Thursday, December 9, 2010

Too Easy? Crank It Up and 'Do Work'!

I've been asked many times about how to determine when you should increase your weights, number of repetitions, sets, etc. Your body actually has a pretty simple way of telling you when it's time to move up: it gets easy and what was once challenging is no more.

The whole point of training or learning any new skill for that matter is to improve. So, don't be too surprised or bent out of shape when any improvement ceases due to your lack of work and/or effort put forth. To stay exactly how you are, you must maintain the same level of discipline and intensity you have right now. If you're not quite in the state you wish to be in, you have to do more and crank up the intensity. As strength & conditioning coach Robert Dos Remedios, CSCS, says - "Do Work!"

Your body responds in a complex manner when you exercise whether it's weightlifting, swimming, running, cycling, hiking or some other form of exertion. To improve requires more effort than the last time. When you stop, the changes quickly dissipate.

So, how you "do more" when you're already pressed for time and energy? Here are some suggestions on how to increase your effort without having to create extra hours in the day:
  • Increase the intensity - This first one is simple: if what you're doing right now is easy, increase the amount of effort. For example, this may be increasing the weight you're using per set of an exercise or the speed you're running. It's pretty simple math. If you increase any of these variables by 10%, you're doing 10% more work. When that gets easy, increase it again.

  • Decrease the rest interval - If you're pressed for time, decrease the amount of time you rest between sets during weight training or the frequency that you do cardiovascular activities. For example, if you normally lift something that weighs 50 pounds 10 times for 3 sets that takes 1 minute with a 2 minute rest interval, that means you have lifted 1500 pounds in seven minutes. If you decrease the rest time to 90 seconds, that means you have lifted the same amount of weight in just 6 minutes. You have increased effort by 15% in less time.

  • Increase the workload - By increasing the distance you run or bike, you've done more work. A great deal of time is spent getting ready to exercise, showering afterwards and other non-productive activities. The incremental increase in distance is actually a very small percentage of the time you must devote to your total exercise time period. Once you get to a point where you have no more time to add to your training, increase the speed. Now you're doing more work in the same period of time. With weight training, it's even easier - just increase the number of reps. Keep in mind that once you cross the upper boundaries of rep ranges (5-8 for strength, 8-12 for size and tone, 12-15 for endurance), it's time to increase the load.

Remember that your body will only do as much as it has to. If you want to keep improving and see results, you can't let life get too easy. You MUST do more.

Crank it up and 'Do Work!'


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