Learn all about systemic training
systemic training

Learn all about systemic training

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We have now spoken several times about the different phases you can go through when you periodize your training sessions. I have described for all phases what you pay attention to and what the goals are in previous articles. I got back from several people that it helped enormously with building their schematics and some even sent their self-made schematics forward to have them checked. Based on these questions, I thought it would be nice to go through a training set up with you. In this case I want to dive into systemic training. 'Systemic' refers to the whole body, instead of targeting specific muscle groups.

In this article I will first give a general story about systemic training, followed by a brief outline of two options and finally general rules.

Benefits of systemic training

Systemic training has advantages, especially when it comes to weight loss and metabolism. Cardiovascularly, your body will be challenged, as will the liver. Failure in a systemic program is completely different from failure on a local schedule or a hypertrophy schedule. Failure on a systemic workout is often a systemic failure, in terms of fitness. It is not so much that the last set will completely destroy you, but the build-up of all the volume will ensure that you really need some rest conditionally.

Therefore, choose a weight that takes about 80% effort. By going through multiple sets with this weight, you will automatically be finished at the end of your workout. The individual muscles will therefore feel like you can do more and perhaps the pump is less. This is fine and the very purpose of systemic training.

Systemic training and periodization

Systemic training will help you recover faster after a set, because your cardiovascular system is very challenged. In addition, your tolerance for volume will also increase. These two can be a big advantage when you start a hypertrophy block after your metabolic phase.

The standard approach to training for hypertrophy is for many people to keep adding sets or reps. Ultimately this will lead to one 'volume trap'. If training volume is your only tool, at some point you will have to turn so much volume that you can no longer recover from it, even though the volume itself would be sufficient for a hypertrophy stimulus.

By running a systemic phase once every so often you create more stretch in your recovery capacity in this area. In addition, such a block will also contribute to keeping your rest breaks between sets shorter, so that the workouts also remain efficient.

systemic training

Also benefits outside the gym

Furthermore, a systemic block also provides advantages outside the gym; when we are stressed, the body will respond with stress hormones such as cortisol. I am not going to write down here the whole mechanism for which cortisol is all good and bad for what, but it is good to know that the better conditioned we are, the higher the bar will be when stress becomes too much for the body and will have adverse consequences.

In addition, if you are completely out of breath after walking up a number of stairs, this will decrease the recovery time you have outside the gym. Systemic training will improve your fitness, reducing the effort of everyday activities, reducing the stress response of these activities and giving you more time to recover from the real thing.

Even if powerlifting or strength is your thing, systemic fitness is very important for the very reason above. If you can deadlift 350 kg, but after an annoying phone call or walking up a number of stairs you get very excited and panting, this means that your resilience to stress is low and this will affect the recovery time as discussed above. Improving your systemic fitness will contribute to more recovery time for the body, leaving more energy and nutrition to recover from your strength blocks and also build more strength.

Systemic training is beneficial for your fat burning

Finally, fat burning costs proportionally more oxygen as energy supply than burning carbohydrates. When your condition is so bad that you have a constantly elevated heart rate and your body has to constantly fight for breath, this will absolutely reduce fat burning, because there is simply not enough oxygen available for optimal fat burning. A good systemic condition will therefore ensure that more fat is used as an energy source at rest and that more glycogen and carbohydrates are spared than in someone who has a systemically poor condition.

Improved sleep quality

Furthermore, your condition can affect sleep quality. Poor systemic condition can negatively affect sleep. Sleep quality is partly influenced by the stress responses that are present during your sleep. When your body can deal with this better, it can definitely contribute to a better quality of sleep.

In a systemic block there is little or no training until muscle failure, so recovery after a workout will not take long. This allows the training frequency to be high and we can use our mass several times a week to help with glycogen storage, without the intervention of insulin. When losing weight, even in people who are less in terms of health, this can definitely work to the advantage.

systemic training

Systemic training as deload

Systemic workouts can also be an ideal deload are of a neurological block where the focus has been precisely on maximum intensity and stress on the nervous system.

They are also a good deload after blocks in which you have turned a lot of volume locally and your muscles have locally exhausted a lot. Constantly running blocks with a lot of pump work will at some point detract from the adaptations to this form of training.

Finally, a systemic block can be the ideal deload after a hypertrophy block, especially when muscle damage has been involved. As mentioned, little is trained to fail and little muscle damage will occur.

However, a deload does not mean that you do little work and that you are staring boringly in front of you for minutes on end.

Possibilities of setup

There are several options for setting up a systemic training. Today I want to discuss two options. Both a full body with compounds and the half body systemic back load.

Full body with compounds

The name speaks for itself. You take compound exercises and you train the entire body in 1 day. We set up these workouts by means of supersets of compound exercises, with enough rest in between to train with good intensity, but not fully rest. We prefer not to pair exercises that overlap the trained muscle, either actively or as a stabilizer. This is an ideal way of training when the training resources are limited and no or few equipment is available.

You could run this schedule every other day, if you can manage in recovery.

Half body systemic back load

This way of training is a bit more complex, but will also run a high total volume per training, without locally exhausting the muscles. In this schedule, we still do isolation work for the smaller muscle groups, such as arms and shoulders, but we do the systemic work at the end of the training. The advantage of this is that we still give the small muscle groups a stimulus. This way of training is very useful, provided the execution of exercises is good and you know where you stand in terms of fitness, strength and experience.

The systemic work is deliberately at the back, because after a number of sets of deadlifts combined with bench presses you will be well done. After that, tackling small muscle groups will detract from the output and attention you can still have for these muscle groups.

We split the body in 2 days to divide the volume of muscle mass.

You could run this schedule 4 days a week.

systemic training

Which schedule is best for you?

The Full body compound is more suitable for beginners, or people who do not have an excessive amount of muscle mass. People with a lot of muscle mass on their frame will go completely to pieces on a full body systemic workout and may just kill themselves while that is just not the intention of this phase.

Remember that 1 contraction of an advanced athlete counts more than a beginner. Partly because of the difference in muscle mass and partly because of the efficiency of control and strength. The more advanced you are, the more selective you need to be with the volume you play.

Reps, rest and intensity

The repranges that you will use for these schedules are around 8 to 10 to 10 to 12. You can go as hard as you want, keeping your performance optimal and you can stick to the rest breaks.

For both options you can think of 30, maximum 60 seconds rest between exercises or after a superset and then it is time for the next round.

Your intensity will, as mentioned, be approximately 70 to 80% of the weights with which you normally do the exercises in question, because the rest breaks are shorter and the attack on your heart and lungs is higher. However, make sure you don't go underweight; you must be pretty broke. Pumping is not the goal.

Maximum stake, minimum time

So we combine exercises that do not get in each other's way with regard to output or stability. We do not combine a barbell press with shoulder press, but also no squat with deadlift.

Consider combinations of a press with a deadlift, or a row with a squat.

You could do 3 to 5 rounds per superset, depending on your fitness level. In addition, you don't want to do much more than 6 exercises per workout.

Make sure you have enough rest days; with full body you could train every other day; the half body split 4 times a week.

Try it yourself!

Systemic training lends itself perfectly to fat loss goals. However, as said, there is really no argument why you should not run systemic for a few weeks every so many months. It will definitely contribute to quality of life and long-term progression.

I am very curious what your findings are after trying a few weeks of systemic training. Let me know!

This blog is written by

Jan Willem van der Klis

"My focus is on obtaining and disseminating the best possible knowledge to optimize training and nutrition"

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