The Art of Movement Edition 31: Training Principles 2: Law of Diminishing Returns
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Edition 31 - Training Principles 2: Law of Diminishing Returns
For the rest of this year, I wanted to use my newsletter to summarise some important principles of training which I thought could help the average person understand training and exercises better. These are concepts we need to take into consideration when identifying the best way to put our next foot forward in pursuit of our exercise goals.
The law of diminishing returns is a concept many people might be familiar with in economics, which can also be applied uniquely in the world of exercise and training. The point of this principle is to help us understand the concept of ‘reversibility’, learn about what training plateau is, how it occurs, and how we can minimise it.
When we first begin exercising, everything is great. We achieve results with ease because everything we are doing is new, difficult and stimulating change in the body. This means increases in muscle fibre recruitment, muscle mass, decreases in body fat (and water weight) occur rapidly, and can potentially give us a false idea about the nature of progress. At this early stage we might be forgiven for believing that if we continue at the same intensity we can continue to experience continued progress without changing anything about the volume, intensity or constraints of what we are doing. Unfortunately though, this is not the case!
Following the initiation of a new training journey, avoidance of plateau when approaching the first hurdles towards progress is key. When arriving to the point of diminishing returns, this tends to be the stage where many beginners tend to lose motivation in their training programme, as they no longer see the acceleration in results that they first saw in the beginning. The ‘point of maximum output’ resembles a stage in training where you are giving everything you have to keep up the levels you have been maintaining so well, but actually seeing a frustrating rate of progress that gives you a negative outlook on your training programme, your efforts, and your chances of ever reaching your vision success in your fitness journey.
It is important to know what is happening at this time and why, in order to proceed. Initially we don’t need a large stimulus to get a significant adaptation to training and start seeing all the sexy results. There will be initial increases in muscle mass, decreases in body fat, endorphin releases that bring about great feelings of achievement, success and increased fitness - all of this is short term. You will get to a point with the type of training you are doing, where doing more will not necessarily yield better results. Rather than working harder, which many people see as the answer to everything, the key is to systematically ease off - to allow the body to adapt to the training effects in play, before returning with variations to the programme to stimulate the body in different ways and continue to produce new adaptations and continued growth.
We require optimal levels of: Training - Nutrition - Recovery
Nailing all three is the key to avoiding plateau and stagnation.
The message to this one is simple. The law of diminishing returns means that we do not continue on an upward trajectory forever by doing the same thing over and over again. We require strategic recovery periods, variety in our training, and regular changes in volume and intensity to keep the body guessing. If you are trying to build your way into a training programme, do not get worried or disengaged when progress slows - switch the game up! It might be that you need a recovery week. It might be that you need to chop your weights in half and switch from barbell, to dumbbells, to cables and re-build your strength on each.
“Keep the body guessing” ― Anon
Movement of the Week: Single Arm Bent Over Row
I hope my beautiful mum doesn’t mind me using her great demonstration of a single arm bent over row as a surprise guest at my circuit class last week! This exercise is a great posterior chain strength builder, and should be executed with an acute focus on bracing the spine, creating stability in your stance, keeping the lower back flat and lats engaged.
That’s all for this week! Please spread the word about my Patreon channel so more people can enjoy the videos and newsletters!