Work…I know, it’s a 4 letter word. I’m not talking about the work you do for your day job, I want to talk about your capacity to DO work. Most often when people talk about their fitness and strength they will refer to a single rep max on a lift, or performing a difficult bodyweight move to describe their prowess. Few people refer to their capacity to do work, but I am here to say this is one of the most important aspects of your overall fitness. About a year or so ago, I started branching out from my strict body weight regime to try some other exercise modalities and this is where I learned my capacity to do work and my metabolic conditioning were severely lacking. Which brings me to a secondary point, identify your weaknesses and work on them. I was able to do fancy strength moves and had the endurance to do low intensity running or hiking for miles on end, but when it came to doing a lot of work in a short amount of time, I was severely lacking.
Work capacity is technically defined as the total volume of work one can do. For the purposes of this discussion, I am going focus on improving one’s ability to do more work in less time. The easiest way to increase total volume would be to just increase one’s time working out, but the reality is…”Ain’t nobody got time for that!” Plus that wouldn’t necessarily induce the specific conditioning response we want to develop, so we are going to utilize shorter more intense metabolic conditioning workouts.
Increasing one’s capacity for work is one of the most important things a person can do to better their overall fitness, yet it’s one of the most often neglected aspects. Why? Because it’s hard work, plain and simple. It’s going to leave you gassed, sweating and tired. Typical metabolic conditioning workouts are going to involve weights or movements that are about 50-80% of your max and perform those exercises with minimal rest for the specified time period (circuit training) or higher intensity moves done at specific rest to work ratios.(Tabata, 30:30, etc) Don’t let your ego get in the way when starting this type of training, because even though the weight may feel light at the start, it adds up quickly. Pick exercises, or groups of exercises that work your entire body to get the best results, and as always, perform the exercises with proper form. Even though you start to fatigue, form always comes first. Either rest a little more, or drop weight in order to continue with good form. It’s good to have a “yardstick” workout to repeat every so often so that you can track progress. Checking your workout log and seeing the same work done in lesser time (or more work in the same amount of time) is a great motivator to keep on the path towards your fitness goals.
Switching gears back to the topic I mentioned earlier, working on your weaknesses! Once I realized this was an area of my fitness I was lacking in and got to work correcting it, I saw gains very quickly. In just a couple months, I cut my yardstick workout time in HALF! Strengthening my weakness improved my fitness in all areas. I had more energy during my strength workouts to crank out an extra rep or 2, or shave a few seconds off my recovery time between sets which are both increases in work capacity. The most impressive and surprising side effect was the improvement seen during my recent challenge hike. It’s a one day, 36 mile hike, up and down the steep hills of western PA. The only difference in training from last year to this year was swapping out running for the workouts I’ve described above. The results speak for themselves, I finished the hike at a faster pace, was far less sore the following day and had a much quicker overall recovery. Fixing a weakness further strengthened an area that I already felt was one of my strengths!
To recap the takeaways from this article, work on your metabolic conditioning and increasing your capacity to do work even though the workouts can be difficult. Also to remember to work on your weaknesses, vary your training to incorporate all aspects of fitness: strength, conditioning, endurance and flexibility.
For those of you in Janelle’s KB classes, you are very familiar with metabolic conditioning workouts and increasing your work capacity. Coming soon to Primal Fitness Pittsburgh, will be another challenging and effective way to increase your strength and work capacity using the DVRT system and the ultimate sandbags. Stay tuned for more details coming up!