I put this graph up on Instagram this week and sharing it here as well because it’s important to understand, and I wanted to expand on this thought a bit.
The point of the graph is to show that issues adapt to stress at different rates. Muscle changes quickly, with about four weeks to improve neuromuscular connections and then up to eight weeks for hypertrophy (or cell growth) to occur. Changes in the tendon, ligament, and cartilage strength can be twice that, if not more!
It’s not surprising that injuries usually happen around the 9-month mark of a training plan, or alongside a high-intensity get-strong quick cycle, or after a hard push to get back following some time off. This is when your muscles and mind say it’s time to go heavier or further, but other tissues in your body are still working up to that level.
The take home I was going for is a reminder that you’re training your body and not just your muscles, and to illustrate the risk for the program that promises exponential gains quickly.
Although it left many wondering, “What’s too much?”
Unfortunately, there is no way of knowing, but here are some ideas to consider for your training:
1. The 10% Rule of Running is a great guideline that applies well to all activities. Basically, don’t increase weight, reps, mileage, or another training variable by more than 10% each week.
2. Create long-term goals. I’m a huge fan of the 5-3-1 program by Jim Wendler. You can read his write-up on the program here at T-Nation. Despite the bro-flair, it’s fundamental reading for training. Key to the whole program is a long-term linear progression, in the article, Wendler says,
“I plan my training for a year. I know exactly what I want to do and what I want to accomplish 12 months in advance. And I know what 5 or 10 pounds a month adds up to over the course of a year.”
By looking at training as a long-term progression, you protect yourself from steep spikes in workloads and can make small adjustments to the plan between each workout. This applies to running, CrossFit, swimming, baseball, and any other activity you want to pursue. Know where you want to go and make a plan to get there.
3. Assess the Risk vs. Reward. When the reward on the other side outways the risk to get there, there are reasons to do a Smolov squat cycle or a 6-week PR program. If you’ve spent years building the capacity to push your body, feel free to take those risks in training if the reward pays off for you.
4. Be Patient, and Your Consistency Will Pay Off. As Jim Wendler says…
“The pursuit of strength is not a six-month or one-year pursuit. It’s a 30-year pursuit for me. You’ve got to be smart about it. But everyone wants everything right now.”