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You may not even remember when doing a push-up was a struggle. Nowadays, you may brag of how many push-ups you can do in a breeze. Good for you! But have you ever wondered if becoming so efficient at doing something may be the culprit of not seeing the results that you expect from your gym time.
When you start doing any type of exercise for the first time, the energy cost is high no matter how fit you are. This is because your body responds to the new challenge by imposing a higher demand on the cardiovascular, neuromuscular and endocrine systems which translates into a higher impact on the metabolism and, therefore, calorie expenditure.
As you master the exercise, your body does not need to spend the same energy. This is an exercise adaptation and what is known as exercise economy.
“Athletes with higher exercise economy expend less energy during exercise to maintain a given exercise,” explains Benjamin H. Reuter, Ph.D. and Patrick S. Hagerman, Ed.D. in the book Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning.
Being economical may not benefit you that much unless you are striving to achieve your personal best on some sports or a particular weight lifting record. So, those of us who are not Michael Phelps, need to keep challenging our bodies to see the results we want by introducing new moves and/or techniques that will get us out of the comfort zone.
How to bring the “inefficiency” back to your routine?
If you have mastered some of these very popular moves or exercise programs, become a newbie by making some tiny but significance changes to your routine to make a difference on the scale and on how your jeans fit.
Jade Teta, ND, CSCS from the Nauropathic Health Clinic of North Carolina and author of the book New Me Diet, points out that the goal is to overload the muscle so it responds. In the sense, that the change will make temporarily less efficient your body but more effective your workout to achieve your goals.
1. For circuit training experts: No doubt this has become the way to go when lifting weights. If you are a pro doing six to eight exercises one after another with little or no rest in between, you better spice it up by :
a) Instead of doing a mix of upper and lower body exercise, do a circuit combining exercises that overlap such as all upper body or all lower body.
b) Get away from machines and do a circuit with all free weights moves.
c) Throw a high intensity treadmill sprint in between the exercises or some plyometrics moves like jump to box or squat jumps.
For push-up experts: Rather than doing standard pushups, do 5 reps super slow, followed by five reps fast[MM1] and then 5 seconds of 1 inch reps (middle position moving in a pulsing pattern in the middle), far more overload. Certainly not as easy/efficient as doing 10 straight reps.
2. For squats and/or deadlift experts: if you have done all types of squats from dumbbells, barbells to the Smith machine, you can teach something new to your body by throwing an upper body move. Add a shoulder press to the squat or an upright row to the deadlift. Another very challenging one is to do a barbell push-up to a power squat: Put the barbell on the floor, do a push up, and then from a squat position lift the bar all the way up to a shoulder press. The exercise should be performed like one fluid move while using the legs to transfer the body all the way up.
3. For plank experts: Instead of staying in the plank position, alternate 10 pushups, followed by 20 seconds of planking, and repeat, to induce fatigue and force the body to respond.
4. For cardio machines experts: Vary the angles and speeds in an interval type fashion, i.e. 1 minute of walking at a steep incline, 1 minute sprinting on a flat surface, 2 minutes jogging at moderate speed, repeat the cycle for 30 minutes or so.
Embrace the struggle to learn something new or to make a change once in a while. This is what it’ll make your fitness goal better than your best.
Marta Montenegro inspires people to live healthy lives by giving them the tools and strength to find one’s inner athlete through her personal website MartaMontenegro.com. She created SOBeFiT, a national fitness magazine for men and women, and the Montenegro Method DVD workout series – a program she designed for getting results in just 21 days by exercising 21 minutes a day . Marta is a strength and conditioning coach and serves as an adjunct professor of exercise physiology at Florida International University.