Home Posts tagged "Mel Siff"

Cybernetic Periodization: Modifying Strength Training Programs on the Fly

As I noted in my post earlier this week, I’m doing the Superhero Workout for a nice little change of pace in my training program – and simply because it’s nice to be able to outsource my training here and there to other qualified fitness professionals. Yesterday’s strength training program included ten sets of three reps on a wide stance squat, and it was all going smoothly until the seventh set, when I started to get a little tight in my right adductor.  It wasn’t too bad, but I’m a firm believer in “better safe than sorry,” so I cut back on the weight by 50 pounds, narrowed my stance, and finished my last three sets with no problem at all. Sure, I deviated from the program, but I completed the session just fine, and have zero issues in the adductor today.  I avoided taking an unnecessary risk that could have become a setback in my training, and as a result, I’ll be continuing with the program as-is today. It got me to thinking about this question for my readers: what would you have done in this situation?  It's a tough - and confusing - decision.

Would you have done what I did?  Would you have simply dropped the weight and tried another set with a wide stance?  Would you have canned the final sets and reps and moved on to the next strength exercise pairing? Would you have just pushed through it?  Or, would you just have taken your ball and gone home altogether? The answers to these questions – whether they are correct or not – parallel something called cybernetic periodization.  I first came across the topic when Mel Siff wrote about it in Supertraining as he referred to programs not always taking “into account the athlete’s subjective perception of the intensity and overall effects of the loading.”  Siff went on to say that with cybernetic periodization, “the original preplanned periodisation scheme is regularly modified by subjective and objective feedback obtained from the lifter’s current performance state.”

Traditionally, at least from what I have read, cybernetic periodization has referred almost strictly to load, volume, and training frequency.  However, the question I pose today is: why can’t it also refer to exercise selection? As an example, I’ve switched folks from conventional deadlifts to trap bar deadlifts or sumo deadlifts when they just couldn’t find their groove on the conventional version.  And, some people can do feet-elevated push-ups when regular push-ups hurt.  Exercise selection absolutely matters as much as any other strength training program variable.

I’m a firm believer that there is always something folks can do in a gym to get better, regardless of their injury or state of mind.  Folks may be wildy excited to train, but have physical limitations that need to be taken into account on the fly in the context of exercise selection.  To that end, I think it’s important to know what to watch for in this regard if you’re trying to determine whether you should change a day’s training program: 1. Is there a performance drop from previous weeks? 2. Do warm-up sets feel heavier than normal? 3. Do you find that you’re having a hard time getting warmed-up? 4. Did you get poor sleep quality the night before? 5. Do you have unusual tightness, or something you’d term an injury? These are all questions you can ask yourself on the fly in your strength training program to determine whether you need to change things up.  The modification may be an exercise substitution or reduction in volume or intensity.  Regardless of the change, it’s extremely rare that the answer is to push through it, as it’s your body’s way of telling you something is wrong – and the correct cybernetic periodization approach is the way to “get things right.” On a related note, the early-bird special price on the Superhero Workout ends Saturday at midnight.  Head HERE for more information.

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Random Friday Thoughts: 6/27/08

1. Congratulations to Cressey Performance athlete Ryan Wood on throwing a perfect game for Sudbury Legion on Wednesday night. 2. For those of you with injuries who still plan to go out and get tanked this weekend, give this study a read. In particular, pay attention to the section that says, “The development of alcoholic muscle disease, which affects both cardiac and skeletal muscle, leads to increased morbidity and mortality in patients who abuse alcohol. The disease pathology includes myocyte degeneration, loss of striations, and myofilament dissolution, which is consistent with alterations in structural and myofibrillar proteins.” Now, it has been too long since I took muscle physiology in my graduate school days, but I’m guessing that getting hammered tonight isn’t going to help your knee to feel better… 3. Rumor has it that Robertson and Cressey are brainstorming for a new project. And yes, you know it is Friday because I am referring to myself in the third person. 4. A lot of people are resorting to using video newsletters because they feel that they can interact with the reader better. To be honest, I’m typing this blog post in an old t-shirt with a serious case of bed-head – and as much as I like all of you, my living room isn’t all that exciting to view. If I decided to go the video route, I’d have to shower, get all decked out, and hang some nice paintings – but I’d rather just spend that time working on content. Hopefully, you aren’t too disappointed. 5. I’m speaking at Fenway for the Jimmy Fund’s Fantasy Day tomorrow. This is an awesome cause and they could definitely use your donations. 6. If you’ve got an extreme pronator or supinator, you can modify your ankle mobilizations accordingly. If they pronate, elevate the medial (inside) aspect of the foot with a five-pound plate to drive more supination. If they supinate, elevate the lateral aspect to drive more pronation. 7. The other day, I remarked that writing a marathon training program for an oft-injured runner is like being a drug dealer giving an addict her fix. To that, a great manual therapist with whom we work replied, “Eric, you’re only a drug dealer if you’re dealing drugs illegally. Be her pharmacist; she’s her own primary care physician with this one: much less accountability.” 8. Raspberry-Mint is the single worst flavor of chewing gum in history. I hope somebody got fired for thinking it up and having the idiocy for actually opting to market it. 9. I just realized that it’s been a long time since I gave Mel Siff a mention in my newsletter. Considering he might be the brightest guy in the history of exercise science, that’s unacceptable. So, if you’re an up-and-comer and want a great foundation, read Supertraining…and read it yesterday. 10. Here’s an interesting read about an NFL lineman who decided to powerlift in the off-season. Big guys need to be strong – but they also need to move well. Hopefully, he’s doing plenty of mobility work on the side and staying athletic. You can be strong and move like crap. Have a great weekend! EC
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