Most people understand that if you want to get the best results out of a workout, you need to push yourself. But if you push yourself too hard, you may end up hurting yourself or interfering with your progress because of overtraining. How hard should you push yourself during a workout, exactly, and how do you know if you’re going too far?
Finding the Balance
Pushing yourself is all about finding a balance. If you push yourself too hard, you’ll run the risk of an injury, you’ll strain your body too much, and you’re going to have a miserable experience on top of that. In rare, extreme cases, pushing yourself too hard can lead to a heart attack or other negative health outcomes.
Conversely, it’s also possible to not push yourself hard enough. Almost any form of exercise, including even the mildest forms of movement, is going to be valuable for your health. But if you don’t increase the intensity of your exercise, you’re going to miss out on several important benefits.
Where is the middle ground and how can you make sure you stay there?
The Ideal Heart Rate
There are a few different ways to think about intensity when exercising, but one of the most common and most approachable is to find your target heart rate. In order to find the best heart rate for your exercise, you need to understand what your maximum heart rate is.
Your maximum heart rate is calculated by taking the number 220 and subtracting your age; if you’re 30 years old, your maximum heart rate is 190. From there, you can determine your “ideal” heart rate for exercise. For moderate intensity exercise, you should aim to stay at 50-70 percent of your maximum heart rate. For high intensity exercise, aim for 70-85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Once you know what your target heart rate is, you can use it in a practical environment. Whenever you’re engaging in cardiovascular activity, take occasional measurements of your pulse; if you find that your heart rate isn’t high enough, you can increase the intensity of your exercise. If it’s too high, you need to reduce the intensity temporarily.
We can also measure exercise intensity in terms of the amount of weight you’re lifting. If you’re interested in building strength, developing stronger bones, and growing bigger muscles, you need to practice progressive overload, gradually increasing the amount of weight you lift.
Depending on your goals, there are different levels of intensity to strive for. If you’re looking for basic foundational strength with average muscular hypertrophy, it’s a good idea to lift an amount of weight that allows you to comfortably practice between three and eight repetitions per set. If you’re looking for more explosive power, you’ll want to lift an amount of weight that allows only one or two repetitions. If you’re looking for more endurance, you should lift an amount of weight that allows for even more repetitions.
Rest is vital for muscular growth. Lifting weights and engaging in stressful exercise tears your muscular tissue, prompting the body to repair it and improve its strength and functionality. But your body can only do this if you provide it with enough rest between workouts and enough sleep.
Because of this, you also need to think about exercise intensity in terms of how many days per week you exercise and how much rest you’re getting overall. If you push yourself too hard, working out the same way multiple times per week, your results are going to start stagnating.
General Best Practices
Still, even with all these tools, it can be difficult to know whether you’re pushing yourself too hard, not hard enough, or somewhere in the middle. These are some general tips that can help you further:
· Trust your body. Pay attention to your body. If you start to feel pain, or extreme discomfort, it’s a sign that you’re pushing yourself too far. A little strain or discomfort is a good thing, but too much is a warning sign.
· Extend your capabilities gradually. Avoid doing too much too soon. Start with low intensity and gradually work your way up.
· Rest between sessions and bursts. Always take plenty of time to rest period rest between sets. Rest between sessions. And get plenty of sleep every night.
· Look to others for advice and direction. Consult with other experts to get advice and direction. Sometimes, the people around you will be better at recognizing when you’re pushing yourself too much than you are.
It’s not always easy to tell exactly how hard you should push yourself. But for most people, this process eventually becomes intuitive. Once you have a better understanding of your capabilities and limitations, you’ll develop a sense for how intensely you should be working out.