Many people try to get stronger by doing more. They think that if they do the same exercise every day and push themselves hard that they will improve quicker.
It's the "more is better" approach to fitness.
For example, if they want to be able to do 100 push-ups in a row, they try to do as many push-ups as possible every day.
If you did this, rather than get stronger, you're more likely to injure yourself and end up unable to do any push-ups at all.
Training to get stronger requires an understanding of the stress-and-recover rule and the interval-sets rule.
The best way to improve your strength is to stress your body on one day, then allow enough time for your body to recover, before you stress it again. You might do a chest workout one day (e.g. push-ups) and have slightly sore muscles the next day or two. If so, you should rest those muscles until the soreness disappears before you do a hard workout again.
This is the stress and recover rule. If your muscles are sore or fatigued, wait until they recover before stressing them again. The best way to achieve this is to plan different exercises for consecutive days. Even if you do strength training two days in a row, work different muscles so they get time to recover between workouts.
For your hard workouts, you can do far more work by exercising in sets, rather than continuously. If you can do ten push-ups, you can probably do ten sets of three with twenty seconds rest between each set.
This way you can do more exercise than trying to do them all together. As a result, you get stronger faster. Not only that, it is easier mentally to do sets of a small number than a lot of one exercise all together.
Should I be worried if my muscles are sore?
No. Don't worry if your muscles feel sore the day or two after a strength workout. This part of the process of the muscles adapting to exercise and getting stronger. Small tears in the muscle fibres are believed to stimulate them to adapt and get stronger. The key is to let the muscles recover fully before stressing them again.
Try to do sessions that are hard enough to make your muscles feel a little bit sore for no more than 48 hours. If you are sore for longer than this, you are doing too much.
Can't find time to do strength training?
Next time you are watching TV, do some push-ups, dips and plank each time the ads come on. You'll be amazed how much you can do in just the ads, and how much stronger you will get in a few weeks.
You'll be pleasantly surprised how quickly your strength improves.
Article Author: David Beard, Calico Exercise Physiologist and Healthy Ageing expert