When do I stop progressing my workout?
August 25, 2006 11:50 PM   Subscribe

Is there a point at which I should stop progressing my workout?

How do I know when to stop? When I am getting to a level where further progression, even slowly, will cause injury or just not be worth the extra time? For example, the ab exercises I do when I don't have access to a gym right now are 65 forward crunches, 65 reverse crunches, 65 double crunches, and 65 seconds of the plank form. Should I keep adding more? Why or why not?

I suppose that people will say I should change the exercises I am doing, but first keep in mind that previous injuries limit the possibilities. And I don't always have time (or the inclination) to research new exercises.
posted by grouse to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (17 answers total)
Do you have a goal?

I've found my workouts are more productive if I'm working toward something, be it a bodyfat percentage, be able to bench X, or run 3 miles in Y time, etc.

Sports are great too because you can feel how your conditioning workouts improve your game.

I think you've answered your own question though. If you have gotten to the point where you feel a plateau or not motivated, you need to change something up. If you're restricted in the types of calisthenic exercises you can do, try adding weight - nothing crazy maybe a 5 or 10lb plate on your chest or behind your head.

I'm also big on swimming: for constant resistance, for improved flexibility, and it's a great aerobic workout.

So yeah:

See a doctor to see what you can and cannot do
posted by Andrew Brinton at 12:07 AM on August 26, 2006

Your form must be off on the crunches, because you should be feeling an unbearable burn in the abs after 15-20 reps. Speak to a personal trainer (who is in good shape) about how you can improve the quality of your crunches and your results.
posted by rinkjustice at 3:50 AM on August 26, 2006

Think about saving your abs exercises for the gym, and use the time when you can't go to the gym for stretching, not calesthenics.

Gyms these days have excellent crunch machines that will give you a burn after five or six reps.

Since you've had previous injuries, start with a small weight -- five pounds, anybody? -- and concentrate on mastering the machine's dynamics.

My thinking is that crunch machines beat plain crunches on the floor, just as bench presses or Smith machines beat push ups. Resistance exercises simply work better. Go slow, be mindful of your old injuries, and enjoy the fun.
posted by Gordion Knott at 4:50 AM on August 26, 2006

My (very small) gym doesn't have a crunch machine with weights.
posted by grouse at 6:11 AM on August 26, 2006

You can always buy a weight plate and hold it while doing crunches. Cheap, effective, and you can use it for other exercises at home.

Also, at the reps you are doing you are working muscular endurance (as well as cardio) rather than strength. Increasing the reps/time will increase your muscular endurance. I'd say go for it.
posted by Loto at 6:54 AM on August 26, 2006

You are probably already to the point where further progression is not worth it, assuming you are doing those exercises with good form. If your goal is "strong abs" (with perhaps the purpose of enabling other exercises or preventing lower back injury), you probably already have strong enough abs. If your goal is "visible abs", then you are never going to get them just doing crunches, but you probably know that.
Yeah, you can find other exercises or add weight to challenge your abs even more, but without a goal you do start to risk injury for no clear reason.
posted by ch1x0r at 8:10 AM on August 26, 2006

I was told at my gym that I could boost my crunches to 50 reps (I started at 20-25) but beyond 50 there wasn't much point. The gyms focus tends to be on lifting rather than body building if that means anything.
posted by pointilist at 8:24 AM on August 26, 2006

straight talk:

1. Stop doing crunches. They're all but worthless.
2. Linear periodization only works to a point, then you have to try something else. Linear periodization is adding reps/load over time, from one workout to thet next. Different exercises, different volume, different speed.
3. If you are satisfied by having mediocre fitness levels, then yes, you can stop progressing your workout. If not, then you need to constantly try to improve.
4. If you don't have the time to research new exercises, and you want to improve your fitness, you're out of luck. Make time.
5. Your abs are not as strong as you think. Can you do a one-minute L-sit? Unless you can do that, your abs are not strong.
6. You need to adapt your workout to accomodate your injuries, not give up progressing. That's just silly.
posted by noyceguy at 9:18 AM on August 26, 2006

noyceguy: I doubt my fitness level is "mediocre." Assuming that is not really "straight talk." What would you suggest instead of crunches?

The injuries prevent me from doing certain kinds of exercises that people might suggest, not progressing on the ones I already do.

How should I set the goals for my workout? I guess that is really most related to my primary question.
posted by grouse at 11:12 AM on August 26, 2006

How should I set the goals for my workout? I guess that is really most related to my primary question.

You haven't given us anything to work with here. What ARE your goals?
posted by ch1x0r at 11:42 AM on August 26, 2006

One easy way to creat variation in your workout is to change the set and rep scheme. If injury really does limit your choice of exercises, then consider doing the same exercises, but switch to a high weight-low reps workout plan, like 5x5's, or switch to a low weight high reps scheme. You could also consider doing two exercises at a time in 'superset' form-do one exerecise, and then immediately follow it with another exercise; that's one superset. Repeat.

You're only limited by your creativity on this.
posted by HighTechUnderpants at 2:02 PM on August 26, 2006

never stop setting goals or trying to improve. assuming you are warming up and cooling down properly (holding each stretch about 25 seconds, 5-10 minutes of jogging/cycling/etc) then you won't really have to worry about injuring yourself.

setting fitness goals is simply about 1) knowing your limits, and 2) knowing how to slowly push those limits. you're in this for the rest of your life, afterall... so get creative. you say you can't do some excercises... well, fine. don't do them, but FIND SOMETHING NEW that works with your past injuries.

to help me set my goals this year, i looked at the US marine's levels of excellence. (pushups, pullups, situps). my first goal was to condition myself into the lowest category of "excellence" for each. after i made it there, it was about moving up to the highest marks of excellence and then setting my own goals after that. there was something so gratifying about exceeding those goals, that has kept me going back to the track again and again. and you need to feel this same satisfaction, in order to stay motivated.

i really enjoy jogging over to the local middle school or high school where they have "big people" monkey bars and other "old school" equipment. search the internet for fitness parks in your area and forget about the rinky-dink gym that you may (or may not) have to pay a monthly fee to access. fitness is supposed to be free, fun, and fit to your personality.

like hightechunderpants suggested: you're only limited by your creativity on this.

so choose not to be limited. i challenge you to come up with 3 new ab excercises that don't aggrevate past injuries and eventually perform those new excercises to 70 reps each for 3 sets.

good luck...
posted by eli_d at 9:13 PM on August 26, 2006

I guess broadly speaking my goals are general fitness and recovery from the past injuries. So usually I have just tried for steady improvement along these lines without really looking at definite goal levels. Perhaps I should think about that more.
posted by grouse at 5:51 AM on August 27, 2006

"noyceguy: I doubt my fitness level is "mediocre." Assuming that is not really "straight talk." What would you suggest instead of crunches?"

friend, if you still doing crunches, I promise you that you have a mediocre fitness level. olympic lifters do not do crunches, nor do gymnasts, sprinters, NFL players, or any other elite level athletes, generally speaking. you state yourself that your goals are general fitness and recovery. that sounds pretty mediocre to me.

I'll repeat my question. Can you do a one minute L-Sit? If not, go ahead and consider yourself in the mediocre category for core/ab strength.

i don't mean to berate you for not striving for elite fitness. its not for everyone.

you want a goal? a three minute L-sit. if you can do that, all your old ab work will seem silly easy. train for it with L-sits, knees to elbows, situps and back extensions, overhead squatting, L-pullups, etc.
posted by noyceguy at 8:43 AM on August 27, 2006

friend, if you still doing crunches, I promise you that you have a mediocre fitness level.

First, I'm not your friend. And yeah, I don't think that not being an olympic or professional-level athlete makes me mediocre. YMMV.

Thanks to everyone else for helpful answers.
posted by grouse at 10:45 AM on August 27, 2006

(What is an L-sit?)
posted by achmorrison at 3:16 PM on August 27, 2006

noyceguy seems like a person doing a character. He's just too funny to be taken seriously. noyceguy, do you have a neck?
posted by xmutex at 4:00 PM on August 29, 2006

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