Friday, November 12, 2010

Charles Staley - Customizing Your Workouts for Maximum Results

Cool article from Charles Staley - founder of Escalating Density Training, among other cool approaches to training and health. No body is like any other body, so it is important to know how to customize your workouts to fit your needs and environment. This article gives you a lot of the information you need to know.

Customizing Your Workouts for Maximum Results

By Charles Staley, B.Sc, MSS
Director, Staley Training Systems

Question: If you train and eat exactly like Dorian Yates, can you expect to develop an identical physique? The question is rhetorical, obviously. And while genetics is usually blamed for lack of progress, it's not that simple. Your genes are just one aspect of what makes you different from everyone else. But more on that later.

We know that the outcome of any exercise program can be made more predictable if a handful of established training concepts are understood and applied. In a field where there is no absolute right and wrong (only good, better,or best), the skillful application of these concepts helps us make the "best" decisions regarding exercise programming.

Customizing Your Workouts for Maximum Results

For instance, exercise should be progressive. In other words, you'll progress only when exercise is more difficult than what you're used to. We also know that the type of exercise selected determines the result you'll see .

This is also sometimes called the S.A.I.D. principle— Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand.

Further, it's clear that eventually, the body will stop responding to any exercise regime. This is one reason why there can never be the "perfect" training program— no matter how scientific and well planned it is, your body will eventually stop responding to it. When it does, you've got to be ready with "Plan B."

The concepts just discussed form a good "template" for developing exercise programs. However, by themselves, they offer only part of the answer. That's because a fourth factor— your individuality— must be considered to "fine tune" the program to your own unique situation. If the previously discussed concepts are the road map, individuality is the steering wheel. It allows for constant, minute to minute adjustments, so that the exercise program can be "fitted" the individual, rather than vice versa.

Commonly, people make the incorrect assumption that training = results, without factoring in the individual.

The importance of individual response is often misunderstood. Even science can be misleading. As an example, let's take an imaginary research study that evaluates the effectiveness of pre-exhausting the triceps prior to bench pressing. The researchers find that the majority of the subjects do not experience greater pectoral hyptertrpophy than the control group. HOWEVER, a few individuals DO make greater progress than the control subjects. The scientist who did this study would rightly conclude that pre-exhaustion is not effective. But for a few of those test subjects, it WAS. So the lesson is, not all people (in fact, very few) fall in the middle of the so called bell curve .

Tailoring Your Training Program

How can you individualize your training in a meaningful way? First, take an inventory of your own situation. For instance, in the first category, you might start by assessing your somatype. Are you an ectomorph, mesomorph, or endomorph? Do you have any postural problems that need to be concerned with? Do you have a high percentage of fast twitch, or slow twitch fibers?(You can get an estimate by seeing how many reps you can perform with 75% of your one rep maximum for any given exercise. If you can only do five or six reps, you're a "fast twitcher." If you can get twelve or more reps, you're probably a "slow twitcher.")

Once you've created a profile for yourself, you can then begin to create a training program which takes your unique characteristics into account. Start with your objectives, and consider the constraining factors you're operating under. These two variables will narrow your options considerably. Next, consider the most significant characteristics that make you unique. Age and training experience, for example. Younger people with more experience generally have more options than older people with less experience. Finally, examine your health status, including any postural problems you may have (resolving health problems should always be the first priority in any training program).

After you've spent some time analyzing your situation, you should be able to home-in on a basic program that will best suit your needs. Later, you can make minute adjustments as the need presents itself.

Vast Applications

Individualization has vast implications for your entire fitness program— not just exercise. For instance, just because 99% of Americans rely on commercial gyms for their fitness needs doesn't mean that YOU have to. You may prefer to train at home, or even outdoors. Today, people have access to an almost limitless variety of exercise modalities, including aqua fitness, martial arts, elastic resistance bands, yoga, dance, you name it. Many roads lead to Rome, so do what you enjoy.

Smart athletes also know that nutrition must be individualized as well. Case in point: English bodybuilder and elite strength athlete Gary Taylor. Despite the conventional advice of eating a high protein diet, Gary feels he does best on high carbs and low protein. With a 600 pound behind-the-neck push press to his credit, it's hard to argue with his unique approach.

Your goals don't need to be structured in conventional ways, either. While most seek more muscle or strength, you might find more satisfaction pursuing other objectives, such as everyday functional ability, or simply the sense of well-being that comes with following an exercise program. It's important to enjoy the process of training. If you're getting the results you want, don't change a thing. But if you're still not satisfied, try the suggestions we've outlined here. Lastly, remember that your individuality is a dynamic concept. As you progress, your exercise program must be constantly modified.

Practical Guidelines for Individualizing Your Training Program

A. Use "default," or standard, well accepted methods first. Use less standard methods only when you reach a point in your training where progress is no longer forthcoming.

B. Become familiar with anatomy and kinesiology, in order to better understand your body's unique characteristics.

C. "If it ain't broke, don't fix it." If you are making acceptable progress, don't change a thing.

D. If conventional programs just aren't cutting it for you, start experimenting. Try different exercises, different intensity ranges, a different number of exercises and/or sets, etc. Give the new program at least two weeks before you make judgments about it's effectiveness. If it seems to work, stay with it. But remember— the body will eventually get used to any program, so eventually, you'll have to switch gears.

E. You can find shortcuts in the experimentation process by modeling yourself after a successful person who shares your unique characteristics. For instance, if you're exceedingly tall, find other tall bodybuilders who have been successful, and find out how they altered their training programs to fit their individual needs, Chances are, it'll work for you too.

F. Use your common sense! Often, athletes with many years of experience resort to foolish and extreme practices to make further gains. Remember— if you've been training properly for more than 10 years, you're near your "ceiling of potential." If we all could make improvements endlessly for decades, everyone could squat 1000 pounds, or become Mr. Olympia, or whatever else their goal is! Your goal now is to stay patient, keep healthy, while still seeking further improvements.

G. Consider hiring a competent personal trainer. Experienced trainers have adapted training programs to a wide variety of people, and can usually show you ways to save time and energy.

H. Have a clear, objective vision of what you expect to gain from your program. If you don't, you'll have no way to evaluate the effectiveness of your training.

Classification of Individual Differences

It's often said that our similarities far outweigh our differences, but you might be surprised to learn just how different we all really are! Let's take a look at the six major categories of individual differences:

1) Anatomical:

This is perhaps the most obvious category. People come in different sizes, and they also have different proportions (long femurs, for instance). People also have different ratios of fast versus slow muscle fibers, body fat percentages, postural abnormalities (khyphosis, hyper lordosis, scoliosis, etc), somatypes, and tendon attachment sites. Individuals also differ with respect to hormonal levels. All of these factors must be considered.

2) Health and Training Status:

People have differing levels of health and training experience. Both factors are always in constant flux. For instance, a healthy person may develop an injury which necessitates a change in the training program. When the injury becomes resolved, the program must again be modified. Conversely, as an athlete gets stronger, he makes deeper inroads into his recovery ability, which requires less training frequency.

3) Objectives:

People with differing objectives require different training methods. Also, people's objectives are (hopefully) always evolving. As they reach higher levels of fitness, they become even more motivated to continue their progress. To do so requires more advanced forms of training.

4) Gender:

Women have different hormonal profiles (testosterone), and they usually have different objectives (fear getting too big) than men.Women generally have a higher ratio of slow twitch muscle fibers than men, as evidenced by their ability to perform more reps with a given percentage of maximum than men.

5) Age:

As you get older, your priorities gradually change away from peak performance per se to improving functional ability in everyday life. Also, more emphasis on flexibility and heart health is needed. Overall physical capacities dwindle with age, and training must accommodate this fact. Also, pre-adolescent and adolescent children need special modifications to prevent training related injuries and problems— excessive repetitive movements in the weight room, for instance, can cause injuries to the growth plates of growing bones.

6) Exogenous Factors:

Not only do people differ, but the environments in which people operate in are different as well! Environmental constraints include the following:

  • Availability of equipment and facilities: If you don't have access to a squat rack, you won't be able to squat! Time to get creative! Try lunges, deadlifts, one-legged squats, sissy squats, etc. If you don't have access to weights at all, you'll have to use free-body exercises.
  • Climate (physical and/or social): Urban environments may limit or preclude outdoor activities. Also, many people come from social backgrounds that frown upon certain types of physical activity— an example would be women lifting heavy weights. The important thing to remember is that you can't separate the person from his environment. All training plans should be made with environment in mind.

  • Time restraints: People with little time must clarify their objectives, and then seek out and implement the most efficient ways of attaining them. Also, such people must prioritize their time, and only engage in training activities that are absolutely essential to attaining their goals.

  • Energy restraints: In today's high stress society, many people have the time, but not the energy to pursue training. The aforementioned advice regarding prioritization will be most helpful in such cases.

About The Author

His colleagues call him an iconoclast, a visionary, a rule-breaker. His clients call him “The Secret Weapon” for his ability to see what other coaches miss. Charles calls himself a “geek” who struggled in Phys Ed throughout school. Whatever you call him, Charles’ methods are ahead of their time and quickly produce serious results. His counter-intuitive approach and self-effacing demeanor have lead to appearances on NBC’s The TODAY Show and The CBS Early Show.

Currently, Charles competes in Olympic-style weightlifting on the master’s circuit, with a 3-year goal of qualifying for the 2009 Master’s World Championships.

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