My guess is you are motivated, are dedicated, and have good intentions in your training pursuits. That is splendid. However, are you tending to what gets you from point A to point B in a straight line or are you roaming aimlessly each training session unsure if your training components are working? If you feel like you’re wandering through a forest, are confused by what to believe, or are using the monkey-see-monkey-do approach, then it’s time to get it all in a (straight) line.
The Curse of Information
You have a ton of information at your disposal: hundreds of thousand Internet sites, thousands of fitness magazines, the always-humorous television infomercials, and the advice given by the local gym freak who normally lacks a formal education. (Looking the part does not mean you know the part.) But all this information can sometimes make following the straight path harder, rather than easier.
What follows is discussion on two critical areas you might be transgressing in yet you’re unaware of it. On the surface many things look appealing. After all, it may look like a rock, feel like a rock, and be thrown like a rock, but it could be a chunk of fossilized elephant dung. So, it’s imperative you don’t engage in a specific exercise or a trendy exercise regimen simply because of popularity. I advise you to search deeper and think below the surface to discover the bottom-line truth of all your training components. Stay vigilant, my friends, and you will avoid wasting your time. It’s time to face the music on two areas that can have a huge impact on your training pursuits.
Mistake #1: Your Training Is Not Supporting Your Fat-Loss Goals
You’re attempting to lose that spare tire at your mid-section or that flabby junk in your trunk. The first thing that pops into your head is, “I’ve got to do more steady-state cardio.” I loathe that term. Heck, I’m doing steady-state cardio as I sit here hammering on a keyboard. I am inhaling oxygen, my heart is beating, enriched blood is being sent throughout my body, and I am remaining alive. That is the essence of the cardio-respiratory system. However, sitting on my tush and moving my fingers over a keyboard burns very few calories above the baseline basal metabolic rate.
Here’s a suggestion. Don’t think of attacking your fat stores as a cardio thing. Think of it as, “What high-demand activity can I do to maximize energy expenditure above my basal caloric needs?” Going for a three-mile run or plodding away for 45 minutes on an exercise machine is better than nothing, but is it optimal for your fat loss goal? It absolutely is not.
The high-demand and maximal energy expenditure mentality should supersede the “cardio” approach. Remember, higher-demand activities burn more calories per capita as compared to lower-demand, lengthy activities such as conventional steady-state cardio. The greater the activity demand, the greater number of calories used. The greater number of calories used, the better you chance of expunging body fat. This approach increases the size of your toolbox.
- You can change that three-mile steady-state run into a Fartlek workout.
- You can slice those three miles in half and do 12 x 200 meter/220 yard intervals.
- Add high intensity circuit training to your program.
- How about interval training using multiple bouts of :45 hard effort followed by a :20 downtime?
- And don’t forget strength training. It builds metabolically active tissue, gives you shape, lowers your risk of injury, and can be used in circuit training programs
Working longer and slower is a step backward. You’re using a smaller percentage of your total muscle fibers (mostly the slower-to-fatigue type – the reason you can go for a long period), it does not maintain or build muscle mass and shape, and it’s simply a poor choice for optimal fat loss.
Mistake #2: You’ve Gone Ballistic
With this mistake, you’re attempting to improve your explosive power solely with ballistic efforts. Ballistic in this case refers to excessive speed, rate of change of speed, and momentum. For example, many of you go to the gym and, literally, throw resistances and other objects at relative high velocity and momentum. If that is your sport or event – and you’re practicing and replicating competition-specific requirements – it’s justified. However, if that’s all you do, then you’re selling yourself short. You shouldn’t neglect one critical component of improving explosive power. I’m talking about increasing the force factor through proper strength training.
You may recall a power expression is a byproduct of these components:
- Muscle force
- A given distance the force is applied through
- An amount of time the force is applied
There are various combinations here, the optimal combo being increasing force and velocity while decreasing the time. Power is improved when one or two of the components are enhanced, while the other one or two remain constant.
To improve the distance and time components you must practice the skill requirements (which often involves throwing, yanking, heaving). Technique, timing, and efficient force output should be the focus. To improve the force component you need to strength train properly. This means use greater tension-producing sets with heavier and slower-moving resistances. Heavier does necessarily mean extreme as in a one- to four-repetition maximum. But if a resistance can be moved too fast, then it needs to be controlled to minimize velocity and momentum. This is the safest and most efficient means of recruiting and overloading the greatest amount of contracting muscle fibers provided you train to, or very near to, volitional muscular fatigue. I’ve mentioned it before, but it’s worth reviewing Henneman’s Size Principle of muscle tissue activation.
It makes complete sense. Train the larger, greater force-producing fibers with protocols that are independent of any skill display or precise replication of the skill. You’ll better develop your strength and consequent force application potential. The distance and time components can be refined when you need to practice throwing and heaving resistances and objects.
These were just two examples of mistakes trainees make that can short-circuit desired results. Other examples exist, so assure your training efforts and methods parallel your goals. Take time to study the proven science as opposed to blindly jumping on the bandwagon. This will facilitate safer, more sensible, and productive training.
1. Gordon, T., Thomas C., Munson J., and Stein, R., “The resilience of the size principle in the organization of motor unit properties in normal and re-innervated adult skeletal muscles.” Canadian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology, 2004, 82 (8-9):645-61.
2. Carpinelli, RN., “The Size Principle and a Critical Analysis of the Unsubstantiated Heavier-Is-Better Recommendation for Resistance Training.” Journal of Exercise Science & Fitness, 2008, 6:2.
Photos 1 & 2 courtesy of Shutterstock.
Photo 3 courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.