Don’t Confuse Difficulty with Effectiveness

There’s a common theme in the exercise industry to do things that are hard and make you feel sore, tired and like you really struggled. On the surface it seems to fall into the realm of logic: exercise is not pleasant, therefore pain must be an indication of how ‘good’ the exercise is.

Here are some tips to make sure that you are being effective and not just making things hard

Is it based in evidence or sales?

This is one of the harder things to distinguish for less experienced lifters. It also comes with a giant blanket statement, that most ‘new’ exercises are going to be gimmicky. The tried and tested methods of old are still in existence today – because they are tried and tested… and also very boring to most.

There is very little to say about heavy barbell training that hasn’t already been said. This means it’s hard to market. It’s also not innovative, new age or requires the purchase of some As Seen On TV equipment. To many people it’s also boring.

When a new and innovative training methodology comes across your Instagram or Facebook ad space, verify first if it’s based in science or sales. Just because [insert famous athlete] is using it, doesn’t mean that it actually works.

Set some training goals

This one is pretty simple and straightforward, pick a few specific goals and only do activities that will help you achieve those goals.

There is a two fold effect of having focus on the specific goals, you have a definite finish line you are aiming for and can manage if a training tool is working or not. It is either serving the goal or it isn’t.

The secondary effect is that it eliminates distractions from your radar. For example, you set a goal to bench press 315lbs and the next month you read about a new training program that will increase your VO2 max.

Make sure it builds you up, rather than tests your limits

A lot of workouts use buzzwords like, extreme, killer pumps, with some even making light of rhabdomyolysis, which, I will agree with these workouts being difficult and extremely challenging. I would argue against their effectiveness. When we think of training and strength development, we’re taking a lens at building up the body, rather than tearing it down.

Simply ‘destroying the muscle fibers’ is a bit too simplistic in nature to describe the complexity that goes behind actual hypertrophy and strength output. There has to be a balance between stress and recovery. Having too much stress will

Stay away from Muscle Confusion

The concept of muscle confusion is mostly marketing hype and based in no scientifically backed research (correct me if I’m wrong).

Even though decades of exercise science and the most preeminent practitioners say it doesn’t work, programs based on muscle confusion remain popular because doing something new every day is far more exhilarating than the comparatively boring reality of progressive overload.

Brad Stulburg

The principle of overload is the missing link for a program that uses muscle confusion. When you’re constantly mixing up the movements used, you don’t give the body a chance to adapt in a progressive fashion. Strength is specific, you don’t try and get better at algebra by reading about evolution.


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