When I walked out onto the weight room floor as a rookie trainer 12 years ago, there was one thing I knew I could do for sure. Kick somebody”s ass with weight training.
It wasn”t too hard. I just arbitrarily combined several compound movements together back to back with little or no rest.
My thought was if they crawled, not walked, out of the gym I did my job. I did this well and actually built a solid clientele based on this philosophy alone (sorry circa 2001 clients, I”m better now….)
This way of training was easy, the programming was a cinch, and it required very little thinking outside of picking “hard”
It also sucked and did my clients a major disservice.
The challenge today is to deliver a tough workout while being smart about exercise selection and program
I know clients like to feel beat when walking out of the gym, and I personally love the feeling of being absolutely done after a workout.
That doesn”t mean the responsibility of solid program design based on a particular goal can be ignored.
Simply making a workout hard is not enough, and it is irresponsible. This philosophy of training will lead to, at best, a development of a faulty movement pattern that will
1)eventually lead to injury
2)keep you performing below your potential.
You see, after a certain period of time in an exercise set, the intended group of muscles to be worked becomes a DIFFERENT group of muscles. As the intended muscles fatigue, other muscles are “selected” to complete the job. These muscles may not be designed for this task, but they are the only ones available to finish the set.
Over time, these “back up” muscles will wear. Again, they aren”t designed to do the job, but the exerciser continually asks them to do it. Overuse injury is inevitable (if not an acute, catastrophic injury to a tendon or muscle).
Secondly, muscles require fuel to move in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). There is a finite amount of this fuel available to a muscle, and it takes AT LEAST 30 seconds to restore. If rest time is insufficient, the muscle cannot produce force. Again, selection of a suboptimal replacement muscle is certain. “Teaching” your body to move this way hinders athletic movement and again leads to injury.  A recovery period between sets is a must, and sometimes (like when training strength or power) this rest MUST BE substantial. So please, recover between sets. (Yeah, I know you feel ready. You”re not)
Take a fitness goal like strength training. If you think you”re getting stronger by performing 50 training sets in a hour you”re wrong. The optimal rep number for strength is 3-5. The optimal rest time to lift the kind of weight needed to build strength is 2-3 minutes (you have to recover both PHYSICALLY and NEURALLY). The most you can hope for out of this kind of workout is just burning a lot of calories while wreaking havoc on your musculoskeletal system.
With this said, there are currently MANY popular training programs out there that adopt the “harder is better” ass kicking mentality. They are not well designed and will, given time, lead to an injury. Be wary of randomly designed workout programs designed only to kick your butt. They probably will, and will leave you ON your butt for days (not a good place to be if you want results from a fitness program).
If all you are looking for is being crushed after a workout, I”d be happy to strap you to a treadmill set at 10 mph and come get you in an hour. If you have specific goals you”d like to achieve in an injury free and intelligent way, find a knowledgable fitness professional who is willing to do more with you than beat you to the ground.
Matt Pirtle MA CSCS