Your muscles can handle multiple attacks a week, but these attacks must be smartly planned. Give yourself space for growth and recovery with auto-regulatory training!
If you have followed our work, you are familiar with the fact that we are a fan of non-linear periodization of plans. The fact is that you can effectively train the same part of the body several times a week, if the intensity of the training varies.
Most people have a training plan that they strictly adhere to. For example, heavy lifting on Mondays, hypertrophy on Wednesday, and light hypertrophy on Friday.
But what do you do when Wednesday comes and you feel terrible? The fighter in us tells us to stop whining and finish the training. But is that the right thing to do?
Our lab has recently dealt with this issue and the answer will most likely surprise you. Read on to become a more aware and powerful lifter.
How strong are you feeling today?
That’s the question that led Dr. McNamara and his colleagues into what I consider to be the most important experiment in 2010. They divided the respondents into two groups: ‘flexible’ and ‘inflexible’ periodization. All subjects performed three workouts a week – the day of heavy lifting, the day of hypertrophy and the day of light recovery.
The inflexible group was working out on the day that was assigned, while the flexible group trained according to how they felt – but had to do all three workouts a week.
Therefore, if the flexible group felt poorly and didn’t recovered enough on Wednesday, they would choose the easiest training. If they felt great on Monday, they would have done the hardest training. The results showed that although the respondents did the same training, the flexible group had an increase in strength of about 30 kilograms in the legs, while the inflexible group had an increase of only 10 kilograms.
Such a flexible training mode is known as ‘auto-regulatory training’. The implications are quite clear: The idea of a plan that follows how an individual feels on a particular day is more desirable than a fixed schedule.
On a scale from 1 to 10, how recovered do you feel?
In our first research, we used a system called “noted recovery status”. The scale of this system is the same to what the recovered individuals feel after working out in the gym.
Scale of the recorded recovery status
10 Very good recovery / high level of energy
8 Good recovery / medium power level
6 Medium Recovery
5 Adequate recovery
4 Decent recovery
3 Insufficient recovery / considerable fatigue
1 Very bad recovery / strong tiredness
In the first study, we took individuals who were training with high loads and subjected them to an average training volume of 20000 kilograms per training – quite tiring. We asked them what their status was before the training, and after 48 hours, when they were expected to exercise again.
We have noticed a large drop in their status, but what is equally important, we have noticed that these changes can predict changes in performance, testosterone levels and direct muscle damage. As far as we are concerned, this proved the correctness of the status scale. The next step was to put a scale on the test of a whole micro cycle.
The latest research included 40 bodybuilders and powerlifters that can do squats with a load that is more than 2 times greater than their body weight – in other words, not average individuals. They trained for 2 weeks in which they raised almost 200,000 pounds a week.
After two brutally busy weeks, we reduced the intensity in the next two weeks. During this period, we followed the strength, muscle damage, and levels of cortisol in each individual. We also followed their muscle mass using ultrasound.
It turned out that after the first two brutally arduous weeks, individuals whose status fell from 10 to 7 have recovered drastically. They gained muscle mass and reduced fat tissue, and became stronger. Individuals who have fallen to 5 or 6 have recovered to the point where they were before. If someone’s status fell below 5, that individual did not recover even to the starting point, which means they lost both strength and weight.
This research was a real discovery and progress for us. Those days when you enter the gym and you feel very bad, in other words, your status is less than 5, are not days when you should be too strained. We recommend that you do a training with less intensity on those days.