Fragmentation and the Transformational Matrix article by Marty Gallagher

Fragmentation and the Transformational Matrix

Your “fitness” efforts fail because you are one-dimensional in a four-dimensional universe

Our transformational matrix: four disparate disciplines simultaneously set into motion with numerous subsets

No matter how sincere of the effort, no matter how well you adhere, flawed strategies cannot be overcome...

Why do people exercise? Why diet? Why jog, why do Pilates, pump iron or join the local YMCA? It all stems from a psychological dissatisfaction with our current physiological reality. This dissatisfaction with our physical self is so deep and profound that thought morphs into action. The internal visualization of our transformed self is so strong and motivating that it spurs a person to take remedial action.

The serious individual intent on renovating their physique establishes an exercise regimen and supports it with a diet plan. In most cases, the transformational effort lasts a few months, longer for the strong-willed, before the serious individual quits. Why quit? No gains.

Trainees quit because the effort is not worth the result. The resultant cost-benefit ratio is badly out of balance: lots of time-consuming exercise and lots of dutifully restrictive dieting that, in the end, produce negligible results. How disappointing. You rearrange your life and make a serious and determined effort, you follow all the diet and exercise guidelines. You follow the procedures and you expect the promised results – that are never forthcoming.

We (rightly) expect dramatic changes in and to our body in exchange for our disciplined and determined exercise and dietary efforts. In 99.9% of instances, those high hopes and those determined efforts are doomed before commencing. As the old Latin cliché goes, “effort is no substitute for success.”  No matter how sincere the effort, no matter how well you adhere, flawed strategies cannot be overcome.

At one extreme are the flawed diet and exercise strategies that demand too little: submaximal training effort and mild dieting using the wrong foods does not produce the mind-blowing results sought. The body does not favorably reconfigure itself (building muscle and strength, melting off fat, getting fit) in response to mildness and ease and sameness. Limit-equaling or limit-exceeding exercise effort is required; mobilizing and oxidizing stored body fat cannot occur while insulin is in the bloodstream.  

At the other extreme are the flawed strategies that demand too much: you can spend hours riding the stationary bike (at 60% effort) and live on 800-calories a day. You can have the willpower of Nietzsche and maintain this slow torture for months on end and in the end, you end up beaten down, listless, skinny-fat, and weak. If the exercise is endless and submaximal, if the 800 daily calories are made up of food and drink that spikes insulin, you end up with a “concentration camp physique.” Gulag inmates overworked and underfed end up weak, emaciated and sickly.

In addition to flawed methodology, transformational efforts are doomed by being one-dimensional or two-dimensional instead of four-dimensional. To trigger a radical physical transformation, four disparate, yet interrelated and intertwined disciplines need be in place and practiced: synchronized and periodized, launched simultaneously, each with its very own preplanned strategy: a multitude of mini-strategic periodization programs are implemented and executed beneath the overarching process premise. 

  • Techniques highly specific, “signature” exercise techniques use full range-of-motion
  • Tactics periodize everything: setting techniques into motion

The four disciplines are practiced simultaneously. Each of the four will have a periodized game plan at work and set into a defined timeframe. Each has a strategy for progressing. 

  • Progressive resistance training: three distinct strength types; absolute, explosive, sustained. Apportion available training time between the three strength types.
  • Cardiovascular training: the cardio tool or mode is secondary to the protocol. Practice both steady state and burst. Sweat is the coin of the realm in effective cardio.
  • Nutrition: clean up the content; eat organic, seasonally appropriate, locally sourced proteins and produce. Learn to cook, Basic life skill. Simple preparations of power foods.
  • Brain-Train: address psyche, adherence, habit-force. Tangible gains generate enthusiasm. Enthusiasm causes the trainee to redouble their efforts.

Iron Zen: not one, two, or three – four

Better to practice a little of each of the four transformative disciplines than a whole lot of any one or two. A man can become strong as an ox, fit as a fiddle, and yet qualify as clinically obese. The National Football League is loaded with lineman that can bench press 400 for reps, run up and down the field all day long, yet have 30% body fat percentiles. Long-distance runners can run hard for hours, possess super leanness and incredible endurance, yet are anemic, worn down and sickly. Unable to deadlift 200-pounds, colds, sickness, and infection are regular occurrence. The weak lack resistance and resilience.

  • Unless all four of the interlocking transformative disciplines are in place and practiced, results will always be less than what they could have been.

There are subtle and overt subsets (nuance and variation) within each of the four disciplines. These subsets create the possibility of contrast. Contrast is the always the solution for physical stagnation. To power out of the mire of inertia, dramatic change need be instituted: switch out a stale diet or exercise regimen for something new and vibrant, something completely different and contrasting. How might a 12-week, preplanned periodized resistance training protocol look?


  • All lifts start off at approximately 50% to 65% of current max
  • All lifts end up roughly 15% to 25% above current max
  • All lifts utilize pristine technique
  • Optional: In early phases, multiple top sets can be used
  • Never start off too high or too low
  • Beginners make the greatest gains when measured as a percentage
  • It is not realistic to expect this % of increase past the first few cycles
  • Gains of this magnitude are not at all unusual for those new to cycling
  • The stronger the lifter, the smaller the % increases at cycles end
  • Small weekly poundage jumps work best
  • These periodization charts are uber-basic; sophisticated variations exist
  • Other factors can be periodized: bodyweight, calories, cardio modes, etc.

Create Your Own Linear Periodized Training Template

In a nutshell, the way to periodize or “cycle” any lift is as follows….

  • Create a realistic goal
  • Establish a realistic timeframe
  • Reverse engineer: work backwards with a calendar, computer
  • Place the realist goals within a specified timeframe
  • Work backwards to establish weekly poundage benchmarks
  • Every 3-4 weeks, alter the variables
  • Be on alert for stagnation
  • When instituting changes, make them dramatic, not minor
  • For optimal results periodize bodyweight up (mass) or down (lean out)

About the Author
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 here.