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Are You Being Instinctive With Your Training?

Phil Graham Bodybuilder and personal trainer training

Learning to listen and respond to the feedback your body gives before, during and after training is crucial in maximising the look and performance of your physique.

If you’re a hard training individual or a personal trainer, personal training client I’m sure you can relate to these two popular scenarios:

Are You In Pain?

Does it hurt when performing a certain exercise?

Do your knees hurt when bending down to get something ?

Is your shoulder stiff and sore ?

Let me make it pretty clear, if you’re in pain, you’re in trouble (read that again to yourself) You must pay immediate attention to address the root of the problem, not mask it with pain killers or train through it (movement numbs pain, think about waving your finger after you cut it, the pain often goes) 

Pain associated with training usually results from exercising with excessive loads, repetitive strain (exercising harder and harder with shitty form session to session), chronic muscle tightness that forces other tissues (inc bone, skin tendons, ligaments etc) to pic up the slack, muscular imbalances that again force other areas to pick up slack and burn out/strain or pre existing injury.

Let’s just say the go hard or go home approach isn’t the most sensible approach here – you need to address the problem, not battle your way through until you develop an injury that will stop your training dead in its track never mind completely blow your mind in the process. If you’re being coached by a personal trainer they should learn to recognise this and work around the problem not tell you to “suck it up”. 


Depending on the type and source of the pain your solution to a pain free life will lie first in proper diagnosis of the problem and then specific treatment to address. This could include everything from deep tissue massage, corrective exercises, self myofasial work (foam rolling), stretching right through to exercising with better form.

On the subject of training pain free I just recored an awesome podcast with Jason Kane (UrbanFitness Dublin) on understanding everything you need to know about mobility. Check episode 12 out of Elite Muscle Radio here.

How Tired Are You?

Are you always fired up to hit the gym?

Do you give it 100% every time?

Are you struggling to get out of bed the next day?

If you can relate to any of these scenarios you must step back and take a birds eye view of your recovery strategies. 

For me and my clients recording workouts is a great way of highlighting dips in your performance. If you’re training seems to be dipping more than its progressing you need to take action. 

Are you getting enough sleep?

Are you hydrating properly?

Are you consuming enough calories?

Are you suffering from extreme emotional stress ?

These are all valid points to consider within the recovery paradigm and you can be rest assured 1 or 2 of them may be off if your performance is dipping.


Did You Feel It?

You can train to your hearts content but if your not engaging the correct muscles during the movement don’t expect to reap the full benefits. As I say with all my personal training clients you must build strength in the gym not demonstrate especially when your egos concerned.

If you’re not feeling it you have a multitude of options to try. Firstly, lighten up – if the weights to heavy your body will do whatever it can to prevent getting crushed. This includes shifting forces away from target areas and onto other areas as a result limiting your muscle building potential for the intended groups.

Other options include changing foot, hand positions, exercise angle, using different bars/implements, varying tempo, contracting agonist/antagonist muscle groups to ensure better range of motion (for example contracting your triceps at the bottom of a barbell curl) – the list is endless really.

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As with all my articles I hope you found this piece interesting and helpful – Feel free to share and educate – Train Smart – Phil Graham