Are You Doing Enough in the Gym? Part 4

Posted: July 11, 2012 in Uncategorized

Sorry all, been sick so it’s been a while.  Part 1, Part 2,  and Part 3 in case you’re new.

So far I’ve introduced the key aspects that our training programs should include and have dug deeper into two of them, mobility and using basic movement patterns.  Today we’ll finish up the series and go over progression in a bit more detail.

In Part 1, I defined progression as measurable increases of exercise intensity over a given amount of time.  The biggest key to any exercise program is to make sure that it is progressive.  Yes, the type of exercises matter and yes, your mobility and stability levels will affect the way you perform said exercises.  But if you aren’t constantly trying to do more work than you did the last time you were in the gym, your results will most likely be less than ideal.

And since you’ve already read parts 1, 2 and 3 (right?), I’m assuming you aren’t hitting the gym to just be mediocre.  Heck, even if you’re just shooting for somewhere halfway between “rotten” and “fresh”, having a progressively harder program will certainly get you there sooner rather than later.  (Having the words dark, knight, and rises somehow involved won’t hurt either)


By making sure our workouts are harder each time, we ensure that our bodies are constantly improving.  People seem to like using the ‘building a house’ analogy for things so I’ll give it a shot here.

If you were to ask Homer Simpson about building a house, he would say something like, “If I were to build a house, I would use donuts.  The reas-   …mmmm donuts… gaaaaah…..”  

Crap.  Ok that didn’t work.  Mulligan? Thanks. Much obliged.

Think of progression like a great high school basketball player trying to go straight into the NBA.  (I know the rules say they can’t anymore but pretend this is pre-Kwame Brown and Bassy Telfair)  At the high school level he can dominate and it’s not even fair.  He probably has some holes in his game, but it doesn’t matter.  He can get by on sheer talent and athleticism alone.

That’s you and a weight you can squat comfortably.  You can dominate that weight on any given day, rain shine, tidal wave, whatever.

When the player starts playing with the big boys in the NBA where everyone is good, those holes will be exploited and he better work his tail off to fix them.  If he doesn’t, he’s out of the league in a few years.  Think of this as putting a weight on the bar that you aren’t so sure you can squat.

Like the player has to adjust to the greater skill level in the league, your body has to adjust to the greater amount of weight on the bar.  The difference is that your body will almost always figure out a way to adjust, if you give it enough time and you pick weights that are within reason.  And well, sometimes you’re Kwame Brown.

Don’t be Kwame Brown.  (Sorry Kwame, I’m a novice writer and still need to use freebies as training wheels)

Start by keeping good records of your workouts.  Write down the specific exercises, weights used, the number of sets and the number of repetitions in each set.  The next time you do that workout, try to add to one of those variables.  Add 5 or 10 lbs to the weight you previously used.  Try to do a couple more reps than last time or try to do another whole set.

Keep in mind that progression is also relative to the athlete. For some, progression may be putting 315 lbs onto the bar for the first time.  For others it may mean standing up from a slightly lower chair while maintaining good posture.  Are both making improvements?  You bet your vintage Captain America trading cards they are.
… Yeah I’ve seen The Avengers a few more times than most normal human beings with, you know, lives.  Don’t judge me.

To put a nice little bow on this whole series, we’ll go back to our high school basketball player and the holes in his game.  He may not have to fix them in order to survive in the league.  He may just have to get better in other areas to hide his weaknesses.  He may just have to compensate.  (Remember that word?)  But that’s all he’ll do, survive.

Now think of your body under that bar.  Your body is going to find a way to not let that weight staple you to the floor.  Even if your squat pattern isn’t the greatest, your body will compensate for it and still find a way most of the time.  You’ll survive.

Understand that this will eventually limit the amount of weight you can put on that bar.  Sooner or later those compensations will catch up to you, progress will halt, and you will have to address said compensations.  The same thing goes for our basketball player.  The weaknesses he’s managed to cover up will eventually limit how great he can become.  At some point the only way he’ll get better is to go back and eliminate those weaknesses altogether.  This usually happens far later in a career or training life, but it will always be a gap that needs to be crossed.

This is why it is so vital that we continue to work on mobility and properly executing movement patterns, all while we  continue to increase our exercise intensity.  If we can eliminate holes in our training game, we can raise our potential for improvement.

In reality, that’s all this battle really is, an ongoing quest to better ourselves.

Just know that progress will never be linear.  It almost always starts off that way, but the longer we stay in the game, the harder we have to work to find ways to improve and increments become much smaller.  Rest assured, as long as we make sure we’re somehow better than we were in the last workout, we will never stop improving.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this introduction series as much as I’ve enjoyed bringing it to you and I hope it’s given you some insight into how I think we should all approach our own fitness.  As this blog evolves, I will continue to provide you with ways to improve your own training and hopefully some ways to improve your life in general too. And like I said before, you don’t have to listen to me.  But in all honesty, you really should.  Well.  Okay.  Only if you’re concerned with feeling good and moving better, that is.  And while everything I talk about here may not get you to some of your loftier goals (I wanna date Jessica Alba, too), it’s a damn good place to start.


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