When discussing training with most folks, you’re bound to have a conversation about specificity. Most people understand that because each training program offers a specific set of responses and adaptations, it’s important to script an exercise program to develop results that contribute to a long term goal. If you want to run really fast, running slow and far isn’t really going to help you. If you want to pick up heavy things, picking up light things many times isn’t really going to help you. If you’re not sure if you should train today, the answer is definitely “Yes!”
Now, specificity in training is important, but it’s not exactly a perfect relationship. Eventually, training for a specific event or competition will cease to make you better; a weak link will be holding you back. As an example, let’s think about the 5k. You can run 5k’s all you want, and eventually your progress will slow down. You may continue to progress, but it will happen at an increasingly slower rate. If you identify what you struggle with the most, and develop that capacity, then your rate of improvement will slow down less. Maybe you’re just not a good finisher, and can’t pick it up at the end of the race. Training closer towards that sprint pace will improve your ability to finish strong. Make sense?
When it comes to the lifting side of the equation, I’m a big fan of variety. I like learning new exercises, training new exercises, and keeping track of a variety of personal records. (Note: Pulled 465lbs with the trap bar today. Go me.) I’ve found that experimenting with a collection of related but different exercises allows me to slowly make progress with each of them, and make steady progress with my lifting as a whole. For example, for the past 2 months I’ve been rotating a trap bar deadlift, a sumo stance deadlift, and a backsquat every 3 weeks, with a deload week in between. For the past 2 months, I’ve set PR’s every Saturday, which feels pretty awesome.
The idea of rotating exercises is not mine at all; it’s from far wiser minds and stronger bodies. If you were to credit the idea to one person, I think most of the strength world would agree that Louie Simmons has contributed the most to the concept of exercise rotation, which will be referred to as the Conjugate Method for the rest of this post. You can read one of Louie’s explanations of the method HERE.
If you’re not a fan of reading, I’ll do you one better, and include not one, but four videos that Louie did with the folks over at CrossFit. While I’ve discussed CrossFit before, and think it has it’s posititves and negatives, I love that there is collaboration and influence between the best powerlifting coach in history and the most ‘badass’ general physical preparedness program in the mainstream right now. In the videos, you’ll hear a simple crash course in conjugate periodization, including why you should pick up heavy things, move light(er) things as fast as you can, and why training hard will help you do just about everything else better. Without further-ado, here are the videos:
I doubt that you’re going to read this last line, so I’ll admit that as soon as I post this I’m going to see a Carmina Burana ballet with my mom. How badass is that?