How to Train for Longevity

How to Train For Longevity

Stop thinking that you have to puke, fall on your face from exhaustion, or be dog-tired to make gains from your workouts!  This old school, work harder mentality is probably a fair assumption as to why some people experience aches, pains, or injuries that do not resolve while working out.  

Overuse injuries: This name should imply everything you need to know. When you stress your body through any activity or exercise, there will be an adaptive response to the stress endured.  Your body can respond in two ways. A good response would be that the body is able to withstand the stress, microtrauma occurs to the tissue, and the body rebuilds better than previously before. A bad response would obviously be an injury, implying that the body was not able to withstand that particular stress or accumulation of stressors.  

Unfortunately, things are never this simple.  More commonly, what happens is the inability to find a happy medium between these two extremes.  While one intense workout may not have caused injury initially, your body still has to be able to recover, restore tissue quality, and build resiliency.  If you are constantly beating the body down and never giving it a chance to recover or build resiliency, it starts to create an accumulative negative effect.

Unfortunately, the aesthetic gains such as weight loss, bigger biceps, or a new 1RM on the deadlift do not always correlate directly with increased resiliency to injury. Similarly, for athletes, increased athleticism does not always correlate directly with increased resiliency to injury.

If only it was that simple!

Remember that stress is stress, and your body cannot discern where it is coming from. This means that emotional stress, long days at work, lack of sleep, and a common cold are all types of stressors that can act as amplifiers, which may make you more susceptible to injury while continually training at a high volume or intensity.  This is why recovery is so important, and listening to what your body is telling you is the first step for longevity.

Everybody has a resiliency line, that if crossed, puts you at risk for injury. This line of resiliency can be high or low depending on factors such as mobility, strength, movement efficiency, and injury history. Increasing overall fitness levels will raise the line of resiliency. If you constantly stay in the resiliency danger zone, injury becomes much more likely to happen. When injury happens, the resiliency bar is lowered. The goal is to push the limits without staying above the line for too long, then allow ample time for stress levels to reset.

“Poke the grizzly bear, but for goodness sake, don’t poke him so much that you wake him up.”

The Program
Using a Rating of Perceived Exertion scale (RPE) is a great way to modifying an exercise routine to how your body feels. It also acts as a great tracker to avoid chronic overtraining.

For the RPE scale, we will use a rating of 1-10.  After performing your main lift, you will rate how difficult the lift was to perform. A rating of 1/10 would be extremely easy to perform and you could repeat that lift all day long without trouble. A rating of 10/10 would mean that you barely could finish the lift and could not do 1 rep more. It gets a little harrier with the middle numbers, but remember this is all subjective to how YOU feel. In general, an RPE rating of 9 would mean you had ~ 1 more rep in the tank. An RPE rating of 8 would mean you could get ~ 2 more reps, and an RPE rating of 7 would mean you could get ~3 more reps, and so on.

You will utilize this scale for your main lift of the day. Then you will also give your overall workout a grade of 1-10 based on how hard you felt the overall workout was. By tracking your workouts this way, you can start to take into account other extraneous factors that may start to accumulate and lead to injury.  Remember, your rating could vary from day to day or week to week due to other stressors that happen in life. Building up bulletproof resiliency takes time and adaptation. This philosophy will help you keep your end goal in mind.

Here is what a program might look like all laid out.

For simplicity, let's say you usually train 3 days per week. On Monday you train your legs. A 4 week training block for your Monday workouts might look like this.

Week 1 - Workout RPE rating: 7-8
Back Squat: 3-4 x 5 (RPE of 7)
Accessory Posterior Chain Movement: 3 x 8
Accessory Lunge/Split Squat: 3 x 12
Core: 3 x 30”

Week 2 - Workout RPE rating: 8-9
Back Squat: 4-5 x 5 (RPE of 8)
Accessory Posterior Chain Movement: 3 x 8
Accessory Lunge/Split Squat: 3 x 10
Core: 3 x 30”

Week 3 - Workout RPE rating: 9-10
Back Squat: 4-5 x 5 (RPE of 9)
Accessory Posterior Chain Movement: 3 x 6
Accessory Lunge/Split Squat: 3 x 8
Core: 3 x 30”

Week 4 - Workout RPE rating: 4-5
Back Squat: 3 x 5 (RPE of 5)
Accessory Posterior Chain Movement: 3 x 6
Accessory Lunge/Split Squat: 3 x 8
Core: 3 x 30”

This same philosophy would then be taken on the other 2 days that you lift.  Just swap the different lifts that you intend to use. Training this way allows for a period of gradual increased stimulus (weeks 1-2), with a planned period of overreaching (week 3), followed by a recovery period (week 4).  Again, the goal here is continued long-term progress to build resiliency and longevity in your training. It accommodates enough stress that the body can adapt and become stronger, while at the same time giving your body the best chance to avoid a negative response and keep on progressing.


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