Ingrid Barclay discusses the Matrix training system and weighs in on the metabolic adaption/resilience issue in regards to competition preparation.
Q: Ingrid, I am looking for a program to utilise as a de-loading part of my periodisation plan. What would your thoughts be on using the Matrix system? Do you think it would be beneficial and could you perhaps include a possible four-day program?
A: The Matrix training system is a training program that focuses on a variety of full and partial rep movements within sets to stimulate a different response to lifting weights. Created by Dr. Ron Laura, the most basic form of the Matrix training principles looks something like this:
• A quick warm-up process of ascending weights to reach workout weight
• 3–4 exercises per muscle group
• Four sets, consisting of: 5 full reps; 5 half reps from the stretch or bottom position; 5 half reps from the squeeze or top position; then finishing with 5 full reps again — that’s 20 total reps!
• 30 seconds rest between sets
There are a multitude of reasons and advantages to this form of training:
• Working on partial movements can emphasise movements over what are traditionally sticking points in many trainees’ movements — it can be utilised to overcome these plateaus.
• The higher rep number and lower rest count will challenge a different energy system; most weight training systems challenge the ATP/PC system, whereas the Matrix utilises primarily the glycolytic or lactate system.
• The lower weight also stimulates muscle fibre types not stimulated by the higher thresholds of heavy weight training. The Matrix will tend to stimulate type 2A and 1A muscle fibre types, with less stimulus of the type 2X fibres we traditionally try to stimulate.
• The lower weight used in this program will take the pressure off your joints and connective tissue while still stimulating muscle growth and energy system stimulus. I find this is especially great for clients who have been injured with heavy weights, or are getting a little older and have joint problems, such as with shoulders, knees or elbows. Matrix training principles can even be utilised as a specific deloading cycle between two heavy macrocycles within a periodised plan, as per your question.
• Due to the high intensity motor that is required for performing this program — especially with the low rest times — enzymatic activity, vascularity, mitochondrial density and cardiovascular will also improve
• Less time in the gym! Most workouts should be done in about 30 minutes.
• It can be fun to try something radically different and challenging to keep your mojo up in the gym.
To maximise your muscle growth and improve the balance of your health and fitness, it is always good to incorporate a multitude of programs throughout the year that have varied rep ranges, rest times and movements.
I am not going to lie here, guys. If you haven’t done a program like this before, prepare for a lot of burning muscles and perhaps a lot of sitting in the car for a good 10-to-15 minutes post-workout due to the shaky feeling you have induced. Just make sure you don’t cry in the gym — there is no crying in gyms!