How acute variables can help with program design

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At a basic level all workout programs have some sort of parameters or guidelines to follow. The workout programs also make use of something called Acute variables. Acute variables come in many forms such as:

  1. The plane of motion your exercises are being performed in: Sagittal, Frontal or Transverse plane.
  2. The range of motion that is being used: Full ROM, Partial or End-Range = Partial Reps.
  3. The type of modality we are using: Weight machines, Cable Machines, Resistance bands, Body weight exercises, Dumbbells, Kettlebells, etc.
  4. What position is your body in: Prone, Supine (on your back), Standing, Kneeling, any reproductive modality (using an unstable but controlled
    surface like Stability Ball, Foam Roll, BOSU Board, etc.).
  5. What is the intensity level of the exercises: Easy, Hard, etc.
  6. What type of tempo is being used for your concentric, eccentric and isometric pause. Example of a tempo = 4/2/1 – 2/0/2
  7. What type of duration is the workout?
  8. What is the frequency of the workout? Just enough or too much to cause someone to enter the Exhaustion Phase of GAS

I did not list your clients workout goal as a variable, however this is the main question that will drive the use of these variables used. Is your client working towards Fat Loss, Stabilization, Strength, Building Lean Mass (Hypertrophy), or Power?

When working with a client and using NASM OPT model we have to rely on all of  these variables to produce successful results. We can change one or a number of these variables at any given time so the Central Never System has to keep guessing. By making changes we will force the body to adapt, integrate and produce results based on this feedback. Depending on what type of changes we are trying to get will determine how we use these variables to our advantage.

All of these acute variables make a huge difference when designing a successful, progressive and functional workout program for your client. More often many clients are given programs that contain a predefined number set of sets, reps, amount of weight to lift and what days to do them on. Beyond that where is the point that we change a variable? A result of not changing these acute variables when needed will result in your client hitting a plateau and stop progressing. At this point you can possibly lose a client and that is just not cool.

Let’s use a practical example. You have a new client that you just signed up. You have done all your paperwork and performed the necessary assessments on your client. The result of the assessments it shows is that your client has several muscle imbalances. You design a program around those imbalances and start in the Stabilization Endurance phase first. Why stabilization endurance first and not just hit the weights? Logically, we want to fix the muscle imbalances to restore proper muscle lengths. Optimal muscle lengths lead to optimal performance. It is just foolish to have someone work on an over actively tight muscle and make it even tighter.

Let’s look at these chain of events when we don’t follow this progression:

  1. When one muscle is overly active or reciprocally inhibited (Altered Reciprocal Inhibition) it will cause the opposite muscle(s) to receive less neural drive.
  2. This alters the force-couple relationship of the muscle groups being used and weakens the muscle due to lack of stimulation and activity.
  3. You now perform an exercise and try to use that inhibited muscle.
  4. It is in a weakened state and other muscles will possibly be recruited to help out to perform that exercise.
  5. Now Synergistic Dominance kicks in and other muscles not intended for that action will be used.
  6. The clients Central Nervous System compensates to still perform the exercise.
  7. The CNS will take this feedback and learn this new incorrect or faulty movement pattern.
  8. Eventually this can lead to an injury and a loss of a client.

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So in this example how can we use acute variables? Perhaps your client doesn’t have the strength after an injury to do 10 repetitions of a Glute Bridge during their first workout.  Through observation we see that they can perform 3-5 repetitions properly with a slower tempo like 4/2/1.

This is what we do:

  1. We change the variables by dropping the sets from 2 to 1.
  2. We change the repetitions from 10 to 3-5 so the client can perform them properly using correct form.
  3. Add a tempo to make it a little challenging which is needed for growth.
  4. Add a Microcycle (a weekly cycle) for re-evaluation, possibly longer and work up to a Mesocycle (Monthly plan).
  5. Re-evaluate at the end of the week for progress.
  6. If the client is getting stronger and has no pain change the variables. As the client progresses keep using that list of variables to get them to the next stage of their goal.

Keeping the workouts safe, challenging, and fun your clients will see progress which leads to a happy clients! You can apply this method to all of your clients at any fitness level they are at and together achieve success.

If you want more in depth information on program progression and using periodization click me!!

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