Updated: Sep 29, 2020
The fitness industry is in a very interesting place right now, and I honestly believe that the forced shutdowns brought on by our current COVID pandemic have made it slightly worse. Everywhere you look, all you see are these 30 minute High Intensity Workouts that are comprised primarily of plyometric (jumping) movements, i.e- lots of burpees (which most people do incorrectly), without any focus on form or proper progression from simple to more advanced/complex movements. The aim of these workouts is to get you breathing hard, sweating, and walking out of the gym/living room feeling fatigued and broken, because according to social media and the new wave of fitness classes (F45, Orange Theory, Boot Camps, some Crossfit gyms), the only indicator of a good workout is the amount of sweat on your shirt and the extreme soreness you feel the next day.
“The soreness you feel post workout is absolutely NOT a good indicator of the quality of your workout.”
The soreness you feel post workout is absolutely NOT a good indicator of the quality of your workout. In fact, that fatigue you are feeling post HIIT workout can actually be doing more harm than good in terms of your recovery process (your body needs to focus on repair, not adaptation - no, the two do not always go hand in hand), injury promotion (especially the shoulders, knees, and low back) and proper movement mechanics (the SO important mind-muscle connection).
Now don't get me wrong, I am not saying high intensity movements are evil and should never be done. On the contrary, I am a firm believer in metabolic conditioning and know there is always a time and a place to PROPERLY incorporate it into programming, which means you are basing the exercises and intensity level around an athletes workout history, movement mechanics, past injuries, and cardiovascular thresholds.
So how do you know if your workout is effective? Your workout should start with a strength based component that is followed by a conditioning component. You should have slightly more energy post workout than pre-workout due to the natural endorphin rush that exercise creates. You should have multiple periods of rest throughout your workout that allow for the heart rate to come down in between sets and your energy reserves to restore. You should always be focusing on movement mechanics so that you can progress the movement over time, i.e- Seated Dumbbell Shoulder Press to a Standing Dumbbell Jerk. You should be using the minimal dose possible to elicit adaptation, i.e- you should be experiencing minimal soreness, IF ANY, maybe a 2 or 3 out of 10. Lastly, you should enjoy the workout and not be staring at a clock wishing the time would go by faster.
Fitness is a journey, not a sprint. Consistency trumps intensity every day of the week. Take your time, trust the process, and understand that while a little soreness is not a bad thing, it should NEVER be your indicator of a quality workout.
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