If you are in the fitness business, it should not surprise you that there is science behind progress. Progress can be analyzed with biology, anatomy, physiology, physics, exercise science, and more. However, many people achieve fitness goals like getting stronger, faster, building bigger muscles, or losing weight, and are happy with their results without having to read scientific methodologies. Regardless of whether or not you are following an evidence-based approach in your fitness programming, there is still fundamental science that helped you achieve those goals.
If you read scientific studies, and I recommend you do, it is easy to get overwhelmed by the results of studies that often disprove other studies. How does this impact you and your training you may ask? It depends mainly on a few things:
- Your current fitness level
- Your future fitness goals
- What is your FITT status: (FITT Principle)
FREQUENCY - What is your frequency of training per week?
INTENSITY – How hard are you training? Maximum weight, speed, pace, ability or less?
TIME – How much time do you train per day?
TYPE – What is the type of training/goals you are trying to achieve? Is your workout specifically addressing your health and fitness needs/goals?
There is a term fitness science is typically fascinated with, and that is optimal. What is the optimal method to achieve results? Depending on the above, finding a scientific study that helps you with your programming may or may not be possible.
Here are some references to scientific studies:
Use National Institute of Health Database (PubMed) – Type in your search and you will see a list of many applicable studies and many that are not so applicable as well. If you like learning something new, take a read – you may find something that confirms the validity of your current program or may cause you to ask questions about a better way. Another option is the Strength and Conditioning Journal Database, but there are many more that focus specifically on training issues that may affect you.
Remember: if you are training to be in the military or special ops, your training needs to be at a higher level than the average American, but it does not need to be on par with that of an Olympian or Professional athlete. Most scientific studies may not apply to you as many are seeking to find the optimal methods to maximize performance in a given sport. But trying some of the workouts a few times a week isn't going to kill you either.
Take Military Swimming for example. You do not need Olympian or Collegiate swim times to pass even the toughest schools like BUD/S, PJ Training, RECON, Combat Dive School, or Rescue Swimmer training. You need to be competent in the water but also great one land. You won't see a competitive swimmer doing shuttle runs for agility and long rucks for endurance in addition to swimming workouts unless military service is in their near future.
Some relevant studies with this audience:
- Overtraining and Health Issues
- To Crunch or Not to Crunch
- Physical Fitness and Smoking During Deployment / Injury Relation
The goal of this article is to ask you to be open to new approaches and never be 100% certain that your way is the best way to get results. It is good to ask questions and find the source of your workout routine to make sure a generic workout program fits your needs. Be smart enough to alter the programming to specifically address your weaknesses. Sometimes a simple 1-2 weeks test of a method to get stronger, lose weight, or run faster will answer your question on whether something works for you.
My last piece of advice: If you have a fitness test to pass, train for the fitness test specifically. Take the test as a workout once a week a few months prior to the actual test. If this test is dependent upon your keeping or losing your job or getting a better job, you have to practice it to reach your optimal level.
Stew Smith works as a presenter / editorial board with the Tactical Strength and Conditioning program of the National Strength and Conditioning Association and is Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS). There are also over 800 articles on Military.com Fitness Forum focusing on a variety of fitness, nutritional, and tactical issues military members face throughout their career.