I recently saw an ad for P90X that claimed that the workout program’s effectiveness stemmed from “the advanced science of muscle confusion that never allows your body to adapt.” After seeing the ad multiple times I realized that many CrossFit gyms think the same as P90X; they are always doing something different and never allowing for adaptation. This mindset violates a crucial element of strength training physiology. While you may lean out and be in better shape (more fit?) through “muscle confusion,” without adaptation you will never be strong.
Two primary theories behind strength training are General Adaptation Syndrome and progressive overload. General Adaptation Syndrome simply states that the body responds and adjusts according to the stress that is placed on it. Progressive overload means that as you adapt you add more weight in order to continue to build strength; the two go hand in hand. There are three stages of General Adaptation Syndrome, alarm, adaptation, and exhaustion.
Alarm Stage – Whenever a new stressor is introduced the body is shocked; in the event of exercise, the muscles are broken down. During this phase you are sore after almost every workout. Eventually the muscles begin to rebuild faster and you are less sore after each subsequent workout, indicating you have moved on to the next stage.
Adaptation Stage – Here is where we make all of our strength gains. As your body adapts to the stresses (weights) put upon it, you become stronger and more capable of dealing with heavier weights. It is also in this stage that the principle of progressive overload can be applied. As you adapt to the lighter weights that you lift early on, you add weight in subsequent workouts and ultimately increase the weight from there as well. The manner in which you increase weight is a matter of debate between different schools of thought. Some recommend increasing weight every workout; others increase every week. In the end it is all a matter personal preference and athletic ability and not the subject of this post.
Exhaustion – The final stage is that of exhaustion. This occurs when you have overloaded your muscular and nervous system to the point that it can no longer adapt to the stresses put upon it. In weightlifting and athletics this occurs when you do not properly rest, recover and allow your body to rebuild. Exhaustion is easily avoidable by taking at least two full rest days per week and taking a light deload week every few weeks or months.
CFW is known to be the strongest gym in Wilmington if not the strongest in NC. Our deliberate, strength-based programming allows our members to adapt and build strength. Although you may get better at lifting 95 lbs over your head for a few reps you will never get stronger without spending ample time in the adaptation stage. As for P90X and many CrossFit’s claims that no adaptation will make you fitter, take a look around CFW and our strongest athletes. Heck, take a look at all of our members who have been with us for over a year, then visit another CrossFit gym and tell us how our “fitness” compares. How do our strengths and adaptations compare? I’m willing to bet that you won’t find the number or caliber of athletes at any other gym in the state.
If you are having trouble making strength gains, add some weight to your lifts. We have at least one day every week where we perform only strength exercises and most days we have at least one lift before our met-con. The strength portion of the workout should be just as difficult as the timed portion. If it is not, add weight and make it tough. Our instructors are here to make sure you lift more safely.
Which do you prefer: band curls or a 185lb snatch?