When finding time to fit in a workout is so difficult, many people think that when you do manage to get to the gym, if you’re not a shaking, sweaty, out-of-breath wreck who can barely walk upstairs when you leave, it wasn’t worth it.
But according to a top trainer, pushing our bodies to the extreme isn’t actually benefiting us at all.
Firas Zahabi, the head coach at mixed martial arts training centre Tristar Gym in Quebec, Canada, believes we should be focussing on consistency rather than intensity.
“I’m a big believer in never being sore - you should train, and the next day you should wake up feeling good,” he said in a recent interview with Joe Rogan.
And this applies whether you’ve never worked out before or train regularly.
“Let’s say I make you do pull-ups and the maximum amount of pull-ups you can do is 10. If I pointed a gun at you, you couldn’t do 11. Should I make you do 10 pull-ups on our workout?” he explains.
“No! I’m going to make you do five, because I’m setting you up to work the next day, and the next day we’re going to do another five, and the next day we’re going to do six. When six is really easy, we’re going to do seven.
“If you did 10 pull-ups on Monday, you’re going to be sore till Thursday. So by Thursday, you’ve only done 10 pull-ups. Me, I’ve been doing five pull-ups every day, so I’m at 20 pull-ups. I have more volume than you. If you add up at the end of the year who trained more, I’ve trained way more than you.”
Zahabi explains that by burning yourself out during every workout and pushing yourself to your limits, you actually reduce the amount of time you’re able to train because your body needs so much longer to recover.
“Exercise can produce energy,” Zahabi goes on, explaining that it can take your energy levels from 7/10 to 8.5/10. But, he says, once you’ve got that endorphin high and that energy boost, you should stop: “Don’t go into the phase where your body’s beat up, tight, broken up. Don’t red-line the body.”
When you’re in the gym, you’re trying to strike just the right balance so you’re challenging yourself and neither bored nor anxious.
“People always go in to anxiety,” Zahabi says. “They go and they kill, they slam their body.” But when you associate going to the gym with working your body to exhaustion, it takes so much mental energy to get yourself to go and to psych yourself up for a workout.
Zahabi believes “training should be a pulling force.” So if you don’t feel yourself actively wanting to go and workout, it’s not fun, “and if it’s not fun you’re not going to do a lot of it.” You have to find a way to make it pleasurable by working yourself just the right amount.
Instead of focussing on intensity, we should be prioritising consistency.
He also points out that some people think they’re training at peak intensity when they’re not - when it comes to lifting weights, if you can do two reps, you haven’t reached your max. If you were really lifting your max weight, you would need a break after one rep, according to Zahabi.
At the end of the day, it comes down to volume of training if you want to reach your fitness goals. And by pushing your body to its limit every time you workout, you’re not able to train as much.
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