Disproportionality and Ground Hog Day syndrome
Too much of a good thing is a bad thing
Our preferences shape us. Every one of us has our likes and dislikes. Preferences and aversions are created through a combination of genetics, societal strictures, environment, and ever unfolding life circumstance. Who can say why Jack loves bench pressing and hates squats, or why Tim loves beef rib eye yet gags on beef liver? In training, be it resistance training or cardiovascular training, preferences mold and shape us.
Guys that love to bench press and work arms all the time, over time, create outsized pecs and arms. Because they dislike leg training, they avoid it, and because of avoidance, they lack leg development. Is this not completely logical and predicable? In resistance training, over time, unbalanced training creates an unbalanced physique – how could it not?
Unbalanced cardiovascular training, too much of a single mode done in the same manner and fashion, creates aerobic disproportionality. The man that runs for 45 minutes per day at 65-70% of capacity seven days a week gasses out having to quickly climb ten flights of stairs. A man capable of running the 40 in 4.9 seconds can be incapable of completing a 5K.
One dimensional training creates one-dimensional physiques, disproportional physiques beget disproportional performance. A beginner morphs into an intermediate when they stop playing to their strengths and attack weakness with same fervor, passion and consistency formerly used to attack loved-and-favored strengths. This is the toughest lesson in training: too many trainees fall in love with one way of training. Too much of a good thing is a bad thing.
Travel to any YMCA or commercial gym and observe the same people showing up at the same time on the same days. They proceed to perform the same favored exercises in the same favored way. They never alter duration, they use the same intensities, the same poundage for the same number of reps, using the same techniques. They love to use the same resistance devices in the same way. They love doing the same things in the same favored ways, over and over. Yet they expect improvement.
While favored training can be great fun, quite enjoyable, and a terrific ego booster, every fun training session is Groundhog Day, i.e., there is no forward progress when treading water is fine and accepted. These serial exercise addicts are regular and dedicated, yet neither physique nor performance improves past that initial burst of progress they experienced when they first stumbled across the beloved mode.
The way out of Ground Hog Day malaise is to refocus training towards weak points: the intelligent reapportioning of training time requires truthful self-assessment: create a checklist of your resistance training and cardiovascular strengths. Most trainees are very clear on what they are good at. And with an honest assessment, weakness, the opposite of strengths, are easy to pinpoint. The elite athlete has discovered that the key to taking their game to the next level is to stop continually playing to strengths and prioritize weaknesses.
Progress is contingent upon creating contrast. What do you do when progress inevitably, invariably subsides? What is needed to jump-start progress is a training strategy opposite whatever it is you are doing. There is a natural ebb and flow, a pendulum swing, to continual progress. When a program or training regimen runs out of progress, the alert trainee recognizes stagnation and searches for a contrasting approach.
Every training regimen, no matter how effective, has a shelf life. When the vein of progress runs out, the advanced trainee has another equally effective, battle-tested training regimen ready to roll out. The key to breaking a stagnation logjam is contrast. Whatever you are doing is no longer working and changing the reps in the bench press from 8 to 10 is no change at all. To reignite progress, replace an effective training program with a dramatically different, equally effective training program. The athletic elite have a big arrow quiver of contrasting strategies.
Progressive Resistance Variables
- Frequency: how often do you train? Sessions per week? Frequent? Infrequent?
- Volume: how much or how little training during the actual session?
- Session content: exercises selected, set and rep strategies, timing strategies
- Training intensities: short and intense? Longer sessions with moderated intensities
- Synchronized nutrition: optimal results requires a coordination with nutrition
Log results. Periodically review the logged results. Have an overarching plan. Optimally, the training template includes a resistance training and cardiovascular training element coordinated with a nutritional element. Identify strengths to identify weaknesses. Prioritize weaknesses. Learn to recognize the inevitable onset of stagnation. Have a contrasting resistance training regimen, cardio regimen, a contrasting nutritional regimen, identified and ready to implement. When stagnation appears, contrast is our kryptonite.
The wonderful thing about subjecting underworked body parts to specialization is they come up rapidly. The neglect works to our advantage: when the trainee suddenly and intelligently and intensely and consistently starts pounding away, hard and often on weak points, they respond immediately.
Have preplanned workouts: avoid Groundhog Day syndrome where every workout is a repeat of what came before and what will come after. Train the same and the (lack of) results are the same. Reapportion training time appropriately. Have an overarching plan. Establish performance mini goals that when sequentially achieved (on a weekly basis) ultimately deposits you are the predetermined overarching goal. Rectify symmetrical and performance imbalances by recognizing weaknesses and reapportioning training time appropriately.
About the Author - Marty Gallagher
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of multiple books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher Biography for a more in depth look at his credentials as an athlete, coach and writer.