What Make a Good Workout Good?

Feel the Burn What Makes and Effective Workout

What Makes a Good Workout?

A lot of sweat.  A massive burn.  Feeling so tired that you can barely walk out of the gym.  Maybe even vomiting.  These are all signs of a good workout, right?

Not necessarily.

Go to most gyms, fitness classes, or your average trainer, and it seems like the the burn during an exercise or how tired the workout makes you is what determines if it was good or not.

In an effort to achieve this burn and level of tiredness you will often see things performed like hundreds of reps, high reps of technical movements like olympic lifts, endurance work combined with strength training, and many other mistakes in programming.

Why is this the norm?  Because this is what our “fitness experts” have told us to believe.  But are we really achieving our goals?  Are we becoming stronger, better, and opening more doors? When you take time out of your day to train you should be getting something out of it.  There should be some sort of improvement.  Perhaps the gain is in strength – such as being able to add five pounds to your back squat or gaining the ability to perform a chin up.

Maybe the gain is in performance like being able to jump higher or run faster.

It could also be in health markers such as lower body fat and blood pressure and increases in lean body mass like bone and muscle.

Or even better – perhaps you open more doors. For example, learning how to perform a handstand can open the door to things like handstand pushups, press handstands, and much more.

These are the types of things you want when you train – the types of things that should measure the worth of your training. This is why you spend your time improving yourself. Yet this is exactly what most training and fitness experts steer us away from.

How do they bring us away from these sought after improvements? With workouts which are focused on being grueling and hard but which don’t actually improve much.

Take the typical workout where you do 100 reps of an exercise so you can feel the burn. Yes, it may burn, but are you actually improving? You can do 100 reps of nearly anything and improve. Try holding your arm extended in front of you for 100 seconds. It will eventually burn and fatigue but that doesn’t mean you have made gains.

We also have trainers and classes practicing exercises which don’t really lead us toward our goals. Running a marathon won’t necessarily make your heart stronger. Doing burpees will improve your strength minimally if you are just coming back from being a sedentary stamp collector. But after a small period of gains nothing more will be made. Such movements do nothing to open new doors for new skills to be acquired. Burpees can be done by the hundreds and provide a massive burn over the entire body but what did you get out of them besides a sweaty shirt, some achy muscles, and an hour of time wasted that could have gone toward something better?

So what is a person to do instead? What should we monitor to know if our workouts are useful? Look for these signs:

 

Improvements in strength, speed, flexibility, or other abilities.

 

Are you able to lift more weight? Can you complete that set faster and more explosively? Have you gained new ranges of motion?

 

Improvements in performance

Did your hundred meter dash time go down? Did your vertical jump go up? Can you now consistently do that pull up that you were only capable of before during optimal conditions?

 

Best of all – did you open a new door?

Can you now stand on your hands, allowing you to work on new skills such as handstand pushups, presses, and more? Did you create a “bridge” which will let you progress to things like back handsprings and front limbers?

 

Use these as the markers of a good workout and don’t worry so much about the burn. Later we will go over how to tailor your workout to accomplish these goals.

Philip Chubb
Philip Chubb is a teacher, trainer, and student who has learned from a variety of great teachers such a the Poliquin Group, Ido Portal Method, Yuri Marmerstein, Gymnastic Bodies, and more. In the past ten years, he has researched and learned about movement, nutrition, hormones, training, martial arts, hand balancing, gymnastics, tumbling, dance, biomechanics and much more. He's life emphasis is moving and improving both physically and mentally each day.
Philip Chubb
Philip Chubb

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