do you take an individual who’s not used to exercising every day of the week and have them increase to that level, without them overtraining or suffering burnout?
The answer is, special consideration must go into the program planning process and program periodisation must be used.
What’s program periodisation?
Sports specific program periodisation was pioneered by world renowned strength coach Dr. Tudor O. Bompa.
Through years of research training elite level athletes Bompa proved that to elicit the best possible adaptations to exercise, athletes programs couldn’t always be super difficult.
To manipulate the difficulty of his programs Bompa mastered the art of variation by altering the following program variables:
Bompa discovered that when he made calculated changes to one, or a combination of the program variables his athletes responded much better through increased adaptations in the muscles and energy systems.
From this discovery modern day program periodisation was born.
Nowadays all reasonable strength coaches and personal trainers have some level of knowledge on program periodisation. Some coaches use periodisation very well and get amazing results; others not so much.
But either way, it appears in most programs to some degree.
Chances are, if your workout specifies any of the above program variables, you’re following some form of program periodisation without even knowing it.
Even if it’s as simple as the selection of exercises changing from time to time …
As I’ve indicated, like anything there’s good ways of doing it, and not so good ways.
Problems can occur when people have a poor understanding of how the body works and get periodisation wrong. A lack of, or average periodization can cause over training and even injury.
On the flip side, getting things right will yield incredible results in both skill and strength development. Plus, good programming will reduce injury risk by properly managing your levels of fatigue.
That’s how people manage to train five, six and even seven days per week in some cases.
The need for periodisation is absolutely essential if you want to get great results.
To help bring you up to speed, let’s briefly discuss each of the program variables mentioned in a little more detail. These are the many variables that we consider when we design the FMS workouts for you.
Intensity refers to the actual load lifted during your workouts. Intensity is one of the most obvious programming variables because it can be manipulated very easily. For a simple example, intensity is manipulated by either lifting heavy weights, or light weights.
You can also manipulate the intensity of your workout by allowing yourself to lift to failure, or not to failure.
But in most cases intensity refers to the level of weight lifted compared to the your 1 rep maximum (1RM). 1RM refers to what weight you could lift for 1 rep and then fail. A program with 1 rep set’s prescribed (otherwise known as singles) would be very high intensity program.
In addition, to help prescribe intensity, trainers will often use some type of score to ascertain what the level of intensity is going to be for a given workout. For example, a perceived rate of exertion (PRE) scale from 1 to 10. A PRE score of 1 would indicate very easy and 10 would indicate extremely hard, or to muscle failure.
It’s important to note that you can’t and shouldn’t always train to a 10 or to failure. Unless you’re managing fatigue with properly prescribed deload periods it’s just to stressful on your body.
So setting the prescribed PRE first helps to indicate to the athlete what weights to select, therefore, helping to predict intensity of the workout.
One of the ways to help predict and manipulate intensity is to use prescribed volume.
Volume is another very straight forward program variable which too can easily be manipulated without much thought. The difference between 2 sets of 10 reps and 10 sets of 10 reps is obvious.
Due to the way muscles operate and the energy systems in your body, program volume and intensity work in tandem; as one goes up the other usually must come down, and vice versa.
For example, you couldn’t have 10 sets of 10 reps and still maintain a high intensity. The body would very quickly fatigue and the volume of reps and the weight lifted would drop off quickly.
This is where a good understanding of human physiology is required. And often where trainers start to stuff up.
One of the ways that trainers and coaches manipulate volume is by prescribing specific tempo.
Tempo also must be carefully considered when considering other loading variables. To get the best results, certain movements should be done fast, and certain movements require slower tempo.
Getting tempo wrong can negatively affect your athletic ability. This is especially important for people who train for sports specific adaptations. For example, sprinters should not train at slow tempos.
When using tempo to elicit muscle and energy system adaptation you must also consider the rest and recover periods carefully.
Not having sufficient recover can hamper your ability to adapt properly to the exercise.
Recover refers to the time between sets, workouts and also prescribed deload periods during a program.
Recovery is super important and special consideration must be put into rest and recover; especially when prescribing high intensity periods. Recovery is also important for specific movements that demand high levels of neural activity and coordination such as Olympic lifting.
This is where the Crossfit sport come under scrutiny. Many strength coaches, me included believe that Crossfit is dangerous because of the pairing complex Olympic lifts like the clean and jerk or snatch with extremely high volume workloads and minimal recovery.
This is a sure fire way to injure people, which is an opinion backed by the alarming number of injuries that occur in Crossfit.
In addition to intra workout rest and recovery periods between sets, prescribed rest days and deload or back off weeks are also a critical component of a good program. I’ll explain more about this in a moment.
But first we’ll look at the most obvious, and common variable that almost everyone knows.
Movements or exercise selection is obviously the selection of movements chosen to support your physical development. The movement selection should be in alignment with your goals and skill level.
Movement selection must also align with all of the above because certain movements require special consideration when selecting how much weight you lift, to what speed and how many reps you do.
There’s also great ways to pair or group exercise together in a workout to yield a better result. This is another area that is commonly done poorly.
One of the most common things I’ve seen in my 15 years working in the fitness industry is people attempting movements way above their skill level and making an absolute mess of themselves in the process.
This is an area we work very closely on with members at Unity Gym. The concept of the Foundation Movement System was to provide a systemised approach to movement progression that enables all participants to develop incredible skill and strength, no matter where they start from.
The Beauty Of The Back-Off
Now that you’ve got a little understanding of the different loading parameters we use to periodise your program at Unity Gym, let’s discuss in more detail the importance of the deload and peak weeks.
This is where most of the cool stuff occurs!
The peak week is generally the third week in the program block and this is where things are cranked up. We aim to peak the intensity and volume of the workout – meaning – you lift the heaviest weights and the most total weight on peak week.
The first week of a new program block is the learning phase. This is very zone one of your brain’s learning phases where you’re often learning a totally new movement and there’s heaps of neural plasticity occurring as your brain develops new neurons.
Very healthy brain activity!
In the second week you have a chance to practice the movements a little more, there’s still great neural plasticity occurring but not as much as when you first try the movements. This is called zone two.
On peak week (week three) you’re starting to nail the movement and your body has the ability to lift more weight (increase the intensity). This is the period where you develop most of the strength. From here there’s not much neural plasticity occurring anymore as you move into zone three, which is the master phase.
Then, we deload. Usually, the deload is NOT a reduction in weight lifted, but instead, a reduction in workout volume and total weight lifted.
This is VERY important!
This is where all the BIG growth occurs. In fact, it’s how many professional bodybuilders and athletes make huge gains in performance, strength and muscle size.
During the deload, or back off weak it’s important to feed your body properly and rest adequately. This means no partying or junk food.
Partying and eating junk food during your deload week not only affects your health, it destroys your body’s ability to adapt and repair the damage from the previous three weeks of training.
It also sabotages your upcoming training block because you’re not rested and ready to go.
Hopefully this article has shed some light on the special consideration that has gone into the FMS program here at Unity Gym.
Everything from the selection of movements, how they are grouped together, the volume and intensities prescribed through to the peak and deload weeks are all very important pieces of a huge puzzle that makes up the program that we use to ensure the best possible results.
So the next time you hear your trainer mention peak week, or discuss strategies for optimal recover and physical adaptation during deload week, you’ll know what we’re talking about.
But don’t stress if some of this goes over your head, program periodisation is the The 11th Pillar Of Optimal Health and we will discuss the topic in more detail when it comes around in the program.
Until then, keep lifting and make sure you’re following the program properly. That includes the peaks, and the back off periods.