What the Heck is Cybernetic Training?
When it comes to writing programs, and thus, preparing our athletes and clients for competion and/or everyday life, it’s not surprising to find out that many coaches and personal trainers often follow a set “scheme” or “system” to do so.
Some prefer to use more of a linear periodization approach where volume and intensity are closely monitored and specific “qualities” are blocked off in 2-8 week increments. So, for example, when dealing with beginners, some coaches may elect to use an Accumulation Phase where intensity (as it relates to 1RM) is kept fairly low and the emphasis is more on technique and preparing the trainee for future (more intense) phases.
Likewise, as you can imagine, there are a million and one other periodization formats that can be utilized to get people from point A to point B. Or, as Dave Tate prefers to say, take people from “shit” to “suck.”
………And the list could go on forever; but honestly, I don’t want to bore you to tears, and there’s really only one system that I wanted to talk about exclusively today anyway.
Which is, of course, Cybernetic Training
Outside of sounding like something from one of those old 1980s Transformers cartoons (which were AWESOME by the way), cybernetic training actually gained popularity from Mel Siff when he first talked about this approach in his unparalled book, Supertraining.
Basically, in no uncertain terms (read: this is my attempt at paraphrasing Mel Siff, this should be interesting), you can’t train like a rockstar everyday. Kids are up sick all night, tests, boss keeps you late at work, traffic jams, girlfriend woes, tweaked shoulders, car won’t start, explosive diarrhea, you name it – life gets in the way.
When life happens, and you otherwise feel like you got run over by a mack truck, what good is it to head to the gym only to push through it? Sometimes, rather than follow your program to a “t,” it’s more advantageous to just tone it down a bit, do some tweaking (that day), get in, get your work done, and get the hell out.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen an athlete walk into the facility looking like death, only to feel defeated right off the bat knowing that the squat rack is staring right at him. As admirable as it is that he still may want to plow through and do the squats anyways, what’s the likelihood that he’ll reap any benefits what-so-ever?
More often than not, he’s just going to walk away frustrated and/or injured.
Instead, in this scenario, I might just go a head and have him perform a couple sets of glute ham raises, maybe some light Prowler pushes as well, follow that up with a few sets hip thrusters and Pallof Presses, throw in a Goose and Maverick high five, and call it a day.
Here, while we didn’t follow tha actual plan as written, we still did some work, got some semblance of a training effect, and didn’t run this athlete into the ground.
We programmed on the fly and still made his session worthwhile.
Conversely, we can look at the opposite end of the spectrum, too. Using a cybernetic approach isn’t just about holding back when someone feels like poop. Just last week actually, during his deadlifts, I had a client who was feeling like Superman. While his program called for 4×3, he was just smoking his weight, so we decided to go for broke and attempt a PR (personal record). In the end, he beat his previous best pull by 20 lbs. And it wasn’t even planned!
Don’t get me wrong, I write every program with a set goal in mind, and I try my best to plan a head – I’d be remiss to do otherwise. But rarely, if ever, is a program followed 100% all the way through without some “tweaking” involved.
I’m good, but I’m not that good.
While I feel it’s VERY important to have a preferred system in place – whatever you choose to use – when it comes to programming for your clients, don’t be afraid to embrace a more cybernetic/freestyle approach from time to time. You’re not Nostradamus, right?