Intense Exercise Is The Trigger NOT The Benefit

“Rather than trying to determine just how much exercise you can tolerate, you should be trying to find out just how little exercise you actually need” - Unknown

Following this advice would have saved me a lot of sore joints over the years.

With the right intensity I’ve been amazed at how briefly and infrequently I can exercise whilst still making positive improvements from workout to workout.

The key mindset shift was this…

Intense exercise is the trigger not the benefit. Adaptation to intense exercise is the benefit.

Chasing the minimum effective dose of intense exercise rather than the maximum tolerable dose saves a lot of time, energy and cumulative wear and tear whilst ultimately achieving the same long-term outcome... better fitness.

Don’t Stop Before Your Set Has Even Got Started

The price you must pay for short strength workouts to be effective is hard work.

This means putting a really high degree of effort into each set you perform. The problem is most people don’t do this. At the first sign of discomfort they quit.

What is a high degree of effort? Ideally you should reach a point where you are unable to complete another repetition with good form. In the fitness industry this is commonly known as reaching momentary-muscular-failure or MMF.

MMF is highly uncomfortable and your mind will be willing you to stop before you get there but the final few reps, tough as they are, hold the greatest potential for triggering a positive adaptation in your muscles.

Consider the rest of the repetitions a warm-up for this moment.

How do you know if you have reached MMF? Always attempt one more positive rep. If you fail to move (despite your best intentions) for at least 5 seconds positive MMF has been reached.

As safety note, you want to make sure you are choosing resistance exercises which allow you to fail safely. The Gymless Training System contains loads of them!

Eat From Plates And Bowls Which Match Your Goals

A couple of years ago I did a weight gain experiment where I ate the majority of my meals from a large serving bowl.

Needless to say I got bigger (and mostly fatter!)

Larger plate, larger portions, larger body.

The problem is most of the time this happens unconsciously. We automatically serve portion sizes in proportion to the plate, bowl or glass we are using.

In one such experiment guests were randomly given medium sized 17-ounce bowls or large 34-ounce bowls and set free on an ice cream buffet.

Those with the larger bowls ended up eating 31% more ice cream.

Without even realising.

Simple lesson then. Use plates and bowls which match your goals!

“Six ounces of goulash on an 8 inch plate is a nice serving. Six ounces on a 12 inch plate looks like a tiny appetizer. Make visual illusions work for you.” - Brian Wansink

More Advantages Of Slow Resistance Training

In the previous article I talked about slow resistance training being safer on joints and connective tissues.

Which is true and great for fitness longevity.

But the advantages don’t end there.

Slow resistance training also allows you to develop better feel for a movement, maintain better biomechanics and really focus your mind on the muscles being worked. All this translates into a more effective exercise!

Better technique, mindful exercise, constant tension and built-in protection against large fluctuations force makes slowing down one of the most impactful changes I’ve made in twenty years of resistance training.

It does take discipline. It is hard work. You will probably have to start with lighter resistances.

But it’s definitely worth it.

How To Make Resistance Training Safer (With One Simple Switch)

Resistance training is great. I go on and on about it.

But it does have the potential to cause trouble. There are many people (including yours truly) who have removed themselves, temporarily and permanently, from the exercise game through silly and avoidable mistakes.

Beyond the problem of too much, too often most of these issues are caused by exposing the body to excessive force.

An obvious culprit would be trying to lift a weight which is too heavy. A less obvious culprit is trying to lift a weight too fast.

Fast Rep Slow Rep Force Graph.jpg

During a fast or explosive repetition there is a big surge in force production at the beginning of the exercise followed by a complete drop-off as momentum does the rest.

During a slow, controlled repetition your muscles produce just enough force to move the resistance creating more stable and constant tension throughout the exercise.

The net result is your muscles do more meaningful work and your connective tissues are protected from large fluctuations in force.

Double win.

This simple switch has been a game-changer for keeping my body healthy.

How slow is slow? There isn’t a one size fits all answer but after a decade of watching people train it’s probably slower than you are currently going.

Gradually apply force until you start moving the resistance, ensure slow and smooth turnarounds, lower the resistance under control. Only as your muscles reach exhaustion should you try to increase speed during the positive portion of the exercise. By this point you will be too tired to hurt yourself with large surges in force as your muscles simply won't be able to produce it.

Try it and see.