Monday, February 13, 2012

Get Freqy

Part one and two of this discussion involved training splits and training intensity.  The next piece of the puzzle is training frequency!

Training frequency affects everyone, and it affects every part of your training regimen.  Train too often and you will fall victim to chronic overtraining, tendonitis and tendonosis, and fatigue.  Last week I discussed the impacts and benefits of high intensity training, but training frequency necessarily limits your intensity level too--you can only train at max intensity for so long.  We've all gone too hard and suffered the consequences at some point.

In order to maximize the benefits of weight training, the body must be allowed to recuperate.  Weight training is a significant stress on the body--liver enzymes become elevated from muscle damage, acute inflammation is present in the muscle tissue and surrounding connective tissue, endocrine systems are affected--the list goes on.  Remember, the body is a system, so everything affects everything else.  Not allowing the body sufficient time for recovery leads to suppressed growth patterns: imagine your body still repairing muscle damage from a few days ago as you add more damage today.  The effects naturally compound until you are doing more damage than your body can keep up with.

The higher your intensity level, the more rest you will need between training sessions.  Some people work around this by altering their intensity level rather than train more infrequently.  Others train each bodypart only once a week but at max intensity.  For those of us who feel the need to train more often but also maintain high intensity levels, the addition of low intensity, low volume sets alongside existing HIT workouts can be highly effective.  This is the method I am currently employing.  I feel that a second "light" workout in opposing muscle groups can help me focus on the feel of the movement, altering form and style as necessary to improve the contraction and the negative.  This carries over to the "heavy" workouts for that muscle, increasing strength and power through increased difficulty and increased adaptive response.  "Light" workouts in antagonist muscle groups also allow me to pump up multiple muscle groups, which is beneficial for the agonist workout as well.  Even if the light sets are not much more than an extended warm-up, this at least opens up the joints and improves range of motion.  Also, I feel that agonist and antagonist muscle groups work better together rather than strictly isolated--I find that I am actually able to feel the agonist better when the antagonist is pumped as well.

A few general guidelines for training frequency:  If you are employing true HIT principles, limit HIT workouts to approximately once per week and limit the volume as well (a lot of people overdo it even on HIT).  I would not perform more than 4 exercises for a muscle group if I were using strictly HIT training methods--maybe 5 for back, probably only 3 for legs... Assuming a single set per exercise, this may not seem like much, but when your intensity level is appropriately high, it is plenty.  If you prefer training at a lower intensity level, i.e. 3 sets of 10 is more your speed than training to failure, consider training more frequently than once per week and increasing your volume.  Intensity level and volume are acute inverses, intensity level and frequency are long-term inverses.

Hope this series helps some of you get more out of your workouts :)

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