Dodging the Accommodation Bullet

It’s not the will to win that matters—everyone has that. It’s the will to prepare to win that matters. -Paul “Bear” Bryant

Accommodation?  Not here, bro.  Staying one step ahead of a stingy posterior chain…

So, what is “accommodation”, and why should you avoid it like the friggin’ plague (or like any performance by Justin Bieber)?  Simply put: because your progress will eventually come to a screeching halt if you don’t recognize and account for it.

Accommodation to training stress (or any biological stress for that matter) is the follow-on/flip-side to the adaptation process. It’s expected, and a quite natural response from a biological system built purely to survive.  And that “built to survive” part is the “gotcha” in this whole stress/recovery/supercompensation game.  If a similar load,  same exercises, range of motion and/or rep tempos are consistently used time after time, the body soon adapts, then stops making progress altogether.  Worse than that, backsliding occurs.  And, from an evolutionary perspective, this makes perfect sense.  Why throw additional precious resources toward a “threat” that’s already been successfully dealt with?

Below is a quote from V.M. Zatsiorsky, in Science and Practice of Strength Training:

“This is a manifestation of the biological law of accommodation, often considered a general law of biology. According to this law, the response of a biological object to a given constant stimulus decreases over time. Thus, accommodation is the decrease in response of your body to a constant continued stimulus. In training, the stimulus is physical exercise.”


So imagine this: you’re a fresh-from-the-cabbage-patch, first time visitor to NYC.  Your senses are completely and utterly overwhelmed by hustle, bustle and never-ending noise.  Native new Yorkers though, have the uncanny ability to put a squelch on all of that sensory assault.  Calm as cucumbers in the midst of this chaos, they’ve simply adapted to what’s normal for their environment.  Good for day-to-day survival of course, but just imagine now what kind environmental cue is required now to stop them in their tracks.  Not much, short of a nuclear detonation, will ever jolt their CNS and grab their attention.

And guess what?  You’ll adapt just the same in a short period of time.

Subtle (and not so subtle) inefficiency (or blunted return-on-investment) creeps in due to the law of accommodation if standard exercises and training loads are used over long periods.  This is why linear periodization will only work for so long.  The ol’ Bill Star 5 x 5?  Hell, damn good stuff for any newbie, and a method I wholeheartedly endorse for any new-to-the-iron-game journeyman.  It’s an easy-to-follow progression that simply requires one to Do The Work!  But once progress begins to slow, you’d better be ready to hop trains, son.  You still gotta “do the work” of course, but you’ll need to begin being a little more sophisticated about the work you’re doing.  Or, more specifically, about programming the work you’re doing.  

From Triphasic Training, by Cal Dietz and Ben Peterson; one of the very best S&C books you’ll ever find

So how does one avoid the inevitable halt in progress that accompanies accommodation?  Quite simply, qualitative and quantitative alterations must be made to your programming. Quantitative changes are those changes made to the training loads and tempos. Qualitative differentiation results in the selection of different yet specific exercises, or range of motion in like exercises. In other words, you’ve got to wave intensities and weave modalities  if you want to stay one step ahead of accommodation.

Due to the effects of accommodation, elite athletes require broad qualitative overhauls to their programs each competitive cycle in order to remain on top of their sport.  Now, unless you’re an elite athlete, you don’t need such drastic change or attention to detail in your programming. However, if you plan on remaining in the S&C game (and injury-free!) for the long haul, you’d be wise to incorporate some of the same ideas.  Otherwise, you’ll fall into the trap of “doing what you’re good at”, and your progress — not to mention your enthusiasm for the the iron — will subside.  I’ve seen this happen all too often.

I’ve covered quite a bit of this territory in my Conjugate for the Masses piece.  And believe me: this isn’t rocket science.  It simply requires a solid understanding of accommodation, and how to avoid it.  Remember, the biological entity you’re dealing with (i.e., YOU) is concerned solely with surviving external stresses, and couldn’t care less about looking good in a bikini or banana hammock. Understand that simple concept and you’re 80% there.  

Again, all of this is more common sense and simple evolutionary biology than rocket science or training guru-ism.  However, I’ve seen legions of dedicated lifters master the initial stages of the iron game, only to fail miserably in progressing beyond their initial success with whatever method of linear programming they brought into the game.  A working knowledge of accommodation, and the simple means by which that pitfall can be avoided, are requisite to keep one in the game and progressing over the long haul.

And one last item: the 2104 Paleo f(x) videos are now up and ready for your viewing pleasure.  A heap of good information, here; enough to keep you busy for quite some time.  Be sure to swing by and check ’em out!

In health, fitness and ancestral wellness –


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