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Welcome to Day 2 of the BWF Primer Build-up!
Hey gang! Nick-E here. So yesterday we learned about how to do push-ups. You might have found that a little bit overwhelming! Maybe you thought to yourself, ‘Man, I thought push-ups were easy and simple! What the heck!’. You would not be alone in thinking that. Luckily, you aren’t learning another exercise today, and you will have some more opportunity to practice your push-ups and re-consolidate all that info before you have to learn another one tomorrow. Instead, we’ll be learning some theory about exercise for your reading today!
So to summarise, today we will be:
– Reading a little bit about how exercise works (Introducing two fundamental concepts to training called the SAID Principle, and Progressive Overload)
– Doing another push-up based mini-workout!
Today’s Learning: The SAID Principle, and Progressive Overload
So while you digest all that pushup-related learning from yesterday, we’re going to learn a little bit about how and why exercise ‘works’, and provide a (hopefully) easy way of conceptualising what exercise is doing to your body. On the scale of ‘Simple but reductive’ to ‘complex and scientific but very semantically accurate’, we’ll be leaning more to the former, as this is a beginner routine!
The SAID Principle
So in order to illustrate how exercise impacts the body, we have to establish two general ideas:
- Your muscular system does not like working harder than it needs to
- Your body overall does not like using more resources than it needs to.
Because it does not like working hard, it will make sure that it can do the things it does most often in the easiest and most efficient way possible. That usually means diverting resources to the parts of the body that help you do that thing. At the same time, it will not put any effort (or resources) towards maintaining or building up your ability to do things that you never do.
This is the foundation of an extremely important concept in fitness called the S.A.I.D principle. SAID stands for ‘Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands‘.
SAID PRINCIPLE EXAMPLE 1:
Say there is a person named Alex. Alex has an office job from 9 til 5, and they commute in their car. Alex has a lot of hobbies that do not require very much physical exertion. Listening to music, browsing the internet, social media and reading books are some of their favourite things to do when they aren’t at work. Depending on how long Alex has had this lifestyle, it’s possible that their body is happily existing in a state of homeostasis because it has perfectly adapted to the demands of that lifestyle.
In this example, the demands of a sedentary job with sedentary hobbies, is very low. This means that the body does not need to maintain the neuromusculoskeletal (nerves, muscles, joints and bones), cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels), or respiratory (lungs) systems to a higher level than they need to support your ability to sit down, walk short distances, and use your arms a little.
SAID PRINCIPLE EXAMPLE 2:
Say for example we take Alex, and then add a new detail. Now we say that Alex used to do county-level competitive swimming in middle school and high school, but has since stopped and hasn’t really exercised since then.
In their teen years, throughout years of swimming practice, training, meets and races, Alex’s body became adapted to swimming. Initially swimming was hard to do, so over the years the body made the muscles that were required to do the swim strokes stronger and more enduring, and made their heart and lungs better at getting oxygen to the muscles. It did this in order to make the task that it had to do CONSTANTLY much easier and more efficient.
Importantly, swimming did not make Alex extremely strong and fit and good at everything, it just made the necessary improvements in order to Alex really really good at swimming. This is where the ‘Specific Adaptations’ part of the SAID principle comes in. It would not make sense to your frugal, energy-conserving body to make Alex good at everything, because that would be a waste!
However, some of the adaptations that made Alex good at swimming also made them good at some other things coincidentally. (e.g. It took Alex less time to get up a long staircase, and they were rarely out of breath by the top of it. Also, when Alex tried other forms of cardio exercise (running, cycling), it would have felt much easier than before they started swimming and they may have been better than their friends that didn’t do any exercise at those things, despite it being their first time.)
But how do we go from this young fit Alex, to the Alex of today? As soon as the imposed demand of swimming goes away, the body stops seeing the need to maintain such an elevated performance of the muscles and cardiovascular system. So it stops, and over time all that has been maintained is what is required to sit, walk short distances, and move their arms around a little, because that is the imposed demand of a sedentary, office job lifestyle!
(Side note: The adaptations Alex got from their swimming career are not strictly gone and dead by this point. In reality its about halfway between gone and dormant. Generally speaking it’s much easier to re-gain fitness adaptations than to gain them the first time round. But that’s another topic.)
Now we know that thanks to the SAID principle, if we do something, our bodies will make the necessary changes to get better specifically at that thing, and in order to keep those adaptations we have to keep putting the demands that necessitate them on our bodies, over time! So you decide you want to generally get stronger and build some muscle for [insert your personal reason right here]. So you decide to start some strength training. You find a 20lbs dumbbell in your attic and start lifting it in a variety of ways. It’s quite hard to lift it, so this must make you stronger if you do it enough! Thanks, SAID principle. You’re a lifesaver.
You get into a bit of a habit with that and eventually lifting the dumbbell gets very easy. You keep doing it, and lifting the dumbell stays easy. Weeks pass, and it’s still easy. You don’t seem to be getting any stronger. What once was hard, now is not hard. Your body has no reason to keep getting stronger because its extremely well adapted to lifting this dumbbell!
You briefly feel tricked and betrayed by the SAID principle before you log onto Nick-E.com and see a post called ‘BWF Primer Build-up: Day 2’, where you learn about a concept called ‘Progressive Overload’.
Compared to the SAID principle, this one is super simple. It basically means, in any effective strength training program, the demand you are putting on your body always needs to be one step ahead of your bodies adaptation to that demand.
To apply that to the above example:
Once that 20lbs dumbbell gets easy, you need to move on to a 25lbs dumbbell. Eventually that too will get easy, and then you’ll move onto a 30lbs dumbbell. This process will repeat until you feel like you are strong enough. (or your body looks the way you want it to. Or you are capable of doing all the cool things you want!)
This is the principle behind why in this program, every session you will be trying to do 1 more rep than you did last time in each exercise. It is giving a progressively greater load (demand) to overcome, that is always just a little bit over what it’s used to!
In the spirit of progressive overload, this workout is simply a repeat of the first workout, but progressing the reps!
5 sets of 6 pushups at whatever incline is appropriate, with 60s rest.
In program format, this is written as:
(NOTE: Many of you starting the program may have gone sprinting out of the gate on Day 1, doing the hardest incline you could or even full floor pushups. The focus of this build-up period to the full Primer routine is on technique practice, not pushing it to the limit. If you did go out all guns blazing on Day 1, I’d strongly advise picking an easier level of inclination if you have one available to you.)
In the next workout tomorrow, we will be adding another exercise.
Ok, I did it!
If you want to chat about your experience so far, come to the /r/bodyweightfitness discord server! There you can chat with other beginners, about your workouts. On top of that, there are many friendly and experienced helpers around to answer any questions you may have!