If you know me you know I like speed. I enjoy finding new and better ways to help our athletes produce force at a higher rate. This helps them have more success in their sport and can extend careers when others might be losing a step.But as much as I’m an advocate of training to improve speed I will often start slowly with a new client. In fact you might hear the coaches at Okanagan Peak Performance Inc use expressions like:
‘Speed hides need’
‘Nobody cares how fast you can do it wrong’
‘We’re going to start slow in order to go fast’
‘Anyone can whip a rented mule. We’re here to train thoroughbreds’
Unfortunately though for a number of coaches there is a pressure to start at the end. They feel that their clients need to be sore, sweaty and out of breath at the end of every session. And should someone end up puking during a training session, which is then acknowledged with pats on the back and rounds of encouragement and praise. The following day is spent recounting the story around the water cooler at work while struggling to make it down a flight of stairs.
No one should want or have to experience that. Instead we should be helping people become stronger, leaner, fitter and happier versions of themselves.
And not only can this take time it should take time.
Rush the promise and you end up short-changing yourself on the results that could be achieved.
Don’t believe me?
Check out the following research studies that prove the point that you are better off to take the moderate rather than the extreme path to success.
The first study had six males perform 5 sets of eccentric biceps curls at 110% of their 1 rep concentric maximum. What this means is that if the subjects could perform a biceps curl with 100 pounds for 1 rep, they put 110 pounds on the bar. And then they lowered this weight for 10 reps.
The researchers then looked at how long it took to recover from this bout of exercise and how it affected muscle volume.
Here’s what they found.
While muscle volume increased 40% soon after training this value dropped to 10% below starting levels at the two week point. And it then took eight weeks for this drop in muscle volume to return to pre-test levels.
So what does this mean for us?
Well if we ‘hit it hard’, go ‘all out’ or ‘beast mode’ too soon we aren’t reaping many rewards. Instead we lose about 10% of our muscle volume making subsequent training sessions harder to perform.
(not from the own study but my own take on this…We may struggle to achieve the same number of reps or hit the strength levels of a previous training session.)
The take home message is to ease into exercise and look to stimulate and not annihilate the system.
Do you have a goal to get leaner? Would you like to be more toned?
And would you to be stronger? Would you like to do more push ups or pull ups? Or maybe even a single pull up or push up?
If so, then this next study is for you.
It looked at 24 athletes that followed a slow or fast reduction in their energy intake in order to achieve a reduction in body fat. And as these were athletes they were also looking to increase lean muscle mass at the same time i.e. they wanted to be stronger and more powerful.
The athletes were divided into two groups. One group followed a mass reduction of 0.7% (slow reduction) and the other group was set at 1.4% (fast reduction). In practical terms the slow reduction group at 19% fewer calories and the fast reduction group ate 30% fewer calories.
At the end of the study the group that followed the slow reduction lost more total body weight and lost more fat. As well, the slow reduction group gained 2.1% lean body mass whereas the fast reduction group did not gain any lean body mass.
The Take Home Message
Start slowly and ease into training. Resist the marketing messages you hear telling you go harder, go all out and do more. And if you’re looking to lean up, do so slowly. A 0.7% body weight loss per week is the perfect pace to achieve a lean look while getting stronger at the same time.
- Foley JM, Jayaraman RC, Prior BM, Pivarnik JM, Meyer RA. 1999. MR measurements of muscle damage and adaptation after eccentric exercise. J Appl Physiol. 87(6):2311-8.
- Garthe I, Raastad T, Refsnes PE, Koivisto A, Sundgot-Borgen J. 2011. Effect of two different weight-loss rates on body composition and strength and power-related performance in elite athletes. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 21(2):97-104.