Training variation is an advantage for anyone, and something I do not see a lot of in the gym. Most people do tend to get stuck in a rut when it comes to their training regime, implementing the same thing day in day out.
Varying your intensity as well as your workout duration is a great strategy. When our bodies begin to plateau, throwing in a few sessions per week of either, can help make that necessary shift.
The lowdown on intensive training
Intense training is a terrific way to see fast, visible results both with strength and body composition. This training also helps you to get leaner while increasing your muscle mass at the same time.
The bad news about this kind of training is that taking it too far is quite easy as well! This leads to overtraining, and quite possibly injury. This is exactly what I went through for years as a figure competitor. The extremely intensive workouts, coupled with the low-calorie eating, sent my body into burnout. Fortunately, these phases don’t last a long time, but they can really interfere with your emotional and mental state. Sometimes you can go from loving to train every day, and relishing in the intensity of the workouts — to completely hating the gym and becoming somewhat depressed and withdrawn. This is definitely a sign to take a well-needed break and permit yourself to recover for as long as you need to.
Not every one of us will experience these states, but it’s important to note that intense training for long periods of time can increase your cortisol levels and decrease your chances of putting on any muscle.
To bypass this, aim for an intensive workout only once per week, BUT always ensuring you are up to date with your nutrition. That means eating the right amount of protein, fats, and carbs while allowing for rest periods. Don’t skip carbs as you will need them. I was always bypassing any carbohydrates in fear of becoming bloated and putting on weight. Our bodies need these nutrients to repair and recuperate the muscles and skeletal system. We have to weigh up the pros and cons of nutrition and our goals.
Be aware of prolonged muscle soreness.
I’d like to touch on the potential of intense training that produces ongoing muscle soreness and inflammation. Sometimes you might find that the soreness’s intensity does not go away for a week or more. This is definitely something to pay close attention to! When you keep inflammatory factors building up, it keeps tissue from regenerating and adapting. Instead of your body becoming stronger and more muscular in shape, you just become weaker, and performance drops off.
Extended workouts are best for strength building. Because you are lifting very heavyweight during a set, you will need an optimum time to recover and repeat that for your chosen set number. This training can take 1–2 hours, and again, as high intensity should be limited to once or twice a week. Adequate recovery time is needed too because heavy loads can increase your susceptibility to injury. Therefore proper nutrition is also a key factor.
I like to make sure I’m always well hydrated with a nutritional backing behind me. You will need as much energy as you can muster. Sleeping well and eating right is key to getting results from this training.
I’m quite time poor with my own workouts, and during peak hour in the gym, it’s sometimes hard to allow that much time for any given piece of equipment. Therefore, I save these sessions after a day of high-calorie consumption. This is usually after a public holiday (yes, I do get to the gym before, during and after these times lol). When you are on holidays, things tend to be more relaxed; you may indulge in some extra food and get a bit more rest. To me, that means more intense and focused sessions in the gym. Use up this time effectively! I know that when it’s time to go back to the office, I will be subject to brain drain, late nights and perhaps lots of overtime and stress. These factors can inhibit my energy levels, so I play it by ear and do what I can.
One last point
Men and women recover differently from training.
Women have a slower recovery of muscle after training and do not regain strength to the same degree as men do. Women can also experience muscle swelling and inflammation that persists for a longer period of time.
Men, on the other hand, have a higher inflammatory response than women. They can recover a lot faster than women. This is partly due to men being familiar with resistant training and applying more muscle force than women in physical activity. They have already accumulated a degree of muscle mass, whereas women may not. As women progress, become more consistent with training, will find it’s surpassed.
The take away from this is that women may need more time than men to recover from strength training. My best touchpoint here is to always listen to your own body, be the detective. Are you exhausted today? Can you skip the gym and have a nice, long walk in the park instead? If we listen to our bodies a lot more, then they will make our homecoming wonderful.
What is your favourite kind of workout? Please feel free to comment below.
I hope this answer helps you understand the different training methods. If this post has helped you, please feel free to upvote it, and do come along and get your complimentary goal setting guide for 2021. I’m also on social if you are active in that space.