Pain, Gain, Sustain and Your Workouts

pain, gain, sustain

As a fitness professional, understanding energy system training is vital to your success with us in the gym.

Because not everything should be about cardio or burning as many calories as possible in a workout!

When I see you working out in the gym,

I’m typically more impressed by your intensity, not volume, and think you should too because for the most part, your intensity will drive your progress after your first 6 months.
What if you are a beginner?

You don’t need to worry about intensity as your body builds muscle more efficiently due to “newbie gains” and your nervous system rapidly adapting to the new stimulus in the gym. Just focus on technique, mastering movements, and feeling your muscles.

Let’s clarify Intensity vs. Volume:

Intensity – the amount of weight lifted relative to your maximum. 100% intensity would be the heaviest thing you could lift for 1 rep.

An Intensity Example:
Doing a 200lb deadlift for 3 reps is more intensity than a 175lb deadlift for 5 reps.

Volume – the amount of sets and reps you do in a workout. 5 sets of 10 = 50 reps which is more volume than 5 sets of 8 (40 reps).

Back to how this relates to energy systems and your results…

There are three primary energy systems a personal trainer needs to understand:

1 – ATP-CP creatine system (GAIN)

Max efforts under 20secs beneficial in strength, neurological and hormonal adaptations. Meant for heavy power and resistance training as well as short bursts of cardio.

This is an example of GAIN.

2. Anaerobic or glycolytic system (PAIN)

Effort lasting 20-60secs that put you in the pain cave where lactic acid accumulates and muscle is built optimally. This system creates many adaptation for you as well as it enhances your cardio or aerobic system. It is important to note that the word “PAIN” comes through the depth of your experience in training and many times requires a prerequisite in training experience as well as power and strength for max benefit. This enables you to push yourself more through the “pain” in these timeframes.

3. Aerobic system. (SUSTAIN)

Efforts that last longer than 60 secs that can be sustained for a long period of time (hours). Humans are designed to move for sustained periods of time so this is most often a mental limitation rather than a physical one once your training experience improves… With increased aerobic system capacity comes a myriad of benefits including a fundamental base to any training program. This is why our fundamentals programming focuses on building an aerobic base before diving into the heavy lifts (GAIN) and lactic acid buildups (PAIN). In addition, aerobic system training is safer for the inexperienced individual and lends itself well to the other energy systems enabling faster recovery.

GAIN, PAIN, and SUSTAIN. These terms effectively summarize the 3 energy systems for you. So next time you are doing an exercise in the gym, ask yourself if this movement feels like gain, pain, or sustain…

fitness langley, langley fitness
Is this the PAIN CAVE or the SUSTAIN CAVE?

Some examples…
– 3 rep bench press – takes approximately 10 secs – GAIN
– 8 reps of 1 leg wall deadlifts – takes approximately 30 secs – PAIN – does it feel like pain? If not, you are not challenging yourself enough!
– 15 wall balls – takes approximately 30 secs – PAIN
– Row 500m – takes approximately 2 min – SUSTAIN
– Max effort 60 sec bike sprint – PAIN
– 3 minute bike – SUSTAIN

Now that you are more aware of this philosophy in your workouts, you can essentially look at a workout and decide how to apply yourself…

Let’s look at an example:
Part A – Emom circuit x 3 rounds (18 min)
Fundamentals Level
A1 30 sec Hip thruster hold (PAIN) – if not you need to make it more challenging!
A2 5 goblet squats @ 2 down (GAIN)
A3 30 sec plank (PAIN)
A4 5 wall 1 leg dl/side (GAIN/PAIN)
A5 rest
A6 20-30 sec bent knee hollow rock (GAIN)

The short rest between exercises provides a SUSTAIN stimulus as your aerobic system is working.

Part B – 12 min amrap (as many reps or rounds as possible)
B1 40 skips (SUSTAIN)
B2 20 kb deadlifts (PAIN/SUSTAIN)- depending on how challenging the weight is
B3 20 air squats (PAIN/SUSTAIN) – depending on how easy 20 air squats is for you

Part B is working on conditioning and sustaining your pace for 12 mins.

Part C – Chipper – 5 min cap (a chipper is where you “chip away” at the exercises 1 at a time until they are all done)
C1 15 mb donkey kicks (PAIN)
C2 15 mb straight leg pulse (PAIN)
C3 15 mb fire hydrant (PAIN)
C4 15 mb rainbow (PAIN)
switch sides

The finisher is focussing on feeling your muscles and building up lactic acid and getting that pain response.

Hope this has helped!

As always, we are committed to getting you SUSTAINED GAINS IN THE PAIN CAVE 😉 ,
Josh Saunders, BS, CSCS