When individualizing each and every one of our clients’ programs, some of the biggest changes we make revolve around the client’s lifestyle habits.
When discussing a client’s lifestyle habits we try to better understand their work load, type of job, sleep schedule, and overall stress. These habits will directly determine how much volume a lifter can handle in their program. When the volume tips out of the optimal range, too high or too low, a lifter’s progress can stall like no other. Many of you have probably seen this in your own training. Cookie-cutter template programs found online don’t address any lifestyle factors for a given lifter, and therefore can fail you in a multitude of ways. The balance between higher and lower volume is a difficult one to find, but it can lead to some incredible progression once found.
First, let’s discuss the factors that affect your MRV (maximal recoverable volume). MRV is the maximal amount of volume that you can handle and recover from before your next time hitting that same muscle group. Lifters with a high stress level outside of the gym will most likely see a decrease in MRV when compared to their lower stress level counterparts. For example, a construction worker who works long hours with their hands will probably be able to handle less volume than someone who works 40 hours a week at a desk. Sleep plays a role as well as someone getting 8-9 hours of sleep a night will definitely recover better than someone averaging just 3-5 hours a night. Diet plays a simple enough role in theory as someone in a caloric surplus will be able to recover better than someone in a deficit. This is simple in theory but can be difficult to actually put into use as it can be tough to know the degree of your surplus or deficit. This is where talking to your coach about diet and even working with a nutrition coach can prove to be a huge benefit. All of these factors must be taken into account when determining MRV.
When life gets stressful meaning all of the aforementioned lifestyle factors are not in your favor and are limiting your recovery, there’s a high likelihood that your MRV will be much lower. Maybe you’re a student who just squatted 1x8 with 225 lbs and are pissed because you used to be able to do that same weight for 4x8. Well, maybe that 4x8 was during summer break and you’re currently in your hardest semester of school. Maybe you’re a recent parent or just got a new, more stressful job, and weights feel heavier in training. Whatever the changes in your life outside of the gym are, it’s important to recognize the changes that we go through not only as lifters, but as people, separate from the gym. When facing a major lifestyle change it’s important to almost treat yourself almost as a different lifter. No, that previously mentioned 225 for 1x8 isn’t an all-time PR, but it is a PR for your current situation dealing with higher stress and fatigue than ever before and that is something to be proud of. Lifestyle stresses will come and go, but the work put into the gym during these times is what separates the great from the average and it will pay huge dividends once life outside of the gym returns to normal.
Individualizing your programming not just to yourself, but to your current stage of life can be crucial to developing a long term progression. Lifestyle factors have to be addressed when developing a lifter’s program. It is an extremely important factor that often gets overlooked with template programs and cookie cutter coaching. Stay tuned for more articles on the individualization of training programs and the different principles we manipulate based on the lifter. If you have any questions, feel free to send us a message and ask about programming or training!