How to Properly Challenge Yourself to Maximize Results in the Gym

The key to making the most of your time in the gym is to effectively “challenge” your central nervous system (CNS). It’s a fairly simple process that we can often overcomplicate. However, if you think about how the central nervous system works, it’s not really that tough. The central nervous system basically does three things:

1. Collect sensory input (recognize)
2. Process and interpret the input (adapt)
3. Respond appropriately to input (overcome)

The brain, spinal cord, and neurons comprise our central nervous system and when the CNS recognizes and is challenged by new and unfamiliar stimuli, such as exercise, it directs the body’s various systems to become more efficient at performing the new task and therefore we become stronger, faster, leaner, and more! When we effectively challenge the CNS the first thin it must do is:

Recognize: this comes after the new “challenge” is presented and there are many ways to accomplish this. First, you should have a clear goal in mind and direct your training objectives to specifically target and challenge the systems of your body that you want to improve:
• If you want to get stronger then you slowly and consistently add small amounts of weight to your exercises to challenge your CNS to make your muscles stronger.
• Progressive overload: if your goal is to improve conditioning or endurance then you can focus on increasing your repetitions and/or exercises.
• So what’s progressive overload? Basically, in order for a muscle to grow, strength to be gained, performance to increase, or for any similar improvement to occur, the human body must be forced to adapt to a tension that is above and beyond what it has previously experienced. Simply put, in order to get bigger and stronger, you must continually make your muscles work harder than they’re used to.
• Timing and duration drills teach you to complete more exercises in the same amount of time or, complete a standard routine in a consistently faster time.
• If your goal is fat loss you can focus on challenging your cardiorespiratory system and metabolism by adding time and/or intensity to your workouts. More resistance on the elliptical trainer, steeper inclines on the treadmill, and you can also include H.I.I.T into your plan.
• H.I.I.T (or high-intensity interval training) is a way to manage your training intensity based on heart rate percentages and training zones. It’s a form of interval training that is widely recognized as the most effective way to burn body fat and speed metabolism.

Working smart at the gym is just as important as working hard and there are many ways to challenge ourselves. Lifting more weight is probably the most obvious but “more weight” is only one of many factors. We can also focus on:
• Time
• Intensity
• Duration
• Rest periods
• Endurance
• Speed
• Balance
• Coordination
• Conditioning

Most crucial aspects of performance (if not all) should be addressed when creating a well-balanced, safe, and effective training plan. After recognizing and performing the new task the body begins to adapt to its new demands. Challenge accepted.

Adapt: during rest your body recovers and subsequently, adapts. After recognizing the new challenges presented, the CNS directs the body to obey the directives you have given it (good job, body). Such as adding muscle to become stronger and speed metabolism, or burning calories to become more efficient, leaner and healthier. Best of all, increase and/or improve CNS pathways, synapses, and neuromuscular junctions to improve your balance, coordination, speed, agility, and strength. Our bodies are strong and resilient, and with consistent training, the adaptation process will eventually overcome most challenges.

Overcome: after your body adapts and becomes proficient at the new challenges you have presented, it will overcome and no longer respond as it did once before. Why? Because no further improvement is necessary! You will barely see consistent results. Your CNS becomes bored and complacent! Get it together, CNS… This is the plateau that we all hear about and fear. But don’t fret, this is why it is important to mix it up and change your program consistently. And I’m here, along with all our other YouCoaches, to help! Keep your body responsive by implementing new, manageable challenges every time you work out. Keep your workouts safe and well-balanced by challenging all the systems of your body. Don’t always focus on one or two systems. Years ago my father said to me while pointing at my bicep, “son, everything you do here”, followed by pointing at my head and saying, “begins here!”.

I didn’t really get it then, but now I do. We have to use our heads and train smart. We must understand how to safely and consistently manipulate our training objectives to challenge the various systems in our bodies and get the results we desire. Remember “recognize, adapt, overcome”. Again! “Recognize, adapt, overcome”. Have fun with it, mix it up. Learn new strategies and workouts and don’t hesitate to reach out to a You Coach if you need guidance along the way.

Color us excited to have you join us this Countdown to Change! Together, we’re stronger – and we want you to be the best “you” you can be. We can’t wait to see what’s in store for every participant as we collectively make positive changes to live better, feel better, and become a healthierhealtheir YOU.

Looking for even more personalized motivation? Speak with any member of your club’s friendly team staff about one-on-one personal training with a certified YouCoach today!

David Green

David Green, Master YouCoach, Youfit Venice - Jacaranda David Green received his first national certification through the International Fitness Professionals Association (IFPA) in 2002. This springboarded into additional certifications in group aerobics, sports nutrition, Total Body Resistance Exercise (TRX), and most recently, a Master's certification from Youfit. David has been a fitness and gym enthusiast since he was 14 - most of his best friends and even his wife are folks he met while at the gym. He credits his strong recovery from a motorcycle accident in 2007 to being in shape, the doctors even noting he may not have fared as well as he did if it hadn’t been for his many years of resistance training. Technique and proper form are the name of David’s game, he especially loves Olympic Weightlifting with ‘the clean and jerk’ as his favorite exercise.