Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Chasing Optimum....Doing the Best?

A regular thing to hear is "what is the optimum workout for .........(fill in blank with: muscle building, weight loss, fat stripping, fitness enhancing, strength gaining).

And by all means you will find hundreds of scientists and 'Bros' who have researched this question and will give you 100 different answers.

Some of them may be absolutly correct, some may be a little mis guided, some may just not be for you and your body type. But the question is why are you wanting Optimum?

Stupid question right? Why wouldn't you want optimum. Optimum means you are not wasting any time, that what you are doing will be giving you great results as fast as physically possible. It will be the quickest way to being the fittest, fastest, strongest, leanest, healthiest super human you could ever become.

But there is a problem.

There is no such thing as optimum.

At least in terms of from the advice you will already  have heard. i.e. The best workout for gaining (X) is by doing (Y), (Z number of times) at an intensity of (Q) with rests of (R) followed by auxillery exercises of (T) accompanied with suppliment (A and B) at (time C and D) along with Active recovery sessions of (D) at intervals of (E) etc the list of advice can go on and on.

A single answer of 'optimum' doesn't exist because:
What is optimum for one person may not be for another.
What is optimum for one person at a certain body condition will not be the same as it is at a different body condition.
What is optimum for one week will not be the same as the next week.
Heck what is optimum for a morning workout will not be the same as an evening workout.
It can go as far as to say what is optimum may be to not actually go to the gym at all, but stay at home, lie in bed, eat cake all day. 

And out of all the research how do they know they got optimum results?  usually compared to a control group maybe even a control group and a counter study group...
So certainly lots of research can find out what is potentially better, but Optimum? not a chance.

If there is no such thing as Optimum, then what should we be striving for?

How can you measure the Quality of your Training if not through the results you achieve?

If one week you did 5 reps on Exercise (X) with weight (Y) and the next week/month you managed to do 6 reps with as similar conditions then bingo you have Gained!  Could you have gained 2 extra reps, 3, could you have doubled your reps, increased the weight or even both? Maybe. Should you care? NO

A Gain is a Gain! Big or Small, doesn't matter.

What does matter is making a Consistent Set of Gains.
But to get consistent gains you need varying strategies

And you also need strict measurements and valid procedures to truly analise if a gain is really a gain, or was it a cheated rep, a swung dumbell, a faulty running machine, a lower resistance rowing machine, a new trainer, lighter clothes or an extra load of coffee that made you that little bit stronger, faster, fitter than before.

If you go to the gym for the same reasons as me: To be that little bit stronger, fitter, faster, leaner than before. That little bit less physically incapable of difficult physical real world tasks and that little bit more resistant to real world damage/injury.  Then you are the prime person to really develop your understanding of how your body responds to what ever stimulus you provide it. You don't need to cheat, you dont go to the gym to look good in front of other blokes, or the female highjump team, You dont try and lift the heaviest weights you can just to look strong, you don't care if you look a little bit strange busting your balls on the running machine at full speed at max gradient with no shoes on! You don't care about the athestic looks or the attractiveness of your muscles or the amount of sweat you leave on the ground while doing squats. because all that matters is Results!

If one week you get great results, it has no bearing on how good your next results will be if you copy exactly what you did before.
1 Week of great results could be all down to neuro development/connections, a drop/re sensitization to caffeine, a bizarre synergy of nutrient absorption timing and motivation, hormonal activation via a minor road rage incident on the way to the gym, enhanced REM sleep the night before...the options are endless and almost all, unpredictable/unrepeatable/unmeasurable.

Then, the next week, even if you had the same music on, ate the same food, went to the gym at the same time, went to bed the night before the same time etc, you could have completely different results. Maybe even disappointing results.

So what to do?

Control what you can.
Repeat as acuratly as you can.
Measure as precisely as you can.

If you are making gains, you are training well. You are resting right, eating right, working out right.
If your not making gains, Change elements of your training, your eating your resting.
If even after making changes you are still not making gains.
Change to a new set of gains.

You may have noticed that further up in the text I put in bold the word Set when stating that 'making a consistant set of gains is what matters.'

Because sometimes your body just doenst want to change, doesnt want to develop, it hits a wall that you cant smash through.
So you then have to find a way to walk around that wall.

Benchpress stagnated even after changing all the variables you can? Then do Dumbbell Press, develop plyometric pushups, go add a gradient to your exercise (incline + decline)
Squat just not getting better? Try downhill sprinting, try explosive hang cleans.
Find you just cant run your 5K any faster? Try training while fasted, start doing hill sprints.
Develop your other energy pathways and have them help your original goal you so wish to achieve. 
Heck, take a week off!

Optimum is a dynamic, elusive, morphing potential of anything you do. Not a consistent set of rules to follow.

If your aiming for Optimum and are disappointed by getting small gains, your not realising the difficulty and effort and intelligence required to become that little bit better.

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