How to get stronger is at the core of my business. As a personal trainer, people come to me for a variety of reasons, but wherever possible I like to increase their strength since being strong is such a good feeling and leads to less injury. If strong and the desire to rearrange the furniture comes over us – my father referred to this as ‘nesting’, ‘Look out, your mother’s nesting’, then shoving about a heavy sofa or bed is easy. If we are weak, then we can easily pull a muscle or hurt our back. Of course, as a personal trainer, my job is to make life uncomfortable during time spent with us, so people achieve their goals. For the body to get stronger/quicker, it has to be taken out of its lets sit on the sofa mode. However, as I watch someone undergo a set of cable split squats, I am always faced with a dilemma of how hard to push. For I instinctively know that it is also very important to feel in control when working hard as opposed to being whipped through a taxing workout. And on the latest Z health course, Dr Cobb made reference to a very interesting study that bore my feelings out.
It was published in 2010 and concerned a 2 year trial done on college athletes. 1 The aim of the study was to find out whether those athletes having control over their workouts increased strength gains more than those athletes who followed a pre-set programme. The results emphatically showed that the athletes with control over their workouts had much better strength gains than those who were following the pre-set plan.
Clients complain regularly that they had a series of good runs, for example, then they go out expecting things to be even better, but they aren’t. The legs feel like they have turkeys strapped around them and we feel out of breath at a gentle jog. All quite horrible. All I can say is welcome to being a human being and not a machine. Every training session starts with lets see what’s in the box today. As these young athletes would have found in the study, some days we feel like Hercules, and, not being tied to a specific programme, could shove the gym over. Other days its not so much Hercules, as Charlie Chaplin who comes to mind as we try some heavy squats. But the feeling of being in control is absolutely paramount to making gains in strength – or speed. Fairly shortly I shall be starting a new venture involving strong man boot camp – this could be viewed as modern day circuits and will involve such actions as battling ropes and sledge pulling. Now the thing I adore about circuit type training is that we can go at our own pace, and this pace will differ from workout to workout. Ultimately, as long as the training is continued, over time we get stronger and happier. After all studies have shown that those most prone to depression and illness are those in the bottom of the pecking order, not those at the top in control. Perhaps the most famous study being the ongoing Whitehall Study, over seen by Prof Michael Marmot. Having a sense of control over ones life – and ones training – is paramount.
- The effect of autoregulatory progressive resistance exercise vs linear periodization on strength improvements in college athletes. Mann JB. Thyfault JP. Ivey PA Sayers SP. J Strength Cond Res. 2010 Jul; 249&):1718-23. Abstr [↩]