How to cater your workout to achieve your actual goals

Joshua Trentine, president, Overload Fitness

Joshua Trentine, president, Overload Fitness

Many people begin exercising with a fixation on some sort of external goal, which usually means getting better at various activities. They’re chasing after a target when their primary objective is usually to improve their body composition and functional ability through exercise.

“Often people set out to achieve a goal and hope this goal will provoke change to their body,” says Joshua Trentine, president of Overload Fitness. “In reality, their training is designed to make them as efficient as possible at achieving the external goal rather than being as efficient as possible at stimulating the body’s adaptive mechanisms.”

Smart Business spoke with Trentine about catering a workout program to meet your true objectives.

What is an external goal?

An external goal can be considered an ‘assumed objective,’ i.e., one might set a goal such as walk a mile, run a marathon, do 1,000 sit-ups, lift as much weight for as many reps as possible or swim across a lake. While all of these activities produce an ‘exercise effect,’ they will not produce the best possible results with regard to body composition and overall functional ability because they lack the most exacting stimuli; the training addresses the activity rather than the body. If your goal is to simply achieve a task, the body will always find the path of least resistance. The goal should be to stimulate the muscles, in other words find the path of greatest resistance.

What is a better exercise objective?

There are qualitative measures that can be taken to incorporate the most efficient, safe, intense and sustainable exercise stimuli. Rather than trying to add more activity to your already busy life, focus instead on quality over quantity.

Let’s call these qualitative measures ‘the real exercise objective,’ which is to momentarily weaken the musculature in order to set forth a cascade of biological events that encourage all of the muscles and their supportive sub-systems — cardiovascular, hormonal, bone, etc. — to adapt to the stress.

The real exercise objective is best accomplished through quality exercise stress. The body can easily adapt to doing more activity. However, it’s not always in a positive way, as the outcome of excessive activity can include muscle and bone loss, decreased metabolic rate, and often overuse injury.

Exercise quality, then, has to be defined by intensity. Intensity is directly related to the quality of muscular contraction — our volitional effort — and the corresponding rate of fatigue. There is an inverse relationship between exercise intensity, which can be called quality, and exercise volume, or quantity.

You can work hard or you can work long, but you cannot work your hardest and longest at the same time. In order to sustain long-duration activity, you must reduce the intensity. Doing more volume will always result in hitting a point of diminishing returns. Using more intensity, within the constraints of safety, produces better results.

What is considered high-quality exercise?

The characteristics of high-quality exercise are:

  • High-intensity strength exercise.
  • Progressive in nature.
  • Brief — 30 minutes or less.
  • Infrequent — once or twice per week.
  • Designed to fatigue the muscle as safely, deeply and effectively as possible.
  • Done in a cool environment, meaning temperatures between 62 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
  • Executed with focus.
  • Done slow and under control by minimizing acceleration and momentum when changing direction of movement.
  • Requires between six and 12 repetitions.
  • Completed without rest between exercises.
  • Continued until the point of momentary muscular failure.
  • Resistance is increased when at the high end of the repetition range.

By engaging in strength training in this manner you’ll get the most out of your workout.

Joshua Trentine is the president of Overload Fitness. Reach him at (216) 292-7569 or

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