5 Pillars of Exercise

Author: Mike Perrozzi

Hello again loyal Anytime Fitness folks!

Today I am going to touch on the finer points of a topic that many people have probably already read about on the internet: the five pillars of strength. A quick google search will reveal what these are, however I want to delve into what it truly means to possess each and every one of these and how to go about doing so. You may find that you only possess two out of the five, and that’s okay so long as you’re able to identify this and begin to take steps to ensure you are becoming a more well balanced fitness enthusiast.

Exercise Selection: This is where the help of a trained professional (such as myself) really comes in. As much as we like to think we can do anything we set our minds to, some exercises just don’t match up well with our anatomical measurements as well as our past injuries and current conditions. Sure, you may have been able to do the triple jump back on the high school track team, but now you are in your fifties and have not kept up proper jumping mechanics and have had a knee replacement from wear and tear. Certain exercises are just generally safer while still producing a great result. We need to push our ego aside and realize why we hold onto particular exercises if they no longer provide the stimulus we want (muscular size and development) and instead just end up leaving us feeling crippled and sore in the wrong places. This is not to say you cannot learn new movements or develop new skills; however, this takes extensive time and practice, and working with a trainer is key to how even the professionals do it.

Food: When you ingest something, it has one of two paths it can go: help create muscle or be stored as fat. This is a very simplistic view of how digestion works, however, it is an easy way to begin looking at food (especially if you have an emotional attachment to it). You must give your body a reason to create muscle (strength training is a top reason), and you must choose food that is better suited to help accomplish this. Protein and veggies are much better building blocks for solid muscle than cake and potato chips, so choose what to eat based on your ultimate goal of getting fit (I’m assuming this is because you are reading) rather than what will stimulate your taste buds in the moment. And there are plenty of ways to make healthy food taste great (buy a cookbook).

Intensity vs Volume: Often confused for one another, it is important to separate the two when designing a good workout plan. Let’s assume you’ve done a great job choosing the right exercises; now, how do we implement these? Intensity measures the perceived rate of exertion over the course of a single working set: amount of weight used relative to your max, tempo used, rep range. Volume refers to the number of sets and exercise variations in your given session that day. All of these factors determine how difficult that particular workout is and how often you should replicate it. 

EX: Take a set of 350lbs squats for three to five reps when my max weight I am able to lift on that exercise is 405lbs. This is over 86% of what I am capable of for a single repetition, making this a fairly intense set. I should adjust my volume of sets accordingly, and not do as many exercise variations that stress the same joints otherwise I could be overtaxing that movement pattern.

Progressive Overload: This is more often than not the key that is missing from most peoples’ workouts. In order to produce a change, you have to provide a new stimulus that your body must adapt to and overcome. This is usually by adding weight to the bar (or dumbbell, weight stack, etc.) but it isn’t limited to this. It could mean trying a more difficult exercise, adding an additional repetition or two, or shaving a second off your mile time. If you aren’t striving to do a little better than you did the last time you performed a specific exercise, you’re simply spinning your tires and will not give your body a reason to change. A common defense for doing so is “I’m just trying to maintain” which may seem legitimate in theory, but in practice stagnation typically leads to regression (in all areas of life, not just the gym). Be honest with yourself, and try to progressively overload whichever variable you need to.

Consistency: Lastly, the simplest to understand, yet hardest to attain. If you do not do something consistently, you will never get good at it. This goes for all things in life: you cannot hope to get better at anything if you’re not willing to put in the work and do the things that need to be done over time with consistency. I will be creating a separate blog to address strategies we can take to accomplish this since it is too long to discuss here, so stay tuned.

Thanks for reading and continuing to support your gym.