Power Law Revisited

A really awesome slide
A really awesome slide

When I first stated this law I noted that might add commentary on the notion of Power Law Training, specifically the application from Art De Vany. I like the idea, but disagree with the application.To generalize, De Vany is a fan of varied frequency, working out only when you really want to, when you feel good about doing so. He is also a fan of pyramiding weight up while dropping repetitions (15, 8, 4) as a means to fatigue all the fibers in sequence. It all sounds good in theory.

Here are the troubles with this:

  1. 15 reps isn’t going to adequately fatigue the Type Ia fibers at all. Slow twitch fibers are most active during aerobic exercise, responding extremely well to work done in the oxidative energy pathway and aren’t going to be fatigued in 15 reps. To quote Lyle McDonald, ” It takes minutes to fatigue Type I fibers, probably longer, like hours.”
  2. Intensity, specifically momentary muscular effort, isn’t the only variable for which the power law can apply.

So how can you apply the power law in another way? Here are a few examples:

  1. Decrease “effort” but increase volume. If my max deadlift is 385, I could do single rep warmup sets until my main workset at 385. The Westside gurus have pointed out that adding more volume to your lower sets might reduce max force output, but you’re not maxing out. You’ll move more tonnage for more stimulation and this can be cycled in randomly…
  2. If you use Chaos Training. The notion that your first “work” set becomes the benchmark in your routines and you perform whatever else you want for a given muscle group. As long as the benchmark is improving, you are doing well with the rest of the workout you’re making up as you go along.
  3. A full Blitz cycle would be taking whatever your normal workload would be and, for a period of no more than 2 weeks, doubling or tripling the workload (both sets and work days). The intent is to push yourself to the brink of overtraining, back off and don’t train for a week, and you end up overcompensating with more muscle.
  4. A variation for competition would be Pendelay’s Hormone Manipulation Cycle. Pyramiding up in intensity each week (low, medium, brutally high, brutally high, medium, low, competition) depresses hormones, setting them up for a big rebound for a competition in week 7 of that sequence.

The paleo folks (in which I find myself partaking in) are as dogmatic as any other fitness subculture. I might seem like I’m slaughtering a sacred cow, but there’s more than one word written about this. Give it a try.

3 thoughts on “Power Law Revisited

  1. How I missed your website before today I’ll never know. It’s awesome. RE: power law, I’ve been looking at some of Stuart McRobert’s stuff. Perhaps another variant would be to perform a 3 or 5 rep max, and in reverse pyramid fashion, perform the same at a lighter weight +1 or +2 reps beyond your ME.

    Art De Vany needs to stick to economics and stay out of nutrition and training.

    1. Ryan,

      Thanks for checking me out; Jim had to inform me who you are over at Monkey Island. Good to know the company is mutual.

      I’ve used Reverse Pyramid with good effort before; in fact, when I made it to my best deadlift (408 x 5), I was doing a reverse pyramid and using small plates. So I was OCD’ly adding 1% to the previous weight every week so it “felt” roughly the same every week. That’s a Stuart McRobert favorite and it can work quite well. More to the point; all of my band work and exercise swapping over the years since haven’t brought me to that level again, so it has not been my goal. It works very well if you’ve the patience for it.

      The general message of De Vany is pure: eat real food, train hard and infrequently, fast and sprint occasionally. Making claims in the face of science stating the contrary is where he irks me a bit.

      Great blog; you’ll be hearing more from me over there.


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