Fitness: why practice makes perfect


Whether we are starting a fitness journey, or a new fitness routine, we can easily end up using muscles that have not seen any action for some time. Often the body will struggle to adapt to a new and unusual stimulus to which it is not accustomed. The usual response the day after is DOMS – Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. Many people experiencing DOMS for the first time believe it to be a signal not to repeat the exercise or use that muscle again. The opposite is true.

The Repeated Bout Effect (RBE)

RBE refers to the adaptation process your body carries out following a single bout of exercise-induced-muscle-damage, whereby a muscle seeks to protect itself from subsequent bouts. Essentially it is the body’s protective mechanism for the muscle. However, the effect means that you can train the same muscle frequently and by repeating the same exercise this will help reduce the DOMS symptoms of soreness in the muscle.

This may seem counterintuitive, as people believe muscle soreness points to a need for time to recover. Yet it has been documented in many studies that performing the same movement again will increase the rate of recovery.

Practice makes perfect

Frequency of certain exercises should be a high priority if your body is to adapt to them at a faster rate, with success meaning you can step-up to more advanced movement patterns to further develop your fitness even faster.

Although RBE is a scientific protocol the actual mechanisms have not yet been fully pinpointed, but it is likely that the factors involved include neural, mechanical and even interactions at the cellular level. Some theories propose an adaptation in the reduced inflammatory response in the muscle. But in practical terms, if it is to assist in training development, it means it’s important to be able to:

  • distinguish between different types of pain
  • keep practicing. Once you have started an exercise, don’t let it slide. It’s a lot easier to maintain than regain.

Whether in the gym or out of it, a lifetime is largely made up of the sum of our routines. So, if you do engage some unused muscles this year, let it be an inspiration, especially if you wake up feeling a bit stiff the following day. Start some new exercise routines and you might just surprise yourself. As Aristotle pointed out, ‘We are what we repeatedly do, excellence is not an act but a habit.’

Let some excellent exercise into your life – and let practice make perfect.

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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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