Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Good Pain / Bad Pain

A lot of people harp on old Arnold for saying, “No pain, no gain” in regards to building muscle. They say that you shouldn't exercise through pain, and technically, you shouldn't.

What they don't say is that you can lift through discomfort. Extreme discomfort. Your body doesn't particularly want you to pick up twice your bodyweight and then set it back down several times. Then again, your body doesn't know what's good for it. A set of chin ups is uncomfortable from beginning to end. The last rep would probably be in the range that your average person would call “pain.” Suck it up, buttercup. You're not an average person, YOU'RE A WEIGHTLIFTING MACHINE! No, not like a cable station. That metaphor really fell apart.

One easy, bright line straight between good and bad pain is “sharp.” When doing bench press in the bodybuilding range, 8 to 12, you will feel an increase in burning. It may become very uncomfortable, but you can still crank out another rep. That dull, burning pain is fine. However, a sharp, sudden pain while doing bench means you should rack the barbell before you drop it on yourself. Sharp pain is an indicator that something is torn or strained. Give it up, go home, ice it, and see if you're ready to go again next week.

It can be more complicated than that, but only you can decide what is the discomfort of pushing your body enough to cause overload and therefore progress, and what is going to cause injury. So start light, build up slow, use good form, and learn your own body. As you develop a mind muscle connection, you will learn your limits (and how to bounce your pecs).

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