By Kevin Hirose – BKin, CSCS
What constitutes a “great workout”? That is a very good question and the answer is often quite misunderstood by many inexperienced “exercisers” and even by more seasoned ones. First of all, it depends on your fitness/performance goals and level of fitness. But let’s take a big step back and discuss what many people believe is a “great workout”:
Statement #1: My muscles got really sore! They were sore for 5 days!
Explanation: Just means that the muscles were overloaded and/or not accustomed to exercise or a particular exercise, not necessarily a great workout. I was EXTREMELY sore after my first workout – it must have been the best workout of my life! COMPLETELY NOT.
Statement #2: I sweated more than I ever have before.
Explanation: Sweating is a just a way of the body cooling itself down. You can sweat buckets sitting in a sauna – it doesn’t mean you had a great workout or even a workout at all.
Statement #3: I did more reps and finished my workout in record time, but I got injured!
Explanation: Training is not about competition it is about preparation and building fitness/physical attributes. Treating training like a sport or competition too often will lead to injuries and decreased performance/results in the long-term.
Statement #4: I worked out for 3 hours and was completely exhausted by the end of it.
Explanation: Weight/strength training for long periods such as 2 hours or more is not necessarily better. Your body goes into a catabolic state after an hour of solid weight training and the muscles cannot produce the same tension to produce strength or size.
Statement #5: I puked during/after my workout!
Explanation: VOMITING (puking) during can and does happen occasionally during intense exercise but it should NEVER be a goal during a workout. It could mean overexertion, illness, excess food in the stomach and can be a sign of danger for some people.
If these explanations are a surprise or sound incorrect to you then try basing your training on any or all of these statements and check out your results after 6 months, if you last that long. HOWEVER, I DO NOT RECOMMEND EVEN THINKING OF TRYING ANY OF THEM.
Now that you have read what is not necessarily a “great workout”, we can now discuss what determines a great workout. This is not a the easiest question to answer but what you first need to do find purpose in your training session or “workout”. If you do not have a purpose then you will NOT have a great workout unless your sole purpose is just to sweat profusely.
Now if you had planned to work on strength next time at the gym and you ended up doing high rep super-sets to fatigue you are not working on true “strength”. Why? If you want to work on strength, work on strength not getting a good “burn” from muscle fatigue.
If you are training for specific and real results it is important you train with a purpose. For example, if you are training for strength you will lift heavier for lower reps NOT light weight/resistance for high reps (above 12). Strength is dependent upon creating high tension in the muscle so lower resistance, high repetition sets do not allow for creating sufficient tension to elicit real strength gains. In this case, working high reps will target muscular endurance not muscular strength therefore training the incorrect attribute.
So, in simple terms, if you want a “great workout” you must:
1) Determine what ATTRIBUTE(S) (strength, speed, cardiovascular capacity, fat loss, etc.) you will focus on
2) Determine which METHOD (barbell strength training for maximal strength, cardiac output method for aerobic capacity, Olympic lifting for power) will target them best
3) Utilize proper TECHNIQUE of movements/exercises
IF YOU ARE HAVING DIFFICULTY WITH THESE ANY OF THESE STEPS PLEASE ASK AN EXPERT IN THE FIELD SUCH AS A STRENGTH COACH OR A WELL-VERSED PERSONAL TRAINER.
Here is a short QUIZ to get you thinking about training purpose and goals:
In order to increase maximal muscular strength you must utilize:
- high reps, low resistance
- intense cardiovascular training
- low reps, high resistance
- Olympic lifting
Who would benefit most from strength training?
- marathon runner
- combat fighter
- it depends
Which type of exercise below is best for fat loss/improved body composition?
- interval training
- strength training
Planned long-term training is called periodization. What is the purpose of it?
- prevents overtraining
- promotes long-term progress
- provides muscle “confusion”
- both a + b
- all of the above
The answers are not posted nor will any answers be given since some of the questions do not necessarily have a correct answer. It is a tool for encouraging thought and analysis in regards to exercise and training. AND…if you are serious about exercise and making progress in specific areas utilize the concept of “TRAINING” (which, in my opinion, entails SPECIFIC goals and means) instead of applying the concept of “working out” (which, also in my opinion, lacks specificity).
So the next time you go to the gym, track, or your “workout” location of choice…TRAIN!!