So you heard us out in Getting Started #1 and you've decided it's time to get strong. How do actually do that? For that matter, how do you improve any physical attribute?
Before we get into specific exercises, sets, and reps, it's important to understand the distinction between exercise and training. Exercise is what most people do when they join the local globo gym or decide to jog around the block. It's randomly selected activity for an unspecified duration or intensity, with no real plan for progression over time. The goal of exercise is simply to get hot, sweaty, and tired today. And it works! Anyone that goes from the couch to an exercise program will experience an increase in energy, physical performance, they will probably feel better, and may even lose some weight in the process. This is called the novice effect, which will be covered in another episode.
The problem is, how long will exercise work? A couple weeks? A month? Two months? At some point, progress will stall without a clear plan for progression. That's where training comes in. Training is a logical, systematic series of workouts designed to improve a physical attribute -- in our case, strength. The goal is clear and measurable. In a linear progression, each workout requires the lifter to lift a little bit more weight than they did before, which causes them to get a little bit stronger each time. Although programming won't always be this simple, training in this manner can allow a lifter to get strong for years.
The General Adaptation Syndrome, first described by Hans Selye in the 1930's, essentially says that every living organism reacts to stress in its environment by either dying or surviving. If it survives, the organism adapts to the stress by becoming more resilient. Applied to barbell training, stress means lifting a weight that is challenging (heavy) today. It requires your muscles to contract harder than they are used to, disrupting homeostasis or their normal, day-to-day state. Fortunately barbell training doesn't kill you, so you rest, eat, and recover after the workout, and your body responds by building more muscle mass and learning how to more efficiently recruit muscle. Note that the adaptation here is specific to the stress. Lifting barbells makes you stronger... not necessarily better at swimming (although being stronger will make you a better swimmer, to a point).
In a nutshell, that's how you get strong! You must train, not exercise, and there must be progression built into your program. A good barbell training program is simple, hard, and effective, with an emphasis on putting weight on the bar. In the following weeks, we will dive deeper into the specifics of a novice program.
Have a question about training? Send a question to Matt and Scott! Email us at email@example.com and we'll answer your question on an upcoming Saturday Q&A!
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