Jonathon Sullivan MD PhD SSC:  A Pedantic Rebuttal to Rippetoe Jonathon Sullivan MD PhD SSC: A Pedantic Rebuttal to Rippetoe

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Thread: Jonathon Sullivan MD PhD SSC: A Pedantic Rebuttal to Rippetoe

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    Default Jonathon Sullivan MD PhD SSC: A Pedantic Rebuttal to Rippetoe

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    Dr. Sullivan points out that both training and maintenance are thoughtful ways to optimize your long-term circumstances. However, I think Rip is correct to distinguish training from maintenance.

    A good technical analogy for maintenance is optimal control. In this problem, you manipulate control inputs (the rudders of an aircraft, the fan of an air conditioner, or the training variables of a strength program) to keep the system close to a reference point (due north, 62 F, or 405 rack pull) while it is disturbed by external forces (air, sun, or the problems of aging).

    In training, the external circumstances are assumed to be reasonably consistent, and gains are proactively sought. Whereas a maintenance program is more reactive, and necessarily attends to the traineeís individual affairs. A training program looks like a calendar, but perhaps a maintenance program should look more like a block diagram.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shiva Kaul View Post
    Dr. Sullivan points out that both training and maintenance are thoughtful ways to optimize your long-term circumstances. However, I think Rip is correct to distinguish training from maintenance.

    A good technical analogy for maintenance is optimal control. In this problem, you manipulate control inputs (the rudders of an aircraft, the fan of an air conditioner, or the training variables of a strength program) to keep the system close to a reference point (due north, 62 F, or 405 rack pull) while it is disturbed by external forces (air, sun, or the problems of aging).
    Good. So: You have a long term goal: maintain the system close to a reference point. You have a program to achieve this goal. That is not analogous to exercise, which does not encompass a long-term program in which factors are explicitly, meticulously, and rationally manipulated. In exercise, you just....go to zumba class. In the case of maintaining strength, you manipulate training variables. You will not be able to maintain a high level of strength (remember who maintenance is properly for) if you don't. If you manipulate training variables (recovery, rest, sets, intensity, etc) with regard to a long-term performance outcome, you are training.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiva Kaul View Post
    In training, the external circumstances are assumed to be reasonably consistent, and gains are proactively sought.
    I'm not sure what you mean by "reasonably consistent." I have had athletes on maintenance programs, and they seemed "reasonably consistent" at every level--enough for me to plan their maintenance programs many weeks in advance. In fact, because we programmed them to maintain strength rather than increase it, they were more consistent, because they were less apt to injury and overtraining. They were in homeostasis, they showed up for training, they maintained their diets, and they weren't in the hospital every other day (or they wouldn't have been training). Rip can't make big gains, but he's not fragile. He's "reasonably consistent" from month to month. But no athlete can be assumed to be consistent over the long term. See my response to your feedback remarks below. Moreover, the canonical texts make no mention of any such assumption (and certainly not as vaguely) as a definitive feature of training. Finally, the idea that absolute "gains" define training is rejected in the article, for reasons I think I've made clear there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Shiva Kaul View Post
    Whereas a maintenance program is more reactive, and necessarily attends to the traineeís individual affairs. A training program looks like a calendar, but perhaps a maintenance program should look more like a block diagram.
    "No plan of battle survives contact with the enemy." All programs and programming require the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, not just maintenance programs. More to this: who says programming in a younger population shooting for "gains" doesn't incorporate feedback? It most certainly does. At multiple levels. It must. The underlying structure of the program is not mathematical, is biological, built not of logic gates but of ribosomes and enzymes. Nevertheless, the idea that training and adaptation represent the activity of a system to return to and stabilize a set point after perturbation is not new. It is the underlying paradigm of the SRA cycle, and is indeed one of the "metaphysical models" of programming that we discussed a few years ago at conference.

    And I am compelled to gleefully point out your use of the phrase "maintenance program." That says it all. Going to Pilates twice a week is not a program. That is exercise. Programming entails the manipulation of training variables to achieve a long-term performance objective, including the long-term objective of maintaining a hard-fought level of strength. Period. To execute such a program is to engage in training.

    So, I am unmoved. I maintain that a rational and effective "maintenance" program in a well-trained, advanced master who actually needs such a program is, in fact, training.

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    I think training is a fine umbrella term for both maintenance and ...improvement? (Iím not in charge of the terminology). I agree that maintenance is structured, planned, thoughtful, etc. And that training does not require absolute load increases.

    I just think itís useful to distinguish maintenance (in Ripís limited sense) and improvement. To summarize, maintenance is more about reacting to external factors (particularly injuries), whereas improvement is more about adhering to a schedule of progressive overload. You are an admired expert on training past 40, whereas I am just a sub-40 dude reacting to a couple articles, so you will hardly suffer if you just stop reading here.

    Quote Originally Posted by Jonathon Sullivan View Post
    I'm not sure what you mean by "reasonably consistent." I have had athletes on maintenance programs, and they seemed "reasonably consistent" at every level--enough for me to plan their maintenance programs many weeks in advance. In fact, because we programmed them to maintain strength rather than increase it, they were more consistent, because they were less apt to injury and overtraining. They were in homeostasis, they showed up for training, they maintained their diets, and they weren't in the hospital every other day (or they wouldn't have been training).
    How injured are these trainees? Did they choose maintenance? There is no shame in that - theyíre still training, just with a different purpose. As you say, deemphasizing load increases can increase compliance and reduce risk.

    Ripís article focused on a much smaller population - those forced into maintenance by slowly-healing aggravations of accumulated injuries, age-related disease processes, and random harsh realities. For example, Rip just tore his quad. He seems to be injured often. He says his sleep is erratic. He canít even get his favorite fried chicken in town. I imagine his chief difficulty in "holding onto his strength" is hitting a decent top set every so often, while continually being messed up in some way.

    "No plan of battle survives contact with the enemy." All programs and programming require the ability to adapt to changing circumstances, not just maintenance programs. More to this: who says programming in a younger population shooting for "gains" doesn't incorporate feedback? It most certainly does. At multiple levels. It must. The underlying structure of the program is not mathematical, is biological, built not of logic gates but of ribosomes and enzymes.
    I agree. All I'm saying is: when the primary emphasis is on routing around current damage, and avoiding new, then a formal schedule isnít very useful. I think the purpose of Ripís article was to grant some flexibility in special circumstances.

    Nevertheless, the idea that training and adaptation represent the activity of a system to return to and stabilize a set point after perturbation is not new. It is the underlying paradigm of the SRA cycle, and is indeed one of the "metaphysical models" of programming that we discussed a few years ago at conference.
    In that context, the insults to equilibrium are deliberately caused by the training program. In maintenance, the big insults are caused by external factors, and the program helps you lurch back.

    If you did read this far, know that I'm just bouncing ideas off you, not challenging the foundations of your methodology.

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    Perhaps maintenance is just training where the slope of progressive overload is <= 0.

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    Quote Originally Posted by VNV View Post
    Perhaps maintenance is just training where the slope of progressive overload is <= 0.
    I picture it as the same progression curve but the potential line shifts down over time. Step changes from injuries, sloping downward as inherent recovery capabilities diminish.

    Certainly puts perspective on how I should get my own ass in gear with my training.

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    If you can nearly match your local PRs on a regular schedule, then you probably aren't the subject of Rip's article.

    But that's just my interpretation. It's not my article nor my expertise.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shiva Kaul View Post
    If you can nearly match your local PRs on a regular schedule, then you probably aren't the subject of Rip's article.

    But that's just my interpretation. It's not my article nor my expertise.
    As usual, you are correct.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shiva Kaul View Post
    I think training is a fine umbrella term for both maintenance and ...improvement? (Iím not in charge of the terminology).
    I made a similar point in the Q&A forum: training could be the umbrella term and "maintenance" is another stage along the novice -> intermediate -> advanced progression. The curve, featured on the cover of Practical Programming, reaches an asymptote but eventually turns down.

    Some resistance to that characterization could be in the required mental shift for such a lifter. When one has battled through injury and always managed to result in new PRs, accepting that one is now "staving off death" is the only goal and numbers will never be as high as they once were could require a tremendous change of mindset. As supporting evidence, I propose looking at the former strength athletes who stop going to the gym altogether at the end of their competitive careers -- they failed to change this mindset. Perhaps this change in mindset is sufficiently difficult that it really ought to be distinguished from training, in spite of the great similarities of process.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mitchless View Post
    Some resistance to that characterization could be in the required mental shift for such a lifter. When one has battled through injury and always managed to result in new PRs, accepting that one is now "staving off death" is the only goal and numbers will never be as high as they once were could require a tremendous change of mindset.
    If I understand what you are saying, it appears you are characterizing a PR strictly as relative to your own best performance. While that's true in the abstract and absolute, I think it's limiting to the mindset of performance over the longer term for masters lifters. Or masters athletes of any stripe I suspect. But the mindset can be shifted from the absolute lifts once achieved and that now can't be. The mindset can be shifted to looking at the lifter's peer group. Who is in your weight and age class? How much are they lifting? Can you beat what they did? So off you go. Competing with the other old guys who won't throw in the towel and keep going until unrecoverable injury or death takes them out of the game for good.

    Quote Originally Posted by mitchless View Post
    As supporting evidence, I propose looking at the former strength athletes who stop going to the gym altogether at the end of their competitive careers -- they failed to change this mindset. Perhaps this change in mindset is sufficiently difficult that it really ought to be distinguished from training, in spite of the great similarities of process.
    At some point you have accept you can't do what you used to do. But quitting entirely by staying away from the gym when maybe you could at least get in there and go through the motions is just a mindset I can't line up with.

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