An area of concern for most exercisers – are they are doing sufficient and training hard enough? They are comforted and reassured if they have a ‘feel’ in the muscles. And they fret if they cannot experience it. The co-relation seems to be clear; if there is a feeling, then OK and good; if not, “let me look for ways to have it”. Here’s a fact! Certain exercises give the feel and others don’t!! Biceps curls rewards the exerciser with a feel, but a deadlift doesn’t!
Should ‘feel’ be a guiding star? ‘Feel’ should not be the beacon for deciding whether enough is being done. It would lead nowhere. Rather, be led by numbers – the number of repetitions you have been asked to do. Your training status – Beginner, Intermediate or Advanced – determines the number of repetitions per set of exercise. And commensurate to that, choose the suitable poundage – be it dumbbell, barbell or machine. For instance, if you are training at the intermediate level, the number of repetitions in the set would range from 12-15. Select the poundage that fits this rep range. Jimmy is not a beginner. He has been training since 4 months; presently his goal number of repetitions is in the range of 10-12. He selects 30 pounds to do a set of bent over rows, which will limit his set by the 12th repetition. He will not ‘feel’ his muscles working; but he is doing good work for his muscles; appropriate to his training experience and level.
The higher the number of repetitions in a set, greater are the chances for you to feel a burn in your limbs or torso. This is because, longer the duration the muscles are under training stress, higher are blood concentration levels of a metabolic byproduct – Lactic Acid. Hence Sanaya, a beginner, who is recommended to repeat her forward crunches for 15-20 times in a set, will experience tingling, burn and muscle ache, leading to fatigue by the time she is reaching the end of her set.
When we choose exercises that move multiple limbs at one go, the load is distributed over several muscles. Such a choice enhances the functional capability of our body as our daily life activities demands that we use our entire body – multiple joints and multiple muscles simultaneously. With such a dispersal of load, there is no sensation of ‘feel’, and this lack of sensation, in no way undermines the value of the exercise!
On the other hand, exercises that occur around a single joint like bicep curls, forward crunches, triceps extensions, etc. will generate muscle ache, leading the person to falsely believe that the muscle has worked harder, based solely on the burn.
Senior Faculty (Exercise Science)
K11 Academy of Fitness Sciences
Fitness Icon Kaizzad Capadia
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