The nerdy side of me secretly loves merging science and fitness together! I haven’t dug deep into scientific shenanigans in a while so here goes. We’re going to explore the benefits of SAID GAS to help you create your own kickass fitness program… And yes, you read that correctly.
Let’s begin with Periodization. Periodization is a systematic way to make physical changes over the course of weeks, months, and years. This approach uses the Principle of Specificity (SAID) and General Adaptation Syndrome (GAS). Your training program should be divided into specific phases of training. Each phase using a different form of strength, and volume to prevent injury while still achieving your goals. As a personal trainer, I create training plans by determining the form of training to be used, how long it will take, how often it will change, and what specific exercises will be included. The plan can be divided up annually (macrocycle), monthly (mesocycle), and weekly (microcycle) so you will be able to see the future of your goals in a time bound order. Periodization allows for optimal changes to the body while minimizing overtraining which would inevitably lead to fatigue or injury.
The SAID Principle of Specificity stands for Specific Adaptation Imposed Demands. The SAID Principle states that the body will adapt to the specific demands placed on it. Want to increase strength? Lift heavy weights for lower reps. Want to increase endurance? Lift lighter weights for higher reps. The awesome part of the SAID Principle is that we have the power to change our desired outcome through specific training methods. But the body will only adapt if it has a reason to adapt. There are three ways your body can adapt: mechanically, neuromuscularly, and metabolically. So let’s dive into those a bit.
Mechanical Specificity refers to the weight and movements placed on the body. Mechanically, the body will burn more calories when movements are performed while standing. So let’s say you’re performing overhead shoulder presses. You’ll burn more calories by completing the exercise in a standing position than you would by performing it on a bench.
Neuromuscular Specificity refers to the speed or contraction of the exercise. The body will burn more calories when muscles are being used for longer periods of time in a controlled unstable environment. So let’s say you’re completing body weight squats. You’ll burn more calories by performing the exercise on a BOSU ball than you would by performing it on the floor.
Metabolic Specificity refers to the energy demand placed on the body. Metabolically, the body will burn more calories when rest times are short and muscles are not fully recovered.
The phases that the body will go through in a resistance training program (from a beginner’s standpoint) are stabilization → muscular endurance → hypertrophy → strength, → power. Stabilization is important to develop proper balance, muscular contraction, and joint stability. Muscular Endurance helps create core and joint stabilization which are the foundation for hypertrophy, strength, and power training. Muscular hypertrophy is the growth of skeletal muscles as a result of weight training. (It’s how you make dem gainz). Specifically, low to medium rep ranges with progressive overload (heavier weight). Strength Training uses the neuromuscular system to produce internal tension to overcome an external load (aka it uses your muscles to lift weights). Typically this is done by using heavier loads to recruit more muscles, and slowly increasing the amount of weight used over time. More advanced strength type lifters will have to follow a more demanding program in terms of volume and intensity, using a periodized schedule. Power Training is used to produce the greatest amount of force in the shortest amount of time. So lifters will increase the weight or speed at which the weight is moved.
There are many different training systems you can follow depending on your goals. I’m going to cover my top favorites. The pyramid system increases or decreases weight with each set, usually 4-6 sets. The superset system is when you perform two exercises back to back with minimal rest. They can be exercises from the same muscle group or antagonist muscle groups. This is how I usually train, I’m busy and I don’t want to spend hours in the gym. Using supersets makes for an efficient workout. Drop-sets are when you perform a set to failure, remove some weight, and continue with the set. Circuit training refers to performing a series of exercises, one after the other, with minimal rest. This is also another efficient way to squeeze in a workout; the only drawback is that your equipment usually gets taken during busy times at the gym. Most bodybuilders prefer to follow a split routine, training different body parts on separate days. I also do this because it allows me to focus on specific body parts. Plus, if I was sore from a total body workout I’d be like the grumpiest person alive, however, I can handle sore biceps for a day.
Let’s move onto General Adaptation Syndrome. This is how the body responds and adapts to stress. When your body responds to stress it goes through three stages: Alarm Reaction, Resistance Development, and Exhaustion. The alarm reaction stage is the initial reaction to the stressor. In the beginning, your body may be very inefficient in dealing with the demands placed on it during resistance training. But over time, and gradual overload, your body increases its ability to handle those demands. The resistance development stage is when your body starts to become more efficient at adapting to the stressor. After repeated training sessions your body becomes more efficient at recruiting muscles, distributing oxygen, and distributing blood throughout the body. Once this happens, your body will need an increase to stress or overload to create a new level of adaptation. In other words, your body will freak out, get sore, adapt, grow, and become stronger. To continue that process you will need to change the stress by lifting heavier, increasing sets or reps, lowering rest periods, or choosing a new exercise so that your muscles can adapt further. Future training will be met with less and less soreness which will allow your training to gradually advance to new levels. Your performance will continue to improve until you reach a new plateau, and that’s when you should change one of the previous variables.
The exhaustion stage is when your body has gone through too much stress. This may lead to fractures, sprains, joint pain, and even emotional fatigue. This is why it is important to follow a progressive training program with the help of a personal trainer.
Your body can handle a lot of stressed placed on it as long as it is balanced out with stages of rest and recovery. This is also where the importance of periodization comes in because it is the division of a training program into smaller progressive stages. A personal trainer will be able to design an effective safe program that will allow you to reach your goals without the grueling exhaustion stage.