I often see people in classes who are talking during class, never seem to break a sweat and never seem to meet their goals. On the other hand I often see people who are pushing themselves TOO hard. How do you know you whether you need to push harder, use heavier weight, try to get more reps or if you should back off a little?
Four Signs You’re NOT Working Hard Enough
1.) Lack of Muscular Burn: Anaerobic exercise with short, incomplete rest periods creates a great deal of lactic acid accumulation causing intense muscular fatigue and burning. Simply put, if your muscles aren’t burning, you’re not working hard enough. However, this does not mean that you need train to muscular failure on every set. However, for the optimal training effect you should come close to but stop just before technical failure, the point at which going any further would comprise proper exercise form and technique.
2.) Lack of Personal Confrontation: Studies show that training intensity/exertion, not volume (number of reps), determines the degree of metabolic boost from a given workout. That being said, if you don’t have at least a couple moments during your workout when you feel like you want to quit or you hate your life, or you want to sling profanities at me, you’re not working hard enough. Progressive overload remains the hallmark of any solid fitness routine and if you are not pushing past your comfort zone your body will stop adapting to ANY routine. This is nothing more than the man in the mirror test- get some!
3.) No Sounds of Exertion: If you’re not grunting, groaning, huffing, or puffing you’re simply not working hard enough. Your heart rate should be up the whole workout with your lungs working overtime and you might even get a nice little workout booger or two by the time it’s all said and done. In other words, these total body workouts create a systemic effect that activates your body’s fight or flight response to help you go the distance. I’m not saying you have to scream like a rabid animal, but I am saying that I wouldn’t be surprised if you did. Finally, I think another good analogy is the 4 letter word test- if you’re not fighting back the burning desire to yell out a profane 4 letter word or two, well then you’re probably not working hard enough.
4.) Not Sweating: A good metabolic workout will have you glistening during the first couple minutes of the workout and your shirt should be soaked halfway in. If you’re not dripping in a pool of your own sweat at the end of each workout, you simply did not use use heavy enough loads or advanced enough exercise variations to create a metabolic disturbance. Either that or you were resting too long between sets. In general, you should never take more than 60 seconds of rest between sets with metabolic training and 10-30 seconds seems to be the sweet spot.
Four Signs You’re Working Too Hard
1.) Diminished Training Intensity: In general, if you need to reduce your training loads from set to set, then you’re probably working too hard. Your goal is to be able to use the sames loads at the end of the workout that you used in the beginning without excessively resting before increasing the loads in the subsequent workout. The only exception here is if the workout actually calls for you to reduce your loads throughout the training session. In addition, it’s better to go into a given work period with a general rep range to work within. For example, if you were using 30-second work periods, a typical rep range within that time frame is 8-12 reps if you’re moving at the typical 3-4 second per rep tempo. If you’re getting more than 15 reps, the loads are too light. If you’re getting less than 6 reps, the loads are too heavy. Using dead cleans in a 30seconds interval you should be able to hit 12-15 reps. Any less and you went too heavy (unless I told you too) any more then you went too light.
2.) Excessive Resting: If you are being forced to rest/pause a couple times during a work period, or you’re resting longer than your rest periods allow for, you’re probably working too hard. If you choose the appropriate exercise intensity, you should be able to train with minimal if any stopping during the work periods within your workout. As the workout progresses, a brief 3-5 second pause here and there to reset and reload is fine, but if you’re taking any longer than that and stopping constantly, then you need to reduce your loads or regress the exercise appropriately.
3.) Excessive Breathing: A good workout will have you breathing hard as your body’s demand for oxygen increases, but you should never be completely out of breath or gasping for air. If you start wheezing or coughing, that’s a clear sign to stop exercising immediately. If symptoms persist, it could be related to exercise-induced asthma or another serious condition and you should seek immediate medical attention. It’s important to note that larger individuals with more muscle mass will have greater overall oxygen demands and will thus be more prone to being out of breath than their smaller, less muscled counterparts.
4.) Dizziness or Blurred Vision: If you get dizzy or have vision trouble during any portion of exercise, then you’re probably working too hard. Either that or you could be experiencing a migraine or vertigo or have symptoms of low blood pressure, dehydration, or lack of nutrition. If this conditions persists, you must immediately discontinue your fitness program and seek medical attention.