We get a lot of emails from people looking to expand their fitness experience but are afraid that doing so might mean losing the progress they’ve made with previous training.
In fact, the topic for this episode of the GMB Show came from just such an email.
“I’m really enjoying P2 and working on the planche. I was thinking about doing a cycle of R1, but I don’t want to have to start over when I come back to the P-bars. What should I do?”
The answer, as you’ll hear, is to follow what’s known as the cycling principle.
Let’s say you take three months and focus on one program. Then after those three months you focus on a different program for another duration of time. Then, after completing the second program you cycle back to performing the original program that you started with. That’s the basic idea of the cycling principle.
What you’ll hear:
- What The Princess Bride can teach you about organizing your training
- Our partnership with Books for Africa and your support
- How to cycle multiple goals, and why it’s not the same as starting over
- How to take your practice seriously without taking yourself too seriously
It’s easy to fear the idea of starting over. No one wants to lose all that strength and skill gained in a previous program.
But if you apply the cycling principle, you’re not going to be starting over. Just because you return to the same workout or the same program doesn’t mean that your performance will be the same as it was, or worse than before.
In fact, there’s a damn good chance that you’ll be a lot stronger and much more capable than before, because you’ll be returning to that program or routine at a higher level of ability and performance.
If you’re ready to learn a lot more about how to apply the cycling principle, we’ve written an entire guide on cycling your training.
“[There are] so many different ways that you can cycle. It’s not about cutting something out if you really want to be doing it. It’s just focusing on that one major thing, and spending enough time on it so that you’re able to do it successfully.” – Ryan Hurst
Links we discussed:
- Our recent interview with Al Kavadlo on his newest book
- Focused Flexibility – Our unique stretching program that will help with all areas of flexibility, including thoracic shoulder flexibility (a problem area for many people)
Be sure to catch the next episode by subscribing to the GMB Show:
Applying the Cycle Principle to Manage Your Training Priorities
Andy: All right. Breaker one-niner out there on the interwebs, get your ears on for the fitness skills podcast from GMB. We’re going to teach you how to get strong by practicing skills you actually care about learning, and how to have a little bit of fun in the process. My name is Andy Fossett. I’m not only the founder of the GMB Posse; I’m also a client, and here with me is the mythic hero of the GMB epic saga, Doctor Ryan Hurst, Esquire. GMB’s program director and head coach who is neither a doctor or a lawyer.
Ryan: I was going to say, I’m kind of liking the new title there. I just wish it were real.
Andy: Just a regular dude with huge eyebrows.
Ryan: Yeah, exactly. That’s me. It’s the eyebrows. Mr. Eyebrow. That’s what it is.
Andy: Mr. Eyebrow. That’s pretty much exactly as lame as most Japanese nicknames. You have [crosstalk 00:00:59] far too long.
Ryan: Exactly. Too long. Too long.
Andy: Cool. How are you doing man?
Ryan: I’m great. I’m great. I actually woke up really early this morning and got my first workout of the day in. Life is just lovely today.
Andy: Life’s so lovely.
Ryan: Lovely. How are you doing? How are you?
Andy: I am wonderful.
Andy: I’m full of wonders.
Ryan: That’s wonderful.
Andy: It is. It is. If we were in the same actual location, you would be in a state of wonder. Wonderment and wonderment at the wonders of my wonderfulness.
Ryan: Wonderment …
Andy: With that said …
Ryan: Yeah, let’s get on with it.
Andy: We’re already near the end of February, but we have actually fallen behind slightly in our podcasting. I do apologize to people who have been looking forward to podcasts. Actually, every time we do a podcast we get a bunch of people saying, “Ah, your podcasts are great! You should do them more often!” Then we end up not. Sorry about that, but we are near the end of February now and I just want to say, since we haven’t updated this since then; in January, thanks to people purchasing GMB programs we were able to donate shipping for 254 books to be sent to classrooms and educational programs in Africa via our partnership with Books For Africa. Basically, any time you buy anything from us we take care of some books so some kids can learn to read. Pretty damn good deal if you ask me.
Ryan: It’s awesome.
Andy: Yeah. We’re really proud of that, so thank you to everybody who has helped us out with that. Not to dwell on that, I should mention we interviewed Al on the blog and talked about his new book, but Al Kavadlo, a friend of ours, Pushing the Limits is his new book that came out at the very end of January. It’s pretty damn sweet. You can get it from DragonDoor.com.
Ryan: It’s a great book. I know it’s a little off topic maybe, but the photos in there are just amazing. He did a really good job with getting some cool photos of him doing some cool tricks in there. Be sure to check it out.
Andy: Yeah. They’re high resolution pictures. They’re very nice. You can probably zoom in and blow them up and find flaws in Al’s tat work. That’s how good the photography is.
Ryan: That’s how good the photos are. Yeah.
Andy: Yeah. It’s amazing. It’s amazing. Are you ready to A some Q’s?
Ryan: Let’s do it man. Let’s do it.
Andy: All right. Let’s A some Q’s. The first one, Roger wrote on one of our previous podcast comments areas. Here’s one Q you can A next time: what’s the best way to increase thoracic shoulder flexibility? He says that those are really hurting his handstand form.
Ryan: This is actually a pretty common issue with a lot of people working on the handstands. Especially depending on what kind of background you have. If you’ve been doing a lot of conventional weight lifting. For example, heavy presses, push ups, things like that. You might have some issues with your shoulder. Even if you haven’t been doing conventional exercises, you still might have some problems.
There’s not really a best way, or one way I should say. There’s going to be a lot of different ways you can do it. Something I like to do with some of my students over here is use a wall. Basically, you approach the wall, put your hands on the wall so they’re at shoulder height. Actually a little lower would be good. Stick your butt out there and try and get your arms straight, and you just work on opening up your shoulders. It’s extremely easy and no real rocket science behind it. Just really using the wall and lowering your shoulders down as far as you can, getting a nice stretch on there. Make sure that you’re pushing away from the wall while you’re doing this and it should help.
Another thing that you can do if you can successfully get upside down into a handstand, is actually bring your hands a little further away from the wall and perform a bad handstand. What I mean by that is by arching your back a little bit and train … Let’s say if you’re facing the wall. Let me start over. If you’re facing the wall and bringing your hands away from the wall, trying to put your chest up against the wall, what this is going to do is really force you to open up your shoulders and also work on getting you a bit more flexible. It’s a good way to start off your handstand session for the day. It’s the way that I actually do it too. Once you’re comfortable with that, then you can do it facing away from the wall. Place your feet on the wall and pushing your chest out away from the wall. This time rather than going towards the wall you’re going away from the wall. Another way to stretch. Also, it gets you prepped and ready to go for your handstand. That’s one way.
Another way is focused flexibility. We’ve got a great program if you want to go through that. It works on some moves, and Jarlo is the man when it comes to that. There’s some cool exercises on there that you can use to help with that.
Andy: Yeah. Absolutely. Some of the stuff in FF that Jarlo came up with to address specific issues is actually really unique and interesting. I say unique. When I say that, I mean in the context of a quote unquote stretching program it’s unique. Obviously Jarlo is physical therapist so a lot of the things he does is probably standard for a therapy practice, but not what you would usually see in a stretching program. That’s also part of what makes it a lot more effective than what people have traditionally done.
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah.
Andy: All right. Cool. Let’s move on to the next Q. Here we are. I’m really enjoying P2 and working on the planche. I was thinking about doing a cycle of R1, but I don’t want to have to start over when I come back to the P-bars. What should I do?
Ryan: Good question, and actually one that has been something that we have been talking about GMB, and that is cycling your workouts. If you’re working through P2, you do all the work, make sure you get it right, and then you go and work on the rings, I’ve got to be honest with you; you’re really not going to have to start over. It’s not a matter of starting over from the beginning. What I mean by that is you’re going to be working on strength obviously in R1. It’s not that you’re going to really lose anything. You’re going to be working on different movements, but in actuality this is going to help you for when you go back and start working on your planche again. It’s not just the planche, but for really any program out there. Perform the program for the specific amount that we give you. Let’s just say 3 months. Take 3 months. If you focus on one program for 3 months, do it properly, then go focus on a different program, when you come back to the original program that you’re working on you’re going to find that you’re going to be starting from a higher place.
What I mean is you’re going to have more strength, you’re going to have the proper recovery to go back and actually perform better the next time you come back to it. What I suggest is go do R1. If you want to do Rings 1, that’s great. Do it and then come back to P2 and start working on your planche again. To give an example, right now I’m focusing on the one arm handstand. That’s all I’m doing. Literally. I just focus on the one arm handstand. Am I worried that I’m not going to be able to do the planche later? Am I worried that I’m not going to be able to do the front lever later? No. The reason why is because I know that what I’m focusing on right now is what I need to focus on. I don’t want to put other stuff in there and cloud my workout and take away from me getting the one arm handstand. When I get it, I’ll go back and start working on planche again. The thing is, it’s not that I’m going to be working on my planche from the beginning because I already have the foundational strength to do it. When I go back to it I know I’m going to get it better when I do it.
Andy: Yeah. One way to look at this is, take the Princess Bride for example. Princess Bride is probably one of the best, funniest movies of all time. You’ve got Andre the Giant unintentionally rhyming. You can’t go wrong with that. Anyway, Princess Bride is an awesome movie. Most people have seen it more than once. I’ve watched Princess Bride probably 50 to 100 times. Every single time that shit still cracks me up. Okay? It’s not like the movie gets dull when you watch it again. Yeah, you know what jokes are coming, but it’s still funny right? It’s the same thing.
Let’s say you do Rings 1. Start out week 1, day 1, phase 1, 1, 1, 1, 1, 1. You go through the program. Okay? Then you do something else, and then let’s say you decide you want to go and do Rings 1 again. You go to phase 1, week 1, day 1. It’s not going to be the same as the first time. You’re not going to be starting over. Just because you do the same workout or the same program doesn’t mean that it’s going to be exactly the same. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to get weaker. Right? If I lift 200 pounds today, and then I decide to lift 200 pounds in a month, it doesn’t mean that I’m weaker in between those. Right? When you do a cycle again you actually start, like Ryan said, at a higher level. You have more strength. You’re form is better. You can do the same movements but you can do them better. You can do them more cleanly, you can get more out of them, so if you do a program again or if you go to the next level of a program or something, you’re definitely not starting over.
That’s the thing. It’s just like a great movie. It’s not going to become less effective if you cycle back again. Now, if you just keep doing the same thing again and again … Like if I put Princess Bride on an infinite loop and watch it over and over and over again, it’s not going to take long for me to get kind of tired of it, but as long as I cycle it with other things, as long as I watch other stuff in between, as long as it’s been a couple weeks since I’ve seen Princess Bride, it’s going to crack me up. As long as you take some time off and then come back to the rings or come back to the P-bars or whatever, you will not be at the height of where you were last time; you might need a week or 2 to get back to where you were, but you’ll find that you’re not going to be starting from scratch. You might start from the same place in terms of the program, but you won’t be starting from the same place in terms of your abilities, your strength, your mobility, your technical skills and what have you.
Ryan: You said something earlier that I think is really good. You said that you’re going to be getting more out of it. I like that. I think when you go back to a program, and I do this all the time; I’m constantly going back to basic movements. When I go back to these basic movements, I’m going to be looking at it from a different perspective. I’ve already got a certain foundation down so that when I go back to it, I’m not going to be focusing on the same thing that I focused on a year ago that I needed to. This time around, I’ll be at this higher level. I’ll be able to focus deeper on something new that maybe I didn’t even realize I needed to focus on the first time around. Even just holding the plank position on the ground. In the very beginning it might just be that you’re just trying to get through it; just to hold it. Then when you come back to it later you can start working on, “Okay. Really, how am I performing this? Last time I focused on the core or having my shoulders over my hands,” or something like that. This time around you can go deeper.
Again, like Andy said, you might not have the same strength in the very beginning that you finished with, but you’ll achieve that strength faster that you had last time, and go beyond that and keep going when you cycle other things in and then come back to the program. I think that’s also a very important thing to think about when doing it.
Andy: Just one more really easy to grasp demonstration of this idea. Ryan, can you do one push up?
Ryan: Oh yeah.
Andy: Okay. You can do one push up. Right? You can do other stuff. You can do 10 push ups, you can do handstand push ups, you can do all these things. You can do ring dips, you can do all these different things, but if you go and do a push up right now will that make you weaker?
Ryan: Probably not.
Andy: Probably not. I seriously doubt that doing a push up will make you weaker. For example, if you decide to take a day off of your handstand workout tomorrow, and you decided that you just wanted to do maybe 100 push ups over the course of the day. It wouldn’t make you any weaker, it wouldn’t make you any worse at your handstands, it wouldn’t make you any worse at push ups. It probably wouldn’t further your goal of the one arm handstand, but it wouldn’t take away from any of that.
Andy: Right? You would still be able to make those push ups actually somewhat beneficial to you in some way, because you’re one of those guys that you’re kind of a masochist, and if you do push ups you do them the hard way.
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. No, but that’s a good point. Yeah. That’s exactly right. Don’t feel that taking a break from something to do something else is going to hinder what you were doing. When you come back to it you’re going to be stronger. It’s going to take a little bit of time, but you’re going to be stronger. You’re going to be able to do it better, and that’s what we want.
Andy: Absolutely. Moving on, I talked a little bit about Princess Bride, and the reason that I brought that up is because it really is, to me, one of the funniest things ever. Just the jokes in that movie, I think, are so good. They’ve found their way so much into popular culture. You can make a joke about, “Hello, my name is Inigo Montoya,” any time, anywhere, and somebody’s going to laugh. Right? Good humor is hard to find. It’s hard to find really good and really effective humor. Unfortunately, you won’t find it at GMB either. We have some of the dumbest jokes woven into our materials and written into our blog posts. Jarlo and I have an ongoing competition. I don’t know if any of you listening to this have noticed or not, but Jarlo and I have an ongoing competition who can mix the worst metaphors in blog posts. Right now I actually think Jarlo is ahead after this last couple. There was couple of zingers in there.
Ryan: Yeah. There’s some good ones.
Andy: Oh man. We have a sick, perverted idea of what humor is. It’s a little weird and it’s probably not very funny to most people, but it’s important to us that we put some of it in there because you don’t have to be serious all the damn time. Musically, I grew up listening to a lot of Frank Zappa stuff, and he had this whole thing called does humor belong in music. He obviously thought so, and we think that humor belongs in exercise, fitness and training. We think that humor belongs in life. You know?
Ryan: Along those lines, if you can’t laugh at yourself something’s wrong. Life’s too serious to be taken seriously. If you’re not enjoying what you’re doing then I don’t want to hang out with you. I’m sure a lot of people around you probably feel the same way. I do believe there’s a time to be serious, but I love to enjoy life, laugh, and have a good time also.
Andy: I think that that’s one of the things. Like you said, there’s a time for it. Hey, here we go. There’s a time and a place for different things, and when it’s time to be serious you should be serious. When it’s time to funny you should be funny. Maybe not try to mix them up. Goes back to cycling actually.
Ryan: That’s a good point.
Andy: You know? There’s a line between taking your training seriously and taking yourself too seriously.
Andy: When we’re talking about training, we like to maybe throw in some of our questionable humor, but when we’re actually training we’re pretty serious about what we’re doing.
Ryan: Oh yeah.
Andy: We make dumb jokes. Sorry guys.
Ryan, let’s talk about cycling a little more. This is a big topic, this cycle model of programming, of trying to make sure that you can prioritize the thing that’s most important to you at any time, but still not have to choose one goal for the rest of your life. What are some good examples of maybe a great way to cycle, or just an example of how you might organize cycles of training for trying to manage multiple goals. I think that’s what it really comes down to with people with the cycling thing, is they have multiple goals. They want to get strong, they want to burn fat, they want to have endurance, you know.
Andy: Doing all these things at one time might not work out.
Ryan: Let me give you a very broad example. I actually used this with a student of mine a while back, and that’s because they just had so many goals and it wasn’t going to be like me, where I sit down and I can focus just on the one arm handstand for day upon day. What I did was, I asked him, I said, “What is the one thing that you want to get right now?” I’m going to use a very simple example, not what he said. He said, “Oh, I want to be able to get the handstand.” Okay. Well that’s great, but after that he said, “But I’d also like to be able to do ABC.” I said, “All right.”
Andy: I love doing some ABC man. That is the highlight of my week.
Ryan: ABC. Everybody needs to learn the alphabet.
Anyway, what we did was created a program for him where he’s focusing on the handstand, but he’s also able to play around with A, B, and C movement. Now, his main focus is the handstand. Going into his workouts, that’s what he focuses on. If he doesn’t get A, B, and C exercises done, that’s perfectly fine, because his main focus is a handstand. Set it up so that yes, we have these A, B and C exercises throughout the week in his program, but really it’s just kind of on the side. It’s kind of like if you go out to dinner and you order a big steak, and you just kind of have maybe a little bit of salad on the side. Now, salad is of course important, but the main thing is that steak. You want to be focusing on the steak. You want to make sure that you eat that entire steak before you go onto anything else.
Andy: Yeah. You’re not going to chow on a salad and leave half your steak on the plate.
Ryan: Exactly. That’s how it should be for this particular person. This is an example, of course, but I think that a lot of people try and say, “Okay. I’m going to get the planche. I’m going to get,” … What’s something else? “I’m going to get the planche, the handstand. I’m going the get a back flip. Okay? I’m going to do them all at the same time.” All right. Well, good luck with that. All right? You can do it. I’m not saying you can’t, but really, if you focus on that one thing at a time. Make that one movement the main part of your workout, but also maybe if you want to do some of the other exercises after you’ve properly put the time in for that main movement, then okay, that’s going to be okay. What I’m trying to do is be very nice and say that, “Okay, you have to focus on one movement and that’s it!” Okay. I’m not … I know there’s people out there who don’t want to do that.
What I am saying is that you’ve got to be sure that that one major movement is the focus of your workout. You’ve got that down. Let’s say that your main movement … What did I say in the very beginning? His main movement was a handstand. Okay? He works on this, and let’s say after 3 months he gets it. He nails it. I don’t know if he’s going to do it in 3 months or not, but let’s just say he gets it in 3 months. Awesome. Then, after those 3 months, the next movement, movement A would become his main movement. For maybe another 3 months! Okay? During that time when he’s focusing on major movement A, he can still do a little bit of handstands if he wants, but it’s not his main focus. He’s not trying to, as I mentioned earlier, cloud up his workout by trying to also get that and work on that as hard as you can. Okay? Then once he gets that he can then go and work on movement B, and then once he gets that, work on movement C. Even though he’s still working on all of the movements, he’s still focusing on that major movement. I think that’s very important.
Another example, if I can just keep talking, is where in our products we have our programs currently, we have Parallettes 1. You just focus on Parallettes 1. You focus on that for 3 months. You hit it hard, you do it great, you go through the program, and you do it for 3 months. After that you go to Rings 1. You do Rings 1, and after that you’re like, “You know what? I think I want to do some more parallettes.” Okay? You can go back to parallettes, or you could even try Parallettes 2. It’s up to you. Then after that maybe you’re like, “Well, I want to do some floor, but I’m really worried that I’m going to lose my chin ups or whatever that I’ve gained with rings,” or something like that. Well, okay. That’s fine. Go ahead and work on your floor, but then maybe you can add in a couple chin ups or something. Make the main thing that you’re doing the focus so that you don’t lose track of your goals. I’m kind of going off here, but basically there’s so many different ways to cycle things, but the most important thing is to focus on one major thing. That’s it.
Andy: Yeah. Just to understand that cycling is not something that we contrived. We didn’t invent it or anything.
Ryan: Hell no.
Andy: Just because we’re saying this is important does not mean that … We’re not trying to push an agenda with this, but it’s just recognizing that life goes through cycles and phases. Life does. It’s natural. All living things. You may not have noticed this, but probably everyone listening to this, you sleep every night. That’s a cycle dude.
Ryan: Oh yeah.
Andy: If you don’t think that’s fundamental to your experience, if you don’t think it’s necessary to cycle your training too, you’re sadly mistaken. There is no way that you can just keep doing the same thing every day for very long without suffering some consequences in other ways. Weight lifters do this too. This is not just a body weight exercise thing.
Ryan: No, no, yeah.
Andy: Weight lifters do this too. They have a particular program, and on any given day they have main lifts and assistance lifts. You’re not going to go in there … Well okay. Not everyone does this, but some people do. You’re not going to go in there and do a bunch of crap and then try to squat your max weight. If the squat is your main thing you’re going to focus on your squat. Then, if you don’t get your lateral arm raises or something in, it’s all right. If you can do them that’s fine, but you want to focus on your main lift for that day, whether it be the squat, dead lift, bench, whatever. It’s usually a big lift is your main thing. Then you do some assistance and some accessory stuff to support that.
That’s kind of the same thing. We’re not saying you can never do any pull ups when you’re on P1.
Ryan: Yeah. Exactly.
Andy: Pull ups are not allowed. We’re just saying don’t make a big deal out of them.
Ryan: Right. To keep going off on the body builder kind of thing, when you think about it, we’ve all read the articles in the magazines where they give you this full on program where it says, “Okay, for the first month or 2 we’re going to focus on strength, and then after we’re going to focus on building muscle, and then we’re going to finish it up with our last cycle of cutting, and making sure that we can diet down and see our abs and stuff like that.” I don’t want to say it’s similar to what we’re talking about, but in a sense it is in that when you’re in that body building thing you’re still using the weights. You’re just using them in a different way so that you can come back to everything and be stronger later when you’re doing it. So many different ways that you can cycle. It’s not about cutting something out if you really want to be doing it. It’s just focusing on that one major thing, and spending enough time on it so that you’re able to do it successfully.
Andy: Yeah, and the body building thing is actually a pretty neat example because it sort of demonstrates that cycles don’t have to be unrelated, and cycles don’t have to be about different goals. You can stack several cycles up to get you towards one goal. For example, a body builder may initially be working towards hypertrophy. For the first month you’re just bulking. You’re getting big. You’re eating as much crap as possible trying to blow your muscles up with as much bloat and fluid as you can until you get large.
Andy: Then after a couple months when you’ve taken that to the logical extension of what you can do with it, you start working on the strength aspect, and you start trying to make those muscles denser. Right? You change the way you eat, you change the way you train, and you get a little different result. You’re still building towards the same goal. Then finally, as is traditional, you go on a cutting cycle when it’s close to contest time for figure competitors and body builders. You go on a cutting cycle last and that’s when you try to just get rid of all of the excess water and fat and stuff that’s stored on your body. You’re not trying to build bigger muscles during this time. You’re just trying to get rid of the other stuff. These are all different cycles that build towards one goal.
We do the same thing with our programs, and any good coach who’s teaching you how to better your body and how to work on these big skills, these difficult skills that take months and years to learn; and good coach is going to give you a phased, stacked, cyclical kind of program for this.
Ryan: Exactly. Yeah.
Andy: It’s not going to be do this every day until you just have it.
Ryan: Yeah. Yeah. Great point there. Good point.
Andy: Cool. Well, anything else you want to talk about Ryan?
Ryan: No, man. That was good. I’m glad we covered the cycle here. Anyone out there, if you’ve got questions about this, always feel free to contact us. We can talk about this for days. It’s a big thing of course with us here in GMB, and it can be confusing. Maybe looking at the body builder world, I’m not saying it’s cut and dried there, but just like what we were talking about earlier; bulking up, hypertrophy, and then going and cutting, that’s an easy way to look at it. It might be a little difficult for some people to see how we’re trying to do it here at GMB. If you still have questions, feel free to contact us and we’ll do everything we can to make sure that you understand it.
Andy: Yeah. Absolutely. It doesn’t have to be bulking and cutting. It can be fundamental skills, more complicated skills, et cetera. Get in touch, because we can give lots of examples about this, but the thing is, everyone is starting from a different place and everyone has vaguely different goals. We can’t answer all of those in a simple example, so yeah, feel free to ask and we’ll try to help you out as much as we can.
Andy: Because we’re nice. We are! Yeah. We do this for you. We make this for you.
Ryan: That’s right.
Andy: We’re making this music for you right now. Ryan actually bought a broken microphone so we could make these sound effects you’re hearing in the background right now. We spare no expense for GMB. I want you guys to know this. If you appreciate it, and if you learned something, and hell, if we made you chuckle with out horrible jokes, go to iTunes and rate us please. Ratings are good. Especially high ratings are good. Low ratings if you think we suck, I mean, yeah, feel free. We’ll just make fun of you on the next podcast.
Ryan: That’s right.
Andy: Hey. That’s just the way it is.
Andy: Anyway, thank you so much. We hope that you enjoyed it and feel free to ask questions. We’re here to help.
Ryan: All right. Thanks everybody.
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