The most frequent question we get during a consultation, aside from the price, is “What else do I need to do aside from strength training?”
When we reply with “nothing,” ninety-nine percent of the time it is met with a skeptical brow raise.
“Nothing?” the new members asks.
”Nothing,” we affirm.
“No. That can do more harm than good.”
“A light jog if you feel like it.”
”For leisure only.”
...you get the idea.
Why do we assert that our exercise is all you really need?
To answer this, we need to define what exercise is and what rest is.
The definition of exercise that we follow as our credo is this:
Exercise is a process whereby the body does work of a demanding nature in accordance with muscle and joint function, in a clinically-controlled environment, within the constraints of safety, meaningfully loading the muscular structures to inroad their strength levels to stimulate a growth mechanism in minimum time.
This definition is the one created by SuperSlow™ founder Ken Hutchins (link below)
Line-by-line, this is what it means:
There are two kinds of rest:
1. Repose = lying down and doing nothing
2. Active recovery = light activity that uses your muscles in a non demanding way, which can enhance the recovery process (e.g. shorter, slower walking; a brief, relaxing swim; light jog; meditative yoga; etc.)
Any time you exercise intensely, you should incorporate both kinds of rest.
Specifically, when you are working out at The Strength Studio, Inc. we want you to incorporate both kinds of rest using our “rest recipe.”
The Strength Studio, Inc.’s Rest Recipe: First 24-48 hours = repose + remainder of time until next workout = active recovery*
*Please keep in mind this rest recipe is for the average individual who is not currently under medical care. Individuals with special health considerations may need more repose-type rest. Always consult with a medical professional and listen to your body first.
Within the first 24-48 hours of working out, rest should be 80% repose, 20% active recovery. The 20% is only because we assume that you will need to walk around at the grocery store or run errands or work, etc. Whether you need 24 or 48 will depend on your workout and how your body feels. It’s important to listen to your body and not ignore its attempts to get you to rest in repose. Some signs that you need repose are headaches, fatigue, or irritability (these could also signal dehydration or low blood sugar so make sure you have more than enough water or electrolyte drinks and healthy food; see our favorite homemade electrolyte drink recipe below).
Once your period of repose is done, we encourage you to be active in your recovery. Walk as many places as you can; enjoy that scenic (non-intense) bike ride; take that relaxing swim you’ve been meaning to get in. Active recovery can make muscles less sore if there is soreness at all.
Active recovery can also prolong the aerobic cycle that continues well after your strength training workout is done. In case you aren’t aware, high intensity strength training engages the aerobic cycle long after your workout is over, enabling you to burn extra calories when you’re not working out and boosting your metabolism. Once your repose period is over, you can keep those calories burning by engaging in active recovery.
However, when engaging in active recovery, you must avoid intensity. To get the true benefits of strength training (getting stronger, reducing body fat, decreasing waist size, boosting metabolism, enhancing flexibility, enhancing the immune system, etc.), you don’t want to engage in other high intensity activities that often. When you do this, you interrupt recovery and must start all over again in the recovery process. When done too close to a strength training workout, you then push the body further into breakdown, putting yourself at a higher risk of injury and preventing the benefits you seek.
This does not mean that you should not ever engage in any other intense activities. Perhaps you love tennis and play a game once a week; or maybe you wanted to participate in a 5k for charity; or hike sugarloaf. These things are ok. Strength training should support you in these endeavors by making you stronger for them. The thing to be aware of here is how frequently you’re engaging in them and whether they are disrupting your recovery and potentially causing injury.
Power of 10 strength training is a minimalist approach to exercise which means we need to be intentional with our exercise and recreation in order to enhance our health through exercise. Otherwise you could be doing more harm than good. Take pro-athletes for example. Their bodies may look good but inside they’re a wreck! They get surgery after surgery and once they’re retired, many deal with long-lasting injuries or even disabilities. This is not the ideal. Another example is the ever-growing prevalence of Atrial Fibrillation (A-Fib) among middle-aged athletes. This is particularly true for marathoners. Read more about this phenomena in the link below.
But let’s say you really want to be a middle-aged athlete (our average age at The Strength Studio, Inc. is 56, after all).
Going back to the tennis example. Your desire is to get stronger in order to improve your game. To get this result, there needs to be a balance between strength training, skills training, and rest. Such an athlete can strength train once a week (considering they are in good health) and use that weekly session for building strength. They should NOT use their tennis practice as an opportunity to build strength. On the court, they are not in a clinically controlled environment with expert strength-training supervision. Therefore, anything done on the court to gain strength will most likely have the opposite effect (making them weaker or causing injury).
On the court, this athlete should focus only on skills training — ideally skills that mimic real tennis matches. Of course, in tennis, there is no way to avoid intensity. Athletes sprint back and forth with bombastic movements that are harsh on the joints. Therefore, if they really wanted to enhance their game, the athlete would strength train once a week and skills train twice a week with repose-style rest in between.
On weeks where there is a match, the athlete should drop the strength training session and one of the skills training sessions in order to allow for overcompensation (when your body overly compensates in its recovery in anticipation of the intense activity). This athlete would be strong, skilled and rested for their match which is what they were seeking to begin with.
Specifically, in our Sebastopol and Sonoma studios, a majority of our members walk, do yoga, or garden in between workouts. These activities are ok as long as they don’t interrupt the repose period and are not intense. If you start huffing and puffing during the activity or feel any kind of strain, then it’s too intense.
Other clients want to do chiropractic or pilates between workouts.
Chiropractic can can be a great complementary service with strength training as long as the chiropractor is truly skilled and knowledgeable in treating the body. There should be a treatment plan in place with an end date and they should know about building muscle enough to know how that activity can be used to support their chiropractic work (it’s really the one thing that can make chiropractic work last because you’ll have the muscle to keep the adjustments in place). See our number 1 chiropractor recommendation below.
When it comes to Pilates, we have to ask, what purpose does it serve? If you come to us for strength, then you don’t need additional strengthening sessions. Our machines are medical grade, rehabilitative machines that track each individual’s strength curve and that cover every single muscle in the body, especially the core (in fact, every single machine works the core in addition to the other target muscle groups).
If the reason for Pilates is stretching (or the purpose of yoga, for that matter) then we ask you to consider this: all (static) stretching is over stretching. This is worth repeating:
ALL STATIC STRETCHING IS OVER STRETCHING
Beyond the natural stretches that your body craves after periods of inactivity (e.g. after sleep or travel), your muscles don’t need to be pulled. They cannot be lengthened. That’s determined by your genes. Nor can they be shortened or tightened. (Static) Stretching is like pulling a rubber band over and over. When done too much, it looses its elasticity and leaves your joints without proper support which makes you extremely susceptible to injury. We’ll talk about stretching in detail in another post but in the mean time, for more about this, see the link to this study about stretching. Also, read SuperSlow™ co-founder Brenda Hutchins’ essay on the reality of pilates, provided in the link below.
Finally, when we consider what health is defined as, we understand the need to be intentional with our exercise and rest. Very basically, health is defined as freedom from injury or illness. If we want to enhance that, we need to take our doses of exercise as seriously as our doses of medicine. In exercise, more is not better.
1. The First Definition of Exercise by Ken Hutchins: http://www.ren-ex.com/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/The-First-Definition-of-Exercise1.pdf
2. The Truth About Stretching: https://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/02/sports/playmagazine/112pewarm.html
3. Why Not Pilates? by Brenda Hutchins: http://www.health101.org/art_Why_Not_Pilates.htm
4. A-Fib in Athletes: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5135187/