Blog articles by KuF

How does progress actually happen?

How does progress actually happen?
We all know that to make progress in the gym we have to train and do difficult things and that if we do those often and consistently we get better at doing those things and can then do even more difficult things.
This is a good start to our understanding but there are some key concepts that will guide how we approach and organize doing those difficult things to lead to better and more consistent progress.

Stimulus, Stress, Recovery and Adaptation
These are the steps through which progress happens.
You provide a training stimulus (the training you do in the gym), and this induces a training stress on the body (the effect of the stimulus on the body). Your body responds to this stress by recovering from it, and, if it was an effective training stress AND you have the capacity to recover from it, training adaptations take place to prepare your body to better handle a similar stimulus in the future - PROGRESS

Let's define the difference stages and factors of this:
Training Stimulus (externally applied)
The total amount of training done, taking into account the amount of training (volume) and the intensities that the training volume was completed at.
Training Stress (internal reaction)
This is the effect the Training Stimulus has on a given individual. The stress induced by different program variables (volume, intensity, modalities/movements used) may differ between individuals. An individual may also have a higher or lower training stress response to the same training stimulus compared to another individual.
Recovery Capacity
This is the theoretical amount of total stress (training stress + life stress) that you can recover from and return to your performance baseline within a given time. This capacity can also be increased or decreased with changes in sleep and nutrition. Any training stress that cannot be recovered from causes residual fatigue (more on this in a later blog post)
Training Adaptations
These result from the body responding to and recovering from sufficient training stress induced by a training stimulus. E.g building muscle or other physiological changes that lead to getting stronger, faster or better endurance etc. Different individuals may experience different magnitudes of training adaptations to the same training stimulus. An individual's training adaptations in response to a certain training stimulus may also change over time.
Life Stress
The stress accumulated from other stimuli in your life, e.g. work, family, and general life activities. This can be both mental and physical stress.

Implications that this has for your training

  • Recovery is where the magic happens. If your other life stress is too high, or your sleep and nutrition are insufficient, resulting in a low Recovery Capacity then your body will not be able to adapt to the training stress you induced. This will lead to no or slower progress.
  • There is no perfect program that works for everyone. Two people completing the same Training Stimulus may achieve different Training Stresses and have different Training Adaptations. For example some individuals are disproportionately affected by high training intensities while others by high training volumes.
  • More is not always better. The maximum amount of training that you can fit into your schedule, or even that you can recover from is not necessarily what you need to do to achieve a maximal rate of progress.
  • “What gets measured gets improved.” You should be tracking your training (reps, sets, weights, RPE, distance etc), some measure of Fatigue (e.g Session RPE - how hard was the session), as well as other aspects of your life that may affect yor training (sleep, nutrition, perception of lift stress). Without this information you cannot make informed decisions about what changes you should make to improve your training program, if the changes you have made are leading to better progress or worse progress or how much other lifestyle factors are affecting your training.

These steps and concepts apply to all types of training whether you are training to run a marathon or compete in powerlifting.
In the following blog post we will continue to dive into more of the fundamental concepts of training that will empower you to make the best decisions in your own training!

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