But first . . .
"Do Not Go Quietly: An Anthology of Victory in Defense"
May 21, 2019.
From small acts of defiance to protests that shut down cities, Do Not Go Quietly is an anthology of science fiction and fantasy short stories about those who resist.
20 short stories, eight poems.
Table of Contents here:
Okay then . . .
KNOWING YOUR OWN CYCLES
by Bradley J. Steiner (1988)
Every human being is unique.
In weight training and lifting, some people can train for four weeks, intensively, and then bog down. One the other hand, some others can grind along steadily, making excellent progress, for six, seven, eight or even 10 weeks before they stop making gains on a given program.
Whenever I work with a student on his personal training schedule, I am careful to make him more aware that he must be mindful not to adopt the approach advocated by others in their published training diaries (i.e. articles).
The temptation to follow someone else seems to be irresistible!
In most cases, a student will follow a given program for several weeks, become frustrated because he hasn't blossomed instantly into a Mr. Olympia, and then look for some "program of the champions" to transform him.
This is nonsense, really. It takes time, patience, discipline and self-understanding to attain one's potential development. And no super-routine can, no matter what claims may be made for it, speed things up.
No "champion" trains in a manner that you or I ought to duplicate. Each person must know themselves and train in accordance with their individual needs and requirements.
Remember that everyone's bone structure, metabolism and basic body processes are essentially different from everyone else's. Because of this, each trainee must be ever mindful of what he must do for his own special self in order to develop properly.
For many years, I have used the concept of training cycles successfully both in my own training and in the training of countless students. By applying the cycle training idea to one's unique training goals and potentials one is certain to enjoy wonderful progress.
The training cycle concept works on the idea that we make progress in steps, or in "spurts," rather than steadily and endlessly from the moment we first touch a barbell until the day we retire from the muscle game. In using cycles we train hard for a given block of time, attain a set goal, then back off in order to recuperate and go on to another cycle. The real trick lies in knowing your unique cycle.
A beginner can determine his best cycle by simply setting up a program, deciding on a goal, and then working toward that goal until he feels himself naturally bogging down. This doesn't mean "get lazy," it means bog down or literally go stale. If you find yourself clicking along nicely for two, three, four, five weeks, for example, and then discover that you're grinding to an abrupt halt in your progress, that's the end of your cycle.
A word of caution: we all have days when we feel less like working out than we do on other days. This doesn't mean we've come to the end of a cycle. It may indicate that, but it may also mean simply that we're a bit lazier that day than we normally are.
How to tell?
See how you feel 20 minutes into training. If, after doing two or three exercises you still feel "blah," then you're stale, not lazy. If laziness is your problem, then the stimulation provided by the initial exercise movements will certainly clear the trouble up! In fact, you'll be elated to be training.
If you're stale, note how many weeks (or months) this particular workout has worked for you. This is your special cycle. You may even have noted, without being aware of the implications, that you always seem to flatten out after five (or six, etc.) weeks on a nice, new routine. Well, now you know why that happens. Your cycle allows for a maximum push lasting just that many weeks. If you'll use, instead of getting discouraged by, that unique fact about yourself, you can work your cycle to give you greater gains and progress than you've ever dreamed possible.
Let's say that you have a natural five week cycle. That means you can train with steady improvement and enthusiasm for about five weeks; then you bog down. Okay, you want to use that fact to train most effectively.
Plan your workouts so that you anticipate peaking out after five weeks of training. For example, take a single exercise such as the press. Let's say you train with 3 sets of 8 presses. You employ 100 pounds with little problem. Your previous "best" workout was 110 x 3 x 8 reps. Now, your goal is to achieve a new best in your training of 3 x 8 with 115.
Start your cycle with 90 pounds, 3 x 8. Schedule and plan your weight increments carefully so that you hit your goal at the conclusion of your cycle. Increments of a few pounds weekly will do it. Don't make the mistake of pushing too soon (not giving the body sufficient time to increase in strength), or too slowly (not hitting the target poundage by the end of the cycle), and thus going stale before hitting the goal.
This example is an oversimplification, but the principle and method should be clear. Be logical, systematic and disciplined; you'll be amazed at how one can predict and achieve just what they're after!
At the conclusion of a cycle, relax. Relax a few days. Resume another cycle, this time carefully targeting a goal slightly beyond your previous best. For instance, using the example of the press again, set 120 pounds for 3 x 8 as your new goal and resume cycle number two with 95 or 100 pounds (well within your new capability), working systematically for another five week period toward the 120 pound goal you're after.
This simple approach works amazingly well. Whereas it would be impossible for you to fight Mother Nature and train for 10 weeks to achieve the 120 pound goal, it will be easier to do so in two five week blocks because this goal in within your natural cycle.
The inclusion of a few rest days will carry your two five week cycles to a program of close to 11 weeks - but so what? You'll attain your goals, and what is much more important, you, can keep this up nearly indefinitely and enjoy better, more frequent and more steady gains.
Can this approach be used forever with everlasting gains?
Unfortunately, we cannot seem to change the fact that once our own unique potential has been actualized, we're essentially as developed as we're going to get. However, don't be too quick to assume that you have actually achieved your potential unless you've been training correctly, consistently and hard for at least five years. Greater gains after that long a period of time are certainly possible for most lifters, but very difficult to achieve. Normally, one's concern after developing after five or so years is maintenance of one's development.
Bear in mind now that I am NOT speaking for bodybuilding naturals who are in a terrific class all by themselves. Their magnificent development is as much a product of fantastic heredity as it is training and diet. I am directing my instruction to people who, like me, love bodybuilding and want great gains, but who just do not have the potential to be "great" physiques. People in that category will reap wonderful gains from the method discussed.
Students have asked me if there is any way to increase the length of their particular cycles. In other words, if they discover that they gain on five-week cycles, can they somehow alter their inner nature so that they can gain for 10 weeks at a time? Frankly, no, there isn't.
Your training cycle is unique to you. Nature is responsible for this programming, and I'm afraid there's no way to change it. Gains are made best when we work with it. A serious individual, training hard, can make great progress even though his cycles are short. He simply requires more of them to forge ahead where fewer but lengthier cycles might lead if his inner programming were different. Hardly a big deal. Long or short cycles, it matters not. The progress will be there if one persists in training.
One of the benefits of this cycle system of barbell training is that it enables one to avoid so much frustration with regard to periodic, lengthy setbacks. Such setbacks, please note, are often the result of attempting to force oneself through a period of staleness. By training and pushing when the body is simply not ready to back up and benefit from the effort, one sabotages one's goals completely. Sometimes such folly results in weeks or even months of missed or nonproductive training.
When a trainee gets to know his cycles he can actually regulate one of the most important elements of effective long-term training:
the variance of heavy and light work. This variance helps to avoid too much maximum effort, too frequently.
At the start of every new cycle the trainee eases up a bit, taking care to work well within his limits. Yet, he avoids training with weights that are too light, since he will almost always begin a new cycle slightly ahead of the previous cycle. When the end of his cycle arrives he is pushing hard - but only as hard as he is able to do. He isn't in danger of overtraining or burning himself out.
Readers of my material know that I advocate a lifetime approach to training; that I believe in training essentially as a way of life. By utilizing the cycle system of training it becomes very easy and effective to train forever in a productive, sensible style. Start the cycle approach yourself, and I'm sure you'll agree that it is a great way to train.
Note: if you're an older lifter and haven't yet heard of the Malone-Meltzer Age Coefficients, it might interest you. These coefficients offset the inevitable decline in performance as we age:
Let's say, for example, that you could Press 190 back when you were 30 years old. Now, at age 55, you're good for 165. Using the age coefficient for a 55 year old:
165 (current Press) multiplied by 1.35 (age 55 coefficient) =
roughly 220 pounds.
You have to factor your body weight in, if you have gained or lost a considerable amount since, don't say it . . . oh, the horror . . . then. And do a few moments of yer math stuff if you're comparing a lift you made when you were 35 and you're 65 now.
So, don't think that there's no point in using poundage as a marker of progress when you get a wee bit, shall we call it . . . Oh No, again that horror . . . older.
You can get wiser in your training as you age as well. Hell, I'm 66 plus, and use an age coefficient of 1.67. Now, it may not be "real" and all that, I understand. And you don't record the adjusted numbers in your log or tell people of your "new found" amazing strength feats. But it is of use when it comes to making goals for yourself, something many older lifters tend to shy away from, owing in part sometimes to the drop in their strength.
It's a bit of a mind game, of course. And there's a whole lot of mind games, aside from poundage records that an older lifter can use to stay motivated, to keep on going and showing up.
Good God. A 400 deadlift at a 1.6 age coefficient is around 660.
I can't wait to see what I can do at 70!
How about you?
In it for the fun of the long run?
Like the title of that book up there says . . .
DO NOT GO QUIETLY!
Set Quality Goals
Good gains are motivated by the selection of meaningful, quality goals. Don't view a training cycle as simply a series of weeks, leading to slightly increased performance and poundages. Rather, get fired up about your goals. Set goals in training that will make you feel satisfied and happy upon their achievement. This will make your cycles important and exciting.
I recommend the use of index cards posted on the bathroom mirror so you'll see them each morning and evening. Or, if you're a drinker simply tape them on the bottom of the toilet seat cover, Soldier! State your goals in block letters and see them before you constantly! Think about them. Know you'll attain each one in time, and feel yourself achieving the one you've st for the conclusion of your next training cycle!
Obviously, too much cannot be expected during a single cycle. Even if yours happen to be 10 or 12 weeks, you won't be going from a mediocre build to Mr. Olympia in that time - though you'll surely make some good gains if you push. To achieve a great goal be prepared to spend the time and effort. Look at a series of cycles as the means of attaining sub-goals, each one of which is essential to the ultimate major goal. That way, each step (each cycle, each set, each rep) brings you closer to what you want. Each sub-goal, attained at the end of each cycle prior to the final cycles, will be an inspiration and encouragement to further progress. A stimulating, and a REWARDING way to train.