In the last post (see here) the stage was briefly set in regards to periodization, in the sense that concepts that will be used or that might otherwise increase your understanding of what periodization is, or might be were visited. Today we will be moving to Bompa et al’s beginner training phase, the ‘Anatomical Adaptation’ (hereafter “AA”) phase.
The authors state that this phase is designed to help entry level lifters (this includes, bodybuilders, professionals or recreational strength and physique athletes), or those that have taken significant time off training, acclimatise back to training stimulus. As such program design in this phase is aimed, as the name suggests, at provoking an adaptation of physiological systems that will provide a primer, or baseline from which the lifter can progress to more specialized programs (tailoring to strength, leanness or hypertrophy). Systems that are specifically targeted in this phase are the nervous system (pattern of motor recruitment, and synchronization of motor units), neuromuscular coordination (of movement patterns), metabolic adaptation (biomechanical processes that use chemical energy), cardiovascular adaptation with a goal toward changes in body composition (p. 11-14). More specifically the authors define the “scope of AA training” for us:
Activates all of the muscles, ligaments and tendons of the body so they will better cope with the heavy loads of subsequent phases.
Brings all of the body parts into balance – that is, begins to develop previously neglected muscles or body parts to restore symmetry.
Prevents injuries through progressive adaptation to heavy loads.
Progressively increases the athlete’s cardiovascular respiratory endurance. (Bompa et al, 2003, p.194)
The authors state that entry level bodybuilders and strength trainers require longer periods of adaptation before they can move on to more specialized programs, as such they recommend a 6 to 12 week AA phase. Specifically they state that 6 weeks is sufficient if you have a training age of 2 to 3 years, that is, if you have been lifting for that period of time, more advanced lifters only need 3 to 6 weeks of AA training before they are ready to progress. In terms of frequency of training sessions the authors state that this number is largely dependent on training background and commitment to training but two to three sessions p/week are expected for novices with four or five being so for more advanced lifters.
Training Method for AA Phase
The training method recommended by Bompa et al for the AA phase is circuit training, which they define thus:
For individuals whose goal is both strength training for a better AA phase and creation of a good cardiovascular base, we offer the following combination:
10 to 15 minutes of cardiovascular training.
3 to 4 strength training sessions.
10 minutes cardiovascular exercise.
3 to 4 strength exercises.
10 minutes cardiovascular exercise. (Bompa et al, 2003, p.195)
The authors state that a variety of exercises are appropriate for the AA phase, including those that use body weight, barbells, dumbbells or machines. Circuits can be repeated as many times as the individuals tolerance, work capacity, fitness level (and, indeed interest) allow, sets, reps and loads will need to be modulated accordingly however. Primarily muscle groups should be alternated thus allowing greater recovery between exercises (for example horizontal push alternated with horizontal pull), and rest intervals can range from 60 seconds to 90, with 3 minutes between circuits.
Program Design for the AA Phase
The authors propose a progressive type increase in load per microcyle in a step-type loading fashion, with entry level body builders and strength trainers getting an initial plateau for two microcycles, advanced lifters changing the load every microcycle. The authors suggest 1RM testing prior to commencement of training and then again at week 4 to better base progressions in program design against an objective standard (a 1RM text is a 1 Rep Max test on a specific exercise usually a bench press, squat or deadlift that will measure total strength of both that exercise and more generally the lifter). The goal is to progress the lifter to a percentage of 1RM that will allow the lifter to progress to the ‘Hypertrophy’ (“H”) phase. Below is a photo of the guidelines the authors offer for the AA phase:
At least insofar as those looking to gain muscle are concerned, I’ve done some phase one programming examples here for you to check out.
Bompa, T.O., Pasquale, M.D., Conrnacchia, L.J. (2003). Serious Strength Training (Second Edition). Champaign, IL. Human Kinetics.