When my personal training clients start working with me on exercise related tasks, they quickly realize that I am always preaching about moving slowly, moving with control, using as much support as possible, and lifting with significant weight. There almost always becomes a time when a client will ask, “Will we always train like this?”.  This is such a legitimate question for two main reasons.  1) I don’t know of any other fitness professionals (except my colleagues from my path of study) or gyms that endorse this, and 2) people always want to know that they are doing the best thing for their body to help with their goals.

Here is my answer: We will always have a significant portion of your training be like this (slow, controlled, lots of support, and significant weight).  Why?  This is the Gold Standard of exercise, in my opinion.  Let me tell you why.

People (almost) never go to the gym to workout because they enjoy just spending time there.  People go to the gym to achieve something.  Hands-down, the thing that changes you in the gym is when MUSCLE tissue is challenged or is being asked to work.  In my eyes, the more that you can challenge muscle tissue in the gym, the more results or change you have the opportunity to experience.

Let’s expand on the 4 things that make my Gold Standard of exercise.

  • Gold Standard Principle #1: Move Slowly.  Have you ever heard of momentum?  Momentum is a physics related term that heavily affects the weights that you are lifting, especially if you move fast.  When an object, such as a dumbbell or barbell, gains momentum, the object begins to feel and be significantly lighter.  In the gym, when you move fast, you risk including momentum in your exercise.  This means that your body will not be experiencing as much of the “weight” that you thought you were lifting.  For example, if you are curling 20 lbs. with your biceps and move quickly, there may be parts of the exercise where you are only experiencing 5 lbs. of that 20 lbs.
    1. Summary: Since the goal of your exercise needs to be all about challenging muscles, move slowly so that you experience as little momentum as possible and as much of the weight/resistance as possible.
  • Gold Standard Principle #2: Move with control.  This point highly relates to point #1.  Moving with control ensures that your MUSCLES are the main driver of every motion in the gym, instead of momentum.  Often times, when we get caught up in the how much weight we are lifting we forget that that the quality of how we are lifting matters greatly!  It always boils down to whether the weight is being moved strictly by the muscles’ work or because of your ability to launch it.  Remember, since we are trying to challenge muscles in the gym, the more controlled you move, the more muscles have to work, and the more opportunity for change will be present.
    1. Summary:  Moving with control puts a greater emphasis on your muscles.  This will help you experience greater muscle work and thus greater opportunity for change in the gym.
  • Gold Standard Principle #3: Use as much support as possible.  This means you should use the seatbelts on the machines, use machines with back supports, use the chest support, and get off your wobbly boards. We are only as strong as our foundation and support.  Think about trying to push a heavy grocery cart forward on ice versus on solid, dry pavement.  In which scenario is there more output?  The one with dry pavement, of course!  The scenario with ice includes a lot of wasted energy trying to maintain balance and trying to get the cart to move forward. If you are in the game of time efficiency (like I am), then gear up for every exercise to have the most support as possible.  You will not have any wasted energy and output except what is needed for the main goal — challenging muscle tissue.
    1. Summary: The more support and restraint that you use, the more specific and effective your exercise becomes for challenging your muscles.  Remember, challenge to the muscles is what changes you!  Developing a skill to balance on a wobbling surface does not…. Unless you need this skill for your life. Perhaps if you were auditioning for the circus…
  • Gold Standard Principle #4: Use significant weight (relative to you).  I put this point last  because lifting heavy weights is very important but only if you can do so in a slow, controlled manner.  Of course, the amount of weight that you lift is a component of how much the muscle tissue is being challenged.  This is highly manipulated by the moment arm of the weight relative to the targeted axis (joint), your control, and your speed.  We will not be diving into the moment arm discussion in this blog post in mission to stay on task.
    1. Summary:  The goal is to challenge muscles at the gym.  Use heavy weight but be sure to lift in a controlled and slow manner.

There you have it.  My Gold Standard of exercise.  I recommend that you follow these 4 principles if you desire the most effective and efficient way to create an opportunity for change in your body.  I find that exercises that violate these 4 principles are less effective at changing muscle tissue or have a different goal than creating change in your body via the muscles.

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Julie Cates

Julie Cates is an experienced, certified, and insured National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) Certified Personal Trainer and mastery level Resistance Training Specialist® (RTSm). She is also a Muscle Activation Techniques® (MAT®) Master Specialist (MATm). Julie specializes in training new exercisers that have never exercised before. As a personal trainer, she is excellent at communicating the ‘ins’ and ‘outs’ of each and every exercise in an effective and understandable manner. She also often works with individuals with chronic illnesses, joint issues, and muscle issues. Julie graduated cum laude from the University of Florida. She earned her degree in Applied Physiology and Kinesiology with a specialization in Exercise Physiology. In her free time, Julie loves to dance! Julie is still active in a dance company with yearly performances of tap , lyrical, jazz, and hip hop! Julie can be reached via e-mail at julie@matschaumburg.com. Follow her on Instagram at @julcates!