After years in the industry, I’ve noticed many of us learned how to train by reading magazines or watching videos online. Maybe you just joined your friend in the gym and started following their program.
And it worked for a while…
Until it didn’t.
That’s how I got started as a teenager. I’d receive the latest edition of Men’s Fitness delivered to my doorstep and devour the workouts inside.
Unfortunately the promise of “Get 'The Rock’s' Body in 6 Weeks!” never came true.
Those magazines, videos and your friend's gym sessions were all simple exercises, put together to look pretty, but had no real long-term strategy. They didn’t follow the principles of strength training.
There is a subtle yet enormous difference between exercise and training.
Exercise: you go to the gym, do some leg stuff, a bit of arms, maybe some bench press and then call it a day.
Training: you step into the gym and execute a plan which obeys the principles of strength training to provide the results you're after.
I’d like to share with you how you can make sure you’re TRAINING, instead of just EXERCISING, and make the most of your time, energy and effort.
Principle 1: Progressive Overload
“The Story of Milo”
Milo is a famous wrestler from the 6th century. He’s known for lifting a baby calf every day until eventually, it became a fully-grown bull. Doing this every day, in turn, increased Milo’s muscle mass and strength.
As the calf grew is size, the weight (load) he had to pick up increased. This is the most foundational aspect of strength training; each session progressively overloading the stimulus on the body so it adapts to become bigger, faster, fitter and stronger.
If he’d just always picked up a baby calf every day he would have never gotten any stronger. There would be no reason for the body to change.
You don’t always have to progress by increasing the weight. You can:
Do more reps
Do more sets
Use better form
Use shorter rest periods
Train more often
But if you don’t challenge yourself, record your results and always try to do a little more NOTHING is going to change. Please don’t waste your efforts.
Principle 2: Specificity
“An Elite Marathon Runner Probably Wouldn’t
Be Elite At Rugby”
The things you do during training cause specific adaptations to occur in the body.
By running a lot, you’d improve your heart and lung capacity, increase mitochondria in the muscle and increase the endurance of your Type I muscle fibres. But none of that is going to help you in a rugby scrum or when a 120kg prop is charging at you.
You adapt to the things you do most, so it’s vital to pick exercises which are transferring to the end results you’re after.
Principle 3: Individualisation
“You're A Snowflake”
No two people are the same and everyone will respond differently to a training stimulus. Things like age, training history, injuries, lifestyle and genetics all impact what a person should be doing. Although there will be similarities between programs as the basics are proven to work...
No two people’s programs should be exactly the same.
A personal addition to this principle I use with clients is ‘The Two C’s’.
Comfort: The movement is pain-free, feels natural, works for your body type.
Control: You’re able to execute the technique with control and get into the right body positions. You can actually feel the targeted muscle working.
Principle 4: Variation
“Even Ice Cream Starts To Taste Bad Eventually”
Ice cream is one of life’s greatest joys. I can smash through one tub fairly easily. Two? Yeah sure. Three? Maybe…
Five tubs of ice cream? I’d begin to hate it.
The same goes for training. Following Principle 1: Progressive Overload, you should be doing similar sessions and working to increase your proficiency in those exercises. But eventually, the body will plateau and needs variation to continue progressing.
It’s the old law of diminishing returns.
It’s common to change up exercises, set and rep schemes, tempo and focus every 4-6 weeks to ensure you don’t plateau (or get bored!)
Principle 5: Reversibility
“If You Don’t Use It, You Lose It”
As simple as the statement, if you stop training your body will fall back to it’s detrained state.
So many people used to be fit when they were younger, then as life gets busier fitness falls off the list of priorities and begins to decline. Five years later they are in all sorts and have lost it all.
It’s a lot easier to maintain than to gain. You can always improve your fitness but gaining it is tough. It requires hard work. It’s a lot easier to maintain your fitness once you get to a point you’re happy with.
There’s more to it than that. I can dive into principles of fat-loss, muscle-building, nutrition and behaviour change, but I think this is enough for one little article.
This is one of the many benefits of working with a personal trainer, such as myself:
I will track every single rep of every single session.
I will always be planning one month ahead and ensure your session is optimised for the long-term goal.
I will carefully balance progressive overload and variation so you don't plateau, always see improvement and never get bored.
I will design a program specifically for you, your goals, your body mechanics, your history and your preferences.
I will keep you accountable so you don't regress (yep, even when you go on holidays).
Of course, the principles of resistance training is one slice of what's included in the personal training pie.
If you'd like to improve your body shape, optimise your results and stop wasting time, effort and energy, please get in touch.