Finding ways to maximize the effects of our workouts/training can be a mystery to some, especially if one has not experienced professional training like an athlete would.
Having been through my own phase of trial-and-error, I was enlightened to come across a set of well-established principles that I found to be rather applicable to some of the workouts and training I have been doing for years. These training principles are largely based on studies done to analyze the effects of exercise on the human body, and the results have been proven to be beneficial in improving one’s performance and fitness level.
When the body or parts of it are exercised or actively stressed in a particular manner, the body will get accustomed to those stresses through repeated exposure. As a result, a particular exercise or training programme you have been doing becomes easier to execute. This explains why you will experience soreness in your muscles at the beginning of a new routine, and gradually after some time of engaging in the same exercise, you will feel it becomes less of a challenge.
This reinforces the need for you to vary your workouts, i.e. Frequency, Intensity, Time and Type (FITT) to constantly improve.
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To cause an improvement in your fitness level or performance, your body or muscles must be exercised at a level beyond which it is accustomed to bring about a desired change. For example, if your goal is to increase your lower body strength, you should lift progressively heavier weight loads in lower body exercises until you reach your goal. This ties in with the next principle of progressive overload.
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#3 Progressive Overload
Keeping to a steady and gradual increase in the intensity or repetition of your workouts should be prioritized to ensure safety at all times. Give yourself time to improve your strength and endurance and always focus on your form to reduce the risk of sustaining injuries.
The beneficial effects of exercise are reversible (a.k.a. de-training), in which your body reverts back to the pre-training state once you stop training. This phenomenon affects amateurs and elites alike; don’t be surprised if your “six packs” become united when you continuously miss your workouts over an extended period of time.
“Consistency and discipline is key to maintaining your desired level of fitness.”
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Training adaptations are highly specific to the type of activity, volume, and intensity of the exercise performed. To cause favourable adaptations, your training must use the specific movements, systems an,d muscle tissues that you would like to enhance to cater to the specific demands of your race or sports. For example, if you are training for a marathon, the best way to prepare yourself would be to engage in long distance running to train your body for what it would be experiencing on the actual race day.
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Ample rest and nutrition between exercises and workouts are important during the recovery stage. In fact, one’s ability to recover from a workout is just as important as the workout itself. This principle applies to the time between exercises in a training routine, as well as the extended period between each training after completing your workouts.
The essential components of recovery include:
1) Sleep – to promote muscle repair and recovery and to recharge your “battery” (a.k.a. Central Nervous System) so that you can go harder during your next workout. In addition, long hours of sleep is not as critical as high quality sleep, and this can be optimized through healthy pre-sleep routine and adjusting your sleep environment accordingly.
2) Proper nutrition – to replenish your body with adequate amounts of water and food that contains the necessary nutrients to enhance muscle repair and recovery, such as carbohydrates and proteins (refer to tinyurl.com/workoutnutritionguide for the ultimate guide)
It is beneficial to vary the intensity, duration, and volume of your workouts to yield more consistent gains in your fitness level and overall performance. For the sports people, this usually includes a series of conditioning routines, followed by intensive sport-specific workout and off-season maintenance after the important competitions. For the rest of us, variation helps to break the monotony of repetitive exercises that can cause boredom and loss of motivation. You can do this by engaging in some cross-training, changing the environment, and basically trying out different activities that helps to improve your level of fitness.
No two individuals are ever the same, and this means that we are fundamentally different in consideration of the various aspects – age, gender, rate of progress, prior experience and genetics. Hence, training should be adjusted according to one’s needs and the characteristics stated above. Each person also has his or her own set of strengths and weaknesses, giving rise to different responses to the same training. The best workout should always be one that is catered to your personal goals and abilities, and a good way to assess your current level of fitness is to perform a series of related tests, then set a target to improve it and work towards achieving it.
Do take note that these principles serve only as a guideline for your workouts and training, and you should interpret them collectively and apply them with flexibility. Hopefully, this gives you a good holistic overview of the theoretical aspects in your workout regime.
Good luck with your fitness goals, and feel free to share your experiences with us.