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Have You Gone Too Far?
October 31, 2014
Happy Halloween! Everybody be safe and don't go too crazy on the treats! I know this newsletter is a bit late, but hey, better late than not at all. I debated on making this a two-parter because it is a bit long, but changed my mind in the end. It's good-to-know info about training smarter not harder, so bear with me and read on!
More Is Not Always BetterI remember a billion years ago when I first began strength training like it was yesterday. I was young and my energy levels were over the top! I trained two-three hours a day most days of the week. What can I say? I had been terminally bitten by the fitness bug, and I was obsessed and possessed by a crazy drive to do whatever it took to look my best.
For this I am eternally thankful. I don’t know why some of us love this stuff and others hate it. But I will tell you that I am glad to be one of the “lovers of the burn.” The point of my rant this month is this: Now that I am older and wiser, I realize that I was overtraining all those years ago and I continued to for years. Consequently, I now suffer from overuse issues. From golfers and tennis elbow to wrist and forearm issues, shoulder quirks, knees, lower back, and God only knows what other aches and pains I owe to overtraining on a long-term basis.
WHEN DOES TRAINING BECOME OVERTRAINING? Here’s the dill, pickle. One of the most important fundamental principles of exercise behind training for fitness is the overload principle. In a nutshell: To train any of the body’s systems, such as the cardiopulmonary or musculoskeletal system, we must make it work harder than it is accustomed to working.
WHAT IS OVERTRAINING? While that is all well and good, one must remember that along with all that hard work comes the need for recuperation time. The body must heal and prepare for the next onslaught of overload, before you hit it again with another workout. I mean let’s face it! Workouts are stressful on the body. It’s why we shouldn’t work out when we are sick. The immune system can only take so much!
Not to mention, there can come a point where after a certain amount of time during a workout you have utilized all your stored energy for activity (glycogen) and it becomes counterproductive to continue with intense activity. Better stated: Once you utilize your stored glycogen, your body will then use either protein or fat for energy. Herein lies the controversy! The pros disagree on how and when that happens and which is used…protein or fat? If it uses protein, muscle breakdown can occur, which is essentially when the muscle eats itself to feed itself. I honestly don’t think any of us want that to happen, do we??? Ouch!
SIGNS OF OVERTRAINING
Hence, one should not strength train the same muscle group two days in a row. In fact, you need 48 to 72 hours (two-three days) between the same workout or muscle group in order to recover and be ready to go at it again. Otherwise, you are beating a dead horse and not only wasting time but possibly hurting yourself and being counterproductive.
Here’s why: Strength training results in microscopic tears in the muscles that will only recover when you have rested and given your body the proper nutrients and rest outside of the gym. If you don't spend enough time resting between workouts and eating properly, your body will never make those muscular developments you are striving for, whatever your goals are. Plus, you are setting yourself up for injury.
WHEN TOO MUCH OF A GOOD THING BECOMES A BAD THING
If you are going to strength train two days in a row, you must do different muscle groups or splits daily. In other words, you cannot do total body workouts on consecutive days; every other day is fine. If you want to strength train daily, you will need to choose what muscle splits you are going to do.
Choose your splits wisely. You wouldn’t want to train chest or shoulders one day and triceps the next since triceps assist in most chest and shoulder work. Same goes for biceps and back; biceps assist back exercises. Personally, I feel like shoulders are so involved in chest work that they either need to be done along with chest or a couple of days later to allow recuperation. This is why some people put lower body day in between upper body workouts to ensure plenty of time has passed.
Another detail to consider is how long you are training and at what intensity level? If you are hitting it hard and steady, you should strive to keep your workout under 90 minutes on a regular basis. Now I’m not talking about a lackadaisical gym session full of distractions and wasting time. I am talking about a seriously focused workout session. Strength training alone could take up to 90 minutes according to volume of the workout and rest periods between exercises. I believe you should be able to get a great resistance training workout done in under 60 minutes. This time will vary according to your specific goal and the volume of the workout (muscle group/groups targeted, number of exercises, sets, reps and weights).
WORKOUT FREQUENCY AND DURATION
For purposes of general strength gains to build muscle, lose fat, get toned and anything that improves the way your body looks and performs, two or three times a week per muscle group is ideal.
For general fitness, two to three sets per exercise, doing two to four exercises per muscle group should be sufficient. Of course the beginner should start out with single sets, doing one exercise per muscle group two to three times per week. After a couple of weeks or so you can begin to progress to more exercises and multiple sets.
If you are doing 16-20 or more sets per muscle group on an ongoing basis, especially if you’re doing more than one muscle group per workout, you are begging for overuse issues, and you are very most likely overtraining. Following that workout with 45 minutes to an hour of intense cardio or vice versa is adding insult to injury, literally. While the guidelines of lifting are definitely goal-specific, let’s be clear on this: Once in a while for a monster workout like that is okay, but on a regular basis it is definitely overkill to the max!
For general fitness, you could just do total body twice a week or every other day. I believe you should take one day completely off! Your body will thank you for it and you deserve it! If you want to do cardio and strength train both on the same day, you may split your time between them; however, if you do I suggest doing strength training first. This will augment the fat burning process during your cardio and allows your best glycogen to be utilized for the strength training. If you are doing 45-60 minutes of intense cardio on the same day as an intense hour-long strength training session, I would suggest you put a few hours between them if possible in order for your system to recuperate a bit. For example, you could do cardio first thing in the morning and strength train later in the day or vice versa. Or better yet, just do them on separate days. Take it from me, two to three hour-long, intense workouts on a regular basis for general fitness is overtraining and will end up doing more harm than good in the long run.
Key points to remember:
In the end, it’s all a big fat experiment and you are the guinea pig, my friend. Follow safe guidelines as I’ve suggested above and experiment to find out what works best for you! Have fun! For more information on safe and effective training check out Straightforwardfitness.com
For more tips and info that can help you get better results from your fitness plan, be sure and check out my latest eBook So You Joined a Gym...Now What? Part II Essential Workout Tips & Secrets for Beginners: How to Exercise & Train Smart." The information in this book will kick your workouts into overdrive, no matter what your level of fitness. Because it matters HOW YOU WORKOUT! This book will show you how. Go to Smashwords for any other format that isn't covered at Amazon.
EXERCISE OF THE MONTH
Due to Halloween and all, I thought it would be appropriate to talk about one of the scariest things that happens to our bodies as we age and give an exercise that will help fight this ferocious phenomenon of aging. What am I talking about? THE DREADED DROP-BUTT SYNDROME! The best way to fight this evil curse is to build the muscle underneath your bootie. Of course you'll need to eat smart and keep up the cardio too! So here is a favorite routine of mine to make your butts perk up and pay attention in no time! Be warned, this little routine is not for sissies! It's the bridge exercise on steroids. Try it and see what I mean!
Primary Muscle Group Worked: Glutes and upper legs
To see a video of this exercise click here.
Preparation: Lay on the floor in the supine (face up) position. Place your feet on top of the Swiss ball with legs almost straight (knees slightly bent). Watch the video for the positioning throughout the routine. The pic above is actually start and finish of Movement 3 of this routine.
Movement 1: Keeping your knees locked in a slightly bent position, raise your hips so that your body is in a straight line, pause and squeeze your butt and slowly return to the start position. Do not allow the butt to touch the floor between reps. Repeat for 10 reps. But wait! No rest for the weary! You have to go right into the next phase...
Movement 2: Immediately move into the second phase of the triple threat. For this you will pull the ball slightly towards your body by bending the knees and repeat the same move as in the first phase, raising the hips, pausing and squeezing the butt at the top whilst keeping the knees bent throughout. Do 10 in this position. But wait again! Still no rest for the weary! You have to go right into the last phase...
Movement 3: Finally, you will finish with the third phase of the triple threat. To do this you will bring the ball as close to the body as possible. At this point you will raise the hips as high as you can, pause and squeeze at the top and repeat for 10 more.
TIPS: Remember to not let the butt touch the floor between reps. Press arms into floor for leverage and balance as shown. You should be able to transition from position to position smoothly, sliding the ball towards you by bringing your feet closer to your butt for each phase. You may have to adjust foot position during exercise to keep the ball in best position for that movement. Practice makes perfect!
THE PONDER POND
Okay, peeps! You know I usually like to make you think, cry, or laugh with these vids, right? Staying in theme, here are some good scares! Enjoy! :) Click here to view.
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Thanks so much for subscribing to this newsletter and for reading it and for your support. Our relationship is reciprocal as I live and learn from all that happens in my life, just as you live and learn through yours. We are truly in this together, and I empathize with your challenges as I do my own. I promise to hang in there and learn and grow along with you, and I hope that sharing through my writing maybe helps you a smidge. If it does, that is my payback. It is why I continue to do what I do.
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From my heart to your health,
Linda Burke, CPT
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