I do an adrenal test on almost every client I work with to determine what kind of stress and workout load he or she can handle. My focus is health, so the four weeks of programming I have provided is an example of what I would give to a client who is quite highly skilled, but has a later stage of adrenal burnout (stage two or three).
The program is meant for the person who is not efficiently secreting cortisol and feels tired and flat much of the time. This person is also destroyed by hard workouts – initially feeling great, but hitting rock bottom a few hours afterwards. This client also has a lot of soreness and unexplained aches and pains that no amount of rolling or mobility will fix. The significant reduction in cortisol secretion affects the body’s ability to reduce inflammation, and so recovery from workouts becomes difficult.
Workout Element #1: Strength
My main focus in this program is strength. Strength is the number two biomarker of health and muscle mass is number one, so I make it a priority. I use a lot of Mark Rippetoe’s stuff to facilitate an increase in strength. This is not a complex program. It is extremely simple. The first week is somewhat of an assessment week, and the following weeks I use sets of five across and three across to achieve strength gains.
The plan is easy. Do your 3×5 workout (3 sets of 5 reps) and then when the 3×3 (3 sets of 3 reps) week comes up, you increase the weight. For example, if you did a 3×5 at 185lbs, on the 3×3 week you’d up your weight to 195lbs. Then, the following week you use that weight (195) for a 3×5, and once again increase it for the next 3×3 workout. I have personally made huge strength gains in this way, and so have many of my clients. It is ridiculously simple, but it works.
Workout Element #2: Sprints
Sprints usually come up weekly in my programming. I have people warm up and do anywhere from six to twelve sprints of varying times with a very long rest interval. Sprints are great for people with adrenal issues especially, because they allow for recovery along with not completely depleting sugar stores, so cortisol is not wasted on low blood sugar (gluconeogenesis).
Workout Element #3: Walking
Walking is also a weekly or bi-weekly occurrence in my programming. It is an opportunity to get low intensity exercise and find peace of mind. If my clients are bored and need more from the walk, I recommend a twenty-pound weight vest.
Workout Element #4: Gymnastics
I consider Olympic weightlifting “gymnastics” along with traditional basic adult gymnastics. Let’s face it – a well-executed snatch can be like landing a back flip for many people. I included one pure gymnastic workout in this month, just so you can see what it might look like, too. These kinds of workouts are highly dependent on the skill of the client.
Workout Element #5: Sport Day
I am not a gym rat, nor should you be. People who train with me are training to feel good, look good, be healthy, and support their passions. So, Saturday is a “sport” day where you get outside and play tennis, go golfing, hit the surf, ride your bike, or slay dragons – it is your choice. Just don’t let me see you in the gym!
I have given you four weeks of programming that is an example of what I would give a person with adrenal issues, but it is also for that person who doesn’t want to wear out to begin with. The minimum effective dose is all I train, and all I recommend. Strength is the pillar of the program, and metabolic conditioning is done with safe, easy movements. You will not see big strength moves or complex motor skills in my metabolic workouts because I believe those exercises should be done as skill work and not against the clock. Sprinting and walking take up a good chunk of the week, and make for health and fitness gains. I hope you enjoy this sample of my programming!