To Maximize Strength and Minimize Injury Risk, Follow This Rule

Estimated read time: 3 to 4 minutes


The Champions tour used to be known as the “Seniors” tour but apparently “seniors” wasn’t the best description.

Me either. When does that happen anyway? When are you officially a “senior”? It’s like saying you look good, “for your age”.

The Champions term feels better. And it’s more accurate. Most of the guys on that tour have won a lot of tournaments.

Now, back to my point….

I had a few questions regarding my last article in which I explained the value of strength training. Most of the questions were about, “How do I do this?”

So, what do Champions need to know about strength training? As you age you have to pay attention to certain things to avoid injury and get the most out of your efforts.

At first glance, “working out” doesn’t seem complicated. Get some dumbells or go to the gym and get started.

I joined a gym last year. One of those commercial box type gyms. My wife urged me to do it. She thought I should get out of the house (I work mostly at home) and be around people more often. I prefer to train / exercise at home. I like the solitude and I can train in ways that most commercial gyms don’t support. But, she’s often right about things so I took her advice.

Most of the people I see exercising in the gym break the rule I am about to share with you. My guess is they don’t know about this rule. And by the way, this rule of strength training is for all ages, not just for Champions.

A few definitions first.

  • Repetition: the completion of one, controlled movement whether it’s one part of the body or the entire body
  • Set: Completion of a number of repetitions
  • Load: the amount of weight or resistance used in an exercise
  • Fatigue: the decline in ability to produce force which is often felt as a burning or tightness in the muscle(s) and/or is expressed as an inability to maintain form or complete a repetition. It’s graded from 1 to 10 where 1 equals no fatigue and 10 equals extreme fatigue
  • Rest: a defined period of inactivity between exercises, sets, days
  • Frequency: the number of times per week to perform an exercise routine

The #1 Rule – Training Matrix

There are a lot of tactics / methods when it comes to strength training. But this one rule trumps all tactics.

Because following this rule reduces injury risk while maximizing strength gains.

I call this rule The Training Matrix.

The Training Matrix is the intersection of load, repetitions and fatigue. This is key. Get this wrong and you over train or just waste your time.

The objective is to achieve a fatigue level of 7 on a scale of 1 to 10 within 10-15 repetitions. Plus, there should be some face scrunching or struggling with the form near the end of the set. The load you use is a function of both fatigue and form.

I scale fatigue from 1-10, where is 1 no fatigue and 10 is extreme fatigue – you can’t complete one more repetition.

How do you know if you have a fatigue level of 7/10? When you reach this level of exertion, you will automatically scrunch up your face or struggle with maintaining the form or both.1)de Morree H.M., Marcora S.M. (2010) “The face of effort: Frowning muscle activity reflects effort during a physical task.” Biological Psychology 85, 377-382

Here are some examples:

  1. Perform 15 repetitions with a fatigue level of 8 or greater with lousy form, that’s a miss. You need smooth, well controlled motion until you hit the 7/10 fatigue (at which point your face will scrunch up and your form will begin to crumble). This result means you need less weight and more attention on form.
  2. Perform 15 repetitions with great form and a fatigue level of 4, miss. Great form with low fatigue is a waste of your time. This result means you need more weight.
  3. Perform 12 repetitions with lousy form and a fatigue level of 4, miss. This result means you need to pay more attention to the form. You may or may not need more weight.
  4. Perform 12 repetitions with form that begins to crumble, muscles start to burn, and a fatigue level of 7/10, bullseye.

Breaking Rule #1 is common.

I was in the gym the other day and a fellow female Champion was performing this exercise, sort of:

Plank row drawing

This is called a “plank-row”. It’s not easy. The idea is to keep your body in a straight line, head to heels at all times. You slowly lift the weight up and set it down. It should hit the floor like you’re setting it down on an egg.  Then the other side. That’s one repetition. When you hit the matrix target (fatigue of 7, face scrunching / crumbling form, 10-15 reps), you’re done. Time to rest.

Her starting position was with the hips elevated, in a V posture with her head down, almost tucked.

She’s done before she started. She can’t hold the starting position.

As she lifted the weight her hips twisted, her face contorted into a wicked kind of grin, the muscles in her neck popped out like cables on a bridge. Returning the weight to the floor created a loud thud.

She managed 7 reps and fell to her knees.

So, what do you think? A bullseye or a miss?

Had she started this exercise with her knees on the floor she might have been able to do it since this would make it easier to hold the starting position and move the weight up and down. If you can’t hold the starting position, you need an easier version or a different exercise.

One more example:

Rep #1 -> fail. This weight is too heavy for her. She’s already over 7/10 fatigue, face scrunching and she can’t hold the form (lifts the weight by swaying her body, nodding her head). Sure, she’s not a Champion but like I said, this rule applies to everyone.

That’s all I have for now.

Thanks for reading.

PS – I have some other strength training rules and I’ll share those in upcoming articles.

References   [ + ]

1. de Morree H.M., Marcora S.M. (2010) “The face of effort: Frowning muscle activity reflects effort during a physical task.” Biological Psychology 85, 377-382