Increase your exercise intensity without increasing your resistance
It is difficult to improve something that cannot be measured, and in exercise, there are a few terms to define in order to accurately evaluate your progress. Here are a few key terms, and applications:
Repetition The number of times you perform a particular movement.
Sets The number of groups of repetitions of a particular movement.
Load or Resistance The amount of weight or quantifiable resistance provided for a particular movement.
Work = (Load x Repetition x Sets) It is helpful to keep a record from time to time of certain exercises in order to make sure that progress is being made.
Work Capacity = (Work / Time)
Other terms like impact, movement quality, fatigue, range of motion, and time under tension, progression and regression, are equally important in the performance aspect of exercise and rehabilitation, but will be the subject of a future article. The above mentioned terms are necessary to understand and apply, but the first 5 mentioned above will be quantifiable, measurable in numbers which will help further our understanding of exercise progression.
Exercise is something you do in addition to your sports, your occupation, and even your daily activity. But exercise that is stagnant, and unable to be measured in progression becomes a liability over time, and an overuse scenario waiting to happen. Therefore, exercise progression is necessary, but there are also real limits to your progression. Meaning, greater loads and greater work can reach individual limits depending on medical history, technique, and genetic factors. More isn’t always better, but it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t work towards gains and testing your ability.
Here are some ways to increase work:
Increase the number of repetitions, sets, or both. I suggest increasing 1 variable at a time rather than both, and get to know your body’s perception of exertion or level of exhaustion at the end of the set. This is generally a good way to challenge the body without increasing load.
Increase your load or resistance. Lifting, pulling, or pressing a weight or controlling resistance like your body weight requires a certain amount of nervous system control and output. Increasing load will deliberately raise the effort level, and getting to know your body is essential to determine whether the load increased was manageable or painful to perform. Understanding your pain thresholds and keeping it sensible is also important in judging exercise progression. Sensibility is a skill that takes time to develop, because it requires prediction of your body’s reaction to certain stimulus.
Increase your work capacity by keeping all things the same, but reduce your time.
If you can do the same amount of work in less time, several things happen. Your heart rate increases, your oxygen consumption increases, and lactic acid production also increases. Muscle fatigue and performance exhaustion becomes more evident, and so should the onset of “good pain”. You can increase work capacity by doing the following:
Reduce rest time between sets. Cut your rest by 25-50% between sets, and take note of your degree of exhaustion. Make sure you can go to the next set without having to compromise on exercise form due to exhaustion.
Swim, bike, run, jog, or walk a little faster. Use good judgment and don’t work through pain when performing these tasks faster. Expect discomfort though, NOT pain!
Making exercise or training progress by the above methods should be sensible, and should never compromise good form nor invite the type of pain that is harmful. It takes time to develop the competence to progress your exercises, and it is sometimes easier to do with a trainer present. Even trainers need trainers, so don’t hesitate to seek assistance when you find yourself stagnant in your workout progress!
Dr. Adrian Pujayana has been providing drug-free solutions for health and wellness to adults, athletes, and youth since 2000 through his private practice at Family Chiropractic Center of South Pasadena, a place for strength training and nutrition based health care.