The Training Principle Of Continuity & Reversibility

Have you heard of the Reversibility Principle? In this article you will learn why calling it Reversibility Principle isn’t correct.

I will outline what continuity is and what it means, and why you should much rather focus on continuity, instead of reversibility.

In this article, you’ll learn

What is the basic premise for this training principle of reversibility and continuity

Different biological subsystems have different time-courses of adaptation. I have outlined in the previous article the training principle of stimulus and response , that there is the so-called ‘heterochronicity of adaptations’, which explains that different structures (e.g. muscles, tendons, or ligaments) have different recovery times, and therefore also time-courses of adaptation.

But also different training stimuli go through the process of adaptation either a bit quicker or need a bit longer. Therefore the biological subsystems have different time courses.

Heterochronicicity of adaptation Different Time Courses of Adaptation Supercompensation Principle

Heterochronicicity of adaptation describes different time courses of adaptation through the supercompensation cycle

I have outlined before, that for an adaptation to manifest, you have to go first through the adaptive process of stimulus, recovery adaptation, and secondly through the cycle of acute adaptations to chronic adaptations, which I will discuss further down.

The biological basis for the reversibility principle

I have outlined the biological principle of de-adaptation previously, which explains that a de-adaptation is the adaption to a previous form.

Remember, adaptation is the ability to adjust to an environment and undergo physiological changes. Hence adapt to a new form, where de-adaptation is the adaptation to a previous form.

Adaptation is the ability to adjust to an environment undergoing physiological changes, and de-adaptation is the adaptation to a previous form.

De-adaptation basically reverses the adaptative process, and therefore it’s often called the principle of reversibility.

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Why not to call the principle of reversibility

So, then why should you call it the principle of continuity and reversibility, instead of the principle of reversibility?

I’ve outlined previously when I discussed the training principle of a varied stimulus , that rather calling it varied stimulus than the principle of variation.

Why is that?

Simply, if you call it varied stimulus, it puts the stimulus in the center of attention, whilst if you call it the principle of variation, it puts the variation into the center of attention.

And strictly speaking, you can vary your training until the cows come home without ever setting a stimulus.

And essentially setting a stimulus to invoke an adaptation is why we are training.

Therefore the same is true for the training principle of continuity and reversibility, where you should focus on continuity, not reversibility. Because training has to be a continuous and progressive process.

Strictly speaking, you should focus on continuity, not reversibility. Because training has to be a continuous and progressive process.

Nikolai Bernstein, a pioneer in the area of motor learning, said it best, ‘Training is repetition without repeating.’ which means repetition is the continuous process, and without repeating it’s progressive.

In essence, it is repetitive, but you’re not doing the same thing again.

And before I get into the practical application, I still owe you one answer.

What is the cycle of acute adaptations to chronic adaptations

In very simple words, an acute adaptation to exercise will become a chronic adaptation to exercise after a certain number of exposures. As an example Anatoliy Bondarchuk has taken up that concept in his model ‘transfer of training’, that you need to have a certain number of exposures to a training stimulus before that training stimulus manifests. Once this training stimulus has manifested you move into the next training phase.

Another example is outlined in Issurin’s theory of block periodization, where he talks about something that is called residual effects. These residual effects are the retention of changes induced by systematic workloads, beyond a certain time period after the cessation of training, and it also outlines of how long that retention is for the different bio motor abilities.

The training principle of reversibility and continuity practically applied

I have outlined the residual effects, which are the initial increases in performance after the implementation of a new training method. But there are also the so-called ceiling effects, which is the deceleration or cessation training adaptations following the current training method.

What does that mean practically?

Check out this example from my course ‘Strength Training Secrets’, which outlines the number of exposures, strength training sessions for different training goals.

Strength Training Initial Effects Ceiling Effects

Initial Effects outline how long it takes for adaptations to occur and Ceiling Effects explain when adaptations cease following a certain training method.

Take it with a grain of salt, it’s not written in stone, because it depends on multiple factors, however, these are guidelines that are really helpful, if used correctly.

Because you know, when do you have initial effects, depending on whether you train for hypertrophy, maximum strength or power, and when do you have ceiling effect.

And with this information, you basically know when you have to change or vary the training stimulus.

Rounding up the training principle of reversibility and continuity

I outlined the basic premise of this principle of continuity and reversibility, and why training has to be continuous, and progressive. Therefore it’s better to call it the principle of continuity and reversibility, instead of the principle of reversibility, as it’s often named.

The biological basis of this principle is the body’s ability to adapt, but also to deadapt, which is the adaptation to a previous form.

And I outlined the practical application, how to use the information of initial effects, the initial increases in performance, and ceiling effects, when there’s no further adaptation to the current training.