The SAID Principle: Specific Adaptations to Training

In Part 1, we learned that effective workouts were the first step to a fast recovery: specifically, making sure that you’re working in that sweet spot between undertraining and overtraining where you get maximum benefits and minimum side effects. Now, in Parts 2-3, we’re going to take these principles and make them more personal and practical for you.

Beware the Canned Training Program

A cookie-cutter training program may have worked wonders for the guy who’s selling it, but you’re not him. What you need on any given day depends on your specific training goals, along with all the things that make you unique – like your genetic individuality and your current fitness level.

So first, let’s talk about exactly what it is you want to accomplish. Your body is very specific with how it responds to different modes of conditioning, so you have to be very specific about the results you want to get.

Knowing Exactly What You Need to Reach Your Training Objective

Do you want to move faster? Do you want to hit harder without being tense? Do you want to last longer while you’re hitting faster and harder? How about staying centered and powerful no matter what position you find yourself in, and withstanding blows that would incapacitate someone else? How about all of the above?

Whatever you want, there’s a specific form of conditioning for it, with its own stressors and recovery times. There’s a principle in physiology called the SAID Principle, which stands for Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands. In simple terms, it means that the changes you get from the actions you take are always specific to what you do and what parts of you are doing it.

[pullbox]The changes you get from the actions you take are always specific to what you do and what parts of you are doing it.[/pullbox]

It’s why tanned skin is more resistant to sunlight, and why you get a farmer’s tan if you’re out in a tank top. It’s why power-lifters are stronger, why bodybuilders are bigger, why fighters hit faster and harder, and why marathon runners don’t die at the end like the first guy did.

On the surface, this is mostly common sense. You already know that if you’re doing Iron Palm training you won’t get iron feet. But there’s a number of aspects of the SAID principle that a lot of people don’t know. For example, do you know:

  • How to get the results you want without making changes you don’t want?
  • What the recovery time is for each kind of stress you’re applying?
  • The right way to measure your results to know whether or not you’re truly improving?
  • How to identify and eliminate the weak links in your chain that can hold you back or trigger an injury?

Let’s talk about these less known aspects of the SAID principle.

Do You Know How To Eliminate the Deficits That Will Shut You Down?

No matter what your genetic advantages are, no one’s body is ever perfectly adapted to the specific demands of any sport without significant conditioning. Everyone, and I mean everyone, shows up with specific deficits. Some deficits will slow you down, some will shut you down, and some will break you.
So remember the old saw: a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. If your training generates forces that are stronger than your weakest link, it snaps, and you break. It’s that simple.

[pullbox]If your training generates forces that are stronger than your weakest link, it snaps, and you break.[/pullbox]

To reach mastery, you must eliminate all your deficits. Think of it like very focused remedial training for a specific job—like an accountant who still needs to learn math. So here’s a few rules to follow to make sure that you address some common deficits that can often lead to injury or stagnation:

1. Structural Strength Comes Before Force Production

If your tissues can’t withstand the forces your training requires, you’re setting yourself up for a massive injury if you don’t prepare for it first. What do you think will happen with you throw a 500lb punch with muscles and tendons only prepared to withstand a shock-wave of 400lbs? Remember, whatever you hit is hitting you back just as hard.

2. Stability and Flexibility Come Before Action

If you can’t move to a necessary position or stabilize your joints in that position, you have to fix that before you start trying to do any work in that position. To your central nervous system, stability comes before action. If it senses you’re not going to be able to hold things together, it will resist all your efforts to improve.

3. Endurance Comes Before Performance

Can your body sustain the energy output your performance demands? If not, you’re not ready to perform or compete. If you can hit hard and kick hard in isolation, but you crap out half way through a 3 minute round, you’re not likely to win unless you get a knockout.

If any part of your system cannot sustain the energy output you need, you fail, even if you can perform it all with masterful precision and power in smaller doses.
In this case, upgrading your body’s energy delivery system would take you way further then working on stronger attacks.

4. Strength and Control Come Before Speed

You have to be able to move something slowly and under control through your entire range of motion before you can safely move it quickly and explosively.
Your nervous system recruits your muscle fibers in a very specific pattern. By default, it wants to leave as many fibers in the “off” position as possible--like an eco-conscious home owner always switching lights off when no one's in the room. Sometimes it’s sluggish to change and turn things on, and this creates specific “sticking points” of weakness.

Things like joint angles change your muscle recruitment pattern, so it’s common to have sticking points at specific angles. You can only discover and eliminate your sticking points by going slowly.

If you go for too much speed without first developing strength and control, you use the momentum of your movement to skip over your sticking points instead. This leads to two problems:

  1. Your total power will be capped when moving faster
  2. Your lack of strength in those sticking points raises your risk of injury at those points.

It’s no different than practicing anything else: first master it slowly with perfect form, then steadily raise the level of challenge.

Do You Know How To Get What You Want Without the Extra Baggage?

There’s always an internal and an external component to every adaptation: every form of conditioning improves something that you do by changing something about your body.

The external changes are all reflected by improvements to your performance: lasting longer, going faster, hitting harder, lifting more etc. The internal changes fall into three general categories:

[et_table class="calltable"]
"Morphic changes improve your structural tissues: you get greater bone density, stronger tendons, larger and stronger muscle fibers, etc."
"Neural changes improve your ability to produce force through things like faster motor unit recruitment, increased firing rates, greater synchronization, etc."
"Metabolic changes cover a whole raft of powerful transformations that all have something to do with helping you manage your energy levels—things like increased mitochondria, increased chemical fuel storage, increased blood volume, increased capillaries, altered hormone and receptor levels, greater muscle insulin sensitivity, etc."

Sometimes, training for an external change triggers an internal change you may not want, and it takes some precision to get around it.

More Strength Without Extra Mass?

[pullbox]Most people automatically equate muscle size with strength – but it’s not true.[/pullbox]

What if you want more strength, but you don’t want larger muscles? If you’re a swimmer, for example, the last thing you need is to pack on something heavy and dense that makes you sink faster. But you do need greater strength and speed.
Do you know how to separate the two? Most people automatically equate muscle size with strength – but it’s not true. Not exactly, anyway. Yes, your body does build some extra contractile proteins when it needs them, but strength is mostly a neural phenomenon.

Bruce Lee Did It

Think about Bruce Lee, for example. Bruce Lee was ripped, and he was rock hard, but he was very skinny, especially compared to pro bodybuilders. And yet he could send guys twice his weight flying backwards with a short range punch.

The First Man To Squat 1,000 Pounds Did It

Dr. Fred Hatfield was the first man on record to squat 1000 lbs--an amazing feat of strength. But his legs weren’t all that big; nicely muscled, but not huge. When he stood next to Tom Platz, a Mr. Olympia contestant known for his huge legs, he looked like a stork by comparison. And yet, Tom Platz couldn’t squat anywhere near 1,000 lbs.

By knowing what they wanted, what they didn’t want, and what training variables to tweak, they each got the results they were after. Platz did hypertrophy-specific training, Hatfield did strength-specific training.

[notebox]NOTE: How to do this for every kind of result would take way more space than I have in this article –but I’ll dive into more detail in a later article about a few of the most important distinctions.  So stay tuned.[/notebox]

Do You Know the Single Most Important Thing to Be Focusing on Right Now?

No one has the reserves to build every ability at once at an equal pace. Your nervous system, your tissues, and your hormones have limits to the amount of work they can do. If you give them one job, they’ll do it better and faster than if you give them four jobs. So you have to focus and prioritize.

The Most Efficient Way to Build Mastery

But how do the masters build such versatile bodies that are strong, fast, resilient, and agile in every way? Because of one beautiful principle:  It’s far easier to maintain something that it is to build it.

[pullbox]It is much easier to maintain something than it is to build something.[/pullbox]

The most efficient way to build mastery is to prioritize your needs, focus on what’s most important, and then switch it to a ‘maintenance mode’ when it’s up to snuff and move on to the next one.

By using the maintenance principle, you can do far less work far less often and still maintain what you’ve achieved. That frees up your inner resources to focus all of their adaptive power on your new targeted ability.

All you have to do is briefly stimulate each inner system – your structural, neural, and metabolic changes – with your latest performance record, 2-3 times a month, and you’ll retain it without spending all of your reserves on it.

How Do You Choose What to Focus On?

What’s most important will always be one of two things:

  1. Your weakest link.
  2. Your greatest strategic advantage

We already discussed weak links, but it’s important to realize that new ones can appear all throughout your training journey. As strengths and speeds increase, and tissues and structures change, it’s possible to eliminate one deficit and create another. Creating and maintaining balances among your strengths is a lifelong process. As you discover new ones, they should come into focus.

If you’re in a state of balance with your abilities, then it’s time to push your greatest strategic advantage. This is something that you specifically identify based on your genetic adaptations and personal style. What’s your super-power? What’s the one thing you do best that seems to just come out of you in a way that other people don’t have? Take that thing and push it so far that when you unleash it, you’re unstoppable.

Do You Know How Long it Takes to Recover From What You’re Doing?

The biggest challenge with optimizing your recovery time is that various tissues and systems recover from stress at different rates, and all of them change radically depending on how much stress they’re dealing with. Here’s a couple of essentials to keep in mind:

Connective Tissue and Bone takes Longer Than Muscle

Your connective tissues and bones recover more slowly than your muscles, in part because they have a much weaker blood supply. (This can be significantly accelerated with the use of the right dit da jow, which increases blood flow to connective tissues and decreases the inflammatory response.)

Your Central Nervous System Takes Longer Than Peripheral Nerves

Your central nervous system has to process and manage the collective stress from all systems, so it is more susceptible to burnout from the sum total of all stressors than your peripheral motor nerves are with their one stress.

Larger Masses Take Longer than Smaller Masses

Larger masses of tissue have a greater surface area on which to accrue training induced microtrauma. So your leg muscles will take longer to recover than your forearm muscles, for example, if they have the same distribution of microtrauma.
And anywhere you build mass, whether its bone, muscle, or connective tissue, that area will take longer to recover than it used to, assuming that you’re able to trigger the same distribution of microtrauma that you did before. Why? Because you have increased the surface area capable of receiving microtrauma. Now there’s more tissue available to damage.

Significant Trauma Takes Far Longer Than Microtrauma (With No Extra Benefits)

This is, by far, the most influential variable, and that’s great news, because this is the one you can control.

No matter what tissue you’re dealing with, beating the hell out of it adds ridiculous amounts of recovery time to the picture. Your body will be remodeling things for months.

Just take a look at how much your recovery times can drift during each phase of the process:

[et_table class="calltable" th=true]
Phase, Minimum Effective Dose, Significant Trauma, Difference
Inflammatory Response, 24 Hours, 144 hours, 6x longer
Regeneration and Repair, 48 hours, 6 weeks, 21x longer
Remodeling, 3 weeks, 6 months, 8.6x longer

Remember, all you need to trigger an adaptation is the slightest piercing of your current equilibrium state. Train optimally, and you'll take the greatest advantage of these huge spreads in recovery time.

Metabolic Changes take the Least Time to Recover, but a Longer time to Improve

Endurance oriented activities trigger primarily metabolic changes, and metabolic changes have no inflammatory response and no traumatized tissue to address.
You can still get tissue trauma from endurance training, but it's not caused by any kind of metabolic stress, it's caused by the impacts you experience while training. If you get shin splints from running, for example, it's the impact of your feet on the pavement that's the problem. You won't get them on a trampoline or in a swimming pool.

So, assuming that you don’t induce any trauma, you can do this sort of thing every day, for hours a day.

The catch is, it takes a longer time to get a big jump in your results. Building a big network of new capillaries doesn’t happen over night. It can take up to six weeks before the new system is up and running. But once it turns on, WHOA. You get a massive breakthrough, and suddenly, your endurance soars compared to your old record.

That's one of the best kept secrets of metabolic training. You've got to hang in there long enough for your new, long-lasting system to be built, and lots of people don't. Endurance training is all about patience and perseverance.

To Get Results, Measure Results

If you don’t measure your results, how can you tell if you’re improving or not? As I’ll show in the next article, relying just on an inner feeling of “your best” can easily become a trick your brain uses to keep you were you are.

But if you do measure your results, do you know the right numbers to look for in order to track improvements in each ability? Do you know how to prevent yourself from cheating? To know if you’ve truly improved, you need to know what the essential characteristics of an ability are. For example:

  • An increase in your speed requires that you either output more force in the same amount of time, or do the same amount in less time.
  • An increase in strength means that you moved a heavier load for the same distance.
  • An increase in endurance means you’ve increased both your total ‘distance’ and your time.

But it also means that you’re not changing your form at all in order to make something easier and get a bump in your numbers. This is an extremely common mistake which takes both honesty and self-awareness to overcome.

Coming Up Next…

We’ve only scratched the surface of these dynamics, and in some cases I haven’t given you enough detail to make informed decisions about your training yet, so, I’m going to remedy that in the next article. We’re going to be covering:

  • The six fundamental abilities that form the basis of all physical mastery
  • The recovery times of each fundamental ability
  • The right way to measure and improve each ability
  • How to address the most common training deficits among those abilities.

Stay tuned!

Leave a comment

All comments are moderated before being published