Weight Training: Quality vs. Quantity

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Tighten muscle and lose fat now with these revolutionary new exercises.

With summer comes a hot list of innovative exercises that flood print and video (much the same for fall and winter by the way). That’s 10 new exercises you aren’t currently doing.

Oh well, change everything or add 10 more movements to your existing list (then ask for time off work because your workout just passed the three-hour mark).

Just how many resistance exercises are too many?

As with most things, when quantity overshadows quality, results can easily fall short of expectations.

For those starting out, the less is better rule usually applies. Once you’ve mastered a simple routine, add a few variations to trick the body into change.

The key to exercise progression, however, is understanding and knowing how and when to change.

Many new exercisers quickly slide into a rhythm that can be both good and bad. As the saying goes, repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results is not exactly ideal.

Technically, once your body has figured things out, there’s no pressing reason for it to change. Adaptation has taken place – all is good. Status quo. Repeat. Repeat. Zzzzz …

To be clear, if basic health is your goal, then status quo may indeed be your answer. Getting off the couch and repeating a walking regimen can do wonders. Unfortunately, walking doesn’t develop overall strength and it’s not much of a fat burner … unless you live in the mountains.

I’m talking about people in a rut, desperate to lose weight, build strength and shape muscle.

Simply adding more exercise isn’t always the solution. Making the pile bigger when you haven’t exactly figured out what’s in it can be ineffective. And let’s be honest, there are only so many good exercises out there.

Problem is, the June fitness magazine has a deadline to meet and the basics were already featured last month. “Hey, let’s highlight a single-leg partial squat, while throwing a ball and twisting!” Not as effective as other movements but it looks really innovative.

And, why would the shapely model be performing these acrobatic exercises if they didn’t work? Sorry to disappoint but when the lights turn off, the shapely fitness model is eating lettuce and performing the basics.

Here’s the deal. Your brain likes same because it’s stress-free. Quite possibly your current exercises are perfectly fine – you just weren’t doing them hard enough to bypass the autopilot in your head.

Assuming your list is balanced (a push, a pull and a squat) you may need to either slow down, remove momentum or add/reduce weight. In most cases all three — even with experienced exercisers.

With good form, proper breathing and a nod from your doctor, your final repetition should be taken to failure — meaning you can’t perform another. The goal is not to lift a weight from point A to point B and back to point A. The goal is to maintain tension for around a minute (10-12 repetitions), then release tension because you simply can’t do it any longer.

Autopilot shuts off, your brain wakes up and a signal is sent to your muscle to take notice. If no signal is sent, no change is necessary. In other words, you outgrew the 10-pound dumbbell sitting in your basement back in 1989.

Simply put, beginners should stick to the basics. Stay away from shiny and new until you figure out proper form, speed and resistance. Be patient, this should take a while.

The good news is that nudging you to the next level without changing a single exercise can be as simple as 10 or 15 minutes with a qualified trainer that understands these principles. (Fixing your form is another story.)

So, what about more advanced exercisers? Again, assuming form and tempo are in check, picking the correct exercise is still key. Just because a movement is popular doesn’t mean it’s better. Arguably a goblet squat or deadlift works the core more functionally than a plank but a plank is more popular with the masses — because it was featured in the magazine!

As with beginners, novice exercisers must understand the basics. Slow down, feel the tension and eliminate momentum (unless speed and power are your goal).

In summary, change is good but too much change could derail the time required to learn proper technique. Quality over quantity. Take the time to understand all aspects of each movement which should include form, intensity, tempo and load.

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