The following except was written by Mark Rippetoe and originally appeared on his website, Starting Strength.
“Training follows exactly the same principle as getting a tan – a stress is imposed on the body and it adapts to the stress, but only if the stress is designed properly. You wouldn’t lay out for 2 minutes and assume that it would make you brown, because 2 minutes isn’t enough stress to cause an adaptation. Likewise, only a stupid kid lays out for an hour on each side the first day, because the stress is so overwhelmingly damaging that it cannot be recovered from in a constructive way.
Lots and lots of people come in to the gym and bench [the same weight] every Monday and Friday for years, never even attempting to increase the weight, sets, reps, speed, or pace between sets. Some don’t care, but some are genuinely puzzled that their bench doesn’t go up, even though they have not asked it to. And some people bench press once every three or four weeks, or maybe even more rarely than that, using some arbitrary number like their own body weight for 10 reps, then 9, then 8,7,6,5,4,3,2, and finally 1 rep, and wonder why their bench doesn’t go up, why they got so damned sore.
Your bench press strength doesn’t adapt to the total number of times you’ve been to the gym to bench, or your sincerest hope that it will get stronger. It adapts to the stress imposed on it by the work done with the barbell. Furthermore, it adapts to exactly the kind of stress imposed on it. If you do sets of 20, you get good at doing 20s. If you do heavy singles, you get better at doing those. But singles and 20s are very different, and you don’t get better at doing one by practicing the other. The muscles and nervous system function differently when doing these two things, and they require two different sets of physiologic capacities, and thus cause the body to adapt differently. The adaptation occurs in response to the stress, and specifically to that stress, because the stress is what causes the adaptation. This is why calluses form on the part of your hand where the bar rubs, and not on the other parts of the hand, or on your face, or all over your body. It can obviously be no other way.
Furthermore, the stress must be capable of being recovered from. Like the 2 hours of sun the first day or the 55 bench reps once a month, the stress must be appropriate for the trainee receiving it. So, if the stress is so overwhelming that it cannot be recovered from in time to apply more of it in a time frame which permits accumulated adaptation, it is useless as a beneficial tool that drives progress. And if this excessive stress is applied so infrequently that any adaptation to it has dispersed before you get around to it again 3 months later, no adaptation can accumulate.
An awareness of this central organizing principle of physiology as it applies to physical activity is essential to program design. Exercise and training are two different things. Exercise is physical activity for its own sake, a workout done for the effect it produces today, during the workout or right after you’re through. Training is physical activity done with a longer-term goal in mind, the constituent workouts of which are specifically designed to produce that goal. If a program of physical activity is not designed to get you stronger or faster or better conditioned by producing a specific stress to which a specific desirable adaptation can occur, you don’t get to call it training. It is just exercise. For most people, exercise is perfectly adequate – it’s certainly better than sitting on your ass.”
Here are the biggest takeaways from Rip's article:
- Exercise and Training are two different things – Exercise is physical activity for it’s on sake, training is a long-term process to achieve a specific goal.
- The body adapts to the stress placed on it. If the stress stays the same, the body has no reason to change.
- Challenge yourself but don’t be stupid. Adding 5# to your deadlift each week is smart; jumping 50# will only lead to injury.
Group Class Programming for Monday, October 23rd, 2017:
- Power Clean 5x3
- Squat Clean 3x3
- "Nasty Girls"