So I’ve got to be honest, I’ve definitely used all three over the years and after realizing how incorrect they were I promised to stop using them. Here is the third mythbusters installment revealing misconceptions about common health and fitness training phrases.
All you’ve got to do is progressively overload.
The progressive overload principle is a major component of health and fitness training. It emphasizes the idea that in order for someone to become stronger and more fit, he must continuously and progressively overload the amount of weight he is resisting or increase intensity in each exercise. However, just gradually and continuously raising the weight for a resistance exercise does not guarantee that he will become stronger. Furthermore, continual increases may lead to overtraining and injury. For example, if I started benching at 135lbs in 10th grade and progressively raised my bench by just 5 lbs every month then I should be pressing over 800 lbs by now. Obviously, that is not the case. I’ve hit numerous plateaus and just raising the weight every month to challenge my body doesn’t simply lead to strength gains. Progressive overload isn’t the the one-all be-all solution. Everyone’s body works differently and in order to make gains, individuals will have to practice the principle of progressive overload with other techniques such as periodisation.
Periodisation is a training model that relies on phasing your workout program to have periods of both increasing and decreasing weight resistance, volume and intensity to challenge your body’s adaptation to exercises. By diversifying the approaches to challenge your body, periodisation can more effectively stimulate neuromuscular efficiency (the working relationship and effectiveness between your brain and muscles). In addition to varying degrees of resistance, volume and intensity, this method includes cross training and supplementary forms of conditioning. The goal of periodisation is to generate more gains and reach optimal performance within the individual.
It’s all about size.
It is commonly believed that greater muscle size and mass means greater strength. Although the strength of a muscle is correlated to its cross-sectional area or size, the amount of strength it can generate is more dependent on how much of the total muscle is being activated during the exercise. The total amount of the muscle being activated is dependent on the number of active muscle fibers, the rate at which the fibers are firing, how long the fibers can sustain the contraction, and number of motor neurons in the brain that are firing to send signals for your muscle to contract and the sequence of how fibers and muscles are contracting. The combination of these define neuromuscular efficiency. So if you are aiming to increase strength, don’t just make your goal to increase in muscle size and mass. Rather, rely on diverse training techniques that will increase neuromuscular efficiency such as functional training and periodisation.
No pain no gain.
This training adage assumes that one will not gain any strength without going through some type of pain. This phrase can be very misleading and also harmful for an individual’s health. For example, the pain of injury as a result of overtraining or poor training can severely limit one’s strength gains, performance and physical ability. Surely, this pain should be avoided at all costs and be acted upon immediately to avoid more injury. Alternatively, some have coined the phrase the ‘pain of effort,’ which signifies the mental pain and toughness one should endure and maintain during exercise in order to make gains in strength (aka grit). Grit, however, is subjective and depends entirely on the individual. Some people can mentally endure the pain of fatigue or physical exertion much better than others. Furthermore, a greater endurance for pain of effort can lead to greater strength gains. Therefore, rather than oversimplifying and accepting all pain as a requisite to gaining strength, focus on building a grit or an endurance for pain of effort, instead of pain of injury.
Photo via Matteo Staltari