The Power of Repetition

By Gerard Burley

Repetition at the gym doesn’t just refer to reps or how many times you do a certain exercise. There’s a certain power in doing the same thing repeatedly.

Today’s exercise culture is based in doing different exercises a lot and the crazier and most diverse the workout, the more it sells. Especially in today’s noncommittal culture of studio and workout hopping, I constantly talk to people who tell me of weekly workout plans that consist of seven different kinds of workouts. While I love that they are moving and dedicated to their fitness, when you do seven different workouts in seven different days you’re really getting better at nothing.

Good athletes get good by doing the same thing over and over and over and over and then one more time. Today I’ll give you a few tips on how to make sure your workout doesn’t have too much variety and is streamlined, efficient and effective.

How much is too much?

I’ll be the first to say that variety is fun. Doing new things keeps people interested in their workouts and ready to stick to a program because it doesn’t get boring. But studies have shown that what really keeps people in a program is seeing progress. When people can see that they’re progressing by getting stronger, performing skills better and feeling in better shape, they tend to stick with the game plan.

To achieve these three goals takes time and practice. That means doing the same thing repeatedly. If you have a goal in mind, you train at least three times a week purely focused on that goal. If your goal is weight loss, you should be focusing on three to four exercise sessions centered around purely burning as many calories as possible.

When body builders train, they move from one focus to another and put all they have into that goal. When a body builder wants to build muscle, that’s all they’re focusing on and when they want to burn fat, that’s all they are focused on. If your training plan right now looks more like the appetizer sample platter than the menu entrée, you may be setting yourself up for failure and future frustrations.

Finding your goal

The first step to accomplishing your goal is actually deciding what your goal is and building actionable skills to get you to that goal. The biggest mistake I see in people trying to accomplish goals are beginners making goals that are way too broad. “I want to be in better shape” is not a goal, it’s a wish. Be specific with your goals and gradually add to them to consistently get better.

Think of your workout plan like you do work. Your company’s goal would never be “to be a better company.” Companies lay out specific attainable goals each year and break them down into quarterly, monthly and weekly goals. When the company sets out on a specific goal for the quarter, it’s an all in approach just to that goal and that’s how your workout should be.

What does “being in better shape” look like to you? Having six-pack abs? Running a five kilometer race or a marathon? Once you figure that out, you can make some action items to get you to that space.

Taking action

Now that you’re focused and have a specific goal, how do you take the first step toward that goal? This is where it helps to have a trainer or experienced coach to help you to setup the action plan, but if you’re doing this yourself, think backwards. Think of your goal as a destination and we’re going to plot out the map to that destination by working backwards.

If your goal is to run a five kilometer race without stopping and we know today that you can only run one kilometer nonstop, let’s think that we can add on a half of a kilometer a week, which means we will need at least eight weeks before we can get up to the five kilometer distance.

I always like to next look at your schedule and dedication. Do you have the ability to run three times a week? If not then maybe we should add on a few weeks to our training program. Finally I like to add in mess-up time because things always go wrong and something inevitably will come up, so I like to add another week. That way we have good expectations and if we beat those expectations, then you’re extra proud of yourself, but it all comes down to stayed focused on the plan.

Staying focused on the same types of workouts can be very beneficial to achieving your fitness goals. Have a clear-cut idea and then devise a specific plan to carry out. This spring stay the narrow course and watch your summer goals pop up right along with the flowers.


One Response to “The Power of Repetition”
  1. Matthew So says:

    Great article about the power of repetition. I’m a huge believer.

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