recovery

Why changes in both volume and intensity should dictate recovery

I was recently reading through some programming information provided by a textbook that I purchased during my undergrad degree, and was slightly surprised at some of the information in there.

There was a pretty large chapter on the nitty gritty of exercise programming, with specific mention to both sets, reps, and recovery. Within this chapter there was a fairly lengthy explanation on rep ranges and intensity, which ultimately outlined the following:

                High Intensity = 1-5 RM
                Moderate Intensity = 6-12 RM
                Low Intensity = 12+ RM

It was further explained that heavy training periods should utilise high and moderate intensity training loads, while deloads (AKA recovery periods) should utilise low intensity lifting.

While this appears to make sense on a couple of levels, there is a fairly large flaw to their thinking.

Anything that requires maximum repetitions (RM) is not submaximal and therefore should not be considered low or moderate intensity. This holds true whether you are hitting a 3RM, 12RM, or a 20RM.

You see, while a 3RM while will elicit more mechanical stress (due to the heavier load) than a 12RM, that does not make it any less maximal. In fact, I would argue that a 12RM is likely to have a longer recovery period than a 3RM because it would elicit a significantly greater amount of metabolic damage (even despite lower mechanical stress).

So if your training program looks something like this, I have a bit of bad news:

Week 1: Moderate Intensity 8RM
Week 2 and 3: High Intensity 4RM
Week 4 (Deload….): Low Intensity 12RM
Repeat:

At no point are you actually allowing your body time to rest and recover. And in all serious, at no point are you working at anything less than a high intensity.

This is because every week you are still training to failure, irrespective of the rep range used.

A high volume kettlebell workout does not count as an active recovery - no matter how light the load is.

A high volume kettlebell workout does not count as an active recovery - no matter how light the load is.

 

So what can we do instead?

A good deload should allow the body opportunity to recovery without running the risk of losing strength. This means that training is recommended, but it should be done in a way that doesn’t stress the physiological systems of the body.

Arguably the best way to do this is by manipulating volume and intensity of a given training week.

By dropping volume significantly and intensity slightly one week out of every 4-6, we can provide ourselves with an opportunity to recover from our accumulated training fatigue in way that won’t affect our progress.

So an example of that may look something like this:

Week 1: Moderate Intensity 4 sets of 6 at 80% 1RM
Week 2 and 3: High Intensity 6 sets of 4 at 90% 1RM
Week 4: Deload using 3 sets of 4 at 70% 1RM
Repeat:

By letting volume and intensity dictate our deloads rather than maximal rep ranges, we can give ourselves a genuine opportunity to recover, while still receiving a small training stimulus.

This will ensure that we are fresh and ready to go for our next block of training, while also reducing our risk of overtraining significantly.

 

Name *
Name

Do we need to deload?

When discussing training and the potential of overtraining, there appears to be two very individual and opposite camps within the fitness industry.

The first camp appear certain that any individual, no matter their training status, is at risk of overtraining. As such, they recommend you deload every couple of weeks, and go further to suggest that you should train a single muscle group any more frequently than once every 6.75 days (or something like that).

On the other hand, we have the ‘overtraining is a myth’ camp. These guys train balls to the wall every single session, often with a high training frequency. These are the guys who will frequently run training programs such as smolov (or some other form of brutality) to elicit a training response.

So which group is right?

 

Recovery, Adaptation and Overtraining

All in all, the training process is a relatively simple one.

When we train, we place the body under external mechanical, neurological, and metabolic stress. This external stress causes a short term response (AKA a sweet pump, some hormonal changes, followed by DOMS) and long term adaptations (AKA bigger and stronger muscle tissue).

These small stressors put the body in a state of overreaching, where ultimately we push our body past its current training limits. The body then adapts to this state of overreaching.

It is these longer term adaptions that describe the training response.

The kicker?

That these adaptations only occur if there is adequate time for recovery.

If there is a lack of recovery, and continued training stress, we fail to adapt. It is this failure to adapt (in conjunction with further training load) that turns overreaching into overtraining.

Ultimately, during this stage, we continually break down and further fatigue already damaged and fatigued tissue. This can lead to a host of issues, as explained in the diagram below.

But is overtraining really worth worrying about?

Well, like anything, it depends.

 

The Risk of Overtraining

Now, I will tell you that overtraining exists.

Of that, there is no doubt.

This is a fact.

BUT.

Overtraining may not be as common as what some people make it out to be.

In a population of elite athletes, there is a considerable risk of Overtraining. These individuals train at a high intensity each day, participate in competition regularly, and often have to deal with additional life stress as well.

For these people, balancing training and recovery is like walking a tightrope. If they move one way too far, they may not get a training result, and performance will suffer. BUT, if they move too far the other way, they may train too much without adequate recovery, which can lead to overtraining (and again performance will suffer).

But for most of us, this isn’t as applicable.

We may train often, but rarely is it enough to result in a state of overtraining. Even if our life stress is high, reaching this state is still highly unlikely.

This is because we spend very little time actually training, and a lot of our time at work recovering.

 

So do we need to deload?

In short, yes.

While I have just suggested that most of us have very little reason to worry about overtraining syndrome, there are a number of reasons that we should still incorporate deloads into our training schedule.

Firstly, training creates significant stress on both muscle tissue, and the passive support structures of our joints (ligaments and tendons). Physiologically, tissue remodelling occurs at a much faster rate in muscle tissue than it does in these passive support structures.

As a result, if we do not undertake the occasional deload, we run the risk of causing negative degenerative tissue changes in our tendons and ligaments. This may lead to overuse injuries and joint issues.

As such, by undertaking a deload every now and then we provide opportunity for these passive structures to recover, reducing our likelihood of developing an tendon or ligament related injury.

Furthermore, a light week can often provide some time to refresh mentally, getting us excited for upcoming blocks of training. Consequently, deloads can play an importnat role in keeping us not only healthy, but motivated too.

 

Name *
Name

Why You Need Aerobic Training!

A thought process that is frighteningly common within the fitness industry is that if you partake in too much aerobic exercise (whatever 'too much' means…), you will end up small and weak (AKA you’ll lose all your gains, brah).

Unfortunately, this is a very poorly understood concept.

Yes, while it is true that if we spend hours upon hours each week training aerobically, we can limit our capacity to develop strength, power, and increase muscle mass.

BUT

Building an efficient and effective aerobic system by using smart training methods can have a number of benefits, no matter what your training level and training goal.

Hunter Bennett Performance Aerobic training Personal training adelaide

 

Improved Recovery

Something that a lot of people fail to realize is that no matter how hard or smart we train, if we don’t recover effectively, it is all a little useless.

Adequate recovery allows us the opportunity to adapt to the training stimulus, while providing time to repair damaged tissue. If we don’t recover adequately, we do not allow the body enough time to adapt to the training stimulus, which can blunt the results of our training.

When it comes to having a well-developed aerobic system, we can actually improve recovery through two key mechanisms.

Firstly, participating in low intensity aerobic activity on our rest days can promote blood flow to the active tissue, clearing metabolic by-products associated with muscle tissue damage, and increases the activation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which further promotes recovery.

Now when I say low intensity I mean low intensity – As in a very light jog or a brisk walk (AKA NOT tempo runs, sprint intervals, or a casual metabolic workout).

Additionally, participating in this type of activity can reduce our resting heart rate and increase capillarization of our muscle tissue, which can lead to a more efficient cardiovascular system.

Secondly, having a well-developed aerobic system improves our training capacity by improving our ability to recover during a session.

By recovering more in between sets, we can perform at a higher intensity during our working sets. As a result, this can lead to improved strength and power development as pretty simply, we are getting more out of each training session.

This can also lead to an increased amount of training volume, which has the capacity to improve muscle growth and hypertrophy, while also promoting fat loss.

 

Improved Performance

Now this one is a bit of a no brainer, but for those of us who compete in some form of field sport, having good aerobic capacity can make the difference between a very good or very bad performance.

The greater our aerobic capacity, the more work we can perform at a higher intensity. This means we can move faster, produce more force, and express more power for the entirety of a match, which will undoubtedly translate to improved performance throughout the games duration.

Interestingly, having good aerobic capacity is also likely to improve our ability to perform sport specific skills at a high level.

Fatigue masks or limits our ability to perform skills at a high level. By staving off fatigue, we increase our capacity to perform skills at a high level, which again, is detrimental to performance.

This also works in a similar fashion during training.

By having an improved aerobic capacity, we will get more opportunity to practice sport specific skills at a high level. This improves our skill development, which further increases our potential for athletic performance.

 

Practical Implications

So we know that having a well-developed aerobic system may actually improve our capacity to develop strength, power, and skill development.

It may also improve our capacity for muscle growth and fat loss.

Additionally, participating in some form of low intensity aerobic activity on our rest days can improve recovery significantly.

But how much is too much?

As suggested earlier, too much aerobic training can actually limit our ability to develop strength and power, and build muscle tissue, but not enough can actually impede our progress.

So what do we do?

Well, like most things, it depends.

For someone who needs a well-developed aerobic system (AKA a field based athlete), we need to place a premium on aerobic work. This is because it is integral to their successful performance.

This is most likely going to mean 2-3 high intensity conditioning workouts a week – particular during the early stages of preseason, where general physical preparedness is the training focus. This volume is likely to decrease during season as maintenance and recovery become the primary focus.

During this time strength training load needs to be managed closely to ensure we still develop strength and power.

For those of us who don’t play sport competitively, we can most likely get away with 1-2 high intensity aerobic conditioning sessions per week, with an additional 1-2 low intensity recovery sessions per week. This gives us an opportunity to develop our aerobic system, but not so much that it effects our other areas of training.

This will be the minimum effective dose to improve aerobic capacity and promote additional recovery, which should supplement our other training goals.

 

If you would like to start integrating aerobic training into your training, contact me via the form below.

Name *
Name