The Stimulus: Why And How

Learn how the intended stimulus helps us to train the body's three energy systems in a balanced and purposeful manner.
Gabriel Rusher
December 15, 2021
The Stimulus: Why And How

The stimulus; the cornerstone of fitness development. What is it? Why is it important? As humans, our bodies are equipped with three different energy systems (phosphagen, glycolytic, and oxidative) that allow us to perform tasks of varying nature. To improve our overall health and performance, it is important that we develop and maintain these energy systems evenly. As a general fitness program, that is what we strive to do.

This is where the stimulus comes in. Think of this as a guideline that helps us to target specific adaptations, which in turn will improve the efficiency of the bodily systems that provide us the energy we need. Oftentimes, this guideline will include a general feel and pace that is intended for the workout. It is important to keep in mind, though, that the stimulus goes beyond just these two factors. For example, if a coach says that a given amount of reps should be done unbroken, that is a specific indicator of the stimulus. Failure to modify appropriately so as to meet that expectation will result in failure to achieve the intended stimulus. Other examples would include keeping an even pace, moving fast enough that you require rest, using a load that is heavy for you, or using a load that is light for you. 

So, what if you fail to meet the intended stimulus for the day? That’s okay. You may over or underestimate yourself from time to time, and sometimes you just simply don’t know what you don’t know. However, do not make this a habit. This is an opportunity to develop a deeper understanding of your body and where your strengths and weaknesses lie; an understanding that will aid you in achieving the proper stimulus more consistently over time. Consider, too, that we are trying to train all three of our body’s energy systems in a well-rounded and thought out manner. If you miss the stimulus regularly, you will likely bias one energy system at the detriment of the others, which will affect the development of your fitness.

If this is an area that you struggle with, don’t worry. There are simple steps you can take to help dial you in. First of all, make sure to log your workout results in SugarWOD, using the notes feature to record weights and equipment used, as well as any modifications made. How did it feel? Did you hit the intended stimulus? If no, why not? What could you have done differently? Put that in your notes, it will help you! And, as always, feel free to ask your coach if you’re not sure. Happy training!

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