Everyone knows the fastest path to successful goal achievement is a straight line. Establishing a starting and ending point is easy, but usually we get lost in between because the straight line turns into a varying uphill and downhill route. This goes for everything we do, from training to life.
Adapt Training to Changing Routines
When I was playing collegiate baseball I began as a starting pitcher and ended my career as a closer. The transition from starting once a week to possibly pitching in three out of four games was a difficult and humbling transformation. I had to recondition my body and mind to adapt from working in a progressively low-to-high threshold environment over the course of a week, to working in a high-to-low threshold environment on a daily basis. I developed a new training routine, game day preparation routine, and in-game routine.
To do it, I used a concept called “Gap Training,” something I learned from my good friend Dan John. Gap training examines an exercise program and identifies where the imbalance lies between fundamental human movements (push, pull, hinge, squat, ground work). Then you either increase or decrease movements, based on the gaps and goals.
If this is you after every workout, chances are you’d benefit from balancing your arousal level with some gap threshold training.
The Arousal Threshold Gap
“Gap Threshold Training” expands on this concept. Gap threshold training finds where you live on the arousal continuum and figures out how to balance your arousal level. This can be difficult, because everyone likes to go all out when training, even when their life is already chaotic outside of the gym.
Applying gap threshold training to your current routine starts by understanding where you fall on the arousal continuum. Are you a low-threshold athlete, such as a yoga enthusiast, or a high-threshold athlete who doesn’t know how to turn it down? High-threshold training is not determined by a high percentage of max effort in lifts; rather, it is training in an environment where a coach is yelling like a drill sergeant, or the workout of the day is high-intensity circuits.
High-threshold training has its place because everyone enjoys ass-kicking, high-intensity workouts on occasion, but the frequency and intensity must be determined by where you live on the arousal continuum. Most athletes haven’t spent enough time on the other side to truly understand how to gauge their output. If you do not understand both high and low arousal levels and when to turn it up or down, you create a gap in your training.
Moving Between Thresholds
Once you have established where you live, you need to understand the other side of the continuum. Most importantly, you need to learn how to transition from one side to the other.
Below are four sample workouts to challenge the system through various thresholds. Each workout takes you through progressive high-to-low and low-to-high thresholds.
The workouts are circuit-based. After completing one set, move down the chain and then back up until each set is completed. For example, in Workout 1 you’ll start with a set of 5 deadlifts. Then you’ll do 1 set of hip flexor stretch, then one set of wall slides. Then start over with the deadlifts and repeat until the whole circuit is done.
Workout 1: High-to-Low Threshold
- Deadlift: 5×5 (high threshold)
- Hip flexor stretch: 5 reps, 10 breaths/side (low threshold)
- Wall-supported wall slides: 4×15 (medium threshold)
Workout 2: Low-to-High Threshold
- Side-lying windmills: 4×6/side (low threshold)
- Turkish get ups: 4×1/side (medium threshold)
- Kettlebell swing: 4×10 (high threshold)
Workout 3: High-to-High, Low-to-Low Threshold
- Farmer carry: 40yd x 3 (high threshold)
- Sprint: 40yd x 3 (high threshold)
2min off (1min unfocused breathing, 1min focused diaphragmatic breathing)
- Quadruped neck nods: 3×10 (low threshold)
- Segmental body rolls: 3×1/side (low threshold)
Workout 4: Low-to-Low, High-to-High Threshold
- Inchworm to downward dog to Cook squat: 2 reps (low threshold)
- Humane burpee: 2 reps (low threshold)
- Double KB front squat carry: 2×10 (high threshold)
- 10yd side-to-side shuffle x3 to 30yd crossover sprint x2 (high threshold)
3min off (1.5min unfocused breathing, 1.5min focused diaphragmatic breathing)
Learn How and When to Turn It On
It is rare to find people who live in the middle. Those athletes who have mastered control of their arousal level are the 1 percent. They have the ability to know when to turn up their arousal levels and how to turn them down quickly and efficiently to conserve energy.
Having an awareness of where you’re at and where you need to be to perform is a huge component in everyday life and training. Establish both sides of the arousal continuum, then develop a process to transfer from one side to the other. Being able to live on both sides will create longevity in your life. Identify your movement gaps, and then look deeper to establish the gaps in your threshold training.
More Fundamental Training Concepts:
- Periodize Focus, Not Just Intensity
- 6 Elements That Belong in Every Athlete’s Training Program
- Make Gains Like a Beginner: Novelty and Hypertrophy
- New on Breaking Muscle Today
Photo courtesy of J Perez Imagery.