"No pain - no gain" has been the gym-rat's mantra since bodybuilding gyms began. It includes many motivations and workout regimes. "No pain - no gain" also has a derogatory meaning of the gym addict who doesn't have a life away from weights, workout machines and benches.
"Listen to your body" is another motto that's often quoted. At the start of this page about deliberately painful workouts I should draw your attention to the safety warnings below. These routines are intended for building the male physique. Sorry but you have to be already fit to join this club. Working out to loose excessive weight or to get back into shape is a different game. Note that I intend "building" to mean getting stronger and leaner, or training for a specific sport, just as much as building muscle bulk.
"Pain is a warning and should be avoided". Generally if you get pain you should stop immediately, especially sharp pain whilst lifting. Consider seeking professional help if the pain does not immediately stop when you release the weight. However an understanding of how to use pain, to work through pain, is part of what distinguishes athletes from couch potatoes. Sports masochists are the masters of the pain barrier! Traditional boxing training is one example of using pain as part of the training regime as well as preparation for the ring.
"Pain is now, Pride is Forever" is another slogan. There's a sense in which you don't make progress with working out unless you put some effort into it and get your back wet with sweat. If you incur some controlled discomfort then you'll be more likely to make progress. One person's discomfort is unbearable pain to another and injurious to a third who is not properly prepared or doesn't understand how to enjoy working his body safely.
"Enjoy pain". Pain is a narcotic, pain is addictive. Sports masochists know they can get high on pain, that's why it's pleasurable and addictive. Pain used knowledgeably assists in constructing a great physique. The endorphin response to pain is the body's narcotic that masks pain; its purpose is to allow the body to continue functioning under severe stress, eg attack. We can use that endorphin response to mask workout pain and so train deeper into muscle overload, which will stimulate and increase in muscle strength and/or bulk.
Muscle soreness the following day is not dissimilar to the continuing pain from marks from corporal punishment (CP). It's a reminder afterwards of a good session, often this is an erotic reminder, a sexual trophy.
Most workout manuals euphemise pain. It's impossible to lift a heavy barbell and say that it's "comfortable" to do that. It's not a natural action. Yet if you don't lift the iron or push the bar of the machine you don't make progress. If you have the connection in your sexual makeup that pain equals erotic pleasure then pain is good, erotic pain is a turn-on.
Workout pain is necessary in building a great physique; pain in a workout is constructive, unlike many forms of sadomasochistic pain. Stripes from a caning or a hamburger back from a flogging are generally kept hidden but the marks from working out are a good physique and can be worn with pride everywhere. As with CP masochists, the erotic charge may be at the time of the pain or deferred until later or as a complete substitute for penetrative sex.
Working muscle hard enough to hurt causes damage but the body repairs this and adds some more; that's how we gain strength and bulk. Hydration and nutrition are also important. You should to prepare your body for a body building workout and assist the reconstruction process by proper eating and drinking.
I'm aware of (and enjoy) three sorts of pain that result from working out safely. There's the pain whilst the body is under stress whilst you are actually lifting the weight. There's short-term pain immediately after you have put the weight down. Finally there's muscle stiffness and soreness that may become noticeable twelve to forty-eight hours later, or the next time a muscle group is worked.
There are also sharp pains that are always injurious and pain (from stiffness from previous workout) that indicates insufficient rest since the preceding workout and also insufficient warm-up. Also pain, fatigue and poor control from working out too far into fatigue.
So what are the my principles to structure a workout to be specifically painful so as to take advantage of the body's endorphin response and to be sore afterwards?
- Ensure adequate hydration before a workout. Warm-up and stretch adequately and correctly.
- Accentuate muscle work over cardiovascular work. In practice this means using heavy weights and performing repetitions noticeably slowly
- Work to muscle failure rather than deliberately working to less than total capacity. Safety: if you work so far that you may drop the weight you have to be sure you will do this safely. A workout mate spotting for you can assist and maintain your motivation.
- After failure, work other related muscle groups then systematically revisit muscle groups after a short recovery period and again work to failure ("split sets"). Example: work biceps to failure, short rest, repeat. Then work triceps to failure then revisit both, again to failure.
- Consider splitting an exercise into halves. Work from top to halfway; hold for a count, then back up to the top. Then work from halfway down to the bottom, back to halfway and hold, then down again. For example with squats work from standing to three-quarter squat, hold at three-quarter squat, and then back to standing. After set like that, do the complementary set: start at three-quarter squat, down to half squat and hold then back to three-quarter squat. Continue without going up to standing. This principle also works painfully well for bicep curls, bench press, sit-ups and many other exercises.
You should check your own health and physical condition before attempting any unusual physical activity. If you attempt to emulate these workout plans you do so at your own responsibility and risk. Don't workout when tired, intoxicated or ill. The following links appear to give sound advice but I am in no way responsible for them.
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