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3 Ways to Drive Adaptation Through Programming

Coach Andy talks about how progress requires adaptation.


Adaptation requires stress/struggle.

You need to challenge your tissues, structure, nervous system and metabolic systems to coax the brain to reallocate resources to better meet the challenge in the future.

In the gym, we often do this by progressively adding weight to the bar.

Many of us don't have access to heavy barbells these days, so our programming has shifted to driving adaption in other ways.

  1. Tempo Work - Great for increasing Time Under Tension, and Motor Learning. Tom expanded on Tempo in this Blog Post
  2. Isometric Holds - Awesome for Neural Drive, Tendon Strength, and Position Specific Strength. I jotted some quick ideas about Isos Here.
  3. Density Training

Density, in a training context, refers to the volume of work performed over a fixed time.

How do we progress? Just like putting weight on the barbell, we progressively do more than before. 

We either do more work in a fixed time frame.

Or we do a fixed amount of work in a reduced time frame.

A classic example of the former is an On The Minute (OTM) protocol, where each minute there is a task to complete, these minutes are stacked one after the next for a specific time frame.

 OTM: 4-10 Push Ups for 12 min

An obvious example of the latter is the 'For Time' protocol.

 For Time: 75 Burpees

The goal is that over the weeks and months, the amount of work that the athlete can sustain in each work interval will go up.

Of course, just like the barbell work, if you're not challenging yourself, the body does not need to adapt.

Using OTM: 4-10 Push Ups for 12 min as an example:

If you settle in and do four push ups every minute because you always do four push ups every min, and there's a good chance you could do more, you may be leaving progress on the table.

The difference between doing 4 pushups per min and 6 per min may not seem that big.

But over a 12 min OTM the numbers start to add up.

The total reps go from 48 to 72.

The total tonnage for a 175lbs athlete goes from 5376lbs* to 8064lbs* in 12 min!

And that may be enough stress on the system to promote an adaptative change.

And that small change can keep you on the gain train.


*assuming push ups from the floor moves 64% of bdwt with each rep