Sep 072011

The biggest common misconception with “finding time” to exercise is that you need a lot of it.

Sure, the more you do the more likely you are to benefit (within your body’s limits), but people seem to cheat themselves too often with the idea that they don’t have the time to “do anything worthwhile”.

Lets take a very simple example. Many guys wish that they could do more push-ups. It’s a simple exercise that can be demonstrated at the drop of a hat and has the potential to build muscle and improve aesthetics in areas often judged as particularly important on a male.

There are many plans out there that you can utilise to “get your push-ups up”. Plans that will dictate varying techniques, timings, set x rep structures and any manner of other things. They are all likely to take you somewhat closer to your goal, but the more set structure the more it seems difficult to “find the time” required.

So lets drop it back a level and look at “overload” as a concept.

What is “overload”?

“Overload” is progress in its rawest form. Overload is doing something that you haven’t done before (either ever or in any relevant time-frame). Overload DOESN’T mean “going beyond failure”, “smashing yourself” or “tearing the muscle”.

If you achieve overload, then you are guaranteed a brand-new stimulus for the body; something it has never experienced before. Can you think of a better way to encourage the body to adapt better to performing that activity?

Overload is generally ascertained by looking at 3 primary metrics:

  1. Intensity – how much resistance against each movement.
  2. Volume – amount of work done.
  3. Density – work done divided by time.

So with the basic example of push-ups, how long do you think it would take to achieve overload in just ONE metric? How many did you do last time you did some? How heavy? How fast?

Lets say hypothetically that last time you did push-ups you did a total of 70 in 20 minutes with a maximum set of 12 reps. You weren’t doing anything else at the time; you were just resting between sets. Now you want to do more, but you’re having trouble “finding the time”. Lets attack each type of overload and see what we can do…

1. Intensity

The push-ups you did last time were “just” common (or garden-variety) push-ups: hands flat on the ground and a small distance outside your shoulder span; feet comfortably apart; your whole structure resting on the flat ground.

To increase intensity you could try any number of modifications that reduce your ability to exert force, but allow you to still perform the movement. e.g. Push-ups with feet raised off the ground (to a step or chair); with hands significantly wider or closer together; resting on your knuckles or hands on chairs for a greater range of motion.

Once you have found a more intense variation that tests well or feels comfortable, all you have to do is more volume of that level than you have done before. Which may be “1” if you have never done them that hard before. Just 1 is unlikely to do a whole hell of a lot, but it’s a start! You may find as well that after that first one, which is technically a Personal Record, the desire to throw a few more in is pretty strong.

The time required to do this is likely to be a lot shorter than at lower intensities. Hell, it might be no longer than it takes you to do one set. This makes it very easy to fit in while doing other tasks, especially since the heavier movement may require more rest between sets; you can simply do about your business with a timer running, do a little more of the movement when you get the chance and then stop the timer when you eventually call it.

Is that likely to be “optimal” for progress? No, but it’s a load better than nothing; focus on progress and just get something done.

Stay tuned to this blog for part 2 regarding the other metrics…

Any questions? Need a fresh opinion on how you can apply greater variance of Intensity in your training? Drop me a comment and I’ll happily oblige.

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