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Are You Immune To Your Training Program?

By Mike Mahler

In his outstanding book, “The Tipping Point”, Malcolm Gladwell discusses the concept of immunity in the marketplace. He reveals how no marketing method works forever due to the fact that the potential customer eventually develops immunity to the pitch. Marketing methods that used to be effective include telemarketing and email marketing. Both methods are not nearly effective as they used to be. Most people do not give telemarketers the time of day. Most email users have spam blockers or simply delete every email message in which they do not recognize the sender. Marketplace immunity is a tremendous dilemma that all business owners face. Without staying ahead of the curve, a business is doomed to fail miserably.

Productive strength training is no different. Your muscles and central nervous system (CNS is a very important part of productive strength training) eventually treat the program you are on the same way you treat telemarketers and email marketers. Just as you do not give telemarketers and email marketers the time of day, your CNS and muscles eventually do not give your training program the time of day. They enjoy the stimulus of a new program for a few weeks and then eventually become immune and render the program useless. Sounds too dramatic? Just look at people at your gym that have been using the same program for the last decade. Court adjourned and I rest my case.

One of the main reasons why no training program works forever is the fact that you eventually become immune to the stimulus of any program. The program either becomes too easy and the necessary stimulus is no longer being or applied, or the training program is too hard or complicated and the eventual burnout is soon to follow. Either way, you shut down and progress comes to a screeching halt. This is usually when many trainees turn to nutrition supplements, complicated programs, or a combination of the two. While nutrition supplements can be beneficial, they are rarely the solution that the average trainee is craving for. I do not even have to discuss complicated programs. If you are someone that believes that you need to do fifteen exercises per bodypart, then you are probably someone that still wears bell-bottoms and thinks that “Knight Rider” is what the youth of today watch.

Since exercise immunity is the problem, changing workouts constantly must be the solution right? Nope, you are way off. Trainees that do a completely different workout every time they train are like people that change jobs every other week. Just as you will never become a professional at anything if you change careers too often, you will never get good at the skill of training if you change workouts too often. Similar to advertising campaigns, you have to let one program run its course before moving on the next one. Marketers have to give the potential customer some time to adapt to a message and get comfortable with it before moving on to another message. Just as coca-cola does not change TV ads every week, you should not change training programs ever week. Moreover, when you do make changes the subtle approach will do just fine. Save dramatic changes for your personal life and leave it out of your program.

While it is not set in stone what the ideal timeframe is to stay on a program, a general rule of thumb is no more than six weeks. Personally, I like powerlifter and strength-training writer Jack Reape’s approach to training. Hit is hard for three weeks, then have a back off week. I like the idea of staying on a program for three weeks and hitting it hard. Then follow up the three-week program with a back off week before moving on to another program. If you do not stay on a program long enough, you will not reap the rewards of the program. On the other, hand if you stay on a program for too long, you become immune. Three weeks is long enough to absorb the benefits of a program and short enough to avoid becoming immune.

Again, keep in mind that dramatic changes are not necessary every four weeks. You do not have to do a super high volume program for a phase and then move onto a super high intensity program for a phase. You do not have to change every exercise every four weeks. Dramatic changes are not necessary or advisable. Subtle changes are ideal.

Lets go through a sample twelve-week strength-training program that evades exercise immunity.

WEEK 1-4: THE 3X5 PROGRAM

In phase one we are going to start off with a basic full body workout routine done three times per week. For the sake of simplicity the program is going to be comprised exclusively of compound exercises that provide the most bang for your buck. Forget about isolation exercises for now. Hell, just forget about them all together. Start off with weights that you can do seven to eight reps with if you went to your limit. When you can do three sets of five with the same weight, add five pounds. Avoid training to failure in which you miss reps. However, feel free to take the third set of every exercise to the limit. The limit being the point in which you cannot do another solid rep with good form. In week four follow the same routine and use 50% of the weights that you ended with in week three. This is your back-off week.

Monday

  • A-1: Standing Barbell Clean and Military Press
  • A-2: Barbell Bent-over Row

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed three sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Squat
  • B-2: Romanian Deadlift

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed three sets for each exercise.

  • Dumbbell Windmill 3×5 (one-minute breaks)

Wednesday

  • A-1: Incline Dumbbell Press
  • A-2: Weighted Pull-up

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed three sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Deadlift
  • B-2: Front Squat

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed three sets for each exercise.

  • Barbell Ab Roll-out 3×5 (one-minute breaks)

Friday

  • A-1: Dumbbell Seesaw Press
  • A-2: Dumbbell Renegade Row

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed three sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Squat
  • B-2: Romanian Deadlift

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed three sets for each exercise.

  • Turkish Get-up 3×5 (one-minute breaks)

WEEK 5-8: T HE 5X3 PROGRAM

In phase two we are going to increase the volume and lower the reps to focus more on strength. The stronger you get the bigger you can get if that is one of your goals. Besides who wants to be big and weak? Be as strong as you look and have it all.

Again, we are going to focus on a basic full body workout routine done three times per week with a focus on compound exercises. Since the volume is higher and the weights are heavier, we are going to cycle the intensity. Monday will be your heavy day. On Wednesday, you are going to use 80% of the intensity that you used on Monday. On Friday, you are going to use 70% of the weight you used on Monday. Every week, rotate the intensity so every workout has its moment of fame. Confused? Do not worry, I will clarify below.

Monday

  • Week 1: 100%
  • Week 2: 80%
  • Week 3: 70%
  • A-1: Standing Barbell Clean and Military Press
  • A-2: Weighted Pull-up

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Squat
  • B-2: Romanian Deadlift

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • Hanging Leg Raise 2×5 (one-minute breaks)

Wednesday

  • Week 1: 80%
  • Week 2: 70%
  • Week 3: 100%
  • A-1: Incline Barbell Press
  • A-2: Dumbbell Renegade Row

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Deadlift
  • B-2: Front Squat

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • Barbell Ab Roll-out 2×5 (one-minute breaks)

Friday

  • Week 1: 70%
  • Week 2: 100%
  • Week 3: 80%
  • A-1: Dumbbell Clean and Military Press
  • A-2: Barbell Bent-over Row

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Squat
  • B-2: Romanian Deadlift

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • Dumbbell Turkish Get-up 2×5 (one-minute breaks)

Remember to take a back off week in week four in which you follow the same routine with 50% of the weights used in week three for each training day.

WEEK 9-12: THE 5X5 PROGRAM

In phase three we are going to increase the volume and reps with the classic 5×5 program. The 5×5 program is great for increasing strength and size. Of course this is assuming that you up the calories. To focus more on strength without adding size, try the 5×2 program. With the 5×5 you increase the weight when you can use the same weight for all five sets.

As usual, we are going to focus on three workouts per week and again cycle the intensity. Similar to the last phase, Monday will be your heavy day. On Wednesday you are going to use 80% of the intensity that you used on Monday. On Friday you are going to use 70% of the weight you used on Monday. Every week, rotate the intensity so every workout has its day in the sun.

Monday

  • Week 1: 100%
  • Week 2: 80%
  • Week 3: 70%
  • A-1: Incline Dumbbell Press
  • A-2: Weighted Pull-up

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Squat
  • B-2: Romanian Deadlift

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • Hanging Leg Raise 2×5 (one-minute breaks)

Wednesday

  • Week 1: 80%
  • Week 2: 70%
  • Week 3: 100%
  • A-1: Barbell Clean and Press
  • A-2: Weighted Pull-up

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Deadlift
  • B-2: Front Squat

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • Barbell Ab Roll-out 2×5 (one-minute breaks)

Friday

  • Week 1: 70%
  • Week 2: 100%
  • Week 3: 80%
  • A-1: Dumbbell Seesaw Press
  • A-2: Barbell Bent-over Row

Do A-1 and A-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of A-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of A-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • B-1: Barbell Squat 3×5
  • B-2: Romanian Deadlift 3×5

Do B-1 and B-2 in alternating fashion. Do a set of B-1, rest for 90 second and then do a set of B-2. Continue until you have completed five sets for each exercise.

  • Dumbbell Windmill 2×5 (one-minute breaks)

Once again, remember to take a back off week in week four in which you follow the same routine with 50% of the weights used in week three for each training day.

There you have it a twelve-week program to evade immunity and keep progress coming. As you can see from the sample program in this article, subtle changes made every four-week are the way to go. Keep the focus on the basics exercises that have been proven effective and make changes in reps, sets, and breaks to keep immunity at bay.

Yours Free

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