This fortnight's thoughts
Here are some random thoughts which crossed my mind this previous fortnight. They deserved fleshing out, but didn't qualify for an entire webpage and a notification email to all my loyal followers (love you guys!). So, I mashed them all together into one big word vomit for you to sift through. I hope you find something useful!
Personal trainers are like demolition experts
Personal trainers are like demolition experts for the body. While one works with explosives to break down a building, the other uses the forces of movements to break down the body (which then builds itself back up). Now it's not particularly hard to break things down: give any human enough dynamite and he could level a building/give any human enough exercises and they will feel tired. The real expertise comes from applying the forces in the most efficient way. Just as a demolition expert would place charges in targeted weak spots on the building, a personal trainer has specific targets to hit which get the job done with less risk and a better outcome.
Good trainers will look to create as much growth as possible by applying loads of force where we know the body can take it, while using as little unnecessary force as possible on the vulnerable parts (yes, I'm talking about the lower back). Think of personal training as creating the largest possible explosion in the body to ensure the emergency crews come to help fix it up, without damaging the surrounding structures. I don't know if aiming to make the biggest explosion possible would make you a good demolition expert or not, but it sure would make you a cool one.
30 second tips to avoid injuries while working out
Progressively increase load
Most injuries occur when people take on more than they can handle, causing a break down in form or overload of the structures.
Or think of it this way: you have to earn your right to train hard. Elite marathon runners don't start by running marathons, they work their way up.
Follow the principle of progressive overload and slowly increase your exercise tolerance to make sure your body can handle what you're throwing at it. That means an increase in no more than 10% of load (running time, reps, weight, speed etc.) per week, changing one variable at a time and listening to how your body feels afterwards.
ALWAYS keep track of how much you're doing so you're applying this principle effectively and not just going off your ego.
Never skip rest day bro! - Recover as hard as you train. As I mentioned before, the reason we exercise is to break down our body because it builds itself up stronger than before. Working out is only worth it if you recover sufficiently afterwards, otherwise you're just bombing a building and leaving the rubble.
In short that means rest, nutrition and sleep are just as important as the exercise itself. Just listen to your body, and remember, you can adjust how much exercise you do based on how you're feeling - doing less exercise can actually be the fastest way to get fitter if it means you can work harder next time! Change it up - but not too much.
Your body adjusts to the specific demands placed on it by exercise (See: the S.A.I.D principle), which basically means if you squat every week you will get better at squats, but not always at the same rate. The improvement happens quickly at first as the stimulus is completely new, but after a while of applying the same stimulus (4-8 weeks usually) the body is better adapted to deal with the forces so the improvement starts to get smaller. Changing up which exercises you do or how you do them will help you achieve your goals faster. However, changing things up too much can mean lots of new techniques to master - which is the prime time for form break-down and injuries to occur.
The rate of adaptation is how quickly you'll see changes. You can see it starts out very fast for beginners, which means you can do almost any workout and see the benefits. While by the time you've been training for a couple years the changes have slowed right down meaning the type and structure of workout you do has more of an effect.
By changing your workouts every 4-8 weeks you allow enough time for your mind to get used to the technique of the movement and the body to make adaptations. Changing things up means you get that speedy rate of adaptation to make your efforts worth it with the added bonus of less risk of injury.
Plus, you'll find it way more interesting when you're not doing bench press for every single workout for an entire year.
Multiple exercises and all-nighters before exams
People who do multiple exercises at once remind me of people who stay up all night studying for an exam the next day: they mean well, but are often just making things harder for themselves.
For example, doing a lunge with an overhead press at the same time means you have to go lighter than you usually could use with both movements, because you have split up your mental focus and have compromised your balance. At best, you get a decent cardio workout, at worst you get a collapsed heap on the floor with a weight on top.
Now that was an extreme example because it used two technique-dependent compound movements, but even isolation movements can be negatively impacted. Try doing calf raises and bicep curls with a decent weight and you'll see what I mean - you simply can't do either of them as efficiently.
Doing multiple exercises at once is often utilised in group "bootcamp" settings with limited time and has the desired effect of hitting as many muscles as possible. For people with low fitness levels and time (like busy fathers), this can be a really good choice. However, if you train at least semi-regularly and like to see improvements, it's usually a better choice to do both movements separately and with a weight that will really challenge your muscles and cause you to grow.
Taken from: "Melt Fat, Build Muscle: Dumbbell Blast Circuit Workout!". *sigh* Doing this would tire me out, no doubt, but I'm not so convinced that it would encourage muscle growth (and it definitely wouldn't "melt fat", whatever the hell that means).
I'm not saying you should never do 2 exercises at once, it's just another tool to put in the toolbox: they can be a good way to mix things up for advanced trainees or to work everything quickly, but they should be used with caution as they double the amount of technique and focus required as well as enforce a reduction in load.
Just like with all-nighters before an exam, some people claim it works fine for them, but everyone I know who tries it seems to be making up for poor life choices earlier and ends up worse off for it. Put in the effort where it counts. Don't tire yourself out for no reason.
Lifting heavy weights doesn't make you bulky
Here is a myth from before I was born: I don't want to lift heavy weights because it will make me bulky.
Not only is that statement not true, but it can also be harmful if it stops people from getting into such a beneficial activity (this myth is especially effective on females). Lifting heavy weights has positive effects for people trying to lose weight or just trying to look their best too. This myth belongs in the past.
Just check out Kate Upton smashing out a set of heavy landmine deadlifts. Now try and tell me lifting heavy weights will make you bulky, I dare you.
In case you are still not convinced, here is a great post by a man who has been in the fitness industry way longer than I have, Bret Contreras, telling it like it is:
No matter what your goal is, you will be better off lifting weights than not lifting.
There you have it. As I said, I had a bunch of smaller thoughts over the past two weeks which could all squeeze together into one big, interesting post. I hope you read something useful or at least were briefly entertained as we whittle away the time until life reopens.