Are you a…hater?
Those of us who use weights represent diversity’s rainbow and seem to be tolerant and
respectful toward the same except for one thing – we discriminate against odd numbers!
Weird, but the next time you are at the gym count along as those around you do a machine or free weight exercise. As predictable as night to day you will count to 6-8-10 or 12. Oh, you too?
What is with this infatuation with even numbers? Maybe there is some cosmic reassurance knowing right now, same as you, someone another continent away just finished their 8th bicep curl, but cosmic reassurance doesn’t do squat for heart or muscular health.
Whatever, we like our even numbers. Leave it alone.
Ah, no, because we are committed to helping YOU sustain your exercise motivation so can’t not chime in about something that can lead to underachievement. Oh, and we signed a sweat promotional deal with the folks from odd numbers so are contractually obligated to provide media. Haha… Really, we are not going to sit out any dance that can lead to your ‘Footprint growth including the use of odd numbers, so here goes.
Overload is a principle of muscular growth. In order to increase mass, strength or power we need to provoke a muscle into working harder than usual. The specifics of how much weight we push/pull and how many times we make the muscle work can yield different results. While evolving research continues to fine-tune our understanding of how to best induce increases, in general, doing a lower number of repetitions of a heavy weight yields size and strength, more so than doing a higher number of repetitions of a lighter weight that yields endurance. A key point though is working a muscle to fatigue – meaning, the last repetition you do of a set ought to be difficult to complete. 5 IS different from 6 (or 7 from 8, or 9 from 10, etc.) because (approached correctly) you will use a heavier weight for 5 reps than 6 to bring about fatigue, and thus stimulating a different response. And yes, muscle response IS that sensitive to the workload difference. Just like you knowing the difference between a 40 and 60-hour workweek, your muscles know the difference of what’s asked of them – subtlety is not one of muscle’s qualities!
I’m telling you, it’s a whole new overload world this 5-7-9-11 perspective. One, it offers a counter to the risk of plateaus. Just like the surprise of mixing up your routine keeps your muscles on their toes always ready to respond, adjusting the number of reps (and weight used) does the same. The more you keep them in suspense about what they will need to do any given day the less likely any part of them will take that day off. Routines that groove into ruts (see previous post) do so because your physiology knows what to expect and responds accordingly, no more no less. The no-more part is dangerous since hitting a plateau can ding your motivation.
And two, enlivening your weight training by targeting an odd number of repetitions fosters accountability to this aspect of your ‘Footprint growth by preventing you from approaching your routine from the dreaded ‘just’ perspective – purposeless, just going through the motions.
Think about golf. A set of golf clubs consists of 10-15 clubs each designed to hit the ball a different distance. One indication of proficiency is knowing how far you can hit each of the clubs you carry—knowing that you hit your 5-iron 150 yards, or your driver 240 yards—which is information you use to determine your club selection for each shot. To score your best, you wouldn’t use whatever club you grabbed from your bag. You would use the club that best suited the situation for each shot. Execution aside, you give yourself the best chance for the best possible result when you select the right club to use.
Same with weight training.
In general, doing 5-repetitions to fatigue can stimulate a different muscular result than doing 6-repetitions to fatigue because it requires more weight (especially if you routinely have done 6-rep sets). This means the overload to your muscle is different for 5-reps from 6, and different is good since unpredictability helps to draw an optimum result.
Borrow a page out of golf and be accountable to a routine that will best deliver results. Like knowing how far you can hit each club, know the weight to use for the spectrum of repetitions you do. The pin just being in a weight machine slot isn’t good enough nor is grabbing whatever weights happen to be close by.
Hate traffic, hate the rival of your favorite team, hate raw fish, but don’t hate odd numbers. Or golf…
This call for a cheer. 2-4-6-8 who do we appreciate, odd numbers odd numbers odd numbers yeah…