Without question, the dumbest advice any trainer has ever said is…”you need to keep changing things up and keep your body guessing.”
This ridiculousness is still getting passed around from one wannabe fitness “expert” to another. In reality, it’s flat-out wrong.
You Need Progressive Resistance
In every other area of knowledge and skill development, people understand the importance of slowly building upon the experience and skills you’ve developed in the past.
Fitness is no different.
For your body to get stronger, fitter, and healthier, you need to methodically add progressive stress or resistance to what you’ve done in the past.
This fundamental concept is called the SAID Principle: Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands. You adapt to the specific physical stressors you face.
Because my main objective on this site, and in my training program, is to help people build strength and lean mass to support health, fitness, and longevity, I’ll use strength development as an example.
You Develop Strength In 3 Steps
Think about the first time you did something like a Barbell Reverse Lunge.
It probably felt awkward. Your legs wobbled like you were drunk. You might have even lost your balance and tipped over.
Assuming you kept at it, the next week, you probably moved more comfortably. You might have completed more reps or added a little weight to the bar.
Your coordination and skill improved, making your movement more fluid and efficient.
The first step in improved strength comes from improved coordination.
Then, once you got the coordination down, you were able to handle much more weight. Each week, you added 10, 20, maybe even 30 more pounds. Your strength grew so fast you started to wonder if one of your supplements had something illegal in it.
This is common in all movements, and especially with novice lifters. Once you’ve developed coordination, your nervous system starts using more of the muscle you have already.
The second step in improved strength comes from your nervous system engaging more of the muscle you have to complete the movement.
You actually have enough strength to lift a car off a child trapped underneath it. It’s just that your nervous system keeps you from using that kind of strength because you’d do a ton of damage to your muscle tissue, ligaments and tendons. The bragging rights of lifting a car won’t be worth it if you’re confined to a hospital bed for months afterwards.
That said, you can lift more weight, safely, than your nervous system allows you to in the early stages of strength training. By repeating the same movements over time, it realizes it can handle more weight without injury, so you gain a significant amount of strength without building more muscle.
Eventually, you’ll reach a limit of strength with the muscle you have. At this point, the only way to continue increasing strength is to build more muscle.
The third step in improved strength comes from building more muscle.
Unfortunately, most people don’t make it to this point. They give up on their program, because they haven’t seen results yet. Or, they move onto a different program because they like the idea of variety.
As I often tell clients, if you want get results, you need to commit for the longterm, and remain monogamous. If you play the field with fitness program, you’ll end up disappointed by the results, and end up making the all too common excuse, “Nothing ever works for me.”
As we often tell our grandson Asher, patience is a virtue. You don’t get to the third step without getting through the first two.
VIGOR Training is Training, Not Entertaining
“Yeah, but Tom, I like more variety in my program.”
I get it. Our attention spans are so short today that we have a hard time even reading a short message like this one from beginning to end. We crave variety, novelty, entertainment.
VIGOR Training isn’t an entertrainment. It’s a training program designed to make you stronger, fitter, and healthier each month than you were the month before. I’m sure I’d have ten times as many members in the program if I sold a more “entertaining” program, but then the success rate of those who follow it would be close to “0.”
Find entertainment outside of the gym, or even between sets when you’re taking a rest. But when you’re under the bar, holding the dumbbells, or on a machine, it’s training time, not entertraining time.
Coach’s Notes is a collection of insights, recommendations, and tutorials to help my VIGOR Training member-athletes get more out of the program. Though non-members may find the content to be informative and applicable, I’ve written them as though I’m speaking directly to one of my athletes.