4/09/2008

Periodization of Strength Training: Phase 2 Unstable Exercises

by Cary Raffle

Most readers fall into one of two groups - let's say you've spent the past few weeks doing one of the following:

GROUP 1
You worked out on XpressLine or other machines- 1 or 2 sets of 12-15 repetitions. This workout familiarized your body with movement patterns, built a base of strength for muscles and connective tissue and you got into a good routine.

GROUP 2
You used free weights on bench or seated, or free weights combined with some machines - 1 to 3 sets of 8 to 15. These workouts should have improved your endurance strength and/or increased muscle mass, and improved neuromuscular control.

The Adaptation Principle
In both cases, after 4-6 weeks your body has adapted to the demands of your exercise program, and as you continue, you will experience a decreasing return on the time that you invest in exercising. You've probably increased the weights, but will still find your program plateauing.

How to beat the plateau?
There are a number of different ways to progress the program other than simply increasing the weight. This month, the recommended progression is to perform similar exercises in a less stable position. In the past, you've had a bench or chair supporting you while you worked out. Starting now, you are going to begin training your core muscles to do this work - especially your deep inner abdominal muscles and your gluteals. Yes...your glutes are very important parts of your core!

Why is this important?

Think of an overhead shoulder press and the way that you do this exercise if you use benches and chairs and machines. Think of the way that you use your strength and conditioning in every day life. You are very rarely able to stop, take a seat and then lift an item over your head, are you? By integrating some unstable or core training into your routine, you can enhance your ability to perform these movements in every day life. You'll also reduce the risk of low back pain and develop the inner stability that can take your strength beyond its current plateau.

Click here to access your unstable exercise program.

It begins with a balance and a drawing in maneuver, which trains your body to activate the deepest abdominal muscle. The program includes one representative exercise for each body part. In this phase of training, you'll generally be working with 2 or 3 sets of 12-15 repetitions. We also want to pay some attention to the 4-2-1 tempo, which will emphasize the "negative phase." Each exercise should be perromed so that the concentric phase (when you push, pull or lift) is 2 seconds, the isometric phase (fully pulled or extended) is 1 second, and the eccentric or return phase is 4 seconds.

Feel free to let me know if you have any specific questions about the exercises or program.