Progression with no injuries
Training vs exercise
Exercise is NOT training, exercise is moving your body with no formal plan or goal in mind, you’re just doing it because you can and it’s more about the here and now (get a pump, sweat it out, burn calories etc). Training on the other hand has the long term in mind, it’s based off a plan with a goal in mind. Now there’s actually nothing wrong with exercise and it suits many peoples lives, however if you are after a specific result you NEED to train. It’s important to understand the difference because exercise rarely results in progress (maybe in the beginning if your new to exercise but the gains will quickly plateau), yet training should have metrics that you can track and measure your progress.
Often people who are exercising think they are training (if you just asked yourself ‘do I train?’, then you are likely an exerciser). This can be dangerous, as mentioned above exercise rarely results in progress, so the exerciser often endeavours to exercise harder and longer to attain said progress. Unfortunately, will out noticeable progress one of two outcomes occur, 1) the exerciser quits because they are really tired and don’t see any change therefore ‘what’s the point?’. 2) the exerciser gets injured (more is less and less is more), the exerciser can’t possibly keep adding more and more exercise forever and something must give. Now this isn’t to say that you can’t get injured training, but if the training is appropriate your chances of sustaining and injury are much less likely.
There are a few simple principals you can follow that will ensure you make progress forever and minimise the risk of injury. I’d like to pay credit to Jim Wendler who originated the terms of these principals although I have put my own little flavour on them as well.
Emphasize movement quality
We all love seeing feats of strength, power, speed and agility, yet what we see is the end result of consistent hard work using the basics (sometimes a little sprinkle of genetics helps as well). We all love the end result and consequently want to replicate that immediately. However, it’s important to start where you are at, with what you are capable of. For us we do not expect everyone to back squat rather we emphasize the squatting pattern and find the best ‘squat’ variation for the individual. Overtime an individual will learn better movement competency and progress the pattern further, eventually they may end up doing the back squat or they may never, it doesn’t really matter so long as we are training the pattern in the safest and most effective way possible.
Start too light
Strength training is our craft we love it and we love getting people really strong. However, we start everyone ‘too light’. This doesn’t mean we only use the bright colour aerobics weights, what it means by is you are better off starting out lighter (10-15% less) and have room for growth. For example if you can bench press 100kg for a 5 rep max we would like to start you off at 85kg for 5-8 reps and build upon that over time, think of it like building the foundations. With consistent training over time you will be doing 8-10 reps for 100kg. It also factors in good and bad days. Not everyday your going to turn up to training feeling 100% but if you’ve given yourself some wiggle room you can still get a good workout in even on bad days. Needless to say starting too light also reduces the risk of injury, it’s hard to hurt yourself with loads you can comfortably handle.
Everyone wants their desired results yesterday but the truth is you have to be patient and work hard for what you want. Progressing slowly goes well with starting too light. Progressing slowly may not get you what you want today but it will help you achieve more tomorrow. The longer you can progress even if it’s only by 1% the more overall progress you’ll make over time. Let’s say you want to run a 2km in 7 minutes (currently 8 minutes), you have to be able to run a 7:50 first. The risk of injury substantially increases when you try to progress too quickly.
Have you ever tried to get fit for a sporting season/game/competition but only gave yourself 2 weeks to do it? How did that turn out?