So, as discussed before, a lot of what we are doing is figuring out the right stimulus to 'inflict' upon the athlete that will cause them desirable stress, that with proper recovery, will cause desirable adaptations.  STRESS -->  RECOVERY --> TRAINING OUTCOME.  The coach is trying to push the right button on a 'mystery box' to get the desired training outcome.  This means we got two major concerns.  The first is figuring out what the proper stress is, what button to press.  The second is figuring out what the athlete is capable of recovering from. The fun part is that the first part is very much open to debate, and with the second part the coach has very little control. 

The athlete ultimately controls the recovery process with the choices they make outside the gym.  With that said, there are plenty of things the athlete can not control.  They are just the product of dumb luck, things like genetics: ability to respond to training, favorable genetic traits (like fast-twist muscle fibers), or limb lengths.  These you got, or you don't got.  Nothing to be done here.  The coach tries to understand this and can not do much to influence it, and neither can the athlete.  Some things are largely a product of past decisions.  Things like training age, biological age, chronological age, all depend on when you started the sport.  They can have profound impact on your success in the sport and how you recover from stressors.   

However, the vast area of things that you can do to help your recovery is where athletes should focus their attention.  Controlling the stress of work, of home life, improving your mental toughness, staying motivated to train, properly fueling your body, etc, are all the most important things you can, so when the Coach tries to press the right button we get the right training outcome.  A good coach will help suggest techniques for recovery in the realm, but ultimately it is the athlete who has to take control here. 


There are 7 MAJOR PROGRAMMING VARIABLES that are best able to cause stress on the body for desirable training outcomes.  Those are:

  1. Training Volume
  2. Training Intensity
  3. Training Frequency
  4. Exercise Selection
  5. Exercise Order
  6. Tempo of Repetitions
  7. Interset Rest

These 7 variables are the 7 buttons we get to press as a coach. BUT the button metaphor is probably not helpful here.  These are more like dials.  We are dialing up a particular volume of training, a particular intensity, etc that will cause the sport specific adaptation sought after to make the athlete more competitive given their ability to recover from stress. 

Over the next several articles we will discuss these training variables in much greater details.  Suffice to say today, these are the dials we get to play with.  And if we play them right, and the mediating variables for recovery are favorable, we get good outcomes from training. 

What are we even fighting for?

The outcomes from training that we are trying to cause can be summed up by five essential concepts:

  1. Intermuscular Coordination:  Ability for the muscles to coordinate their contractions together to perform a movement pattern more efficiently and with greater speed.  This adaptation is movement specific.
  2. Intramuscular Coordination:  Ability to recruit more muscle fibers at once with an increase in the rate at which the muscle fibers fire (thereby increasing the strength of the contraction).  This adaptation is not movement specific.
  3. Hypertrophy:  Increase in size of the muscle.  Specifically an increase in diameter of the muscle.  With an increase in diameter there is an increased chance for more contractile potential.  This adaptation is not movement specific.
  4. Anaerobic Conditioning:  Improved ability to contract muscle fibers through the use of anaerobic energy sources (phosphagen/creatine and fast-glycolysis energy systems).  This adaptation is partly movement specific.
  5. Aerobic Conditioning:  Improved ability to contract muscle fibers through the use of aerobic energy systems (oxidative).  This adaptation is partly movement specific.

Each of these variables are improved by the 7 training variables being dialed to a unique combination.  For example, if we turn the volume dial up to high, and the intensity dial to medium (we will ignore the other dials right now), we can cause hypertrophy and some improvement of intermuscular coordination.  However, we probably would not be helping intramuscular coordination too much.  Now the benefit of doing this would be that we get better coordination of the movement pattern that we may have to perform in the sport and our muscle size would be increasing.  With increased size of muscle there is an increase potential for that muscle to be stronger.  BIGGER MUSCLES DOES NOT NECCESARILY MEAN BIGGER STRENGTH, but they can help if trained right.  That is awesome for a movement like the back squat.  And it is a great place to start learning the movement and setting the groundwork for getting stronger in the sport of powerlifting or weightlifting.  

Over the next series of articles we are going to be taking up each of these training variables and discussing them in detail.  We are going to address how we can dial up the right training stressors to cause the adaptations we need to be make you a successful athlete.    

Kurt Roderick, CSCS, USAW-ASPC L2, CF-L3, AOLC