If you looked fitter than average, you were strong for everyday life, and your workouts were challenging enough to keep you fired up about them, would you worry about not including some ongoing benchmark in your fitness that everyone says you must pursue?
I ask because I don’t care about progressive overload. I’m not writing this to be provocative or edgy; just wanting see who else might be on the same page… or if I’m crazy and totally alone.
Of course, during some workouts I use more weight than usual, but it’s based on tension and fatigue, and it’s not always predictable from month to month.
(The further this goes the more it feels like a confession. Forgive me fathers for I have sinned.)
The funny thing is, sometimes the working weight I use on barbell lifts is what other serious female lifters would consider a warm-up weight. But as long as I feel challenged, and my workouts are consistent, I’m not going to worry about what other women are doing.
And if you’re another woman who sees me and feels good about herself in comparison, cool! Glad I could help you feel like a rockstar — because you are one. But your goals aren’t mine.
“Won’t you explode into a puddle of fat or become weak if you’re not progressively going heavier?!”
I haven’t yet. And my eating is really laid back; it’s just low in crap food and high in protein. In fact, I’ve dodged the obesity and binge eating that plagued my family as a kid. My sister dodged it by developing an eating disorder that killed her. So, if anyone has the risk of exploding or imploding, it’s me.
And so far, the way I train — even if it’s not considered hardcore — hasn’t caused any physical problems or emotional strife. Quite the opposite.
So if I’ve found a way to maintain a healthy body comp and a decent amount of strength, I’ve already won. Yet, I often feel discouraged by fitness experts who have strong opinions about how to lift and how not to lift.
Oddly enough, I can’t help but notice that some of the strongest men, and greatest proponents of progressive overload, often look pregnant. That doesn’t seem healthy. We know how waist circumference is associated with disease.
This leads to another question: Have we lost sight of what really matters with resistance training? You know, fighting the aging process and muscle loss, feeling good on a daily basis, being able to move your body around more easily, looking like someone who won’t easily be a victim, and heck, standing out as a fit person in public places. I think so.
It just seems like those are easily accomplished by consistently challenging the body, and challenging the body doesn’t have to be based on a percentage of your 1RM.
Things that are challenging include spending time under tension, getting a mind-muscle connection that causes a burning pain and pump, combining exercises in a way that creates metabolic fatigue, or yes… using more weight than you did last time. But that last thing has become so anal for people who aren’t competitive powerlifters.
“You’re missing out if you’re not getting stronger.”
Sure. I’m not getting stronger on the specific lifts someone else deems most important. Nor am I getting stronger in the one to three rep range. Avert your eyes because there’s even more heresy to come:
Even if it means I’m not getting stronger in general, no biggie.
Maybe in the future that’ll change. But once you’re strong enough to do whatever you need for optimal living, and you’re cool with the way your body moves, looks, and feels, you’re probably not going to suffer any huge consequences of weakness.
Yes, more strength would be super cool. I could post videos showing how strong I am and maybe even compete to win some kind of thingamabob. This is only halfway facetious because I love validation just as much as anyone else. But you can improve your life with weight training on a consistent basis without making every workout harder than the last.
Being stronger than 82% (or more) of the population, which doesn’t lift regularly, is pretty cool. If you achieve or surpass that level of fitness and maintain it for several years, then improvising in the gym based on how you feel shouldn’t be crazy. Yet we’re constantly hearing and preaching the “gospel” of progressive overload without thinking twice about it.
So feel free to tell me how wrong I am. But also, feel free to see if your workouts are really improving your life, or if you’re striving toward something sort of arbitrary.
Look how terrible my body is without focusing on progressive overload. Yuck!