Training Methodology Pt 1:Specificity of Training

Training Methodology Pt 1:Specificity of Training

The difference between a good, knowledgeable, and experienced strength coach and the guy who took a seminar one weekend and opened a gym the next can be ultimately determined by two things: the results of a successfully completed program and an explanation of their training methodology. You could spend 8-12 weeks doing a program to see if it works, but that could leave you weaker, smaller, overtrained, or injured. Taking a look at the programming before you start and getting a rationale explanation is a much better route to take. It's not too hard to spot a good program from a bad one, you just need to know a few basic things about strength training and conditioning. The following article series should give you a basic idea of how things should be programmed and also give you some insight on the Chamber's programming philosophy.

Specificity of Training
One of the basic theories of strength and conditioning is the idea that you must train for specific biological adaptations to get specific results. I hear and read a lot these days about training programs that "trick" your body into getting results by keeping it guessing with different workouts and random exercises every day of the month. Although varying your workouts can be a good thing (we do this to some degree), lack of a consistent and repeated training stimulus on some level will drastically limit progression. As an example, CrossFit is known for it's constantly varied workout prescription, but a broad look at the programming of the best coaches in the community shows a very specific and periodized training model. Coaches like Doug Chapman, CJ Martin, and Ben Bergeron have been programming specific periodized cycles for years. That is why their athletes continue to dominate the CrossFit games each year. The typical CrossFit model taught in the level 1 seminar may work for a 40 year old mother who has not broken a sweat in 20 years, but after a few years or even a few months the results will begin to slow down or stop all together.
If you are training for a sport, to look good, or just to dominate life, there should be some specific things your coach is aiming to get results in. If you want to be fast, you better be doing fast movements. If you're trying to get stronger, you better be picking up heavy stuff at a low rep scheme. If you want to get huge, you better be doing higher reps with minimal rest. Additionally, and perhaps more importantly, you better be doing these things on a regular basis. If your program calls for back squats once a month for a 1RM and then you never squat again, you aren't going to get any stronger. If you're trying to get fast and only do sprints, plyometrics, or Olympic lifts once every 3 weeks, you aren't going to get any faster. The body adapts to repeated exposure to specific stimulus over time. Doing random things every day may burn some calories and help you lose weight, but it will never get you looking a specific way, performing a specific way, or achieving a specific set of results.
At the Torture Chamber we target specific adaptations throughout the training year (I will get more detailed with this in Part 2 of this series, "Periodization"). We will break off chunks of our year (called training cycles) to specifically work muscle growth (hypertrophy) and muscle strength. We will spend a few training cycles working muscular endurance and movement efficiency with our more complicated lifts at lower weights before we attack a few cycles of power and speed development. As we are doing all of this, there is a separate focus on our metabolic pathways and how they fit into each cycle. We train our phosphagen system, our glycolytic system, and our oxidative system with different training modalities to elicit specific adaptations in our conditioning. Although our CrossFitters need all these modalities to some degree, my football players don't need to run a sub 10 minute 2 mile and my cross country girls don't need to run a 4.4 forty. We are specific in what we do.
The point here is that when you take a broad look at your training program you should be able to see some level of repeated prescription of exercise and modality over time. This could be a few weeks or a few months. You should be doing some form of similar exercises on a regular basis from week to week as well as training intensity and modality. For example, during our strength phase we consistently do reps of 5 or lower in our core and Olympic lifts (with a little more rest) over the span of several weeks or months. This constantly repeated format of training prescription is what shows us results. If you look at your program and you do not see similar patterns over time (a week to 2 weeks), that should be a major red flag, and you should ask your coach about it. If you're paying a coach to program for you, he should not be offended about this. As a matter of fact, he should be delighted to talk about it. There is little else in this world I enjoy talking about more than program design and training methodology. Generally when my athlete's ask I ramble on until they regret asking in the first place.

In part 2 of this series I will be explaining in more detail how specificity of training fits into our overall program through Periodization.