When To Take It Easy In The Gym

The main thing, that makes any lifting programme unsustainable, is  garbage volume!

Many think that the more they do in the gym, the quicker they will get the results. Probably because we were all told that more is better, that pain is inevitable when it comes to making progressing. Just look at the mantra’s of Rocky in Sylvester Stallone:

“I am not the richest, smartest or most talented person in the world, but I succeed because I keep going and going and going.”

Now of course there is a time and a place for digging deep and working hard. But that time and place is not every single time you step into a gym!

Doing too much needless volume, will lead even the fittest of us to hit a brick wall, which won’t be fixed by doing even more volume. I say this cause I know how it feels to hit that brick-wall of stagnating progress, because so many of my past workouts have been, the most advanced ones I could find. As I mistakenly thought that I was fitter and had more trainability then I did.

The problems with working too hard in the gym?

Firstly, garbage sets come at a cost, as training does cause micro-damage. Training more then is necessary is akin to sunbathing more than is healthy, training and sunbathing are both damaging, when we take it to excess. The difference between training too hard in the gym and sunbathing too much, is that people can’t see how idiotic you’re being when you train too much.

Over time this micro-damage builds up. Leading to us accumulating fatigue, over days and weeks, which is a sign that our bucket of healing resources is being drained.

The Solution:

Results come from the appropriate amount of work, according to current levels of fitness and the right amount of time to allow, ones capacity to recover, enough time to do it’s magic. The balancing act of work and rest, is more an art, then a quantifiable science. 

The Minimalistic Solution

Now exercise by pure definition is stressful, one of my clients calls it good stress. Now there is nothing wrong with dipping into a state of stress. But spending too much time playing around with fire, is a recipe for getting burnt. 

Koch’s 80/20 business Principle, implies that only 20% of the tactics are worth doing. This law also applies to transforming ones body, as we do not have a limitless pool of resources. So why not learn from the best business men and do a few key things very well, rather then everything poorly. Which is why I am a fan of training like a minimalist, by ignoring what I think and listening to the signs my body is telling me: 

3 Signs of Excessive Training
1. When my face starts to tighten up:
In cranial Osteopathy, tension of our jaw muscles is a sign that we have gone into fight or flight mode. Which is why even dentists tell people that stress is what causes us to clench our teeth together at night.  A sign we are lifting too heavy, or forcing an extra rep out, is a contorted face.
2. My breathing becomes shallow and fast, for over 5 minutes:
One of the ways that meditating relaxes us, is that it slows down our breathing rate and encourages deep breathing. Which slows down our sympathetic nervous system. Doing the opposite of that and breathing fast and shallow, places us into the fight or flight state… Shallow breathing when we are lifting, indicates it might be time to call it a day
.3. I shake or shiver, during the concentric portion of lifting:
Twitching is associated with a hyperactive fight or flight response. A prime is example of this is, when animals feel threatened, especially afraid they shiver
Unnecessary shaking when lifting, especially on the: lifting/concentric portion of the lift, is a sure sign that the lifting is stressing the body
In Summary:When you have planned your own Minimalist program. Look out for the 3 signs of physiological stress:
1– contorted facial muscles
2– Fast and shallow breathing
3– Shaking on the concentric portion of the lift.I am sure that taking the foot off the accelerator when the above signs are noted, will help you to look after your recovery bucket. Ensuring that you are only doing enough to get the desired results.

* Meaning our sympathetic nervous system has been activated


Author: Adam Robertson, a registered Osteopath, who is trying to put the Health back into fitness. If you liked this article you can read more on my fitness blog.