All of the above are some brutally cliche, often overused phrases when it comes to fitness, training, and competition.
A common theory is that if you’re not pushing yourself to your absolute limit; if you’re not pushing yourself to the point that it hurts and you just can’t do any more, than you’re not being effective. In reality though, while pushing to your limits is sometimes necessary to breaking through a plateau, it’s not necessary all the time. In fact, it can be detrimental if you push that hard all the time.
Although this is a concept that I know well, I relearned it recently. If you’ll recall, a couple of weeks ago I had to take a full 10 days off from the gym, because I had just been doing too much for too long, without giving my body the proper recovery. For the past few months I had been lethargic, constantly sore, and had plateaued in almost all of my lifts. I took some time off though, made a new plan, and since then I’ve been making more progress than I had in months!
A few months ago, I was struggling to deadlift 135 consistently for reps.
Just last week, I deadlifted 155 x3 (a new PR!), and felt amazing.
And you know what? I have increased my DL by 20 pounds by doing less. That’s right, doing less. Not by pushing myself so hard so that I can hardly walk, not by lifting every day, and certainly not by doing more cardio. Since I took that time off, I’ve only been training 4 days per week. 3 lifting days, 1 conditioning day (usually stadiums), and I’m making a conscious effort to really rest on my rest days. I mean really rest. None of this “oh, I’m just going to do a light workout” nonsense, because I know myself, and I don’t tone it down very well.
And I feel SO MUCH STRONGER.
Note to self: You were doing too much.
(5-6 days of training per week, with 4 of those lift days? Yep, too much)
I see this all the time with the athletes that I work with too. They get injured, and of course want to do everything they can to get back out there on the court or field as quickly as possible. They want to push themselves to get as strong as possible so that they can play the sport that they love. For many of them, this means completing a rehab program that will improve their strength, stability, mobility, or functional ability, depending on their injury and sport. However, for many of these athletes, it’s difficult for them to find an off switch and to realize that even though strength is necessary, so is recovery and healing time. It’s often a big part of my job to prevent an athlete from doing too much.
I have seen athletes who have over-trained so much after an injury that they’ve actually ended up with another injury, because they were simply doing too much. I think many people, athletes especially, underestimate the importance that recovery has in terms of both health and strength.
Whether you’re an injured athlete or a regular old gym fanatic, the premise is the same. Recovery time is not just encouraged, it’s essential to actually building strength and making improvements. Most people would never think that by doing less (far less) than I had been doing, I would be able to increase my lifts significantly in a short amount of time. But when you actually take the time to think about the science behind weight lifting and strength gains, it actually makes perfect sense.
I know this post was a little bit of a ramble, but my point is this: You can do too much. More is not always better, and too much can not only stall your progress, but can even be detrimental. Of course, not everyone out there needs to do less, and some people really need to do more! But that’s the beauty of the fitness world. No two people are the same, so follow the plan that’s right for you. Don’t let a trainer tell you that you have to work out 6 days per week or you won’t have 6-pack abs. Don’t let a trainer tell you that you have to push through pain and injuries, because it’s the only way to get better.
Maybe you actually just need to do less in order to do more!
Happy Friday everyone!