One of the biggest misconceptions I have witnessed when it comes to concepts people embrace about what is helping their fitness is that they need to feel crushed, destroyed, and sore all over from a workout for it to have been an effective day at the gym.

I’ve heard panic in people’s voices when the conditioning of the day “doesn’t look hard enough,” or complaints when it doesn’t appear as though the training session will get them huffing and puffing sufficiently enough to leave them in a pool of sweat, unable to drive for 30 minutes.

On a similar note, I’ve heard people ask questions, such as: “What is this doing for me? Where am I supposed to feel this?” when, for example, we’re putting them through a new movement—often things like a warm-up or activation drill—and they don’t feel every fibrous tissue in their body fighting for its life.

“Can we just workout already? I’m already warm. I ran three miles to get here,” some complain as they go through the motions, all the while not bothering to listen to the coach’s instructions about squeezing their butt cheeks together as hard as they can for two minutes.

Oddly, or perhaps not so oddly enough, these same people are the ones who don’t ever seem to adhere to the lifting percentages.

“50 percent of my 3-RM? But that’s so light!” they can be heard chirping from their squat rack before piling on an additional 20lbs.

Don’t get me wrong, going hard and pushing ourselves is a key principle behind our training that greatly improves our fitness, but understand that certain days are programmed to be “lighter” or “easier” for a purpose. There’s always a method to the madness.

 

Just some food for thought:

I could throw some bricks at you and you’d probably be pretty sore the next day, yet no more fit until you take the time to allow your body to recover properly. On the flip side, a two-minute deadbug or glute bridge might not make you feel like your just did Murph, and certainly won’t result in muscle soreness the next day, but it sure can go a long way in helping you prepare for a heavy squat session both by getting you bracing properly and getting your glutes firing on all cylinders.

 

Here’s another analogy:

Let’s say you’re having chicken for dinner. There are many ways to eat chicken, but it’s safe to say plain chicken breast without any kind of seasoning or sauce is fairly boring and bland and probably isn’t going to get you all that stoked for dinner.

The point is, I think it’s fair to suggest that it’s how you cook, season, spice, or sauce-up the chicken that’s going to make or break the meal. The same is true of your training program: It’s the small things—the warm-up drills, the activation or mobility pieces, the accessory work, and the technical and skill sessions—that are going to make all the difference to your main event. They’re like the seasonings and sauces that will make your “chicken”—aka your clean or snatch or muscle-up—shine brighter than before.

If that’s still not resonating with you, how about this one: If you want to be successful, don’t confuse being busy with getting the right things done. Have you ever worked for a boss who always seemed to focus on the wrong things? Sure, he may have logged long hours…but did he ever seem to be prioritizing the right things?

Same goes for your fitness: There might be a temptation to jack your heart rate up to 190 bpm every day, or a desire to test yourself and max out whatever lift you’re doing any chance you get, or blow off the percentages of the day because they seem too easy.

Trust me, I understand the urge. Struggling is somehow rewarding emotionally. But, often times the more effective session for your fitness and long-term development might just be a low-intensity skill session, where you fix a small technical flaw, which will then allow you to lift heavier when you do max out in three weeks.

So the next time you’re tempted to add 20 lbs to the barbell because the percentage seems too low, or you purposely show up late to avoid the boring warm-up, or you skip the cool down because you can’t figure out what part of your body is supposed to be aching, reconsider! See the big picture and understand the context and the intention of the workout. In other words, take the time to season your chicken, folks!

 

One final thought…If you typically come into the gym 2-3 days per week and it seems like you’re always coming in during the “easy days,” try coming in 4-5 days per week CONSISTENTLY, stick to the prescribed percentages, and see how your fitness improves. Our programming takes a long-term approach to fitness, not a short-term, 30-day, kick your ass, beatdown “bootcamp” challenge.