Break down the science of exercise to maximize gains
You probably noticed this when you first started exercising: you could barely run two kilometers. Your heart would have been racing, your leg muscles sore and your lungs gasping for air. Within a few weeks of consist-ent training, however, you would have noticed that you were able to run a few kilometers with ease. Your body would have undergone numerous physiological adaptations that allowed it to cope with the training workload.
Although the process is slow and the adaptations vary in accordance with the frequency, duration and intensity of train-ing, the results are often very specific. This means that if you trained for speed, you will get faster. And if you trained for strength, you will get stronger.
The Principle of Adaptation refers to the process by which the body gets accustomed to a particular exercise or training workload. In this case, exercise represents a new stress applied to the body’s nervous, muscular, cardiovascular and respiratory systems via a training programme or regimen. The body’s response to the repeated ex-posure to this stress is what brings about the adaptations (or changes) that are commonly referred to as strength gains or enhanced fitness.
Genetics also play a role in the adaptive process, which is why two individuals may not experience similar benefits from a training programme. So does nutrition, which can often be a critical factor. In fact, it is such scientific insights and re-search that have led Herbalife Nutrition, the renowned nutrition company with whom I work closely, to create targeted products that are used by some of the world’s top athletes, including Virat Kohli and Cristiano Ronaldo.
To better understand the Science of Physical Adaptation, one needs to understand the principles of exercise science (the rules that govern how a body responds to training workloads). However, at the heart of science lies one small fact: one size does not fit all. In fact, putting these principles into practice is more of an art than a science. It is only through trial and error that you are able to determine what works for you. Science only provides the framework.
Here are six universally accepted scientific exercise-training principles that are guaranteed to improve your performance and keep you injury-free. As a sports scientist and performance coach, I always try to incorporate these into training for all my athletes, from fitness beginners to elite competitors.
THE PRINCIPLE OF PROGRESSIVE OVERLOAD
The Principle of Progressive Overload combines two factors: Progression and Overload. The first refers to the systematic increase in optimal workload that is required for improvements in fitness without the risk of injury. Overload refers to a greater-than-normal stress or load that is required for a training adaptation to take place.
Progressive Overload can be incorporated into a training programme through increments in weight, speed, distance, duration, frequency, repetition and intensity. Each of these will bring about a different neuromuscular response. As a general rule of thumb, any physiological response you wish to achieve has to be linked to a change in your training programme. Four to six weeks without a change will bring about a Plateau Effect—the point where progress is stalled.
THE PRINCIPLE OF SPECIFICITY
This principle states that training should be relevant and appropriate to the sport for which the individual is training, in order to produce a Training Effect. This principle is particularly applicable as the level of competition increases. By this, I mean that a general level of conditioning from one code of sport could aid an amateur in a different physical activity, but at a professional level, the gains are marginal and are often a result of very targeted programming.
As a caveat to this rule, coaches do sometimes use cross-training to prepare athletes for competition.
The main reason for this is to reduce the risk of injury by changing the tissue loading patterns. Tissue loading pat-terns refer to the stress applied to a specific muscle, tendon or joint through a particular biomechanical pattern or training methodology. There are many studies published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, as also J. Hawley’s Specificity in Training research, published in the Journal of Physiology. Repetitive stress to an area increases its risk of injury and this is why coaches may adopt cross-training. However, this is generally done in the off-season when the workloads are higher than normal. In competition, targeted training is the only way to go.
THE PRINCIPLE OF REVERSIBILITY
The Principle of Reversibility is also known as the De-Training Effect. It simply states that an individual will lose the physiological benefits of conditioning when they stop training. Conversely, if they resume training, the effects of de-training can be reversed. It has also been studied extensively, especially by P.D. Neufer in Sports med.
This principle is often confused with the Principle of Recovery. While rest is important for recovery from training, extended periods of rest can reduce an individual’s level of physical fitness and return them to pre-training condition. The individual’s current fitness levels and the duration of de-training will determine the performance-loss ratio.
In terms of the de-training effect, we have found greater losses in muscular power as compared to strength. In fact, strength losses will rarely return an athlete lower than pre-training levels.
However, the benefits of cardiovascular or aerobic training have displayed significant losses in less than four weeks from de-training. Taking into consideration the importance of recovery and the intricate balance of limiting the de-training effects post-competition, it becomes critical to understand the Principle of Periodization, the process of dividing training into specific time blocks. We will discuss how to incorporate it into your programme design in the next column.
The Principle of Adaptation refers to the process by which the body gets accustomed to a particular exercise or training workload
My trainer has asked me to cut down on carbs, though I already take very little of them. Is there a supplement I can take, or should I cut them out?
There should be a valid reason to cut out carbs completely, because carbohydrates are essential for brain function and energy during training. The quality of the carbohydrate you take is also important. In terms of supplements, Herbalife Formula 1 is a wonderful balanced drink with 30 percent carbohydrate. If you’re cutting out carbohydrate from all your meals, a drink like this may be sufficient to ensure you have enough of this essential nutrient .