The A.P.E.X. Way: An Introduction
Everything you do in a fitness program affects the adaptations that will occur in your body; therefore, we must be intentional about how we train so that we adapt the way we intended. The way we breathe, how fast we move, the way we load the muscles, the way we push ourselves (or hold back), the way we structure the workout, the way we change things up, and the way we stay safe throughout the process, all affect the overall training outcome.
TIME UNDER TENSION
How long it takes to complete a rep must be determined before beginning the set because it will directly affect the training outcome. Moving a weight quickly will stimulate the central nervous system, soliciting maximal motor unit recruitment which can lead to gains in strength, power, and explosiveness. However, moving the weight quickly will also generate both momentum and take advantage of gravity, reducing the amount of time that the muscle fibers are actually being loaded within the full range of motion. Deliberately slowing down the rep will increase the total time that the cross-bridges between actin and myosin are loaded, which will lead to hypertrophy, or muscle fiber growth. Moving the weight quickly and moving the weight slowly both have their pro’s and con’s, and understand the relationship can help you make an informed, intentional decision on how long you will take to perform reps.
If the end goal is increasing speed, agility, and explosiveness, then the chief player is the central nervous system (CNS) with the assistance of the musculoskeletal system. The key to maximizing the stimulus to the CNS is the work-to-rest ratio. If you ask too much with not enough rest, the result will be a fatigued, slow movement. Moving slowly does not make you faster. Moving fast makes you faster; therefore, adequate rest must be provided so that the best effort can be put forth on each rep. Running sprints with limited rest may be an excellent way to challenge the ability of the body to recover with limited rest; however, if the intent of the sprints is to increase speed, then the body must be given adequate time to recover so that it can sprint at maximum speed on every rep. This also applies to Olympic lifts.
While breathing under normal conditions requires no thought and happens naturally, during physical activity we must be intentional about how we breath. The way you breathe will affect your ability to regulate oxygen consumption, carbon evacuation, and nutrient exchange at the cellular level. It will affect the stability of the thoracic cavity during a lift, as well as your heart rate and blood pressure during all activities. The way you breathe has consequences that affect the overall training adaptations that will occur; therefore, we must be intentional about how we breathe to ensure that the desired training adaptations are achieved.
ADVANCED OVERLOAD TECHNIQUES
There are two main categories for Advanced Overload Techniques (AOT’s). There are structural overloads and technical overloads. Both have their pro’s and con’s and both will affect the intensity, the time under tension, the strength curve of the movement, and ultimately the training adaptations that occur from performing the workout. Knowing which AOT’s to use, when to use them, how to structure them into a workout, and ultimately into a program, are all critical to maximizing human performance. Safety, efficiency, and intentionality are all pertinent to the successful implementation of AOT’s.
Pushing yourself to maximize your human performance is dangerous. ACL’s tear, bones break, shoulders dislocate, discs slip, and blood vessels can forcible dilate which can put pressure on the meninges in the brain causing exertion headaches. Unlike the ACL’s, bones, discs, and joints, you can’t look in a mirror and see a deformity, or get an MRI to reveal a torn muscle, or get an X-Ray to gain a clear grasp of a broken bone or slipped disc with an Exertion Headache. It is an injury to the brain that can affect you for months, yet is 100% avoidable, and with some intentional recovery, is something that you can overcome.
VOLUME & INTENSITY
The body has limits to how much work it can perform during a single workout, so we must make some decisions before we begin. We can either perform a workout that has a high total volume, or we can perform a workout that is short and intense, but we cannot perform a workout that is both high in volume and high in intensity. In order to make an informed decision on how we will train, it is important to clearly identify the training goal, and then select the correct training method that will best attain that goal. There may be steps involved to attaining the end goal that will cause you to lean on one training method over the other for a season in order to build the foundation to then press on to reach your goal. Understanding the pro’s and con’s of both will allow you to make an informed decision on which will be best to help you reach your intended goal.
MOMENTARY MUSCLE FAILURE
When performing a set, we must decide before we begin whether we want to reach a state of muscle fatigue or momentary muscle failure. Muscle fatigue can be defined as the point at which you are getting tired but are holding a few reps in reserve. Momentary muscle failure is the point where no more quality reps can be safely performed with perfect form without reducing the weight or taking a break. Both have their purposes, and both have consequences. Understanding the science behind both can help us determine how far we will push ourselves within a given workout, and what adaptations we can expect from doing so.
PROGRESSION & VARIATION
A workout will not solicit the same benefits forever since eventually the body will adapt and become efficient at performing that workout without having to evolve or improve; therefore, we must know when to change the workout, and more importantly how to change the workout in order to continue to make the target gains. The principle of progression is taking what you already know how to do, and modifying it to make it harder to illicit continued gains toward the target goal. The principle of variation is making an intentional detour from the current exercise/program to a complementary exercise/program that will still get you to your target goal. In order to get from Point A (your current ability and fitness level) to Point B (the person you want to be), you must have a detailed plan of how you will intentional progress. It can either be progress via linear progression, or it can be progress via lateral variations. Either way, you are getting from Point A to Point B by changing your current workout.
Tomorrow you will be who you are becoming today; therefore, be intentional today about who you want to be tomorrow. Understanding how the body will adapt to a variety of training principles, then making decisions about how to train, then implementing those principles with progression and variation will get you where you want to be. You’ll never be who you’re not becoming.