Why the "workout of the day" won't get you long-term results

Part 1

We've all seen it on social media - "workout of the day" and random ideas to change things up for entertainment's sake. It's commonplace in many group fitness gyms these days, however, we tend to steer away from this sporadic style of training.


If you want to burn some calories, then great, that will work! However, we are in the business of training for optimal results. If you want a long-term plan for getting sustainably fitter and stronger, then you need to periodise your training


In order to make the most out of any training program it is important to have a well designed plan that follows some basic principles of periodisation. One major component in all effective training programs is the principle of progressive overload. Here at SOF, we make sure to implement this into our group fitness program.


So, what is progressive overload?


Well, the human body is very adaptable. If you apply a certain stress to it, over time, it will adapt to better handle the stress in future. In this case, the stress comes in the form of exercise. Stress has to be applied in order for adaptation to take place - the reason you get fitter and stronger is your body's way of adapting to stress. This is why we create larger muscles as we get stronger or improve cardiovascular function as we get fitter, helping combat future stresses (Tumminello, 2016).


In our context, physical performance improves as a person adapts to progressively increasing training loads. The principle of progressive overload suggests progressively placing greater than 'normal' demands on the exercising muscles over time. So without overload, there is no adaptation by the body (Pearson et al, 2000).

For example, if you did 10 reps of a 40kg squat every day for 6 months, you would find that after time you would no longer get stronger. As you have adapted to that same volume of 40kg stress, it is now no longer a large enough stimulus to continue to get stronger.


This is why we need to change variables in order to add a greater stress and get out of homeostasis (your body's normal state - aka the comfort zone) to continue the adaptations.


So, how does this look in real terms?


Examples of this could include:


Lifting a heavier weight with the same reps

Lifting the same weight with more reps

Lifting the same weight with an extra set (more total reps)

Completing the same (or more) overall work in less time

Modifying the exercise to make it harder (adding more range of motion or instability etc)

Increasing the frequency of sessions per week


(Schoenfeld, 2010)


However, progress cannot be constantly linear. For example, I can't increase my weight every single training session. If that were the case, we'd all be squatting 500kg by next year (fairly unlikely in such a short time-frame!). Therefore, progressive overload needs to be applied in a systematic and logical way that promotes maximised workout potential, in a manner that is safe. After all, applying constant stress with no respite or opportunity to recover is where things start to break.


This is where 'deload' periods are important. 


Studies investigating fluctuations in performance indicate that most adaptation occurs during periods of reduced training, termed 'regeneration' or 'deload' periods  (Fry, 1992). Thus, it is essential that adequate regeneration time be included in training programmes so that adaptation can be achieved. This is why we include deloads in our programming here at SOF after a period of progressively overloading our muscles.


Sometimes smart and effective training may not be as 'sexy' as those instagram workouts you see, but it works...


For more info about what we do at SOF watch our video here with our Head of Strength and Conditioning Rory, and tune in for part 2 of the blog next week as we delve further into our programming structure.