Monday, January 25, 2021

Intensity of Effort — Why Walking the Dog Won't Help You Keep Your Muscles

NOTE: In this blog series we’ve covered the definition of exercise, and why moving slowly during exercises helps keep things safe.

Today’s topic is another that is often overlooked, but is essential to an effective exercise program — intensity of effort.

When we perform progressive resistance training, our goal is to place a demand on the skeletal muscle great enough to induce positive physiological adaptations. In other words, if your muscles are fatigued to exhaustion, the tissue in and around the targeted area (muscle, tendons, ligaments, bones) will respond by becoming bigger and stronger with proper rest and recovery.

Unfortunately, your body doesn’t necessarily want to make these adaptations. It’s metabolically expensive, and if it had things its way, it would stay nice and warm and cozy, never having to adapt.

The next time you are at the grocery store, pick up a one-pound package of lean ground beef. Now imagine your body having to produce that and distribute it all around your muscle tissue. That’s a lot of tissue!

So since your body doesn’t particularly want to make these adaptations, you need to give it a very good reason to do so. This is why most people who pick up an aerobic-based or low-intensity endurance activity do not see good results when it comes to gaining or maintaining muscle mass or bone density, because that given activity is not localized or demanding enough to stimulate an adaptation.

This is where intensity of effort comes into play.

Momentary Muscular Failure

At Efficient Fitness, we take every set to Momentary Muscular Failure (MMF). This is a fancy way of saying you perform the exercises slowly, back and forth, until you cannot execute another repetition with perfect form. (That last part about perfect form is important!)

By taking the exercise to this level of intensity at the end, it leaves your muscles with no other choice than to think “Next time I encounter this stimulus, I need to be ready for it!” Then, through proper rest, recovery and nutrition, it will become stronger.

If you think about it through an evolutionary lens, performing exercises in this manner puts your muscle tissue into a state of emergency. You’ve put yourself in a position where you are asking the tissue to do something it no longer can do. 

In the context of our ancestors, this might look like running for your life from a saber-tooth tiger. The consequence of muscle failure in that scenario is probably getting eaten, but at Efficient Fitness, we use our big human brains to remind ourselves we are in a safe environment on an exercise machine. This allows us to maximally fatigue the muscle, without injuring ourselves.

Perfect form!

When it comes to the effectiveness of exercise, the intensity of effort is the single most important variable, and keeping perfect form throughout the exercise allows us to maintain that effort.

When you see the latest and greatest fitness videos on Instagram, often times what seems like intensity of effort is actually trainees grunting, grimacing and making a dramatic show of swinging, heaving or jerking the weights in order to gain an advantage. This does NOT make the exercise harder, it actually makes it easier, by using momentum to shift the load off of the targeted musculature and placing it elsewhere, usually somewhere we don’t want it, like our joints.

Remember, our goal is NOT to move the weights up and down. Our goal is to fatigue the target muscle in order to stimulate a positive physiological response!

One of the best features of exercise at Efficient Fitness is the INTENSITY necessitates BREVITY. After a handful of exercises performed to Momentary Muscular Failure, the fatigue will not only be localized at the muscle, but the fatigue will be systemic, throughout the central nervous system. A true full-body workout in only 20-30 minutes.

If you are interested in seeing how you can achieve the most benefit from exercise in the least amount of time, call 425-214-2251 or email to set up your complimentary session today.