Like most people, when I go into a training session I do so with the intention of maximising my efforts in order to get the best results possible. However, this doesn't always happen! We all have our 'off days' where maybe we can't lift the same amount of weight that we did last week, or perhaps your running tempo is slower on your regular 5km jog. Whatever it may be that is hindering your training session there is always a reason as to why that is happening.
To understand why, let's look closer at exactly what is happening to our muscles on a molecular level when we train and a contraction occurs.
The term "contraction" in relation to resistance training refers to when the muscle fibres that we engage are shortened. Muscles contract because of two very important protein strands called Myosin and Actin. These two protein filaments, in conjunction with regulatory proteins tropomyosin and troponin, control your voluntary movements. To visualise how these protein filaments operate imagine you are sitting in a rowboat on a still lake. To move across the lake, you must place your oars in the water and pull backwards. At the end of your stroke, you lift the oars out of the water, move them forward and dip them back into the lake for the next stroke. Each movement of the oar propels the boat across the water.
Your muscles work in a very similar way; a muscle contraction occurs when these filaments slide over one another in a series of repetitive events. What allows this contraction to occur? In very basic terms, the brain sends signals to the muscles we want to use to release vitamins and hormones which allow the body to utilise our energy resources.
Now that we know exactly how a contraction works, how can we maximise every repetition? Muscles grow because they are exposed to stress and strain. When we lift a weight that we are not used to lifting at a molecular level, several "microtears" occur. Then, when we rest and start the repairing process, the body will begin to reattach these muscle fibres which will strengthen the muscle plus add on a bit extra so that we are stronger than before - this is referred to as "super-compensation".
So, if I want to keep progressing with my training I would like to create as many micro tears as possible. The best way to do this is to emphasise the eccentric part of the movement, when I am lengthening the muscle. For example, on a barbell bench press, instead of just focusing on pushing the weight up and dropping it immediately, allowing more "time under tension" will encourage more microtears to occur.
To make sure you can maximise every single rep avoid having an 'off day' of training with your trainer here are two ways to help combat this!
This is what will have the greatest impact on your workouts. If we remember back to the muscle contraction process, in order for this to happen you need two very important things - vitamins and energy. Without fuelling our bodies correctly, we do not work as efficiently as we can! So, making sure you're consuming adequate fruits and vegetables at the right time of day is key to an effective workout. Furthermore, ensuring that the recommended daily levels of Carbohydrate, Protein and Fats are consumed in relation to your specific goal, body type, activity levels and lean body mass. This information is generated in our Goals Sessions to ensure all clients have clear guidelines for success.
Before you start your session, it is always best to do some dynamic stretching to warm up your major muscle groups and get the blood pumping to those areas that you are about to engage. Doing a warm up set of your first exercise before you start your session is also important for a few reasons; to activate the target muscles, lubricate the joints, and mentally prepare ourselves. Your warm up set should be about 40-60% of your working set.
Hopefully with a better understanding of what is going on inside your body you can curb those 'off days' and dominate every single session you do!*Disclaimer: Individual results vary based on agreed goals. Click here for details.