Tips To Maximize Workout Efficiency, Effectiveness, and Safety
If you're going to commit to an exercise program you should want to get the most out of it. In order to do that it’s important to develop a deeper understanding of what we’re trying to actually accomplish during a training session.
The following are basic considerations that are helpful to learn and that you should strive to master over time. It’s important to note these guidelines have enabled me to not only keep my strength over the past 18 years but also remain injury free.
1. In a general sense, what is the objective of our workout?
The objective of our workout is to strengthen the entire body. This includes our muscles, tendons, bones, heart, circulatory system, brain…even digestive system.
2. Specifically, what does a our workout emphasize?
We want our workout to be as efficient as possible, but we also want it to be as as safe as possible with regards to our joints.
There are many different mechanisms for strengthening the body but we want to focus on something called “Inroading”
Inroading is the process of momentarily fatiguing a muscle deep enough (momentary muscle failure or MMF) that a strengthening and growth mechanism is turned on.
With adequate rest and nutrition, your body will respond with a strength adaptation.
4. Basic Terminology:
Positive movement: Lifting, pushing, or pulling that corresponds to contracting the targeted muscle(s). When using a machine the weight stack rises during the positive movement.
Negative movement: The opposite movement that corresponds to the lengthening of the targeted muscle(s).When using a machine the weight stack lowers during the negative movement.
Lower turnaround: Transitioning from the negative movement to the positive movement as your are beginning a new repetition.
Upper turnaround: Transitioning from the positive movement to the negative movement.
5. Your Exercise Objective
Your objective is to thoroughly inroad (exhaust) the targeted muscle(s) by doing repetitions of an exercise until the positive movement is no longer physically possible.*
To guarantee a thorough inroad try to keep exerting force for a few seconds after the positive movement has stopped.**
*Inroading is fatiguing of the muscle which can also be accomplished with static holds (like a wall sit) and timed static contractions (like hip abduction with a belt).
**For safety purposes, certain exercises (like the Medx low back) will not use this technique.
6. Strength Training Form
a. Good form is more productive and keeps you safe.
b. The most important phase of a repetition is the lower turn around. Transition slowly without bouncing, heaving, or jerking.
c. Try not to rest between repetitions. Strive to keep an even tension in the muscle(s) throughout the full range of exercise movement.
The goal is to fatigue the muscles as efficiently and safely as possible — resting between repetitions just delays the process and makes for uneven movements. Pay particular attention to upper turnarounds of the leg press (legs near full extension), pulldown (arms near full extension), bicep curl, and tricep extension.
d. For practical purposes repetition speed should be chosen before beginning an exercise and range between 3 and 10 seconds per movement phase. Again, the goal is to try to maintain a constant tension in the muscle to expedite fatigue without using excessive momentum.
e. Maintain your head in a neutral position.
f. Try to minimize momentum and keep and even pace. Be aware the urge to jerk, heave, speed up or otherwise introduce bad form increases with fatigue and exertion discomfort in the muscle. Focus. A good rule of thumb is the slower, the better.
g. Maintain stoicism. Try not to grimace, clench teeth, moan, or be overly dramatic. Relax your face and focus on constant airflow in and out of your mouth as intensity increases. Keep your mouth slightly open and jaw relaxed.
h. Strive to ACCEPT the exertion discomfort. It is normal for your muscles to burn, heart to race, and breathing to become frantic. Pause exercise if you become light headed, faint, nauseous, or feel a headache coming on. Continue exercise session only if these sensations pass.
i. Differentiate between exertion discomfort and pain. Any sign of joint pain or otherwise unfamiliar pain immediately (and safely) stop the exercise.
7. Why Do We Train To Momentary Muscle Failure (MMF)?
a. It sends a message to the body that it needs to adapt and grow stronger because if it’s ever faced with this effort again…which it will be during your next exercise session…then it needs to be better prepared (stronger) to handle it.
b. It makes for more accurate record keeping. It shows what you are capable of and allows us to adjust the exercise (resistance) as necessary to continue your progress.
8. Training to MMF Is Inherently Safe.
With strict form, the more fatigued and closer to failure you get, the safer the exercise becomes. It takes a certain amount of force to create an injury and as you fatigue throughout an exercise your ability to produce force goes down thereby making the exercise safer.
I hope you now have a better understanding of what we do here at Strength Clinic. As you can see, there are many moving parts to a successful workout. To get the most out of your training it is important to view each session as an opportunity to improve both your form and performance.
It’s worth noting that the concepts discussed here apply to any strengthening exercise, whether you are using free weights, machines, exercise bands or even your own body weight for resistance.
Safely inroading the muscles is how we strengthen our bodies!