Episode 41. Training Progression and Strength

Jan 30, 2017 | 1 comment

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Show Notes

We look at how to make real progress through your workout program, and how to assess that progress. What does it mean to be in what Scott calls the “Mastery Phase” of a workout program? How important are strength gains? If it depends on the program, what factors determine this?

Workout Progression:

Training for Size vs. Training for Strength

  • Scott’s been posting exercise form videos on his Facebook page: facebook.com/CoachScottAbel
  • A functional trainer or dual-axis cable machine.

    Scott also wanted to talk about how great and versatile functional trainers are. You can mimic pretty much anything. You can see Scott’s own in his home gym walkthrough video: https://youtu.be/kJ6pHGuxSVk

  • Workout program design needs to account for whether it is training ultimately for strength (e.g. powerlifting) or training for muscle development. If you’re training for strength, you’ll use volume, but your’e still straining ultimately for strength. If you’re training for muscle and development, you’ll gain strength, but you’re still training ultimately for muscle size and development.
  • Strength will have more linear periodization than training for hypertrophy and muscle gain.
  • If you’re training for muscle and size, the indicators of progress will be much more subjective, and perhaps subtle. You WON’T necessarily add pounds to the bar.

Key Term

Training Efficiency Percentage (or TEP) – the percentage of reps in a set that force an adaptive response. I.e. a beginner does a set of 10, and the first 7 reps are easy. It’s only the final few reps that seem hard. By contrast, look at an experienced lifter. Even from the beginning those reps are difficult.

Key Term

Maximum Voluntary Neural Activation:  Simplified answer: your ability to activate your CNS and make as many muscle fibers as possible contract.

The Mastery Phase

  • The Mastery Phase comes usually at least 6 weeks into the program, and it’s about getting through the initial “getting used” to the program your body goes through, and now you’re at the stage where you can really hammer it.
  • What does it feel like? You’re no longer trying to remember, “Oh, do I do this, or this? Where do I go after? Aw, crap, how am I gonna super set this exercise with this other one?” At this point, you’ve figured it all out, both on the macro level (exercise 5 follows exercise 4, which follows 3, etc.) and on the micro level (this is how you perform this specific exercise).
  • On the one hand, this is just… memory. Not even “muscle” memory, but just plain old memory. AND YET, that is important too, and plays a role. It’s not the entire thing, but it’s a part.

Strength in the Service of Size?

  • Subjectively, you should always choose a weight that challenges you within the reps indicated. The program design should take care of forcing an adaptive response, which doesn’t always take the form of #s on the bar.
  • Both Scott and Kevin agree that training for 1-rep max strength is not optimal if your goal is muscle development.
  • Kevin thinks you do need a certain base level of strength before you start adding volume or worrying about advanced strategies. You just need to go through that initial progression.

Links & Resources

Scott’s book, The Abel Approach, covers the science of what we talked about. Learn more here.

The Innervation Primer provides more of a general intro.

Download the Primer

Expert muscle activation.