Keep It Simple – Assess Stress Adapt

I recently did a podcast for with Nick Lumley Strength & Conditioning Coach with Scotland 7’s. We discussed something I have been thinking about a lot lately. You will know by now that I recommend a simplified approach to training. In a nutshell: Assess, Stress and Adapt!

In the podcast Nick discusses a blog he wrote for where he challenges the need for advanced periodisation plans. He suggests that for the majority of people they just need to train the basics well, frequently and consistently. Yes, some elite athletes will need advanced techniques but lets be honest; most of us are not advanced!

Thats why I like the Starting Strength approach. They begin with a basic linear progression until progress stalls. Then they move to the Texas Method where there is greater stimulus and more recovery time, as they are more advanced, but still intermediate! They understand the response to stress and the why the body adapts.

The problem is; we are all impatient and consider ourselves advanced way before we actually are! We look at advanced athletes and try to train like them. The problem is we don’t train the way they did when they were just starting out. We haven’t done our time on the basics.

So how can you apply the assess, stress, adapt model to your training? Let me break it down for you:


This is where I see a lot of people get it wrong. They follow a program they find online or see someone else do and follow it blindly. The problem is; they haven’t assessed what they as an individual need to do for their goals. Firstly they need to figure out their ultimate goal. Then it is a case of seeing how far away they are from it and specifically what is the limiting factor holding them back from it. Once they have assessed things properly it is simple to figure out a specific plan.


This should be the easiest part for you to understand, if you’ve read much of my blog! I recommend frequent practice that is designed so you can continually progress and consistently show up. No need for balls to the wall sessions, head banging and screaming. Although every now and then is fine! The important thing to remember is that it should be specific to what you have assessed you need to improve on to reach your goals.


To adapt you need to make sure that there are no competing demands on your body. The human body has a finite amount of energy to adapt to stress. This is why assessment and stress need to have been dialled in and thus you can adapt in the desired way. You can’t be training for two competitive physical qualities at the same time. Or at least if you do, don’t expect great improvements in either.

In the podcast Nick talks about some of the monitoring he does with his players. Whilst most of it is way too advanced for the average trainer it highlights a key point. What are you measuring you success by? Granted most people it will be load lifted. But how are you monitoring this over time? You need some sensible measures that can help keep you on track and help you assess in the future.

In conclusion, training is simply a succession of stress and adaptation cycles. For optimal training to occur we need to make sure that we are getting the right stimulus for the right physical qualities that are the biggest limiting factors to our goals. The more we focus on that the more positive training adaptations will occur.

Listen to the mentioned podcast here:

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