How to Design a Workout Program that Works for You: Accommodation

How to Design a Workout Program that Works for You: Accommodation

Tya Waterman |

With Guest Blogger, Chris Schnare

In part 1 of this series, we discussed the first principle that helps direct our program design, progressive overload.  Need a quick refresher? Click here.

The second principle that will help you create a workout program that works for you is: The Law of Accommodation, also known as variation or the avoidance of stagnation.  Accommodation is a general law of biology. It refers to the fact that if an organism is repeatedly exposed to the same stimulus, it will become less and less responsive over time. 

From a fitness standpoint, we have learned that we must alter the stresses that we apply on our body over time in order to avoid stagnation or stalling. 

There are a few easy ways to approach your workout program design in order to minimize the effects of accommodation.  These simple examples will hopefully give you clarity on how to apply it to yourself based on your experience level.

First Year of Training

If you are in your first year of consistent training, I suggest that you complete the same workout program for 4-5 weeks. During this time, you will have set workouts that you perform on set days and repeat those workouts from week to week. However, each week you will want to be practising progressive overload (link) in order to improve your strength and get closer to your goals. That means that you can increase the number of reps that you are performing from week to week or increase the weight that you are lifting.  When the 4-5 weeks is up, you can change your workout program. This is where you can learn new movements and target your muscles in different ways.

1-2 Years Experience

If you have been consistently training for 1-2 years, I suggest that you complete the same workout program for 3-5 weeks. During this time, you can continue to master the movements and perfect your technique. You will want to continue to practice progressive overload as well by increasing your training loads and total volume.

2-5 Years Experience

If you have been consistently training for 2-5 years, I suggest you complete the same workout program for 3-4 weeks. At this point in your training lifespan, you will be more advanced and your training will become more intuitive.  

5+ Years Experience

For a more experienced individual, the need to plan and periodically change your workout program to some degree becomes more important. 

As individuals get more advanced and get closer to their genetic ceiling, the total training volume that they can handle gets very high.  Along with this, the amount of time in which the stress can be applied begins to get shorter.  It is common for elite level individuals to change training variables every 1-3 weeks in order to continue making progress and keeping stagnation at bay as much as possible.

Here is a summary of accommodation and easily applicable recommendations: 

  • Remember that the body will adapt. You can prepare for this and keep your progress going by switching up your workout program. Over time you will begin to recognize when you need change and cannot improve further.
  • Work harder and harder each week on each program (progressive overload).
  • Changes in your workout program can be small or larger if you are not training for a specific activity (discussed more in part 3).
  • The more advanced you are, the more frequent your changes and variations will need to be.
Hint: in part three of this series we will discuss the Principle of Specificity and how it relates to training program design and specific goals.  Stay Tuned!