14 Jun 2009 20:02
By Joe Weir
A big problem with strength training is that it has been introduced in places (read: forums) where the general membership doesn't have adequate exposure or adequate knowledge. And like alot of internet sources and sites, the ideas and principles have been twisted and convuluted into something that it really isn't. With the large proponents of the distortion coming from the uneducated 'experts'.
The truth is that strength training revolves around INTENSITY. If someone is talking about 'strength training' and mentions the terms 'volume intensity', '5x5', or 'I don't want to burn out after a couple weeks' then that person really doesn't have a clue about actual strength training.
Volume intensity really doesn't make much sense because volume and intensity are inversely proportional, as intensity increases volume must decrease and vice versa.
Its quite possible to sustain maximal strength training for long periods of time without the risk of 'burning out', you just need to be smart about it and know how to manipulate volume and accumulated fatigue. Which surprisingly is not a difficult task but seems to be a difficult concept.
I don't even want to touch the 5x5… for now.
Acclimation is a very important aspect of strength training. It can single handedly make or break an attempt yet many people still opt for the traditional "bodybuilding" style warmups (1 plate 10 reps, 2 plates 5 reps, 3 plates 3 reps, you get the idea) which are not only inefficient but also prevent you from properly acclimating. A proper acclimation will have you performing single reps at a high intensity leading up to (what I refer to as) your working sets and we can justify these high intensities because the volume is kept extremely low (1 rep). Just as it sounds, acclimation is your body adapting to the environment it is exposed to and in this case the environment is very high intensity lifting.
The beauty of this is that it takes place the entire time you're lifting. As you progressively lift heavier weights, all preceeding sets inadvertently act as acclimation.
You can also use it as a means to complete a failed attempt. You may find that performing a couple of sets at a slightly lesser weight and returning to that failed weight may result in a succesful lift. This also brings us into postactivation potentiation effects, an acute effect with some very lovely attributes.
An especially frustrating topic is percentages and percentage based training. Yeah, they're easy to use to relate things but they really don't mean a whole hell of a lot. The core principle of strength training is you lift a heavy weight, the heaviest weight that you can at that time, and you keep lifting a weight that is close to that weight. Who cares if its 96%, 98% or 92%. 96 today might be 98, 94, or even 90 tomorrow and with many of these percentage schemes having PR or Max weeks built into them, it helps to muddy the waters a bit more and turn maximal training into a glorified PR hunt. Which is a complete mis-interpretation of strength training.
The next time you're looking at your workout log you should ask yourself "Is my 'strength training' actually strength training?"
In part 2 I'll be talking about some not so obvious components that are essential to comprehensive strength training.