First, people's long-term goals are usually unrealistic. This does not mean they couldn't reach the desired body fat and lean body mass percentages. It means that if they do, they may not look the way the person in the magazine or television advertisement looks at that body fat and LBM percentage because of genetic factors, such as bone structure and height.
Additionally, this long-term goal is something they want now. When people think they are diligent about exercise and eating well, even for as short a period as two weeks, they expect to see a significant change and become discouraged when they don't. At this point, they begin to feel it's not worth it and may quit.
Second, though they may be healthy and look fine, most people are never satisfied with the way they look. Society's view of fitness, thanks to the media, has become very distorted. Many of the physiques people try to achieve (those of actors and athletes) are artificially augmented and are not attainable, even by the genetically gifted, without harmful drug intervention or plastic surgery. The advice is to set goals that are short-term that you can achieve and feel good about every week.
The following are a few examples of attainable weekly goals:
- Change in eating habits
- Consistent exercise habits
- Strength gains
- Weight loss or gain
- Tape measure
- Body fat percentage
- Increase in energy and feeling better
- A new wardrobe
Reward yourself for achieving each short-term goal. Praise your accomplishments by recording them in a journal. Rewarding or praising yourself for reaching minor and major milestones regularly builds self-confidence. This helps provide added incentive and aids in building a new and healthy you.
The International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association (IHRSA) has reported that 61 percent of new health club members drop out in the first six weeks because they see no significant change in their physiques. If a program is designed and followed properly, an individual should experience significant advancement toward his/her goal within 30 days. If the program is complied with and properly adjusted as the body changes, an individual should see positive results every 3-4 weeks, until s/he reach their goal.
Compliance simply refers to your willingness to comply with your body (not the environment) and making the necessary adjustments to help advance your goal. This usually entails breaking away from a training regimen and/or eating plan you feel comfortable with, yet is not yielding results. The fact remains - to continuously yield results, change in training regime and/or eating plan must be initiated. The solution to plateau's is to comply to initiate change or add variety to avoid plateaus!
There are three reasons why healthy people plateau enroute to their goal:
- Improper program designed for the goal
- Physiological adaptation to current food intake and/or workload and type.
Stay with your training program as designed by your trainer for the determined length of time. Save room for adjustments to initiate change by performing the least amount of specific work. This makes it easy to continue and yield the quickest results. Honesty is the key to compliance and continued change. Non-compliance is a psychological condition that you must identify and do your best to get back on track to compliance. For this reason, help yourself to continually initiate change and reach your goal(s) within your genetic potential.
Taking in too few or too many calories or doing too much work is counter-productive because the body adapts quickly to any sort of eating or training regime (i.e. plateau), and thus, no room for adjustments to initiate change for ongoing progress.
Creating (1) a biomechanically sound exercise that is right for you is the first and most important part of a resistance training program. Although it is common to have questions about weight, sets and reps, these things are of little concern until we identify the exact movement to be performed. Then, (2) the movement must be learned (motor learning) before it is (3) intensified. These are three safe awareness steps to creating a safe and successful regime for you. The idea behind the subject of biomechanics is like any other learned behavior: we must walk before we can run.
Biomechanics in resistance training, by its true definition, is analyzing the load placed on a joint by both muscle and resistance.
Follow the recommended six steps by the National Academy of Sports Medicine to creating a biomechanically safe exercise:
- Determine the motion
- Determine the direction of resistance
- Determine the starting position
- Monitor joint positions/stability
- Monitor path of motion
- Determine and monitor range of motion.
Remember these two important points when creating a safe exercise that is best for you:
- Your range of motion is ultimately determined by you making it unique because of the structure of your genetic make-up (i.e. your strength & flexibility capabilities). DO NOT over or under compensate your range of motion that has been pre-determined by another individual or literature in a book or magazine.
- Focus on full flexion and extension of your body's mechanics without hyperextending it beyond the proper and safe range of motion that has been determined by you.
You should expect two things in regard to creating a safe exercise for you:
- Analyze the position and placement of the load on your joints and muscles making sure they are in alignment with the movement and note any discomfort or lack of emphasis on the muscles being emphasized.
- Report any significant and pertinent information to your trainer, whether it is negative or positive when performing biomechanic resistance training movements.
Performing correct biomechanic movements is the first step in training the body. The second step is an automatic training response from the central nervous system (CNS) to accommodate the new or different stimulus placed upon the body. The next step to initiate muscle growth or change is activating the muscular system. And the final step is to establish the mind/muscle relationship, i.e. link, for increasing effort output or intensity level.
Studies have shown that strength gains are influenced by neural adaptation and are related to learning, coordination and the ability to recruit large muscles. This supports the conclusion that it is possible for neural factors to mediate a large portion of the strength increases attributable to resistance training, without large increases in muscle tissue. This is the most notable in the early phases of training, from two to eight weeks, where strength gains are disproportionately greater than visible muscle increases.
A study by Moritani on neural factors vs. hypertrophy in the time course of muscle strength gain revealed that, after two weeks of training, about 80 percent of strength change could be attributed to increased muscle activation (neural factors) and only 20 percent was due to changes in the muscle itself. As training continued, the relative contribution of neural adaptation decreased while the relative proportion of muscular contribution increased. After eight weeks, more than 95 percent of the strength change was due to muscular factors while only 5 percent could be ascribed to neural factors (Am.J.Phys.Med. 1979; 58:115-130).
When training there is evidence to suggest that fatigue may occur at the motor endplate (i.e. neural factor), making it impossible to relay the nerve impulse to the muscle fiber. This can result in neural fatigue before muscular fatigue sets in. An example of neural fatigue is using extremely heavy workloads with repetitions to few to be effective to achieve muscular fatigue. In this case, the muscle fibers will not fatigue sufficiently. Rather, the nervous system fatigues.
The inability to properly perform the exercise is NOT always the direct result of muscle fatigue, but rather neural fatigue. If your goal is "muscle maintenance," and it is, it is important to produce an efficient amount of tension for an optimal amount of time while controlling all biomechanical factors. This can be a sure way of producing muscular fatigue and not neural fatigue.
Your first priority outside the gym is to allow sufficient recovery time and to provide adequate high performance nutrition between workouts. The reason being is the fact that change takes place outside the gym leaving you 23 hours to utilize this window of opportunity. Allowing sufficient recovery time and to provide adequate high performance nutrition are inseparable if you wish to reap the rewards from hard training to succeed in your goal.
If the allotted recovery time and performance nutrition is inadequate then nothing else matters, not even the previous training session. You would have wasted your time, energy and effort in the gym. The body becomes stronger and more efficient between workouts, but only if provided enough time and proper nutrition to generate growth or optimize change.
Supercompensation simply refers to your body's recuperative ability to recover after exercise by rebuilding muscles to make them stronger in order to meet the stress of future workouts. During a workout the stress applied results in the breakdown and damage of muscle fibers, which places the body in a weakened and vulnerable state. This damage manifests itself as muscle soreness.
Following a workout your body's priority is to recover from the systematic stress and fatigue incurred in training. The body's repair mechanism kicks into effect, a process which, if given sufficient time makes the damaged muscle fibers thicker and stronger than they were before a workout or from the previous workout.
Utilizing high-intensity training, performance nutrition, and sufficient rest the muscle fibers must surrender to a new level of growth. This phenomenon is called "Supercompensation" and in itself constitutes three phases of muscular growth of the recovery process: recuperation, restoration and supercompensation. Refer to my Recuperation and Muscular Growth article for more information.
The 2004 New Year's Guide.