You might not know it, but if you either lift weights on your own or workout with a personal trainer, you most likely fall into one of these two camps.
The first camp is all about objective measurements.
The other end of the spectrum is all about feeling the right muscles at the right time. Feeling the contraction in the appropriate muscle is the way that you know that you’re doing the exercise correctly. When you feel the burn you are doing it right.
So which methodology is the correct way to exercise? Well, like most things, the answer is a blend of the two.
Here’s how I blend the two with my own workouts and with my personal training clients…
During first 15 to 30 minutes, your body is transitioning from a sedentary state into your workout state. This time is commonly called your warm-up, getting the body warm. And I also like to think of this time as muscle activation, you are "prepping" the body for work.
During this prep time, it’s important that you feel the appropriate muscles. You want to be able to pinpoint exactly the muscle that’s working in any given exercise. The main reason for this is that one of the goals of the balance warm up is to eliminate compensations. You can eliminate compensations only when you can feel what you're doing.
Your goal is not to do the motion at all costs, But rather, your goal is to introduce gentle range of motion and let your body acclimate to those ranges safely and when it’s ready.
The amount of prep time varies based on the individual, the day of the week, how much rest and recovery you have received, the time of day, and your emotional state. Just the other day, when I did my workout, it took me an hour and 15 minutes to feel like I was warmed up. That “feeling“ can best be described as the feeling of each muscle engaging when it supposed to, and relaxing when it is supposed to.
Other days I feel like I can jump right into the workout within 10 minutes.
In summary, do you want to judge your warm-up based on the feeling of it. Engaging the right muscles, stretching the right muscles.
A workout's worth is and it’s warm up.
What about tracking numbers? Sure, there is a place for this. In general, tracking numbers is for more advanced trainees. Why? Because as a beginner weightlifter you are less worried about how many pounds you can lift, mainly because you’re not lifting much weight yet. It doesn’t really matter if you’re pressing 12 pounds or 15 pounds. What matters is that you feel your triceps, your shoulders, and your chest. Your focus is on doing it right.
As you progress, of course you still want to be focusing on doing it right, but you can assume with good confidence that your form is already correct. You’ve done your 10,000 repetitions for mastery. Now, you are trying to get stronger in this range of motion.
Side note: if your form is not good or you have back pain, this automatically categorizes you as a beginner in my book, no matter how much weight you can lift. In that case, you need to reference the above paragraphs on "feeling" the work.
At this point, you’re not necessarily going to feel that “burn“ every single time you do an exercise. But, rest assured, tomorrow you will feel it. ;)
When you’re in this stage, yes, it is important to track the numbers. All other things being equal, when your numbers go up, you are getting stronger. The most important thing in that last sentence is “all things being equal.“ Again, for beginners, there’s such variability in your form, that you don’t really need to worry about increasing the numbers very quickly. In fact, getting too tied up on the numbers before your form is really good may have devastating effects as far as injury
Once again, as with many fitness debates, nobody is right and nobody is wrong. The hybrid approach is usually best. I have found that generally it is best to be a “jack of all trades“ when it comes to fitness. Getting too entrenched in one particular way of doing things, whether fitness or life in general, tends to backfire and I don’t recommend it.
Thanks for reading to the end. I hope you enjoyed this post. If you have any specific questions, feel free to comment below. Thanks!