• Churchill School & Center



Welcome back, Churchill Community! I hope you had a wonderful break. ☺ My tips for the first month of 2020 will explore some of the reasons why some of us may feel that we’re being held back when we work out of the gym. Are we hitting a plateau and can’t figure out how to overcome it? Are we struggling to comprehend why our efforts are only partially rewarded? Are we wondering what else we can do to make sure we are not wasting time at the gym? If we feel this way, these Quick Fit Tips are for us.

NO TRAINING PROGRAM. Working out without a plan is like trying to get to a location without having a map: chances are we won’t find it, and even if we do, in the meantime we will probably waste time and mileage. A personalized training plan will make sure our effort is well spent. Many people lift weights without knowing what to do. They do what they see others doing, or replicate what they saw on the internet. This is not only not specific to our needs/goals, but can also be detrimental to our health. If we exercise by chance, our results will also come by chance.

BAD FORM. In addition to obviously increasing the chances of injury, exercising with a bad form will make what we do less effective. Improper form leaves the door open to unwanted compensations that will give work to areas that don’t need it and will take it away from our target muscles. 

NOT WORKING HARD. Unless we have a medical reason for exercising below the threshold of fatigue, if we work out without giving all we have, we’re slowing ourselves down. This doesn’t mean overdoing it. There’s a fine line between working hard and pushing too much; we just need to figure out how far we can go without hurting ourselves. For example, checking our phone every few minutes during our training session won’t get it done. We would be surprised to know how much gym time is wasted playing with those things. 

INCONSISTENCY. If we start skipping training sessions, we won’t make it far. We get results at the gym because our body reacts to a training stimulus and adapts to the new demands we put it through workout after workout. If we delay this stimulus, our body has no reason to continue improving. Results won’t come if we cannot be consistent. If we’re serious about getting somewhere, exercise should be at the top of our priority list. 

NO PROGRESSION. So here we are: we got our training program, we’re making sure our form is correct, we’re working hard and we’re consistent. Things seem to be going well for a few weeks… until we realize that results are slowing down. What’s going on? Chances are that we may have hit a plateau. There is nothing wrong with what we’ve been doing, except for the fact that our routine needs to be progressed and upgraded. It’s easy to get comfortable with the same training program, which expects us to repeat actions and loads we’re accustomed with. Nevertheless, in order for our body to continue improving, we need to keep challenging it by giving it something to do that is different and a little tougher.

NO SYMMETRY. A well-balanced training program must take into consideration every major muscle group in our body. Although we may feel that some areas need more work, it’s important that we train our bodies as a whole. Avoiding to hit specific muscles is common practice in the weight room, but this can create unbalances that may trigger postural misalignments and/or orthopedic conditions later on. There’s nothing wrong with increasing the workload for specific critical muscles, as long as we make sure to counterbalance this by giving the antagonist muscles adequate work. 

TOO MUCH REST BETWEEN SETS. Unless we’re training to increase maximal strength and/or power, we shouldn’t rest much between sets. Whether our goal is to lose weight or to gain it, the rest period between sets should be kept to a minimum. If we’re trying to decrease body fat, the less we rest the better so that our heart rate can remain elevated; this translates into burning more calories both during and after our session. If instead, we’re trying to gain muscle mass, the rest period shouldn’t go beyond a minute and 15 seconds (even less if we’re experienced). Resting longer will basically make our workout easier, which will obviously hinder our results.

TOO LITTLE CARE ABOUT NUTRITION. This is probably the hardest tip to follow, but it’s vital. Everybody goes to the gym for different reasons, but if what we eat/drink does not go hand in hand with our training regimen, we can’t expect miracles to happen. Every training program requires different nutrition to optimize its results. For instance, while a caloric deficit is needed in order to lose body fat, if we want to gain muscle we need a surplus of (clean) calories. If we are training to get stronger, we need to make sure we are consuming the right type/amount of foods so that we can maximize our efforts, and a similar nutritional plan is needed if we are trying to increase our stamina. Of course, there’s room for exceptions, but exercising without caring about what we put in our mouth will slow down our progress.

Giacomo Cresti

NSCA Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist

Physical Education Department

The Churchill School and Center

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