T Nation

Poliquin Principle Confusion

One of the Poliquin principles states that
the body adapts to an exercise after 6
times or so. Does this mean an exercise
at a specific weight & tempo? In other words,
could I expect gains on exercise X done once a week past 6 weeks if the weight & tempo are
varied every time?

You would be able to see results on exercise x only if you continue to increase the weight.But it does depend upon the types of tempo that you are using eg 100kg on the bench press on a 3-1-1 would feel different to a 2-2-1,but in the end you are still only lifting the same weight,look to increase the weight every time.

Yes, you are correct. Poliquin has talked about this in some of his audio interviews. Your body will adapt to certain things in six workouts. But making minor changes will help you continue with the gains. So let’s say you are using the bench press as an example. By varying the weight, tempo, hand placement, sets, reps, etc, you are making a noticeable enough change to continue using that lift (you don’t have to make all of the above changes each workout. Just one or two will suffice).

In one of his interviews, he talked about starting each week with a different exercise. Let’s say you’re doing biceps and you plan on doing the following: Dumbbell curls, preacher curls and hammer curls. By changing the order of exercises each week, you can stimulate growth. So the following week do something like: Preacher curls, hammer curls, dumbbell curls. It doesn’t take much to stimulate the body and prevent the adaptation from taking place.

I must completely disagree with Poliquin on this point. What he is saying is absolutely correct if, as a $300 or more per hour trainer, you need to deceive your client into believing he is making terrific gains every week. But so far as being actually true, it most surely is not.

Here’s the deal. If an advanced athlete moves
up 20% in one year – less than half a percent per week average – that’s a terrific year.
For example, that’s moving from a 400 lb bench press to a 480 lb bench press, or a 500 lb bench press to a 600 lb bench. Such does not ordinarily occur year after year after year… it’s a great year when that happens.

But if your client gains half a percent per week, jeez, is he going to believe that was worth paying you many hundreds of dollars,
perhaps even thousands of dollars per week?
Of course not!

BUT, what if you put him on a brand new exercise that he has poor motor skills on? Why, then he can gain 10% per week for several weeks and be totally convinced you are a genius and worth your huge fees!

Of course, once it’s not an issue of motor
skills, but actual strength increases being needed to be able to move more weight, well then results will taper off. If you achieved 1/2 percent per week average that actually would be good but your client won’t think so. So move him to another exercise where you can deceive him into thinking his strength is increasing 10% per week.

He may even experience 52 weeks in a row of
10% per week strength increases under your
high priced tutelage!

Of course, if reference is made back to one
of the basic exercises, well, those 52 weeks
of 10% per week strength increases sure won’t come out to anything like 520%. Hell no.

Let me put it really straight for you. This argument and philosophy is C-R-A-P, crap.

You may need specialized exercises to correct
particular deficiencies from time to time.
However, your “meat-and-potatoes” exercises should remain the same, though they should vary in a periodization program in terms of %1RM and
probably tempo also. No, you won’t gain 10% per week on them, but you also won’t gain 10% per week on your bench, DL, or squat by applying the Poliquin Muscle Confusion Principle or whatever he calls it, either.

Arrrrrhhhhh did you have to disillusion me about Poliquin? I could be wrong but I thought the method that he was talking about here was for mass gains and not strengh, where it would make sense to vary the exercise no??? What do you think Bill? Thanks for the time. :slight_smile:


Here! Here! Bill Roberts. This “change it up-muscle confusion myth” has been perpetrated long enough with its followers getting neither bigger nor stronger. Variety for varietys sake is a waste of time and will lead you on a road to nowhere. Whereas consistently plugging away at the meat and potato exercises and slowly adding increments of weight over time is the true recipe for training success.

Bill, I’m not saying you’re wrong, but doesn’t Ian King use this philosopy too? I’m referring to the “phases” that change every 3 weeks in 12 weeks to Super Strength.

For all those opposed keep in mind the strongest powerlifters in the world “Westside” use this system as well. And their focus is on pure strength only, not size. For a bodybuilder the change in exercise is even more paramount as after doing an exercise repeatedly your body learns how to do it in an easier fashion…thus using less muscle to accomplish the same task. The last thing a bodybuilder would want is to use less muscle fiber on a given exercise.

i think ifyou switch exercises too often you begin to tred water. However change is neccesary for mental stimulation and like Kelly said to activate a higher number of fibers. What I like to do is vary %'s and rep ranges in the core exercises and switch up subsequent exercises. Sometimes i will put these exercises before the core lifts and work the other at a lighter %. Whatever works for you I guess…those ae just som tips…Mike

I believe it would be more accurate to call this an opinion than a principle.

Bill, Do you think it’s a good idea to have some variety in your exercises? Right now I have a set of about 7 chest exercises (like dips, bench, incline, etc…), and every workout I do two of them. Since I do chest twice a week, I do every exercise about once every two weeks. Do you think that by doing that I’m slowing my progress on the Bench Press?
By the way, I your response to the original question was very insightful; I never thought of it that way. The difference between what I do and what your hypothetical trainer does is that I come back to the same core group of exercises on a regular basis.
Anyway, what do you think of my idea?

This method may be more usefull to more advanced trainees then beginers. As a begginer, it is hard to make progress if you continously change exercises as the time to learn the new skill will be too long. As a more advanced trainee, you could do this and not waste time having the learn the skill without a significant load. I think one of the things we forget about is training age, all conceps and ideas will not work through out our lifting lives.
Another factor is a psychological one, maybe gaining 0.5 pounds a week on wide grip chins may become frustrating. A change in grip or technique (eg towel chins) maybe usefull in renewing enthusiasm.

Bill Roberts, I like your reasoning (follow the money) on this, but you say that you don’t need to change your exercises around like Poliquin says, but that you should periodize weight and tempo. I am curious as to how you come to that conclusion, as it does agree with (the basis of) Poliquin’s idea.

Bill, did you and Poliquin have a fight or something? Just curious…

In my own real-world experience, changing the exercises/routine on a regular basis has proven to be very beneficial, far more so than sticking with a given routine and tryingto increase the weight. Of course, I’m more concerned with size than strength. I think that SNAUS made a good point too, about training age and the relative necessity of variation in one’s routine. Anyway, I think your argument makes sense…but I’ve also experienced greater progress using CP’s stuff than any other trainer’s. Maybe his stuff just happens to suit my body particularly well.

I don’t have the slightest issue with Charles Poliquin personally. It’s a matter of disagreeing with this particular point and argument of his.

I’ve never met him, never talked with him,
never had a correspondence with him, never
heard of him saying anything about me, don’t
have any acquaintainces who had a bad experience with him, etc. Nada. I just find
this rhetoric of his bogus, for the reasons stated.

The method may have seemed to work well
for you but I guarantee you that over the
course of say a year, you did NOT get
a cumulative effect remotely like the
apparent fast gains you were making so
much of the time during the program.
Those “gains” are illusory. If you really
gained 5-10% per week for most of the
weeks of the year, and were an advanced
trainer in the first place, you’d be far
surpassing all world records in a short time.

As to periodization of weights. There are
two problems with training at the same
percent 1RM all the time. First is the
trade-off of injury vs results. Sure, if
you never train past say 60% 1RM (we’ll
assume this is without compensatory
acceleration) there
may be no injury issue associated with
staying at the same %1RM all the time
(I’m not sure, but I’m willing to grant it
may be.) But if you have to pick one
intensity to train at, 60% is probably
not the weight to pick (except perhaps
for compensatory acceleration.)

What about 80% 1RM? A better weight but
guys who ALWAYS train at about this weight
seem a lot more prone to injury.

Secondly, once pretty advanced in your
training, how do you train progressively
keeping weight about the same intensity
(percent 1RM) all the time? Are you going
to add an ounce or whatever per week?
That’s been tried but in practice doesn’t
work well (perhaps the reason is that
the tiniest changes in form easily overcome
the effect of the weight change.)

You sure can’t add a rep every week while
keeping the weight the same.

But what you CAN do is use a periodization
program and each 6 weeks, 10 weeks, or whatever, be able to use a little more weight
next time around.

As for Ian King’s programs, I don’t object
to his approach at all because I don’t seem
to hear him saying that there’s no way
to make your training cycles dovetail with
each other, that you need another consultation
with the guru every 3 weeks.

“Namegoeshere,” to me your approach is
perfectly valid. You’re not abandoning
core exercises and then living a delusionary
life of apparent rapid gains week in, week
out with other exercises, and then coming
back 6 months later or whatever to discover
that the core exercise is little if any
improved (but then have 3 weeks of apparent
great improvement which really is due to
regaining skill, at which point you then
drop the exercise again!)

Instead you’re keeping your core exercises
in the regular rotation, and getting benefit
of variety as well. Sounds like a good approach to me.

Thanks for all the responses folks, I think
I’m all straigtened out on this. I typically
to stick to a few core exercises and periodize
the weight and tempo - sounds like this is a
good way to go!

I just want to clarify some things here. First, I didn’t mean to imply that I experienced 5-10% gains over a year. Obviously (being a pretty advanced trainer), that didn’t happen. What I said was that I experienced better gains using CP’s routines than any others I’ve tried…and I stick by this. By trying some of the routines that he put out in T-Mag and other places, I have experienced (a) increased squat poundages (going up about 7% -ONCE, not year after year), (b) about half an inch on my calves -again, ONCE- © thicker shoulder girdle area development, especially in the traps and delts. This last necessitated my buying new dress shirts, so I don’t believe I’m imagining things.

I have no argument about what you wrote about following the money and motor control gains. It makes good sense. But I have found that personally, varying the exercises I do about every month, month-and-a-half has lead to better gains (and I’m talking about muscular size gains here, not motor-control or strength gains) than simply staying with a few basic exercises and varying tempos, rest periods, etc. Perhaps if I had a periodization expert like Bompa to supervise my training and vary those factors for me the situation would be different, but doing it myself, well, I just get more results following Poliquin.

Looking around the gym, I personally see more people in ruts, experiencing no gains at all from year to year, than people who make noticable progress. So my point posting here is that, although people SHOULD be informed on periodization of tempos and so on, most aren’t…or, if they are, are too lazy to do the planning necessary to take advantage of it. Switching exercises around, however, is something that most people can probably be persuaded to do without too much problem - and if they’re like me, they’ll see some nice results. So while I appreciate your comments, and see the very good logic behind them, I also feel that for “real world” application CP’s advice is beneficial (whether you pay him a lot of money or not!).

Bill, I think you made some great points and it would be great if there were some research specifically addressing this. (Is there? If anyone knew of research rebutting Poliquin it would be you.) Your post comes across as personal, however, because it appears to imply that Poliquin knows this principle is false and he only advocates it to maintain his cashflow. Given your disclaimer about having no personal animosity or negative experiences with Poliquin, I’d have to assume that was not the impression of Poliquin’s motives or cynicism you intended to give. Perhaps you believe Poliquin has the common human failing of lapsing unconciously into convictions compatible with his self-interest. Is that closer to your belief?

Guys, I think a lot of you are really missing the point. Reread Kelly’s post. Poliquin’s purpose of changing exercises is not to make false strength gains (as Bill alleges). For bodybuilders, the focus is on hypertrophy. As Kelly said, muscles are inefficient with “new” exercises, and therefore, more muscle fibers are recruited. In addition, different exercises stimulate a different “set” of fibers…some of which may have been neglected in prior training. The more muscle fibers recruited, the more potential for growth. Obviously, this is the bottom line for bodybuilders.

Changing exercises can also be beneficial for strength athletes as is evident in the WSB program. Of course a trainee will want to spend the majority of his time using the most high yield movements for his particular sport. But exercise variations can also be used in a periodization scheme to strengthen stabilizing muscles and prevent overuse injury. Look at Ian King’s 12-week programs. In beginning stages he tends to use exercises that strengthen stabilizers, correct imbalances, and work a variety of different movement planes. Then in latter stages, the importance of the earlier work becomes evident when the trainee makes significant strength gains in the more traditional “meat-and-potatoes” exercises. And these gains are achieved with better muscular balance and less injury potential than if the same exercises had been done for the entire 12 weeks.