Exercise: can practice make perfect?


Exercise: as with so much in life, practice helps. It may not ‘make perfect’, but even the most talented individuals won’t achieve much without practice. In the world of fitness, the proof of the power of repetition is understood through The Repeated Bout Effect (RBE).

RBE refers to the adaptation process carried out by your body following a single bout of exercise-induced-muscle-damage, whereby your muscle seeks to protect itself from subsequent bouts. Essentially it is a muscle protective mechanism, but the effect means that you CAN train the same muscle frequently.

Exercise and RBE

When performing an exercise for the first time the body often needs to adapt to a new and unusual stimulus to which it is not accustomed. The usual response the next day is Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Many people experiencing DOMS for the first time believe it to be a signal not to repeat the exercise, but the opposite is true.

The Repeated Bout Effect means that by repeating the same exercise this will help reduce the DOMS symptoms of soreness in the muscle. This may seem counterintuitive, as people believe the muscle soreness they feel means it must be given time to recover. However, it has been documented in many studies that you should perform the same movement again to increase your rate of recovery.

In fact, RBE is a scientific protocol that when fully understood should give you a clear understanding of how regularly you should train and help guide you through what to expect on the journey to continually improve your training program.

‘We are what we repeatedly do, excellence is not an act but a habit’

This quote from Aristotle sums up the position perfectly. A lifetime is largely made up of the sum of our routines. You can change them in a moment and turn a chore into a habit of excellence.

When it comes to your training program, make frequency of certain exercises the priority to adapt to them at a faster rate. More advanced movement patterns to further develop your fitness will follow.

The actual mechanisms for the Repeated Bout Effect have not yet been fully pinpointed. However, it is likely that there are many factors involved including neural, mechanical and at the cellular level. Some other theories propose an adaptation in the reduced inflammatory response in the muscle. In any event, it’s an important mechanism to understand. Get practicing!

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           About the author

Alex is a registered Master Trainer and Nutritional Advisor with Level 4 qualifications in obesity and diabetes. He is also a strength specialist and a Ni Dan in Shotokan Karate.

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