This past year, I released my second book, The Biohacker
Among the copious amounts of information found in the book is the thoughtful pursuit of strength training for beginners.
Beginning Strength Athletes Should Focus on Three Key Areas:
- Correcting muscular imbalances
- Increasing workload and conditioning known as general physical preparedness (GPP)
- Acquiring stability strength
Assessing and Correcting Imbalances
During the first several months of a strength training regimen it’s imperative that the novice consistently perform movement assessments such as the overhead squat test to address faulty movement patterns stemming from muscular imbalances.
Once the results of the assessment are compiled and interpreted by a fitness professional, application of the corrective exercise paradigm can be administered to properly restore movement patterns, increase neural efficiency, avoid injury and ready the athlete for the next phase. If this process is neglected or rushed and the newbie is progressed too quickly into axial loaded close chain movements (such as a low bar back squat) they will likely never achieve the proper form or function of the exercise. More importantly, stagnation of training and injury are sure to follow.
General Physical Preparedness is the culmination of ten individual physical attributes. Five are categorized as general wellness, and five are performance variables.
THE 5 WELLNESS COMPONENTS ARE:
Body composition (muscle-to-fat ratio)
THE 5 PERFORMANCE VARIABLES ARE:
To be considered at peak physical ability, one should demonstrate efficiency in each of the above categories. Most people tend to excel in some areas, yet lack mastery in all areas. For example, a marathoner who can run 26 miles in 3 hours may have incredible cardiovascular conditioning yet lack strength, flexibility, muscle endurance, power, balance, speed, agility, and reaction time. Their body composition could also be relatively unhealthy if they don’t follow a performance nutrition plan. Many of us might make the mistake of thinking this person is physically fit. If they can run 26 miles they must be fit, right? Wrong. This is a perfect example of why true fitness is so elusive. As a beginning strength athlete developing and increasing your overall GPP should be your primary focus.
Intro to the M Series
The program design we have developed and currently implement at StudiO2 is called the M Series. “M” stands for Modalities (variables) of fitness. I played around for several years with many different HIIT (high intensity interval training) designs. I experimented with dozens of variations, but still something was missing. I wanted a design that ensured my clients were receiving a balanced dosage of all five wellness variables as well as all five performance variables during each week of training. The ideal balanced and integrated high-intensity workout design seemed to constantly be out of grasp. One day I drew on my white board all five fitness variables and created exercises for each one. When combined, these 5 variables created the ideal 5 station circuit (5 exercises—60-seconds of work, 15-second of rest – The perfect 30 minute HIIT—). The M Series was born. Here is what the first workout looked like:
Fitness Variable Exercise
Muscle Endurance Pullups
Cardio Vascular endurance Ladder Drill
Stability Strength/balance Contralateral dumbbell row/balance disc lunge
Flexibility Sun Salutations
Six of the ten overall GPP variables are now accounted for (strength, muscle endurance, cardiovascular endurance, body composition, flexibility, and balance). That leaves us with four variables (speed, reaction time, agility, and power). I integrate these final four variables throughout the week, cycling them into the cardio component of the workout design.
Look at the table above. Four of the dimensions of wellness are accounted for in the left-hand column and one performance variable (balance). The fifth wellness dimension, which is body composition, is not represented because it’s already emphasized with the inclusion of the HIIT design itself. Read more about body composition and HIIT training in PART I
Cardio-speed-40 yd dash
Cardio-reaction time-voice command drills
The M series always focuses on whole-body, compound exercises. For general fitness training and increasing GPP we want to choose exercises that create as much neurological adaptation as possible. Simply put, we want to fire every single muscle in our body as much as possible during the 30-minute workout. However, it’s equally important the program design creates symmetry between upper, lower, posterior, and anterior workload as the week and month progress. An example of how to effectively create this symmetry would be:
Monday – Anterior chain –Push
Thursday-Upper body barbell
Friday-posterior and anterior chain
I consistently reiterate throughout the Biohacker, stability training through functional movement patterns such as a single leg squat takes top priority for the beginner strength athlete. If this dimension is neglected or forgotten in programming, you can go ahead and start counting the days until your first orthopedic surgery. Stability strength is a subcategory of general strength. We covered the multiple dimensions of strength in Hacking Strength: Part IV! The term strength is often misappropriated by coaches and trainers who fail to understand the complexities and multiple dimensions of the term. The inclusion of stability strength exercises such as a single leg squat should be implemented alongside general strength exercises such as the low bar back squat or deadlift. This process creates corrections in the nervous and myofascial systems resulting in immediate technical adjustments to the main lift (squat or deadlift). Otherwise, such corrections might be neglected or instability exacerbated due to the axial load.
As GPP increases, the goals of fitness training change and the workout design must be recalibrated. When it’s time to increase the intensity of the workouts or do sport-specific conditioning, certain variables can be excluded from certain days’ workout design. Let’s say for example strength becomes a priority, and flexibility can be trained adequately during a yoga or one of our Corepower classes. Simply exclude flexibility from certain days of your workout design and emphasize general strength. This turns the 5M into a 4M but includes the more important variables that are the primary focus. This exclusion process can continue all the way to a 1M when focus on only one dimension of fitness is needed. For example, strength training for a powerlifting contest or cardiovascular conditioning for a marathon.
The choices are yours to make. What is imperative is the need to follow an organized training system that uses thoughtful programing to prevent over-training; guarantees a balanced, comprehensive approach to the achieving maximal GPP; and includes both HIIT and LIIT (and subsequently all three energy systems). The program should also be heart-rate based and, most importantly, efficient enough to be accomplished in as little as 30 minutes on most days. In a 30-minutes the athlete should be able to perform 20-25 sets of volume, plenty for novice athletes. This volume can be increased over time by increasing weights and repetitions inside of the 60 second interval. To my knowledge, the M Series is the only workout design that checks all these boxes. Here is a suggested Beginner Training Plan:
Monday – HIIT
Tuesday – LIIT-Barbell/strength training
Wednesday – Recovery cardio or yoga
Thursday- LIIT-barbell/strength training
Saturday- Recovery cardio or yoga
Progression in fitness is a simple recipe:
Increasing volume + Increasing of intensity = Increasing Results.
However, if you increase volume (weight x sets x reps x frequency) and intensity (load or heart rate) too quickly and focus solely on workload as opposed to the quality of the work being done, injury is sure to follow and you can forget about results. I cannot encourage you enough to evaluate yourself thoroughly before beginning this or any other fitness program. If you feel this is beyond your ability, please don’t hesitate to contact us for help creating a specific program based on your individual goals or to answer any questions you might have. However, if you’re ready to get started, I recommend going to our StudiO2 YouTube Channel and checking out our videos. There are dozens to help you get started or refine your current techniques.
Thanks for reading and see Ya next Week!