Training with Intention matters. Here’s Why.

Does your training have focus?

Does it include variation AND consistency?

Do you know how you workouts are benefiting AND costing you?

There are a lot of variables that go into designing a training program.

Chances are you don’t have the time or desire to think about them.

Better leave it Steelworks Strength Systems to unravel that riddle of maximizing your time and energy at the gym.

I do that by taking into account 4 key variables when designing a training program.

Let’s take a look at each and why they matter.

Type of Muscular Contractions

Muscles can contract in three ways and each way affects the body differently.

When a muscle contracts isometrically, fibers fire but joints do not move.  This happens when lifting a barbell into safety pins, or holding a wall sit.  The muscles are working, but no movement occurs.

Slowly lowering a weight from end back down to the start is an eccentric muscular contraction.  Think of the descent of a squat, deadlift, pushup or when your foot hits the ground upon impact.  The muscle simultaneously contracts, but lengthens.  A contraction like this is the culprit for the most muscle damage and subsequent soreness.  This is the strongest type of muscular contraction.  For example, ever notice how you can easily lower a heavier weight but can’t lift it back up?  Yielding strength is much higher.

Lastly, concentric contractions. The muscle contracts and shortens, causing a joint to close.  This is the ascent of a rep.

A plan that has high levels of eccentric contractions with heavier weights can leave the body beaten up and experience excessive soreness.  However, if you play a sport that has high needs to change speed and direction, including eccentric work is essential.

For folks who are coming back from injury, isometric holds are a great place in the recovery program.  Through this type of contraction, you can train maximal efforts, but eliminate specific joints from needing to flex or extend. As a result you can still train but not worry about further worsening an injury.

If you need to exert force on the ground (chasing after your dog or kids) or against an opponent (groceries), you need to be able to create force and move.  This is concentric muscular action and is the type of contraction where we associate with lifting things.

Each of these ways of contracting your muscle is important, but each has different impacts on how you body recovers and adapts.

Directions / Planes of Movement

We can move forward and backward, side to side, and rotationally.  

Most training programs focus solely on lifting weights up and down in the forward and backward plane called the sagittal plane.  Squats, deadlifts, olympic lifts this is all sagittal.  Lifts like these are essential in helping build lean muscle and bone density, but are not multi-planar are therefore do not directly carry over to the complex dynamic environments in which we exist.

Lateral movements (frontal plane) like side lunges, side hops, lateral dumbbell raises, side planks, etc lay the ground work for stability in side to side movements.

The king of movement patterns for overall athletic development is rotational patterns.  Our DNA is a double helix rotational shape.  That says something.  Rotational movements tie both the sagittal and frontal planes together and express most athletic movements that exist in more dynamic environments.  Core work that involves slams, throws, pushes, and tosses all train this plane of movement and help the body transfer power effectively from the lower body into the upper body.

When you train different directions of movement with more frequency, the chance of overuse injuries goes down and overall athleticism goes up!

Speed of Movement

Lifting only heavy weights creates a body that will move slowly.

Doing nothing but jump training or sprinting means your body can move fast but it can’t generate the amount of force necessary to hoist heavy objects.

Exposing muscles to a variety of lifting velocities enables the body to solve a variety of movement problems.  Using our examples above, a spirinter who lifts weights will take a body that can already generate force quickly and make it be able to generate even more force quickly.

A powerlifter who adds jump training to his or he routine will help improve their rate of force development i.e. they can generate force quicker.

If feeling good, looking good, and keeping a body capable of training for years into your 50s, 60s, and 70s, ensuring that your body trains at a variety of speeds is essential to overall balanced fitness.

Hormonal Impact

We lift weights to build muscle and strong bones.  

“Build” is the key word here.

Depending on the types of lifts you do and how they are structured, your body can be flooded with muscle /tissue building (anabolic) hormones or muscle /tissue degrading (catabolic) hormones, post workout.

The more compound movements like squats, deadlifts, presses, rows, etc involve a lot more muscles than typical isolation movements common in most bodybuilding programs, like curls or leg extensions.  By including these big lifts, you reduce the amount of time you need to workout because your body not only needs more energy in a given unit of time (meaning you burn more calories), but it also shifts the hormonal state of your body into a more muscle building state for hours after you workout.

However, conversely, too many big lifts loaded improperly can leave you feeling flat.  That’s why it’s important to also carefully monitor the intensity of your lifts.  Every session doesn’t have to be maximal.  In my methodology of programming, over a 4 week training cycle loading patterns fluctuate between “static” and “ramping” from week to week.  Static weeks, loads stay the same or relatively lighter.  Ramping weeks weights can increase to sub maximal to maximal in intensity.  During static weeks, athletes get exposure to movements that aren’t incredibly challenging allowing them to work on the correct pattens without taxing the system too much.  Ramping weeks are chances to see where your strength is and so the expectation is to push the loads/intensity.

Considering the biochemical effects of your training is an essential aspect towards being able to train for long period of time and enjoy more healthy living as a result.

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