Fitness: compete against yourself, not others
In the last issue this column covered the importance of working a muscle, that is, focusing on the effort involved in performing an exercise and not worrying about the amount of weight actually being lifted.
This is important for those who are either starting up a fitness regime or are working out from home, where the amount of available ‘iron’ may not be anywhere near that of the local gym.
The muscle hasn’t got a clue what weight you are lifting. So, it’s vital to not be concerned about trying to hump 100kgs in a bench press for three reps, and thereby keeping up with a mate who can lift such a weight, but can do it for 10 strong reps per set. Nobody engaged in weight training, or any other kind of fitness activity for that matter, should be remotely concerned about what a friend is able to do.
It’s your body you are training, and so you should be testing yourself at each training session, not aiming to compete with someone else. So, if you can only push a 20kgs in a bench press for 10 reps per set, with the last two of those reps being tough, then you can be pretty sure that your body will be responding positively to this stimulus. In time, maybe a couple of weeks, you’ll find you’re starting to get stronger, your muscle is getting firmer and you’ll be able to add some more weight to the bar.
Six weeks down the track and it could be you’re able to push 30kgs in a bench press for 10 reps per set, with the last couple of reps being tough. That’s a 50 percent gain in six weeks, a great effort by any measure. Sure, your friend can still push 100kgs, but so what?
In a year you may have reached the same level, if that’s what you’re hoping to do. You may not, but it doesn’t matter. You may have only managed to get to 40kgs on the bar for the bench press, and you can’t get past that plateau. The question is not the weight, but are you still pushing yourself to the point where you are still working the muscle, and not just pushing the weight? That’s what’s more important.
Some people seem to thrive with certain exercises, and others don’t. There are those who appear capable of lifting and pushing great weights for their legs, but struggle to do much with their shoulders. Others find back exercises easy and enjoyable, and they thrive, yet can’t push much when they do chest. So be it. As noted previously, these articles are for those looking to get fit, mostly at home. You’re not trying to be the next Mr Olympia, so just comepet against yourself, not others.