Fitness Trail: The Small Things Matter
Every repetition of every set of every exercise and every session matters. Think of a typical workout week, perhaps three to four workouts with a duration of an hour each. Now, consider that each of the exercises you are performing requires two or three sets of 8-12 repetitions. Prior to the completion of each set, you decide you will not complete the final one to two repetitions (i.e., obviously, you must always listen to your body but as long as you are safe—you need to carry on).
What is critical to consider is that one to two repetitions not completed is multiplied by dozens of sets throughout the year. Therefore, over the course of a year, you may be dropping entire workouts due to the accumulation of incomplete sets of repetitions which may lead to undesirable fitness outcomes.
At the time, one or two repetitions may not seem like a significant issue, but in fact, it is what you do, or do not do, over time, that matters. Consequently, the small things matter, and that is on both sides of the fitness coin (i.e., adding a repetition or set accumulates, when well designed and performed, perhaps leading to more desirable performance results). Consider the following strategies for following through with the small elements of your exercise program and you may begin to experience an elevated level of performance and outcomes. As always, prior to beginning any exercise program, please consult your physician.
Strategy No. 1 — Set yourself up for success. Typically, when performing general muscular strength training, we program for one-three sets of 8-12 repetitions depending upon the load that is being lifted. For example, if you are lifting very heavy, you may perform five sets of 3-5 repetitions and require longer recovery intervals due to the level of exertion. Choose a load you are safely capable of lifting, know what the purpose of your lifting is (i.e., moderate to heavy or very heavy), and then stick with the plan.
While every day and every workout is different depending upon the body you have that day, train with meticulous form/technique, to a point of momentary muscle failure. When it becomes hard (and it should during the set), complete your designated number of repetitions. If you feel it is necessary to drop a repetition, then perhaps your program is too ambitious. Rethink it and then perform every repetition during every set of every exercise!
Strategy No. 2 — Rather than thinking about the end of the set, think of the journey. Be in the moment — repeating mantras such as “I can because I will and I will because I can.” Because every repetition matters, strive to perform each repetition as precisely as possible.
Strategy No. 3 — If you fail to complete your repetitions at the same point during a specific exercise, check your form and technique. Often what occurs is a client begins to “break” form by letting their head fall backward, popping their rib cage, failing to maintain a neutral pelvis, losing their concentration and commitment, and this leads to that “giving up” mentality. Reset your posture and keep moving forward!
Strategy No. 4 — Where do you want to land in three, six, nine or 12 months? Remember, each repetition matters in this pursuit. Consequently, dig deep and complete your repetitions safely and effectively, every workout throughout the year.
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