FitnessTraining

Stress is the #1 Rule for Improvement

By: Dana Shorb, Fitness Director

WHAT DOES STRESS DO TO YOUR BODY?

It is common knowledge that chronic mental stress can cause health problems. This comes from the elevated levels of hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. What is not commonly known is that the dissociation of physical stress from mental stressors means there is no resolution to the influx of those hormones. Our fight-or-flight mechanism never gets to brawl and run. Physical stress, aka exercise, dissipates those hormones quickly and efficiently as it satisfies the cycle of the stress response. In addition to utilizing those hormones, physical exertion will also cause your body to adapt to whatever demand is being put on it. Muscles change, ligaments and tendons to strengthen and the heart becomes more efficient.

In the gym, we have the goal to cause a specific change so there needs to be a specific stress. The type, volume, intensity, complexity of the stress (exercise), will determine your body’s response. Compare Olympic level athletes, their bodies look drastically different yet all perform incredibly intense training routines year round. Are you causing a physical stress that will progress you towards your goal? What results have you been getting from your current routine?

 

WHY DOES LIFTING WEIGHTS WORK?

Simply put, an adequate level of stress triggers the body to prepare itself for future loads of stress. These adaptations include increased bone mineral density, strength, balance, cardiovascular capacity, coordination etc. If someone says they aren’t seeing progress in the gym my first question is “when was the last time you made your exercises harder?” If you have been using the same weight / rep / set / level / speed / exercise, etc.… for more than a few weeks your body has adapted to them and it’s done changing. You won’t see any further adaptations; your body doesn’t need to. It would be like repeating the 1st grade over and over expecting to get smarter.

Progressive overload is essential and can be done by increasing the intensity OR by using a more complex exercise, but regardless the idea is that you are gradually increasing stress on the body. This is called the principle of Progressive Overload and it is number one rule to continual improvement.

Check out the chart below to see if you are inducing the right stress for your goal.

Training Goals % of max Total Reps

Per Workout

Primary

Adaptation

Rating of Perceived Exertion (R.P.E.)
Max Strength 95-100 4-10 Neuro-muscular 10
Strength 85-95 6-14 Dense muscles 8-9
Hypertrophy 75-85 10-20 Larger muscles 7-8
Power 65-75 12-24 Fiber type change 6-7
Endurance 55-65 18-30 Energy efficiency 5-6
Rehabilitation < 45 30+ Soft tissue rehab 0-5