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  • Strength Stall

    Gents,

    I have read PPST, particularly the intro section to intermediate training, and also the white paper on "The Bridge" to understand the basic reason why workout to workout strength gains eventually stall in ALL human beings. Does the inability to add weight to the bar every workout stem principally from

    1) insufficient stimulation; 3 sets of 5 is too low stress to disrupt homeostasis or
    2) insufficient recovery; 3 sets of 5 is sufficient to disrupt homeostasis but is too much stress to recover from in 48 hours?
    3: Other sinister factor(s)?

    In PPST the answer is an ambiguous and annoying "yes" to 1 and 2 which seems paradoxical. Some magic happens in the body where stimulus and recovery are simultaneously insufficient; The answer I got directly from Mr Faavs is "It's complicated"

    In the PDF for "The Bridge" Jordan/Austin state about SSLP

    "Eventually, at a certain intensity the degree of stress applied exceeds the lifters’ “48-hour recovery capacity”

    So reason 2 appears to be the accepted primary reason for lack of progress workout to workout in a "late stage novice".

    I realize not all lifters are equal however, given this happens to everyone (except for Ed Coan) there would seem to be a prevailing primary physiological limiter.

    Since I customize my programs, (not a fan of TM) the distinction is significant for me. Correcting for insufficient stimulation can be very different than correcting for insufficient recovery.

    If the cause for failure to progress is insufficient stimulus, a remedy might be "do more work". Another remedy might be change exercise slightly to mitigate Repeated Bouts Effect.

    If the extra work requires you need to also rest an additional day then so be it. Lift again Thursday instead of Wed.

    If, however, failure to progress is due to insufficient recovery then the remedy, in theory, would seem to be quite different; Rest longer. between workouts, improve work capacity,. Increase sleep or calories. It presumably would NOT be do more work!

    I'm assuming two things in this hypothetical 1) the lifter is well behaved .(e.g. eating, sleeping, stress, training) and 2) The lifter has already de-loaded a couple of times to dissipate "accumulated" fatigue over the previous many weeks of uninterrupted progress.

    It would also be nice to understand the mechanistic reasons for either failure mode as well. What caused insufficient stimulus? (repeated bouts effect, reduced muscle fiber nucleation?). What physiological system(s) were insufficiently recovered? (unresolved muscle damage leading to inhibition of high threshold motor unit recruitment by CNS? Acetylcholine depletion? Low T/C ratio?) but hey I'm happy just to get to first base on this.

    Any insight appreciated.

    rgds

    Pepe the greatly confused one..


  • #2
    You're struggling with the same confusion I was (and still sort of am). I believe the issue is that you can no longer recover from that much volume at that intensity, not the volume itself. You do need to do more volume to continue to progress, but the intensity can't be at 85% for every set like it used to be because 85% for 15 reps is now too heavy of a weight for you to recover from in 48 hours.

    Which is why a work around is heavy/light/medium split. You end up doing more total volume if it's a proper HLM split but the intensity is only high once per week rather than 3 times per week so it's more recoverable.

    Comment


    • #3
      Thank You SAA for the reply.

      So..going with your analysis....if 3 sets of 5 at 85% in one session at some point becomes too fatiguing to recover from in 48 hours, then would you agree I could, in theory, return to increasing load on bar each workout by lifting 3 sets of 5@85% only 2 times per week or every 72 hours? Or maybe every 96 hours?

      Or do you believe that although these 3 sets of 5@85% do disrupt homeostasis, the fatigue generated in that one session is so large that we have insufficient reserves to adapt positively so NO amount of waiting (72 or 96 h) will result in improved strength?

      Also, any idea what exactly is fatigued?

      rgds

      Pepe

      Comment


      • #4
        I'd highly recommend the programming podcasts (all 3 of 'em) to help explain the problem here better.

        I don't claim to fully understand it, but I also don't have time to go through them again to refresh myself. A few things to consider is that there is a productive or useful amount of stress, and there's also stress that is not productive. There are a bunch of things going on with SSNLP that will result in a failure to produce adaptations. There is not enough productive stress to cause an adaption in the given timeframe being the key point. There's also the repeated bout effect (you are only exposing yourself to the same reps x set and the same exercises - this is going to stop working, this is not enough stress, not enough novelty, not productive).

        So initially from workout to workout, you are getting enough stress to produce adaptations in the given timeframe, and also even though you are increase absolute load on the bar, your RPE is probably the same because you're getting stronger. At some point you don't get enough stress to increase your e1RM in between workouts, but you're trying to add weight on the bar as if it has. The RPE has now increased, so it definitely feels hard and you feel beat up - but your e1RM isn't going to budge because you haven't applied more productive stress.

        The main ways BBM program to overcome this is to increase volume and introduce exercise variations all while managing the intensity in an appropriate range.

        I would not be too worried about the recovery aspect here, because like you have suggested what if you spend your time recovering more (72 hours, 96 hours) and training less (twice per week, once per week) - would you get stronger? Obviously not - again because the stress you are applying is being reduced even further. Also you don't have to be fully recovered in order to increase performance, and the stress-adaptation-recovery cycle aren't discrete events, you are undergoing all processes at all times over a training cycle.

        Comment


        • #5
          Having read through this thread I don't see any mention of non-modifiable factors, only the modifiable factors. These should be in a discussion where performance has plateaued or stopped

          Non-modifiable:

          Genetics: the research suggests we all have different responses to resistance training. As mentioned above, Ed Coan, is/was likely a high responder to resistance exercise. If he wasn't he wouldn't be Ed Coan. Some people are non-responders, or low responders to resistance exercise. Some folks may increase muscle mass easily while others increase strength easily, others both. Some folks have specific parts of the body that respond favorably to resistance exercise, while others don't. Like it or not genetics will have an enormous impact on the outcome of resistance training or any other performance measure.

          Anthropometrics (a genetic thing): some folks are built with levers that make specific lifts challenging and inefficient. They may struggle to express strength in a squat, but hook them to an isokinetic device or perform more isolated movements and they measure up to someone pushing high numbers in the squat/deadlift/press.

          Age: time will catch up eventually. Participate in a sport long enough and you'll eventually watch your performance decline, despite all manipulations to stress, recovery, nutrition, etc.

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by pepe View Post
            Thank You SAA for the reply.

            So..going with your analysis....if 3 sets of 5 at 85% in one session at some point becomes too fatiguing to recover from in 48 hours, then would you agree I could, in theory, return to increasing load on bar each workout by lifting 3 sets of 5@85% only 2 times per week or every 72 hours? Or maybe every 96 hours?

            Or do you believe that although these 3 sets of 5@85% do disrupt homeostasis, the fatigue generated in that one session is so large that we have insufficient reserves to adapt positively so NO amount of waiting (72 or 96 h) will result in improved strength?

            Also, any idea what exactly is fatigued?

            rgds

            Pepe
            No, because then you would be lowering the volume that you are currently doing, you would de-train. You need to do more total volume throughout the week but at a lower average intensity. High volume is less fatiguing than high intensity, so you can get more overall work in that you can recover from more easily.

            Just make sure total poundage that you are lifting increases from your novice LP. Average intensity should be around say 70-80% where as before it was probably 80%+ and always with the comp lifts which are doubly fatiguing. There are also other factors at play that can cause a stall like the repeated bout effect as Squib was saying, you're doing the exact same intensity at the exact same set and rep scheme over and over again.

            The Science of Lifting by Greg Knuckols has a pretty decent laymens explanation of this topic if you wanted to give it a read.
            Last edited by Slightlyaboveaverage; 02-10-2019, 02:12 PM.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Squib View Post
              I'd highly recommend the programming podcasts (all 3 of 'em) to help explain the problem here better..
              Squib
              Thank you for the recommendation. I just viewed the 3 podcasts. In Podcast No. 2 at 31.55 Jordan answers the original question I posed with answer No. 1. He states SSNLP eventually stalls due to insufficient stress in a single workout and not due to insufficient recovery/

              However, in "The Bridge" white paper we have a slightly more ambiguous accounting which claims initially insufficient recovery then a bit later insufficient stress factors as contributory. It seems, however. that in the end you simply cannot generate sufficient "productive stress" in a single workout to disrupt homeostasis with intensity increases alone.

              Eventually, at a certain intensity the degree of stress applied exceeds the lifters’ “48-hour recovery capacity”, and this approach is no longer viable. At that point, the SSLP ends and a change in approach is necessary to allow for continued progress. At this point, there are two general approaches to managing the post-novice lifter. The first involves continuing to escalate the applied stress in a single session, while providing additional time for recovery and adaptation. This is one interpretation of the theoretical underpinning in the original Texas Method, whereby a very large stress is applied on “Volume Day”, this stress is recovered from through the week (including “Light Day”), and the adaptation is demonstrated on “Intensity Day”. This approach fundamentally relies on incremental increases in the stress applied on Volume Day. The downside of this approach is that there is a physiologic upper limit to the amount of training stress in one session that an intermediate lifter can tolerate and recover from within the context of a program designed for a 1-week stress-recoveryadaptation cycle. Additionally, there is an upper limit to the amount of useful stress that can be applied in a given session; in other words, a threshold above which you aren’t getting more adaptation, so the only real effect is additional unnecessary “junk” fatigue. With these factors in mind, you can see how linearly progressing the intensity of a massive single-session volume stress might generate fatigue out of proportion to the ultimate adaptation. The alternative to this approach is to accumulate the necessary training stress over a series of workouts, instead of within a single session.


              Matt,
              Thanks for the additional input on non-modifiables. The genetic sensitivity to training was discussed quite a bit in the podcasts and apparently plays a major role in the approach BBM take when programming for an individual. Highly resistant clients would require increased levels of volume.

              SAA,
              Thanks for the clarification.

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by pepe View Post
                It seems, however. that in the end you simply cannot generate sufficient "productive stress" in a single workout to disrupt homeostasis with intensity increases alone.
                I think this is it pepe. I think we can potentially disregard that "48 hour recovery capacity" comment, it might just be a holdover thought from the SS days, and they have since updated their views as found in the podcasts. The last few lines of your excerpt can offer another interpretation too - you are generating too much non-productive stress in a single session such that you aren't realising an appropriate adaptation in the next 48 hours.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Another thing I'd like to point out is I think you're placing too much emphasis on recovery. You are never fully recovered in training, and you are not supposed to be fully recovered before your next training session. What does it even mean to be recovered? Stress, recovery, and adaptation are always occurring at the same time in a big web of nuanced mess.

                  The answer is going to be both #1 and #2, but it's not paradoxical. 1) doing 3 sets of 5 at RPE 10 is generating a lot of stress due to the intensity (not volume), and this stress accumulates session to session. You could argue this is a lack of recovery, but I think a better way to look at it is that it's just unproductive amounts of stress. If you deload/lower the weight on the bar and keep doing 3x5, you'll end up stalling again, because: 2) 3 sets of 5 (15 reps x 3 sessions = 45 reps/week) is just frankly not enough volume to cause any meaningful adaptations or produce much hypertrophy at this point. You're undertraining due to not enough volume. So, at the end of an LP, you're just accumulating fatigue via intensity and not making adaptations via not enough volume, aka unproductive stress. It's a common reason people feel like shit at the end of their SSLP.

                  You need to do more weekly volume, but the only way to do this without accumulating unproductive amounts of fatigue is by lowering the intensity. You still want some exposure to high intensity work (85%+) if you care about your strength output, but the bulk of your volume is going to be in that sweet 70-80% range - it's a compromise between being heavy enough to get strength adaptations but light enough that you can do a lot of volume.

                  Those podcasts on programming are great, it takes a few listens to let it all fully sink in, and as you navigate the turbulent waters of post-novice training for yourself, things slowly start to make more sense.

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Recovery is also trainable, or rather, work capacity is.

                    Basically, OP, I think your premise is built on a faulty framework. Stress-Recovery-Adaptation, while true in a global sense, is not really a set cycle. You don't do your fives on Monday (stress), eat and sleep fine the next 48 hours (recovery+adaptation), and then come into Wednesday's workout as a brand new organism with a blank slate. If that were really the case, the standard NLP wouldn't only start getting hard 5-6 weeks in. It'd be super hard after the first few sessions.

                    I used to think along the lines of under-recovery all the time. Took a while to see the light, mainly by just following a friend's program for meet prep who happened to be coached by Mike T. It looked like death at first but I followed blindly, and then 16 weeks later I smashed PRs and was in much, much better shape.

                    One way I like to explain this to people married to the low-volume/low-frequency way of training: lifting is an athletic endeavor. If you wanted to start distance running from a totally untrained state (but physically capable of running), what would you do? Let's say your first goal was a mile, then a 5k, then a 10k, then a half-marathon.
                    - early on you'd probably run just a few times a week (let's say 3) at a moderate pace for short distance, and you'd slowly increase the distance. This would get you to running an OK mile within a few weeks.
                    - Since you're not specializing in the mile, you'd continue to increase distance and begin upping the pace as well.
                    - You add a 4th day of running, a lighter jog to get in some distance without a ton of stress. You're now running comfortable 5Ks but need extra effort to improve your race times.
                    - For the 10k prep, you add a 5th day, and now you have tempo days and distance days.
                    - yada yada yada

                    You get the point by now. To continue to improve your running, you need to... run more. Your volume increases a bunch, but the intensity is not crazy high on every run. What you certainly don't do is run a mile M/W/F every week, and keep trying to beat your mile time, and then when you can't do that, take two days off between runs, so beat your mile on M, rest 2 days, beat your mile on Th, rest two days, and so on. Most people intuitively get that that won't work (for very long anyway).

                    So why would lifting be any different?

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