The Importance of Auto Regulation: Knowing When to Call it a Day – by Ben Coker

I love volume in my training. Anyone who knows me closely and has watched me train will agree with this statement. On the whole I prefer to train insanely hard with a large workload and then take an extended succession of rest days. This system has worked very well for me and continues to do so. This isn’t to say that a more frequent training approach with less volume each session would be ineffective for me, it’s more to do with my mindset…I like to train insane.

100% agree, but not 100% of the time...

With all this said though, I can easily fall into the trap of overtraining if I fail to listen to my body. Short of having preset lower intensity days incorporated into a training cycle, having an intimate awareness of you body and its current state is crucial to all performers.

I have never actually been over trained but I frequently flirt with overreaching in my methodologies, therefore I need to have a good auto regulation and periodization scheme in place to know when enough is enough for each particular day.

There are times when I just don’t feel that surge in my body to go to that ‘dark place’ again. Today was one of those days. After my first exercise (squats) where I ramped up to and then performed 3 sets of 1 on 165kg, I moved on to my ‘accessory section’ which to me is pretty much where the session begins!.

Well today, after 5 sets on the leg press, with another couple of sets to go I detected my body feeling different. I can’t really describe it anymore that I felt different. I’m sure many lifters out there can relate to this.

Now, often lifters with a hard mindset or even an innocently ignorant mindset will push through this, battling themselves with self talk… ‘stop being a whip’, ‘I need to man up’, ‘I lifted 20kg more than this last week I need to push harder’, ‘I cant stop as that means I’m giving up’.

Walking like a foal after a heavy leg session is good, but not necessarily after every session...

These guys haven’t developed a good auto regulation system. They feel they need to do exactly what is written in their plan, even if your body is saying ‘hey just modify the plan so I can catch up’.

Today, my body wasn’t revving like I normally does. I had a cold sensation in my skin and my head felt a bit stuffy all of a sudden. It was like the very early signs of a cold. Despite still being very strong, I knew that this sign needed to be used NOT abused.

Sensibly, I decided to finish the presses two sets early and then got a quick complex in of hamstring curls, calf raise and leg raises (three times through) and got out of there. The session was half the time and volume it would normally be. Despite it being one of my low intensity days already, my body detected that low needed to be lower and I made it so.

I thought I would share this experience to bring home the importance of knowing when to call it a day and modify your programme where nexcessary based on what your body is telling you.

Programmes are good, but I prefer to think of them as templates. Your body doesn’t fall into line with what a set of percentages say on a page. Develop your own bodily ‘awareness’ as it were and know what your body is saying and learn how to act accordingly. If you can master this you will be lifting a lot longer and with a lot more consistency. It is these two points ultimately that form the foundation for any high level of performance.

Remember. Train hard. TRAIN SMART. Be strong.


Make the Most of It – by Jamie Bolton

Make the most of those days when the world is your oyster. Push them for all their worth.
The days when you walk into the gym and that 100kg press from last week feels that extra bit light. Milk it. Milk it for all its worth. Hammer yourself. Do more work

I’m a big believer in auto-regulatory styled training. Sure, have a structure. I think walking into the gym blind with no plan, is one of the biggest mistakes trainees make. But keep it loose and don’t take it as a hard and fast ‘rule’ of what you must and must only do.

If you walk in and had planned to work up to a top set in the squat of say 160kg for 3, but you get there and it feels light. Then go to town. Chances are you knew halfway on your ramp up to it that it may feel that way today. So adjust. Rep it out. Or add extra sets. Or keep ramping up to a new top set for 3. That’s how you smash PBs. That’s how you progress.


Make the most of the days when the world is your oyster


Your body is in a constant state of flux. It never stays the same. Nor is it predictable how it will really be ready to perform. Sure, you can periodise and plan all you like, but if you walked in and planned a lower volume day but you feel like you can dominate the world, then do you really think it’ll be optimal to stop short? Maximise the training effect that your body is willing to allow you to put it through. Take what your body gives you.

The reverse also applies. Some days you walk in, having planned a heavy session. Then you walk in, and the warm up sets feel a bit off and heavier than they should. Your grip feels a bit off. Your form is a little awkward. Then it might be wise to reconsider your goals for the day and adjust the volume downwards. What might be enough one day might be too much another. There’s no point in sacrificing form just to try and push a weight that’s just too much today. If its not there, it’s not there. Save the battle for another day.

Don’t take that as an excuse to take an easy ride. The point here is to look for physical cues not mental ones. Weights feeling lighter/heavier. Weights flying up faster/slower. Grip or form tighter or a bit off today. Not “I can’t really be bothered today” – that’s just weak and a sure fire way to make no progress.

I’ll quote Christian Thibaudeau of T-nation, as its one that bears repeating:

“The more you can train without compromising your ability to recover, the more you’ll progress”.

Take what your body gives you each day. If its there to be pushed a bit harder, do it. If its not – don’t. Simple.

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