On a weekly basis, I have clients telling me things like “that workout was awesome, I was super sore!” Or things like “I don’t think that workout was hard enough, I didn’t feel sore at all!” Two wildly opposing ideas. Even on occasion someone may get too sore and now that means the workout was too hard! So how do you know if you are getting an effective workout, making progress and not wasting your time in the gym is you have to wait to see if you are sore afterward for 1, 2 or even 3 days? Good news, you don’t!
During the course of any given weightlifting workout, you should at a minimum be able to tell me which muscles you are trying to work. Doing bicep curls, but not feeling them in your biceps? Problem. Doing deadlifts and feeling them….where again? If at a bare minimum you do not feel the muscles you want to be working doing anything, or “activating” chances are really good you won’t be able to get an effective workout. Intensity time under tension, and range of motion are also factors in whether or not your muscles are being properly stimulated to produce a good result, but focusing at least on the muscle you want to be feeling and making sure to engage it, or squeeze it, during a movement will go a long way toward helping you feel like you are moving in the right direction.
So I know I said being sore isn’t the only measure of a good workout, and it’s not! However having some level of soreness can indicate you were working at an appropriate intensity. When we are resistance training (lifting weights) we are actually not building muscle. We are tearing it down. It is only after we create tons of these microscopic tears in our muscles that the real work begins. When we are resting, eating and recovering from our workouts occasional soreness may set in as a result. If you are not sore did you have a bad workout? No! But there may be a little room for pushing yourself too. I like to use a 1-10 scale to determine if maybe I went to hard. If I am sore a 6 or below, that was probably a good workout for me. I know I will be able to recover before my next session of lifting that muscle group again, so I have no fear of injury! Once we start getting into a 7+ level of soreness, now I may not be able to recover in time. It’s a fine line, but with practice you can find your sweet spot.
As the saying goes, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Often times we program hop out of boredom, not because the workouts aren’t effective. Not seeing a full on 6 pack after doing a new program for a month is like expecting to be a millionaire after working a minimum wage job for a month. It’s just not going to happen. It take time, repetition, and more time. So if you aren’t getting that 6 pack in a month (sorry) how do you know if you are making progress and your program is effective? Well, you’ll have to track it won’t you …
The kicker with all of these measures is you have to keep track. If haven’t yet read my post explaining how to track you can catch it here.
Until next week friends!