Effort and Its Place in Strength Training

I believe that there is this misconception that putting in an enormous amount of effort into lifting will yield greater results. I have heard people tell me that you constantly need to make yourself uncomfortable to improve. I have been told that the only way to get stronger is by continuously pushing yourself to the very limits of your core. I challenge this notion.

Why is effort so important? Really? For one, things break a lot more often when pushed to the limits, shitting your pants trying to do one more barbell curl is no different than revving your Honda to 7000 rpm. You are much more likely to tear your muscles and your Honda will explode. Other than that, if your not in a competition it just causes unnecessary muscle soreness and probably only slows your progress. Don’t forget that it is also known to produce photos like the one below.

Extreme effort has its place in athletics because athletes are continuously finding themselves in a game situation where it is necessary to push themselves to the limit to succeed. However, It would be unwise to put a lot of effort into strength training and exhaust yourself when you need to spend a lot of time practicing your actual sport.

See things the way I do for a moment. Would you rather be a master or a martyr? A master can do impressive feats of strength while showing little signs of effort. But first, how do you define effort?

-Struggling to control the lift

-Whole body is straining

-Clenching unnecessary muscles: jaw

-Significantly slowed movement speed

I guess that’s how I would describe effort.

Back to the master. Masters avoid these things when they do their crazy shit and as a result, they make it look easy. They can do this because they train without effort to make the strength feats they do, look and feel easy. A martyr grinds rep after rep, constantly riding the edge of failure. They make training difficult for themselves and it shows. Is this an efficient way to train? I say no.

If a person terminates their sets well before they fail, perhaps when movement speed begins to slow down, they will not experience as much fatigue or muscle soreness. This will allow a person to lift more sets per training session, increasing the volume of weight lifted and all the while reducing muscle soreness, which also allows more frequent lifting sessions. I know this because I have tested it. Besides, soreness does not directly equal muscle growth. It may well play a part in muscle growth but the only thing that is really known for sure is that soreness equals muscle damage. I am not in favor of muscle damage and it seems silly and counterproductive if my goal is muscle growth.

The way I see things, muscle growth is driven by various stimulus. Example: A person lifts weights either heavy or light. If heavy, the persons myofibrils increase in size and density as more contractile filaments are synthesized. If light, the persons muscle sarcoplasm swells to allow greater storage of calcium and nutrients involved in prolonged muscle contraction. There is much interaction between these two types of hypertrophy and both can and do occur as a result of adaptation to strength training. It should also be noted that nervous system development and coordination is also a huge determinant of strength. Screaming in agony to pump one more rep out is not going to drive these adaptations any more than taking a short rest and pumping that rep with ease.

I am a Kinesiology student and have some knowledge of muscle anatomy and physiology which I draw upon to make these conclusions, this doesn’t make my opinion valid although it makes perfect sense to me. I challenge you to test these things yourself, do a little research and make your own opinions.

This is what I’m talking about right here.

Happy Training.


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