Is training harder better. I’ve been training people for years now and I’d like to address this to one particular group, although most people can probably benefit from this.
This particular group are the ones who always want to make every exercise harder. They try to power through everything and never seem to want to slow things down.
Here’s the thing, a harder workout is not necessarily better and especially if you are sacrificing proper form for a muscles burn. This is especially true when it come to Pilates. A workout system like Pilates is based on tapping into your supporting muscles, on learning muscle patterning and how to move most effectively. Not only are you gaining a very deep strength, but you are perfecting coordination and strengthening your body in such a way as to prevent injuries in other activities.
IS TRAINING HARDER BETTER
Sure, sometimes you just need to release excess energy and that’s fine, but if you are always looking for a tougher, more intense workout then you can also expect:
- an increase in appetite without necessarily burning more calories (if you are doing this for weight loss it won’t necessarily happen as quickly as you’d like)
- if you don’t keep up with the intensity and you continue to eat more, you’ll likely gain weight
- increased chance of injury, especially if you are pushing yourself too hard without taking a break, which will cause you to take a forced break
- if you are constantly training with bad form, your muscles will remember it and this can cause many physical problems and increase your chance of injury
What are your goals? If you are looking to be able to do a hundred push ups or to simply lift heavy then by all means, you need to train for that, but if you are looking to improve your general fitness or your abilities then it’s more about training smarter. I’d much rather be able to jump higher, improve my form in dance class or turn better than to just lift some arbitrarily high weight. What it comes down to is that I’m more interested in true strength.
There are a few benefits when you take time to slow down your workout and focus on your movements:
- The right muscles are being targeted. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen people using their entire bodies to do simple lat pulls or biceps curls. Sure, it may feel great to use a lot of force when performing an exercise, but think for a minute. Are you really using the muscles you want to be using?
- Take your cue from Pilates and yoga. In Pilates we are often trying to target the smaller muscles, which I like to call your support muscles. They don’t always want to work and often they defer to the bigger more powerful ones. They are, however, necessary partners because often they are the first to kick in when you start moving and they help keep the larger muscles from over working. In essence you are working your muscles more efficiently.
- When you are muscling through the movement you aren’t breathing. Your breath and how you breathe is vital to a good workout. Don’t believe me? Try holding your breath or panting the next time you get up to move. When you slow down and focus on your form, you can breathe more effectively and you’ll find that you can lift heavier and do more challenging exercises because you are receiving a proper flow of oxygen into your body.
This isn’t about never doing tough workouts, it is rather about not always taking the tougher option. Sometimes it’s better to slow things down, focus on feeling your muscles and doing the exercise properly, each and every time.