What do Jotunheim, Terabithia, and the River Kwai all have in common, besides being in blockbusters that tugged at our heartstrings? All of them required a bridge to help move their story along.
Thor broke Jotunheim’s rainbow bridge to save his people, the magical world of Terabithia required a bridge to get there, and Bridge on the River Kwai explored the depths of the human condition under the stresses of war. I think. Whatever the case, these bridges helped to ensure the plot lines moved forward.
If you’re following a Power Athlete training program, you’ve been through at least a few of these “bridge” weeks, as we’ve come to call them. In this article, we’re going to take a closer look at the “why” behind the bridge weeks and discuss their importance in moving the needle forward in your performance, especially for those of you moving through your roaring twenties and into your practical thirties.
Compensating For Something?
Before we get too far, let’s do a quick refresher on some foundational concepts when it comes to training and stimuli. When you hit the weights, you expose your body to stress, altering your normal/base biological state (homeostasis) and throwing things out of whack. You’re now in a state of alarm or stress , where your body wants to return to normal through recovery. Think about how you feel after a particularly grueling training session or game. Beat up, tired, fatigued…aka not good. Your body wants to avoid this not good feeling, so it recovers to the point where it can easily handle this stress if it’s exposed to it again. You’re now at a higher base state than before. This process of adaptation to handle specific stress is called “supercompensation.”
To take a practical example, let’s look at Power Athlete’s foundational program Bedrock. You take 100lbs on Monday for 3 sets of 5, and things go wild. The body is in chaos, every alarm from every science fiction movie is going off, and you’re thinking there’s no way you can go heavier. Your body recovers Tuesday and Wednesday. Now it’s Thursday; as you warm up you notice the weights from Monday don’t feel quite as heavy…weird. 100lbs isn’t that bad. You throw on 105lbs, taking it for a ride on the gain train with much fanfare and applause. Your body has adapted from where it was on Monday. Before, 100lbs was the upper limit of your capacity. But now, your body supercompensated for that stress, so it’s not so bad if and when you’re exposed to it next time. #science.
Build a Bridge…to Get More From It
Progress isn’t made in the weight room, but in recovery from the weight room! Novice athletes have a relatively short recovery window, meaning they can bounce back quickly from a training session. As you move from a novice to a seasoned athlete, your recovery window extends. In programs like Field Strong and Jacked Street, we call these windows “bridge weeks”. Bridge weeks, aka “backoff weeks” or “reload weeks”, are training weeks where volume and intensity are reduced to allow for the adaptations from the cycle to set in without placing a huge stress on your already wrecked system. They also have an added benefit of providing a much needed mental break once you wrap these cycles up. I don’t know about you, but after 6, 8, or 12 weeks of cage matches…I need some respite and lighter weights, just to help get my mind right.
Field Strong recently said au revoir to the 12-week French Contrast cycle, which was a particular kind of painful. That program had built-in bridge weeks between each block, followed by a final bridge week at the end. Jacked Street just came off of two bridge weeks, because frat house living, shotgunning beers, and doing bicep curls every day can get pretty demanding. These bridge weeks are needed to wring out every last bit of adaptation from our training cycles, to ensure they become your new normal.
Thirties…Like Your Twenties But More Painful
Something happens the day you turn 30. Your credit rating goes up, people start calling you “sir” or “ma’am”, and that 2-hour hangover suddenly turns into 24 hours (or longer). But hangovers aren’t the only thing that take longer to recover from; those grueling workout sessions that used to be the norm for your 20s aren’t so easy to bounce back from anymore. And this is completely normal. Hormonal profiles start to change, and physically, mentally, and emotionally you are (hopefully) in a different place than your roaring 20s.
While thrash, rinse, repeat may have been your modus operandi before, once you hit 30 the idea of “listening to your body” starts to have more meaning. Understanding what your body is telling you, and modulating your effort and output based on how you’re feeling becomes more commonplace, not just cranking up the Nickelback, headbutting the bar, and going for broke. This is another area where Bridge Weeks come into play.
Let’s go back to that French Contrast cycle. The 20-something year old collegiate athlete could’ve chewed iron, spit out nails, and come back for more after that 12 weeks. And, they probably could’ve done that on 4 hours of sleep, a regular supply of Buschhhhhhhh, and some fast food. But for you 30-somethings out there…it’s a different story. Speaking personally, I was beat up, physically taxed, and neurologically spent. After we finished our max week, the idea of going in and lifting something heavy was fairly terrifying. Then came the bridge week. Like I mentioned before, not only did it provide the physiological reduction needed to recover from the training, but mentally it provided a much-welcome reset, where I knew it wasn’t going to be a dog fight walking into the weight room. Coming off that bridge week, I was ready to jump back into the fray and dance with the devil in the pale moonlight.
Crossing The Bridge
If you’ve been around Power Athlete for a while, you know that we’re all about getting into the weight room, banging some heavy weights, and Empowering your Performance. But, even the baddest truck on the block needs a tune up every so often to make sure it’s in peak condition. Next time one of these bridge weeks comes along, don’t turn up your nose and scour the internet for some barn-burner workouts just to get your sweat on. If you’ve traditionally looked at these bridge weeks as taking your foot off the tiger’s throat, I encourage you to take a step back and think about the benefits you glean from taking that week to turn things down from 11, and give yourself a chance to physically and mentally regroup.
Chomping at the bit to jump into the fight? Head on over to powerathletehq.com, and take a look at one of our eight full-package programs, to see which one best fits your training goals. Then, strap yourself in for the ride of your life.
PODCAST: PA RADIO EP 388 – College Student’s Guide To Nutrition & Training
BLOG: Breaking Down Thunder, A 6 Week Jacked Street Cycle by Luke Summers
BLOG: Gyms Are Open – Here’s How To Select A Training Program by Tex McQuilkin
BLOG: Triphasic Training On Field Strong’s French Contrast Cycle by Tex McQuilkin
Adam grew up a lifetime athlete, playing soccer, baseball, basketball, and practicing martial arts, earning his black belt at age 12. While in college, he decided to join the Navy and earned his commission in 2008. While on active duty earned his CrossFit Level 1 in 2010 and CrossFit Football certification in 2012. He was part of the first class to go through the Power Athlete methodology course, and the first group to earn their Block One certification in September 2017.
Adam continues to stay active, earning a spot on the All Navy Rugby 7s team in 2023 and playing Rugby for a local men's club in San Diego, California.
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