Austin Baraki | Barbell Medicine, on the SRA Curve and tenidinopathy

Austin Baraki MD | Beyond the SRA Curve

Austin Baraki is a co-owner of Barbell Medicine, a hospital-based physician at a teaching institute, and a strength coach/lifter (a darn strong lifter too!)

As a physician, Austin Baraki is able to mix the deeply impressive diagnostic mind that he has gained from the medical world with his passion and success in the strength world into one of the most groundbreaking educators out there today.

The SRA Curve and its Limitations

In this episode of the podcast we spoke predominantly about the SRA curve and its limitations, particularly in the sense of how different stressors, both psychosocial and physical, can negatively impact weightlifting training, and how we ought to gain an¬†understanding of our internal load markers as ‘stop and start signs’ for pulling back and going hard in training.¬†

According to Austin, we as humans always try to develop models. Our typical approach to understanding complex systems is often through some form of reductionism, breaking things down into discrete pieces that we can understand, and then trying to put them back into a model that we can try to use to explain the whole thing.

Consider the following

As we walk around we are continually bombarded with different stimuli and stressors: pathogens, bacteria, psychological life stressors, sleep issues, and social situations to name a few. A simple SRA model views the only stressor affecting the athlete as the external load of the set of five reps under the barbell. But all day every day we are bombarded by other internal and external stressors.

The world of neurobiology has revealed recently a concept called allostasis, a modern retake on the idea of homeostasis. In brief, allostasis is a continually adapting brain centered version of homeostasis. As we respond to these stressors, we simultaneously recover from them in a continuously dynamic way. Austin explains that by programming as though the only stressor affecting the athlete is the five reps on the back squat, we reduce the athlete to that of a machine where the stimulus of the back squat will always produce the intended result every time. Every coach and athlete will know this not to be true…

If you want to listen to Austin explain this concept in a far more in-depth and eloquent way then listen to the podcast from around 14 minutes and 26 seconds in.

Rehabbing Tendinopathy

As well as speaking about the extent to which a life stressor can pollute the effects of a training session, the way in which weightlifters ought to train the back squat, and many other topics, Austin also explained the process by which we ought to rehab tendinopathy.

Austin broke the process down into three parts.

  • Don’t Take Time Off – Tendinopathy doesn’t respond or improve to time spent away from lifting. Knee tendinopathy will not dissipate by taking 12 months off training (much to the disappointment of many who have tried).
  • Tendons NEED Load – In order to adapt, tendons need load. The caveat is that the load must be within a tolerable range where the affected area does not get markedly more painful in the aftermath of a training session. For Example – Let’s say you are squatting to reduce your tendinopathy. If the next day the area is too painful then the dose of the stimulus to the area was too high. If, however, the discomfort that you might feel at the start of the session dissipates by the end of the session then you are within the correct dose range.
  • Use Governors – Governors are ways to decrease the dose by decreasing the load, as it is often excessive loaded that is the real aggravator of tendinopathy. Examples of this for the squat would be to use tempos and higher rep work. Five second eccentric back squats for sets of five or more reps will place such a limit on the intensity of the movement without affecting your effort that by doing them you greatly enhance the chance of rehabilitation and reduce the chances of regression.

If you want to listen to the rest of the 73 minute podcast episode then click play on the player at the top of the page or subscribe to the Weightlifting House podcast on iTunes.

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