Hello all. Scott from SR Physio here trying to moderately entertain, slightly inform and potentially help as many people as possible. My thoughts of today are on how to be innovative when exercising. 99% of people need to exercise at home, largely with bodyweight only, minimal equipment and confined to 4m by 4m safe exercise space. With this in mind we need to be a bit innovative when staying active.
So how can we be innovative when exercising?
Time under tension is not the most interesting of concepts but proven as one of the most effective. When exercising the focus normally is on how many repetitions you perform and how many kilograms you can lift. What you can do to make an exercise more difficult and potentially more beneficial is how long you take to perform one repetition. This is known as time under tension. There is evidence to suggest that by increasing the time you spend performing an exercise you can make it more strenuous and therefore more difficult and effective from an exercise point of view. Rather than making an exercise more difficult by lifting more kilograms you can perform the same exercise with less weight but take longer to perform one repetition. Our suggestion here would be to count the time it takes you to perform one repetition of an exercise that normally is moderately strenuous. When you are confident about the length of time it takes try to double the time it takes you to perform the same repetition. Bodybuilders frequently extend their efforts to 3 seconds in one direction and 3 seconds the other, or even 5 seconds to make it more difficult. This is a lot more difficult than you think and can provide a great alternative to exercising when you are struggling with a lack of equipment or variety.
A lot of evidence has been blurred when advising how to exercise. A lot of rest timings are to do with hypertrophy or muscle building principles and these rest periods between exercises are approximately 60-180 seconds. A lot of the focus for physiotherapy and for physical health is actually strength. The nice thing about this is the amount of rest you can allow yourself. If you are focusing on getting stronger then you can allow yourself more rest, 180 seconds to 3 minutes will allow you to recover appropriately so that you can try your hardest in the subsequent set of exercises and perform as many repetitions as possible. What we would like you to try at the moment is giving yourself that little bit longer to rest so that you are better prepared and rested to perform the same set of exercises again but with better quality and therefore hopefully better results. So, when you are next performing strength exercises involving weights or even your bodyweight think to yourself why not rest that little bit longer so that you can perform the same workout but better and with more effort.
The 30% rule
Now 30% doesn’t sound like a lot when you are talking about your maximal effort does it? Particularly when we think that most people when exercising are working at approximately 80% their maximal effort of an exercise or their 1 repetition maximum. 30% couldn’t possibly give you some much need improvements in strength and physical fitness could it? What is most important however is that you need to exercise to fatigue. The reason we say this is that most people can find a weight, even if it means stuffing lots of tools in a rucksack that would equal 30% of your maximum effort for an exercise. When you consider this all, you need to think about even if you go a little light or heavy on what you have chosen is work to fatigue. Doing this will ensure that you are eliciting a physiological adaptation and most importantly improving your function and ability. This is potentially the simplest rule to remember but in this current climate probably one of the most effective.
They say variety is the spice of life. I am going to contradict myself and I apologise right now to all the people who I have taught, mentored, to all my clients I often bore to tears with by barking on about consistency and often monotony but now it is a little bit different. My secret to the work that we do at SR Physio is to find an exercise programme that has the right amount of consistency in a physical therapy routine (think how tedious and repetitive The Brownlee brothers routine is, how similar Paula Radcliffe’s routine was…) but just the right amount of variation to ensure that motivation and positivity remains. Well this was to ensure that we are eeking out the most improvements, scientific methods were adhered to and progress was made by lifting more kilograms, increasing the intensity and having a positive change to function rather than following a fad for a rush of endorphins or something to talk about on social media.
Now instead of this what I think needs to be one is try something new. On a podcast I listened to recently I found the philosophy fascinating that a lot of what happens from childhood to adulthood is less attributed to biology (despite being a significant factor) but narrowing our skills of expertise to eliminate failure, maintain ego and self-worth. From late childhood and definitely early adolescence we are told what we are good at, given fixed motivation to succeed in some areas and neglect others. What I would recommend when trying to be innovative when exercising is focus on your weakness or be brave enough to try something new. Something I will always try to remember is what sports professionals have explained when they are trying to scout the next Jonny Wilkinson or Marcus Rashford. It is the multi-sports athlete. What is encouraged is experiencing and becoming competent at many different skills. You can keep it basic by thinking of throwing, catching, riding a bike etc. or take it further and think I am a competent footballer, but I am completely incompetent at gymnastics. When we think of multi-sports ability it is because there is a transferable competence of many different neurological pathways or “skills” and what we at SR Physio want you to do is learn a new skill. Try something that you aren’t comfortable with. I am trying to make myself accountable by posting my runs on Strava because I find that as a weakness of mine. I can hold my own over short distances due to really enjoying sprinting as a youngster but anything further than ½ a length of a rugby field and I am definitely mediocre. By posting I am receiving small reassurance by people who are congratulating me on my runs and keeping me motivated to continue doing so. What we want to do at SR Physio is encourage you to try something new… anything at all and post it, comment about it on our social media channels to allow others to become encouraged also and continue doing so.
Another way you can do this is by trying something new every day. Forget the science but simply say to yourself I am going to do something different to make myself happy. One day cycle, one day run, one day walk, one day do a cross word and the other learn Spanish. In the environment we are in try to not to be at your optimum but simply try to achieve something, no matter how small that will keep the positivity going onto the next day. You may think to yourself that you couldn’t possibly do a handstand or climb some stairs but if you break it down sensibly and give yourself time (which most of us have at the moment) then you will give yourself the best chance possible.
I know this may be difficult to follow simply by listening to me ramble on so make sure you go to www.srphysio.co.uk for the blog version of this video and all the others that we provide.
Until next time, make sure you follow our podcast The Physio Hub on Spotify, anchor or your favourite podcast provider, follow us on Facebook, twitter or Instagram by looking for SR Physio and most importantly stay active, stay safe and stay healthy.