Note:  This is adapted from Donatelle, Chow and Kolen-Thompson Health – The Basics 7th Cdn. Ed.

If you want to improve your strength and/or endurance, you are talking muscles. Very simply put, muscles attach to your bones and move your skeleton. The stronger those muscles are, the more work/activity your body can perform.

Increasing muscular strength and endurance involves a number of basic principles:

1. The Tension Principle. To develop strength, you have to create tension in a muscle or group of muscles. A common way to do this is to try to move against an external resistance. You can achieve this by lifting weights, or by doing a variety of activities where the resistance is created by lifting your own body weight.

2. The Overload Principle.  To increase strength, you have to regularly create more tension in muscles than you are used to. Muscles adapt to these periods of increased tension (over time) by getting bigger and stronger, able to generate even more tension. Without overloading your muscles, they will not get stronger; overloading them too much will cause injury. The overload must be big enough to actually build strength, or you will just build up endurance (without building strength).

3. The Specificity of Training Principle. According to this principle, your body responds (adapts) specifically, based on the muscle/muscle group being overloaded (trained or exercised).  If you overload one specific muscle/muscle group, that muscle/muscle group will adapt by getting stronger. Your other muscles will not, because they are not being overloaded through that exercise. If you want to build overall strength, you must exercise and overload all of the major muscle groups.

4. The Recovery Principle. Your muscles need about 48 hours to recover from resistance training. You can still workout every day, but you will need to alternate muscle groups so they get that 48-hours to adapt to and recover from the overload training. Don’t forget your core, which is basically involved in all training.

One of the personal observations I have made about doing 10,000 kettlebell swings in 28 days is that in order to do that number of swings, I have to use a smaller weight, i.e., a smaller overload. Using a heavier weight pushes me to my muscle failure point too quickly, so I’d never complete enough reps to meet my target. I do try to throw my heavy bells in there for a few sets, but my objective this month is really more about endurance than strength-building in this particular challenge.

I also respect the recovery principle by doing only three workouts per week. That means I have two 48-hour recovery periods, and one 72-hour recovery period. Works for me! I get to the start of each workout pumped and enthusiastic. Well, I get to the start of each workout. And I do it. Mind over matter…

Listen to your body. Adjust your training as necessary.