Common phrases touted at the gym (and my thoughts on them).

Once again I thought I’d write about something different, covering some of my hobbies and interests. This time let’s talk about common phrases you hear at the gym, and my thoughts on them.

Phrase One: No pain no gain.

  • There is good pain and bad pain, learn to recognise the difference.

Good pain:

  • A burning sensation in your muscles which slowly builds during a workout.
  • Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This will usually happen the next day after a workout and last for 2-3 days.

Bad pain:

  • Any pain you experience in the joints and tendons.
  • Any sudden sharp pain experienced during a workout.

Feeling ‘good pain’ can be motivating but shouldn’t be relied on. Whether or not you are continuing to make progress is a much better indicator.

Phrase Two: Take electrolyte drinks to improve your performance.

  • These are meant to replace electrolytes lost in the body through sweat, such as sodium and potassium.
  • Most of the time, they aren’t beneficial or justified. Unless you exercise in hot weather or do endurance-based exercise (e.g. long-distance running), they won’t help you much.
  • Many electrolyte drinks contain large amount of sodium and sugar, so they aren’t actually healthy. Check the ingredients list. 
  • If you enjoy drinking electrolyte drinks, don’t let me stop you. I also enjoy electrolyte drinks.
  • You can easily make your own.

Phrase Three: A good programme should incorporate progressive overload.

  • Progressive overload is a gradual increase in the demand placed on your muscles over time. In other words, your workouts should gradually become more harder over time, if you want to keep making progress.
  • This is a fact and not even debatable.
  • There are several ways you can do this, other than simply increasing the weight used. One could increase the number of repetitions within each set, or decrease the rest intervals, for instance.
  • This concept should also apply to exercise and fitness in general. To continually improve, the duration or intensity of your exercise should continue to increase.  
  • Without progressive overload, your strength and fitness levels will quickly plateau.

Phrase Four: You must train to failure.

  • In weightlifting, this means to perform an exercise with as many repetitions as possible, until you can’t do it anymore.
  • Sometimes training to failure is good, other times it isn’t – it depends on the exercise and expertise of the individual.
  • For less demanding exercises, such as bodyweight calisthenic exercises and isolation exercises, training to failure is relatively safe for most people, provided you are using correct from consistently. In these cases, training to failure should be encouraged.
  • For the ‘big three’ exercises (bench press, squat, deadlift), you shouldn’t train to failure, unless you are relatively experienced and have a spotter. Otherwise you could get tired and use incorrect form, risking seriously injuring yourself.
  • If your muscles have enough stress and time under tension, you will see improvements, regardless of whether you train to failure.
  • Outside of the gym, you shouldn’t train to failure.

Phrase Five: Free weights are better than exercise machines.

  • Machines are easier to use, safer, and they stabilise the weights in place for you. They are also good for targeting specific muscle groups in isolation.
  • Free weights require you to learn the correct technique, and there is more risk of injury if you do the exercises wrongly. However, lifting free weights is more applicable to a ‘real world’ setting, because you aren’t just moving a weight in one plane of motion. When using the correct technique, free weight exercises will give you more improvements in strength than the equivalent machine exercises on their own. Free weights almost always target more than one muscle group.
  • If you know what you’re doing, and don’t have any injuries, then you should be doing free weights.
  • If you have injuries, then exercise machines may allow you to work around these, where it may be difficult to do this with free weights.
  • It’s not really a choice, there is no reason why someone can’t incorporate both.

So there we have it, five common pieces of gym advice which you will hear, and my thoughts on them. What are you thoughts on the previous advice? Do you agree? Disagree? Have you got any gems of advice of your own to add? Say in the comments!

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