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Improving Fitness Is All About Being Inefficient

Written by: Nick Jack
Category: 2014
on 01 March 2016
Hits: 7436

Having been in the health and fitness industry for over 15 years now, I have seen hundreds of people get to the stage where they are working out all the time but nothing seems to change. When they first started an exercise program the results were almost immediate as only a few relatively simple exercises was enough to force the body to adapt and make significant changes. We all remember that day after you did your first strength workout of lunges or squats and how you could barely sit on chair for the next few days as your muscles ached all over? However, after a few weeks of being consistent with your training it started to get easier and not hurt as much as before. You could even add some load to the exercise as you felt so much stronger. Everything seems fine until you changed the exercise program to something you had not tried before, and guess what? That's right you were sore again! Why does this happen even though you have become stronger with the previous workout? The answer has to do with several factors which I will explain in this article, but the critical thing to understand is that you were inefficient for that exercise. Your body had to make some changes in order to prepare for future occurrence where it is forced to do that workout again. This is the secret to constant improvement and how to avoid getting stuck in a rut.

If you have ever used a weight vest in your training you will know exactly what I mean by being inefficient. The extra weight makes it extremely difficult for the body move in the way it is used to and huge amounts of energy are required to complete tasks that were easy before. This is why you are out of breath and in a state of complete exhaustion within only a few minutes!

Whenever you train, you force your body to respond to the stimulus by adapting. This could involve improving nervous system efficiency, strengthening tendons, ligaments, and muscles, increasing muscle size/cross sectional area, or a combination of all these factors. The body wants to find a way to become better at the activity you are doing so it uses less energy. It wants to become efficient. 

Now if you were to continue training the same exercise day after day without a break, you may become efficient but you will eventually reach the"exhaustion" stage" and break down. You must give your body adequate time to recover to ensure long-term success as rest is just as important as training. As your body is subjected to the challenges you present it with in training in combination with rest and quality nutrition the body slowly becomes a bigger, stronger, and more efficient version of its previous self.

This is the secret to incredible fitness.

Unfortunately what we usually see is people rarely changing their workout or routine and doing the same thing over and over. At first they see results but over time nothing will change no matter how much they do because their body has become so well trained and efficient. 

The old Einstein definition of insanity is so true here- "Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." There is nothing new the body needs to do, so it stays the same! This is not limited to exercise either, as we see similar results with nutritional changes to stimulate weight loss.

To avoid this trap and break through a training plateau there is four key things to consider.

  1. Identify your weaknesses & be inefficient - Spend more time doing what you are the worst at, and train this area the most! Whatever you least efficient at forces change quickly.
  2. Turn bad habits into good habits - Often when you are stuck in a rut, you are also stuck in a routine and have picked up many habits. Changing these habits is critical.
  3. Improve your Nutrition, Rest & Recovery strategies - More training does not mean better results. Only better quality training and better rest can achieve this.
  4. Know your WHY! - Possibly the most important part of breaking through.This is the desire to change and where you find the motivation to stick to the plan when the going gets tough and keep you on track!

Use Exercises You Are NOT Good At

It is very important to use exercises and training methods on activities you are NOT good at! If you are good at running, but hate swimming, take up swimming. If you love squats, but hate lunges, do heaps of lunges.

Nearly all of us are time poor and don't have endless amount of hours to devote to training, so we need to maximise the time we spend to get the biggest bang for our buck! And the fastest way to do this is to work on your weaknesses the most. We will use so much more effort when we do exercises and training methods we are not suited to. If you are good at most things keep changing your workouts so you never get a chance to get too efficient.

When we workout the body tries to adapt to the activity quickly and the more often we perform the same exercise it adapts and adjusts. It changes things in order to find a way of executing this task more easily. It wants to use less effort. This is one reason why so many people get such poor results using a cardio training approach. The cardio training may improve your fitness levels, but the better you get the less change to your body fat % and overall physique you will make. (see article - Why people don't lose belly fat even when they exercise a lot)

Don't believe me?

Think about the time you took up running or cycling or even walking. The first few weeks you picked a route and it was so hard to do, you had to stop a few times to get your breath, your legs ached for days afterwards and it just never looked like you were going to get better. But after about 3-4 weeks you could make it without stopping, it took quite a few minutes less to do and there was no pain afterwards at all! The 1000's of foot strikes or pedal revolutions have now made your body much more efficient. Because each foot strike or turn of the pedal is the same it is easy to streamline the amount of effort needed to complete the task. A bit like making some aerodynamic modifications to your car. It can go faster with less fuel.

While you may be getting fitter, going faster or longer, your physiological change is beginning to slow down and eventually stop. This is where I see so many people decide well to get more out of it I will go further! This is exactly the opposite of what they should be doing. Because by going further they will also go slower in order to pace themselves and become,....... efficient.

This is what happens when you do strength training or also what is known as INTERVAL TRAINING. If I use the car analogy again, this would be like putting the accelerator to the floor. How much fuel would I burn up by doing that? Heaps right? And if I drove my car like that all the time there would be significant maintenance required as I would be putting some serious heat and pressure on many of the parts of the engine. Well the same thing happens with the body, the fuel being burnt up is your carbohydrates, with repair needed for the muscles and nervous system forcing a significant increase in metabolic rate to accommodate these changes.

Understand that the repair period will be continuing for along time after the exercise due to the amount of damage taking place, this will result in using your fat stores for energy. Compare this to the long slow cardio session where you were so efficient that there is little if any damage or maintenance to complete and no increase in metabolic rate.

One of the easiest ways to experience this is training with a weight vest on as seen in the picture below. Every body-weight exercise will now become extremely difficult.

How To Make Your Training Inefficient

The first thing is to identify what you are worst at.

For example, let's say you hate chin ups and your legs are always sore after doing lunges, and you have never enjoyed cycling as it makes you feel sick within minutes. Your program then would be to start doing a lot more lunges, add in chin ups to every second workout, and maybe 2 intense interval training sessions on the indoor bike. The beauty of weight training and interval training is you never really can get used to it if you are continually changing exercises, sets, and reps.

And if you do feel like you are getting used to it all you need to do is change the workout to something completely new.

There is six ways change your strength training and interval workouts. And they are:

  1. Exercise
  2. Sets
  3. Reps
  4. Load
  5. Tempo
  6. Rest

Change any one of these variables and you change your workout completely. Leaving your body guessing and unable to ever fully adapt and become efficient! This is all covered in great detail in our Little Black Book which is why I recommend getting a copy.

Below are some videos of tough workouts you could try to really change things up.


2. Change Bad Habits Into Good Habits

Changing habits, is not an easy thing to do. Even when you want to do it, it can be very difficult. But when you break it down it simply is a process of changing what's normal for you. The reason it is tough to do is because there is some pain in changing. When you have a problem, there is the pain it causes in your life, but there's also a pain of trying to change it. When the payoff of trying to change is outweighed by the pay off of continuing the old way, people stick with what they're comfortable with.

How do you overcome this problem of the pain of change?

Start small, start with one thing at a time, and make the change easier. You want to make changing the path of least resistance, because change usually isn't for most people. If you make a drastic change, it feels really hard and really different, and not something you can stick to for very long. But when you make a change easier, it makes it easier to take that all-important first step. Once you take that first step, you have a bit of forward momentum. And it's much easier to be consistent and stick with something for along time. Our minds tend to adjust over time. You can do this with anything - exercise, always being late, getting to bed on time, getting rid of sugar in your diet, just about anything.

Gradually adjust what feels like normal to you.

If you feel this is where your problems lie I suggest you read our full article on this by going to this link "How To Change Bad Habits Into Good Habits"

3. You MUST Improve Your Nutrition and Recovery Strategies


This is quite a massive topic on it's own and could be an article all by itself. For many this is by far the hardest thing to do. But what they must understand is that it is also the most important. In many ways it is tied to the previous tip on changing habits. But for many people they tend to look for solutions from the exercise world. They try to exercise their way into good shape which never works. If weight loss is your goal this should be number one on the list of things to get right.

I would comfortably say that with 95% of people who get stuck on their weight loss goal it is due to their food. For the sake of this article staying under 5000 words I will not go into too much detail about nutrition as this is a topic on its own. You will find a stack of great articles we have covered before with nutrition by going to the index page. We have articles on Keto diets, intermittent fasting, and even hundreds of recipe ideas. You will also find our nutrition report an invaluable resource and you can download that from our online shop by clicking here.

The other factor is they do not get enough sleep or rest. 

Read the articles below on Stress and Sleep to see just how much damage you can create to your body by ignoring the principles of rest.

And for tons of ideas relating to nutrition I suggest to grab a copy 

4. Know Your WHY!

You can have the best exercise and nutrition program in the world that will guarantee you results, but if you are not 100% clear on WHY are you following this plan it will NEVER work! 

You must be very specific and detailed with your goals, they must be written down, and you must really dig deep into the emotional reasons tied to these goals.

For example:

  • Why do you want to lose weight?
  • Why do you want to have stronger legs?
  • Why do you need to improve your balance?
  • What might it cost you if you don't significantly improve your lifestyle and nutrition habits?

The answers that come back to you will now serve to become your motivation and desire to stick to the program.

The person who is clear on their why ALWAYS achieves their goal. It is not a matter of if they make it, just when they make it!

Once you are clear on your why and you have written it down in great detail, the next thing to do is display it some where you will see it every day! Next to the mirror in the bathroom, the back of the toilet door, next to your computer at work. Somewhere you will be constantly reminded of why you are on your new journey. This is so important when trying to get through the plateau because this is when your mental resolve will be tested the most. Every bit of help is well worth the trouble.

This is the very first thing we teach any new client at our studio and the very first thing we go over if you are losing the plot! Making it clear to your mind as to why you are trying to change your lifestyle helps you to reach down deep and find the extra strength to stick to your plan. Setting goals MUST be the first thing you do before anything else. Think of it like drawing a map of how you are going to get from point A to point B in the most efficient time.

Read our article on Goal Setting to find out how we do this and even download a free goal setting sheet.

Need More Help?

As this is a topic that comes up regularly we put together the BEST OF THE BEST training programs for getting people in shape into one special PDF report called "The Little Black Book Of Training Secrets". This literally has 101 training programs to help you break through the wall that is stopping you from getting the health and fitness you want. Click here or on the image below to get a copy. Trust me it will be the best thing you ever do!


I hope this article helps you if you are stuck in a rut right now. It really is the simple things that bring people undone. For some just the fact they write their goals down is enough for them to become clear on where they are going wrong. For others, it might be they need some help in an area that is sabotaging their plan but they are not sure how to change it such as stress or lack of sleep. Always remember that if you continue to do exactly what you have always done, you will get exactly what you have always got! In terms of training you just need to find what you are not good at and really focus your attention in that area. The worse you are the better as the secret to building incredible fitness is being inefficient at every workout.

If you enjoyed this article and live in Melbourne and would like to know more about our personal training plans and programs fill in the form below and I will be in contact within 24 hours to schedule a consultation.

About The Author

Nick Jack is owner of No Regrets Personal Training and has over 15 years’ experience as a qualified Personal Trainer, Level 2 Rehabilitation trainer, CHEK practitioner, and Level 2 Sports conditioning Coach. Based in Melbourne Australia he specialises in providing solutions to injury and health problems for people of all ages using the latest methods of assessing movement and corrective exercise.


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