Producing great results from strength training involves three critical components:
- Stimulation. Our muscles must be taxed to the point or very near the point of momentary muscle failure, the point in which we can’t perform another repetition with great form. Stated otherwise, we need to strength train with a high level of intensity.
- Nutrition. Our bodies require a balance of food elements in order to recover and promote muscle growth. Specifically, if we are severely lacking in daily protein intake, it will be difficult for us to increase (or even maintain) our lean muscle tissue.
- Rest. Our muscles don’t get stronger when we workout, they get stronger when we RECOVER from working out.
I worked with a client last week who was facing a perplexing issue. She recently performed her third Bod Pod assessment which revealed that she had lost three pounds of muscles since her previous test. I asked her these three questions:
- Are you strength training twice per week? Yes, she was very consistent with coming into Discover Strength two times per week.
- Are you consuming enough protein? Yes, she was intentional about consuming 0.7 grams of protein per pound of body weight; she was committed to counting protein each and every day.
- Are you avoiding exercise that involves resistance or tension on your muscles outside of your Discover Strength workouts? I go to a barre class 6 times per week outside of Discover Strength.
Question number three was the culprit! In this case, my client WAS strength training twice per week; she WAS receiving adequate protein; she WAS NOT allowing recovery between her workouts so that her muscles could regenerate. Adding more resistance based workouts (in this case, barre), she not only stagnated her results, she actually stimulated muscle loss. And of course, this is what we would expect.
The irony and perhaps the take home message is that in our fervor to produce better results, we workout MORE often and this invariably leads to worse results. To be clear, when I say “workout,” I mean, perform any type of resistance training; anything that taxes our skeletal muscle. We could engage in more cardio-respiratory exercise and still produce excellent muscle building results. The advent of boutique studio concepts across the country (something I am a massive fan of) has probably exacerbated this problem as the fitness consumer has been lead (or mislead) to believe that we must be performing a different workout each day of the week if we are really and truly committed.
At some point, we have to ask ourselves this foundational question: Is my objective to produce better health, fitness, and appearance results OR is my objective to spend more time in a gym/health club/studio? The answer to this question has important implications for how we engage in exercise.