Exercise is simply formal movement, or the body adapting to a stress (or stimulus) over time.
The specific way we exercise will produce a specific body adaption. In other words, if you want a specific change or adaptation to occur in your body, then you want to exercise in a certain way to achieve it.
With almost all new exercise programs, the first adaptation is neural. Your brain is getting better at communicating with the rest of your body. Your brain is able to more efficiently tell your joints, muscles, etc. to move.
Take for example, early strength training gains. These early increases in weights or reps are most likely not from an increase in muscle mass, but rather from more efficient communication between your brain and said muscles.
This principle is the same principle we are taught often - perfect practice makes perfect. The more your brain and said muscles practice communicating, the better the communication. And the better the communication, the better the said muscles do the activity you are asking them to do!
[it has been said that correcting old techniques takes 1000 times as long as learning new techniques]
A few important pieces of a good exercise plan:
- Individuality - The plan should be developed for you or for the goals you want to achieve. It is best if it focuses on your priorities/likes and fitting around your current/desired lifestyle. If the program is not based on your goals, then you will most likely not achieve your goals. If the program does not focus on your priorities/likes or does not work with your current/desired lifestyle, then you will most likely not follow it through to meet your goals! It absolutely helps to find exercises that you actually enjoy. After all, you want to work with your body, not to punish her!
- Positive stress - Exercise is a type of stress placed upon the body. We want this to be positive stress so that positive adaptations occur. In order for the stress (exercise) to be considered positive, proper form is necessary from the beginning. For some, this may mean starting at a very low intensity level (or an intensity level lower than normal) until proper technique is achieved. You also want to make sure your exercise practice includes adequate rest.
- Flexibility - Whatever exercise plan you pick should ultimately be flexible. It must be flexible to meet the constantly changing demands of every day life. It should also be flexible to meet the demands of your changing goals. This is because as you follow a good exercise plan and get stronger, faster, smaller, bigger, etc. your goals may need to be modified. It is ideal for a program to be able to work with your changing goals and with your possibly changing priorities in every day life.
- Solid Foundation - Make sure to pick an exercise plan that will build a strong and solid foundation for your entire body and increase work capacity safely to minimize the risk of injury.
- Periodization - A good exercise plan will progress over time to continually stress and challenge your body in a positive as well as varying manner. How often your specific regimen changes will go back to #1, and be dependent on you. The plan should continue to challenge your body towards your goals. This will mean you must increase weight, reps, speed, incline, etc. or change certain specific exercises along the way. Note: Read #6 and remember that it will take time for any body adaptation to occur and so you should not change your regimen too quickly!
- Consistency - The regimen you pick must be consistent! It takes time, sometimes it may seem like too much time, to really see or notice changes in your body. Please do not get discouraged, but instead remember that consistency is crucial to a good plan. It is important to not switch your regimen up too often or too quickly and to allow time for your body to change.
- Recovery - I cannot stress enough the importance of quality recovery. After all, recovery is where all the magic of training actually happens! Recovery can be a full day off (I'm one of those that needs this!) or it can be active and include things like low-intensity walking or swimming, mobility work, etc.
- Fun - This is my last training regimen tip and could possibly be the most important. Whatever regimen you pick should be fun for you! If you do not enjoy the majority of the days you train (not everyone will enjoy every single workout), then it is probably time to switch it up and try something else. There is not only one way to reach your goals. Find whatever works best for you and don't let anyone tell you differently!