It can be very hard to hold yourself back when you feel like you could do more….when you have done more before.
But just because you CAN do something, just because you’ve even done it in the past, doesn’t mean your body is ready to handle it right now.
For instance, I was gym-less for about a month and, on top of that, I’d been focusing on breathing squats and upping my weights with that. I hadn’t done any type of deadlift but supplemental single leg deadlifts for numerous months.
While I’d been working on leg and glute strength, I hadn’t done any conventional deadlifts for a very long time.
So yesterday when I decided to do conventional barbell deadlifts for the first time in many months, I knew I had to take my time and start with less weight than I wanted.
Even when the weight felt easy, I knew I had to take things slowly.
Because while my muscles may have been strong enough and I had even lifted double the weight I was using for double the reps, it really won’t benefit me to just drastic increase the weight after not having done much weight or even that specific movement for a few months.
My body needed time to readjust to the movement. (Plus what would be the point of making myself so sore I threw off my other workouts that week and then couldn’t go harder the next week?!?)
And I considered all of this and chose to use lighter weight even though I’d been doing heavy lifts so my connective tissue was prepared to handle heavy loads.
I took it slow. Because there is no point to push too far too fast.
So just imagine if you hadn’t ever lifted before and you jumped straight into heavy weight.
While your muscles may be able to lift the weight, your body, your connective tissues, may not be ready to handle the load.
And pushing too far too fast will only lead to injury.
So why not take it slow and be able to build up with no setbacks!?!
Is being able to think you are gnarly cause you lifted a ton on your first attempt really worth it?
Or is it more worth it to remain injury free and end up being able to lift even heavier weights in the long run?
I think lifting more weight in the long run and remaining injury free is worth the wait. I think it is worth taking things slowly and not giving into pride.
But maybe that is just me…..
Next time you feel the urge to do more, think about why you really want to do more.
Is it because of pride? Is it because you don’t feel tired enough right then and there and have to “feel” like you did enough?
Is it because you are more focused on being sore than on progression?
Because the thing is…Small incremental changes over time will lead to bigger and better LASTING RESULTS.
Do you find you struggle with being patient and taking things slow?
We love variety. We love coming in and doing something new each and every day.
But if you have specific goals, like doing an unassisted pull up, you can’t simply do something new each and every day.
Actually if you want to reach your goals, you need to repeat workouts…over…and over…and over again.
And then you need to progress your current workouts.
You are not reinventing the wheel each and every workout, each and every week.
You are simply constantly building on your past and current routines to progress and get stronger to reach your goal.
How can you progress your workouts if they are constantly changing?
The simple answer is…You can’t.
You can’t easily track whether or not you are moving forward. And whether or not you are getting results, you won’t know what is and isn’t working.
And if you don’t know what is and isn’t working, you don’t know what to change when you plateau or your results slow.
So how often do you change up your workouts? And how do you build from progression to progression?
Below are some great tips and guidelines to help you create a great progression.
1. Change up your workouts every 3-6 weeks. You need to spend at least 3 weeks on a progression to get results from the workouts. The first week you will learn the moves and become comfortable with them. The next week you will add weight and the third week you will be able to really push yourself to the max with them. You may find that you can get just a little more out of them if you do a fourth and final week or you may be ready for a recovery week. I’ve found that the maximum amount of time you can repeat the same workouts without plateauing is 6 weeks. Longer than that and you start to get bored or overtrain or plateau. Go no longer than 6 weeks without a recovery week and changing up your workouts.
2. Progress the exercises and weights. There are progressions/regressions for every exercise. Think about the push up for instance. Never been able to do one? Start against the wall. Then do one from a lower incline with your hands up on a bench…maybe even on your knees. Then maybe a super low incline from your toes. Then maybe from your knees on the ground. And finally from your toes on the ground. You can even progress the move further and do a decline push up. The point is, you start with one move, master it and then move on to the next level the next progression. You can also make moves more challenging by adding weights. Heavier weights make moves harder. But going heavier or lighter isn’t the only way to use weights to change up the exercise. You can also vary exercises by where you hold the weight and the type of weight you use. A kettlebell deadlift is different that a barbell deadlift or a suitcase deadlift. A front squat is different than a sandbag shouldered squat or a barbell back squat. They all challenge the body in different ways because of where you hold the weight and the type of weight used.
3. Change up your workout design. You can change up the number of reps and sets you do to challenge your body in a new way. Working toward a one rep max? Then slowly lower your weights down as you progress. Looking to get stronger, feel better and create some body composition changes? You may want to mix up your workouts and add in some density sets. You can vary the reps and sets to help you achieve different results. If you are working on maximal strength, your workouts shouldn’t look exactly the same as someone focused on weight loss. If you are focused on doing an unassisted pull up, your workouts won’t look the same as someone working on a pistol squat or training for a race. You workout design should match your goals.
4. Change your supplemental lifts to address your weak points. As you progress, you will find that different body parts are the weakest links. Address those weak links with supplemental exercises. If you want to do more push ups and your triceps are weak, add in some dips or some close grip push ups. Shoulders weak? Then add in some overhead presses and maybe some handstand holds. Make sure to add in lifts to help you progress toward your goal and address your weakest links. Those supplemental lifts should change even if your goal stays the same for a progression or two. These different lifts will help work those weak links in different ways to make them stronger and can address any new areas of weakness.
5. Consider what your week looks like OUTSIDE of working out and plan around it. If you plan out your workouts ahead of time, you can plan certain workouts to go on certain days. Know you are alway busy Monday and really only have 30 minutes to workout? Plan your short workout for that day. Know that you hate going to the gym on the weekends when you are home but want to get in a workout? Plan a home recovery workout for that day or any other workout you can do from home. Consider your schedule and match your workouts to your schedule. It will make your workouts easier to stick to and therefore keep you more consistent. A huge part of progressing is consistency!
6. Focus on one goal each progression. Often we have lots of different goals we want to accomplish, but we can’t address all of them at once. Sometimes we can address two at once if they somewhat overlap (like doing more push ups or pull ups can easily be compatible with the goal of losing weight). However, you must stay FOCUSED on one or two things with each progression. Focus your progression with only a goal or two in mind so that everything you are doing will benefit those goals. When you spread yourself to thin and try to do too many things at once, nothing will end up getting accomplished.
7. Address injuries first. Know your injuries and address when and how you are going to rehab them. This may mean focusing on a different goal and only doing rehab for the injured area during a progression. It may mean adding in rehab/prehab to workouts as part of the warm up. Or it may mean setting aside stretching/trigger point days to address your imbalances. If you don’t address injuries first, you aren’t going to get stronger and you may cause issues in other parts of your body. If you don’t address an ankle injury and just keep pushing through your knee, hip, back may all end up with issues. Your progression should go mobility, stability THEN strength/cardio. If you aren’t mobile and have a good base, you aren’t really going to get the most out of your workouts!
8. Vary the intensity of your workouts. Each and every workout shouldn’t be the hardest thing you’ve ever done. With pre-planning your progression, you are able to plan so that you aren’t destroying the same muscles over and over again and pushing your body toward injury. You can plan so that your body has ample time to recover before those muscles are worked again. If you do a hinge day and a squat day, make sure that your body has time to rest in between. Don’t put those workouts back to back. And make sure your legs are worked in different ways during each workout. Also add in a super intense metabolic workout and maybe one where you work at 70%. Make one upper body day killer and maybe the other is more stability and mobility focused. Varying the intensity and having some “easier” days can actually help you get closer to your goal than 5-6 days of super intense workouts.
9. Consider the space and equipment available. This one seems obvious but often we actually forget about all the tools we have at hand…like our own bodyweight, which is super important to remember if we want to work out 4 times a week, but just can’t make it to the gym more than 2. Once you look at your schedule, you can plan out when and WHERE you will do the workouts. Maybe you can only get to the gym twice a week, but you find you can workout two times at home. Then consider all the tools you have at home. Utilize the space and equipment you have and don’t be afraid to mix it up. Not all workouts have to occur in the gym with machines or free weights or barbells.
10. Track what you do and progress each week. A progression helps you succeed because it is pre-planned but more importantly because it allows you to easily track your progress. Write down your weights, reps, sets. Track every variable that isn’t set in stone. Say you state you are going to do 8-12 reps. Track the weight you use for those reps and how many you manage to do with that weight. Then the next week work to beat that. Tracking allows us to know EXACTLY where we are so we know EXACTLY what we have to do to progress the workout the next week!
Do you repeat workouts? Do you make them up when you get to the gym or do you have a pre-planned progression?
How long before you change up your routine?
The other day I went to a health fair as one of the vendors and a woman from a massage and chiropractor office came over to me and started talking to me about training.
She told me one of her massage therapists was super into Crossfit and that they got a TON of business from there. She said to me, “Oh you know how it is with all that super intense exercise….So many people get injuries, but it is worth it.”
I’m honestly not sure what I said in response because all I could think was, “UHMMM…NO…Actually I don’t because people come to me feeling crappy with maybe some aches and pains and my intention is to make them feel BETTER not WORSE.”
And I’m not meaning to bash Crossfit here because, to be honest, there are a lot of idiots out there in the fitness industry in a lot of different capacities. Heck, stupid people training themselves injury themselves. But with the popularity of Crossfit increasing, there are going to be more and more idiot trainers flocking to it. It’s that way with anything that becomes popular.
Anyway….My point is that WORKOUTS SHOULDN’T MAKE YOU FEEL WORSE!
I’m not exactly sure when or why a good workout became defined as a workout that murders you. I’m not exactly sure when or why it became cool to be injured.
But let me assure you…It isn’t.
And five years down the road, when other injuries have popped up because you didn’t properly rehab your “cool” injury, you won’t be thinking that pushing through the pain was all that darn awesome.
Workouts can be GOOD and even hard without leading to injury or making you feel like death every time after you finish.
Every workout doesn’t have to feel like a slaughter.
Actually every workout SHOULDN’T feel that way if you are truly interested in getting results.
Just because someone else, who you think you should be lifting as much as, is lifting a certain weight doesn’t mean YOU are ready to lift it.
YOU CAN’T RUSH THINGS OR COMPARE YOURSELF TO OTHERS! Workouts are a BUILDING process. And that progress isn’t going to be a straight line up!
And if you don’t respect the process, you are going to get injured and workouts aren’t going to make you feel better like they should!!!
A couple of months ago, I had this new guy join my latest evening class.
One of the first exercises we did was a single leg deadlift. Because he hadn’t done the move before and hadn’t done much balance or core work recently, he had to use very light weights.
At the end of the workout, he comes up to me a little downtrodden and says, “I was doing way less weight than some of the people I know I should be doing more than.”
I said to him, “Why should you be doing more than them?” I, of course, knew he meant he should be doing more than them because they were older than him and female and he thought as a younger man he should have more strength than them. And he is, in fact, “stronger” than them in that he probably has more natural brut strength.
But when he stated what I mentioned above I said, “But they have done this before AND they have BUILT UP TO IT! Their bodies are ready to handle the load while doing the movement.”
He then said to me, “Well if I held the weight this way or did a double leg move, I could do more.”
I then said, “But this move builds up all the small muscles so that you can lift even MORE when we progress to those bigger, heavier lifts. Plus just because you can lift it, doesn’t really mean your body is ready to.”
He didn’t seem completed convinced. But he has been putting in the work and remained patient.
And guess what? The workouts have been making him feel BETTER and STRONGER every single day.
He just had to stop worrying about what other people were doing or the weight his was doing.
He had to focus on HIS GOALS.
So if your workouts aren’t making you FEEL BETTER, are they really worth it?
Are you too caught up in doing gnarly workouts instead of staying focused on what truly matters?
Somewhere deep down inside, we all know that moving more, that exercising more, will make us feel better.
However, many of us are stuck in the Pain/Injury Cycle, which prevents us from every consistently working out.
Many people, at one point or another, attempt to start a new workout program.
They don’t really know where to start or what to, but they give their workouts 110% effort.
And then they get injured. So they take some time off.
During the time off, the pain does lessen yet they may suffer from other aches and pains. So they again start working out in an attempt to get rid of their pain.
But because they haven’t really improved their movement patterns or rehabbed their injuries, their pain increases and may even lead to further injury.
That in turn leads to them quitting their exercise program yet again and leads to continued chronic pain.
This cycle of pain and injury is why it is hard for many people to even get started on a healthy lifestyle program.
Most of us don’t like doing things that are uncomfortable. Most of us doing like being in pain.
Actually most of us will do a lot to ever avoid suffering pain, which unfortunately can cause us to never truly feel good.
So how do you get started when you are suffering from pain and exercise just seems to cause more pain?
YOU LEARN TO MOVE WELL!
Don’t worry about lifting a ton of weight. Don’t worry about doing crazy cool stuff.
Deal with the pain first!
Start with the boring tedious stuff that everyone wants to avoid.
Start with the foam rolling. With the stretching. With the activation moves. With the strengthening moves.
THEN learn to move correctly before you worry about adding weight or doing brutal workouts.
If we try to run before we can walk, we may be able to run for a bit but we are probably not going to be running for long because our body doesn’t truly know how to run. So it will get injured.
BE PATIENT. Allow your body to grow and to learn.
Don’t skip those first ESSENTIAL steps. No, that first rehab/prehab stuff isn’t glamorous, but it is essential if you want to run and run without pain.
It is essential if you want to stop that pain cycle from repeating itself over and over again.
I know we all want to just jump right in and use all the cool equipment and do all the crazy “badass” workout moves so we can post our gnarly workouts on Facebook, but if you want to MOVE BETTER AND FEEL BETTER, if you want to make working out a way of life, you’ve got to EARN those moves.
Start with the basics. Learn to move well and you will earn the fun stuff! Plus you will break the pain cycle and really start feeling good!
Here are a few posts about EARNING your exercises and progressing your workouts. Plus if you want some great stretches, foam rolling and activation moves, check out Redefining Strength!
We’ve been discussing core values at our gym, Innovative Results, in Costa Mesa and one of the core values that has really stood out for me these last few weeks is “Back to Basics.”
There are so many FADS out there, telling you they have the “quick and easy” solution.
Of course when I see “quick and easy” associated with a diet and/or exercise program, I laugh and ignore it (unless of course I want something to rant about…).
Because there really is no quick and easy solution. Hard work is involved!
BUT if you stick to the basics, I will guarantee you will actually get the results you seek.
But what does sticking to the basics really mean?
Does it mean only traditional moves like the deadlift, squat and bench press? Or does it mean battling ropes, foam rolling and corrective exercise? Does it mean only doing 3 simple exercises for the rest of your life or is variety key?
Or is everything I listed above correct?
For me sticking to the basics means these four key things:
- Compound exercises that use muscles in an integrated fashion and work the major muscle groups.
- Moves that are functional aka training that helps us move better in day-to-day life.
- Preventing injuries by correcting imbalances and developing STRENGTH.
- Creating a PROGRESSION with well-considered variables.
So for me sticking to the basics doesn’t mean SIMPLE, it means well thought out and EFFICIENT.
It means not doing the freaking leg extension machine at the gym unless you have a really really really good reason to do it (aka don’t do single muscle group movements).
It means picking out a few KEY COMPOUND EXERCISES for the month that work YOUR BIG MUSCLE GROUPS.
It means STICKING to a ROUTINE and not just throwing in random exercises that you’ve seen in a magazine.
It means correcting problem areas THAT YOU HAVE and not just doing corrective exercises and SMR (foam rolling) on areas that you’ve been told COULD BE problem areas.
Going “Back to Basics” doesn’t have to mean being boring or only doing the same few things day after day.
Honestly, it means creating something measurable. When you just put together random exercises with random weights, repetitions and sets, you aren’t setting yourself up to measure your progress.
If you stick to the basics, you will create a program that will not only allow you to measure you progress but will also probably help you reach your goal faster!
So take a second right now to think about your current exercise program. Can you measure your progress? Are you doing compound movements and working your major muscle groups? Do you stick to a progression for at least a month? Are you correcting YOUR imbalances?
If you answered no to some of the questions above, maybe it’s time you got BACK TO THE BASICS!
P.S. Getting back to the basics most definitely also applies to diet. Just think, “WHOLE NATURAL FOODS!” This will definitely be a focus of mine after four days traveling and eating all of the goodies that St. Louis and Bloomington have to offer! 🙂