I recently got back from a two-week holiday where I did pretty much no exercise. My first workout when I got home felt like one of the toughest I had ever done, and WOW my muscles ached for at least 3 days afterwards.
It had been a while since I had trained my back and it was a struggle even getting dressed those few days after that workout session.
So, do you know what I did? I trained my back again.
WHY would you do that to yourself? I hear you ask… Well, if I’m aching from training a particular body part, I find that training the same area with lower weights and fewer repetitions helps. For example, I did 3 sets of ten reps on the low row pulley machine. In my experience, it really loosens up the area and becomes a lot easier to move.
The main reason for this is that your muscles become more used to working a specific muscle and the more you train it, the more normal it becomes. In some cases, it can be a good thing but in other situations you might find that your body is getting used to your everyday workouts. This means that we need to change things up to avoid the repeated bout effect.
What Is the Repeated Bout Effect?
Simply put, the repeated bout effect means that the repetition of an action over and over can less of an effect over time because your body becomes used to it.
Let’s look at my back workout as an example:
The first time I entered a gym and trained my back, I was incredibly sore the next day. This is because my body had never been challenged like that before. However, because I train regularly now, I don’t experience muscle soreness in the same way that I did when I first started out. This is the repeated bout effect – my body isn’t responding to the exercise in the same way anymore.
Repetition in Your Life
In everyday life , we do things repetitively. Success we saw at the beginning of achieving some goals therefore may have disappeared over time:
- The first time you reduce your carbs, you might see a massive shift in the scale which over time leads to less significant losses or even stalls.
- The first time you tried an energy drink, the caffeine probably hit you quite hard. After consistently drinking them however, your body builds up almost a resistance to them and it most likely doesn’t have the same effect
- The first time you did squats, you will have felt the effects after the workout, but always doing the same squat routine means that you’re no longer building new muscle.
Don’t be put off by this! This doesn’t mean that you’ve stopped progressing. It just means that your body is adapting to your new healthy eating or training plan.
It can be easy to feel disappointed with your results, especially if you’re not seeing as much progress as you were in the beginning.
“I’m working out 5 times a week and I don’t see a change”
“I was doing so well, but then my weight loss just stalled”
“Maybe training isn’t for me – it’s obviously not working”
Don’t be discouraged. Your workouts have made you stronger, which was the aim in the first place. All you need to do to keep seeing and feeling those results is to change up your routine.
3 Things We Can Learn
Repetitive action can teach us three points on changing for the better.
- Easy Work – You can prepare your muscles for a hardcore training session by simply doing a lighter workout earlier in the week. I train my legs twice a week, and my first workout on Monday is all bodyweight exercises (bodyweight squats, lunges, calf raises and so on). By the time my heavy weight leg session comes around on Friday, my muscles are ready to go and recovery is always faster.
- Aim for a New Level – Everybody has the potential to achieve even more. So that you can keep moving up, keep pushing yourself. You will be surprised at what you can do.
- Try Something New – Whilst it’s great that you’re training every week, it’s not so great if you’re doing exactly the same routine over and over again. Use your motivation of going to the gym to research new types of workouts, and continue to see and feel the advantages in the long term as well as the short term.