There are a lot of ways to improve your fitness and we recognize that there are some things that work well for some people and other things that work well for other people.
However, there are some common principles that we’ve noticed over the last decade that seem to repeat and again and again that let’s us confidently conclude a few things about what a successful fitness program looks like.
- Lifting heavy weights all of the time will NOT make you stronger.
Constant improvement is really difficult to achieve, especially if your training age (how long you’ve been training at something) is really high. For folks with lower training ages, almost any program will make you stronger. However, will it be short term improvements or long term gains?
That’s where a carefully designed program is. While constantly exposing your body to specific stresses in training forces your body to adapt, the adaption process is not linear. Lifting heavy all of the time takes a big toll on your central nervous system as well as joints, muscles and other connective tissue. Always pushing intensity is a surefire way to burn yourself out, get injured, and/or plateau your training.
Just like the earth has seasons, so too must your training involves cycles of focused higher intensities and planned lower and moderate intensities.
Depending on the athlete, high volume “lowerish” intensities (75-85% of 1 RM) in bigger movements like cleans, snatches, squats, deadlifts, etc. allow more movement rehearsal with quality patterns. Anecdotally, we’ve seen some athletes get away from frequent bouts of more maximal training cycles (90-100% of 1 RM lifts) and focused on these lower intensities actually PR on their major lifts in the middle of a training cycle without even coming close to training maximally. If we look at strength as the expression of motor units firing across a number of different muscle groups and movement patterns, then coordinating those diverse units is essential. Practicing at lower intensities allows for the improvement in movement patterns, setting the stage for better technique when approaching maximal weights.
2. Learn how to run fast before running far.
It might not seem like sprinting is important for someone racing a 10k or a marathon. However, sprinting isn’t just about running fast (which is hella fun and awesome!). Sprinting is the ultimate form of strength training for runners.
When a person sprints, ground contact forces expose the muscles to 2-5x bodyweight in hundredths of a second! Can’t create that amount of force in that amount of time in the weight room.
With improved running specific strength, muscles become more efficient at using energy and distance running is all about who can cover those long distances faster. Can’t run far AND fast if you don’t have enough energy to get you to the finish line. A stronger runner is also less prone to overuse injuries when his/her/their mechanics are sharp.
So if you are a runner and you hate the gym, get to a track or find a nice flat even road and try and throw in 4-6 x 100-150 meter wind-sprints once a week and if you have even more time and want to maximize technical proficiency with sprinting visit HERE.
3. Lose weight by eating more.
Gaining weight or losing weight isn’t simply “calories in” and “calories out.” Here’s a thought experiment: imagine consuming 3000 cals from nothing but carbs (think pasta, starches, bread, etc) and compare that to 3000 cals from eating a blend of veggies, lean meats, quality carbs like whole grains, and healthy sources of fat such as olive oil, nuts and seeds. The number is the same, but each substance triggers very different responses in the body.
When you are engaged in a focused strength and conditioning program, eating more is essential for fueling your efforts in the gym, providing the necessary ingredients to boost recovery between efforts, and maintaining metabolic health to stave off dangerous health conditions that would impair your ability to not only train, but more importantly, to live a high quality life! Protein is important towards helping repair and rebuild damaged muscle. Quality carbohydrates help switch your body’s hormonal response from a “muscle degrading” to a “muscle building” state. Consuming enough veggies provides your body with the necessary vitamins and minerals necessary to supporting important chemical reactions in your body. The increased fiber intake from veggies feeds your gut microbiome which has shown to help digest certain foods, regulate moods, and improve immune system function. High quality fats contain brain building elements (Omega 3 fatty acids) and assist in reducing insulin levels, which in turn helps your body pull more energy from it’s fat stores to fuel lower intensity activities.
By not consuming the necessary amounts of food to sustain activities, the body will then sense that food is scarce and shift to starvation mode; it will start to store more and more energy in the body’s fat stores.
4. Stretching is good, but lasting improvements in mobility come through lifting weights.
By all means, stretching is important for prepping the body for training as well as downshifting the body into a more parasympathetic (rest/digest/recovery) state. We use a dynamic stretching routine to prepare for our workouts here at Steelworks Strength Systems and encourage more static stretching to our clients at home. Long term gains in mobility come, however, when muscles become stronger.
Mobility is more than taking muscle and other soft tissues and pulling them close to beyond their current limitations. Mobility is also a neurological phenomenon. The brain has a lot to say about how far a muscle can or cannot stretch. When the brain senses that a joint is moving beyond a range of motion that the surrounding muscles cannot support, it limits the muscles’ range of motion. When a muscle becomes stronger, barring unique anatomical limitations like joint socket depth or limb lengths, the brain senses that the joint will be protected when approaching these newer ranges of motion previously sensed as dangerous. As a result more mobility is then granted.
If you are curious about how our intelligently designed programs can help you, click the button below. Speak with a coach to learn more and sign up for your FREE trial class! Come experience a new and exciting way to train and achieve your goals, safely!