| | | Drive Adaptation, Enhance Performance

Author / Donald Ricci

Our role as strength coaches is to best prepare our athletes for the physical demands imposed on them through their sport.  In order to do that, we must design our programs to DRIVE specific adaptations in order to ENHANCE certain performance traits. As our athletes progress, our programs must as well, to continue to drive the desired performance traits with each subsequent block of training.  Often times, there seems to be confusion amongst newer coaches as to what is adaptation, and what is a trait.

Good news, we’re here to set the record straight. The goal of this article is to provide you with a better framework and understanding of some of the “why’s” that go into program design.


Broadly speaking, when we talk about driving adaptation, we’re talking about making a physiological change to an organism, in relation to its environment, by inducing stress. If the environment changes, i.e. the stimulus from training changes, the organism will change to better survive the new conditions.

The physiological changes induced by training will largely depend on the stresses we dose our athletes with.  These stresses, or “stress factors”, include the intensity, volume, and duration that we provide the athlete within the confines of training.  How do we determine those factors? Think of it as a funnel – start broad/general, then get more narrow/specific as you progress. That broad/general understanding of where you need to start begins with the SAID (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) Principle.  This foundational principle of training allows us to clearly identify the demands of our athlete’s sport, then reverse engineer a training program that will drive specific changes to an athlete’s structural, functional, and metabolic system that will align with the demands of said sport.

Think of these demands as the performance traits we are trying to enhance; sprinting, acceleration, and deceleration, are some common examples we find in all field sports.  From the strength coach’s viewpoint, those demands can be translated to performance traits such as power, explosive strength, speed strength, endurance, etc. These performance traits are motor-function related, and an expression of the physiological adaptation you are trying to achieve.  Therefore, they will help provide a road map on how to properly stress the athlete in a way to drive the corresponding physical and metabolic adaptations.

The Devil is in the Details

Once you’ve identified the demands of your athlete’s sport, it’s time to get specific.  The formula to drive adaptation is simple. STRESS + RECOVERY = ADAPTATION. The first step of this process is to systematically expose the athlete to a given set of stressors, enabling them to efficiently manage future exposures. This is where Specific Adaptations comes into play; we know that very specific intensity and rep ranges will provide a very specific stimulus.  Those ranges, and the adaptations they drive are::

  •      1-3 reps: Central Nervous System Efficiency
  •      4-7 reps: Myofibrillar Hypertrophy
  •      8-12 reps: Sarcoplasmic Hypertrophy
  •      12+ reps: Muscular Endurance

Use these ranges to determine which adaptations you need to drive in your athlete, to make them them the baddest beast on the block.

Operation Overload

You’ve identified the demands and the adaptations you are trying to hammer through.  You’ve selected the specific stressors of intensity, volume, and time that match those demands.  Now we’re rolling! But here’s the thing – that STRESS + RECOVERY = ADAPTATION equation never ends.  You must continually plug and chug that formula in order to continually progress and avoid stagnation, or even worse, regression.

Planned exposure to specific stressors can allow one to adapt to the existing stress, thus increasing his or her baseline and furthering your journey in achieving a base level of strength.  Therefore, the body must experience higher levels of stress as time goes, on for further adaptation to occur. This is where Progressive Overload comes into play; the athlete must progressively be exposed to either more volume, e.g. sets and/or reps, more intensity, e.g. more weight, and/or both!  Whether you’re a novice athlete following a linear progression, where 5-10lbs is added each week like we have on Bedrock, or you’re a more advanced athlete following a traditional periodized program, with undulating intensity and/or volume with a progressive upward slope like we have on Field Strong, Progressive Overload must exist if we want to keep driving progress.

To wrap things up, we use the scientific training principles of SAID, SPECIFICITY, and OVERLOAD to drive physiological adaptation within the body such as increasing sarcoplasmic and myofibrillar hypertrophy, improving inter and intra muscular efficiency, improving VO2 max and resting heart rate, in order to enhance performance traits such as strength, speed, power.

If you’re an athlete looking for a principle based program that will drive adaptations and enhance performance traits, jump on one of our programs here.  If you’re a coach looking to expand your knowledge and dive deeper into the principles behind the Power Athlete Methodology, head over to the Power Athlete Academy and enroll in the next semester.

Now get out there, stress to progress, and EAT THE WEAK!


Zatsiorsky, V. M., & Kraemer, W. J. (2006). Science and practice of strength training. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Verkhoshansky, Y., & Siff, M. C. (2009). Supertraining. Rome, Italy: Verkhoshansky.

Welbourn, J., Summers, L., & McQuilkin, C. (2017). Power Athlete Methodology: Level one workbook. Austin. Power Athlete, Inc.

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Donald Ricci

Don was a two time National Champion and All-American water polo goalie at the University of Southern California prior to getting involved in coaching strength & conditioning and weightlifting. He is the founder and head coach of DELTA Weightlifting, a high performing USA Weightlifting Club and is a Police Officer in Central Virginia.

The Power Athlete Methodology has been a crucial component in developing better overall athleticism not only for his on the job performance in law enforcement, but also for his competitive weightlifters with international level athletes and national medalists to show for it. In addition to proudly being a Power Athlete Block One Coach, Don is also a USA Weightlifting Level 4 International Coach, a USA Weightlifting Lead Instructor USA Weightlifting Coaching Courses, and a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) through the National Strength & Conditioning Association (NSCA). Don has coached and trained athletes from virtually every sport at levels ranging from youth beginner to National Team level.


  1. Driving Adaptations to Enhance Performance on February 13, 2019 at 11:25 am

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