Friday, October 21, 2011

The Law of Diminishing Returns

Let me be honest and say that, in my first year at college, I didn't learn a whole lot in the classroom. I was too busy with athletics and doing things I shouldn't have been doing to get overly concerned about something like book-learnin'. There were a few moments and lessons, however, that still stand out and I distinctly remember the grad assistant who led our discussion group for Intro to Microecon talking to us about the law of diminishing returns and marginal utility as applied to beer and (chewing) "gums".

Simply put, the law of diminishing returns is this: the more you "consume" the less and less benefit you derive until, eventually, it begins to affect you adversely. For example, if you decide to start lifting weights, initial benefits from a thrice weekly program reap you great rewards of improved appearance, increased vigor, and reduced stress. Excited by this, you start training four times a week, but the benefits do not rise in direct proportion to the added time. You bump up the training frequency and volume until you are training daily (and sometimes twice a day)... training starts to become an addiction; a chore. What were simply occasional minor aches and pains when you were training intelligently, begin to become chronic conditions. While you used to look energized, you now look haggard. What was once a pleasurable and beneficial activity has become a source of pain and stress.

You can get too much of a good thing. Macros, micros, diets, supplements, exercises, routines, exercises, intensity, volume, density, sitting, squatting, standing, walking, running, you name it - you can have too much of it. Yes, there are keystone exercises and we have talked about them a lot here, but change is good, and change is inevitable. It seems to be a paradox to say that you need consistency AND change to improve, but that's exactly right! Planned, purposeful change will introduce chaos to the system and, as it seeks a new homeostasis, it will adapt, grow, and find increased stability.

Related Post: Adaptation Paranoia


Mattt said...

This has to be something every lifter goes through. Although I would say that we tend to think more is better and 'err' on the side of diminishing returns, but believing the opposite to be true. It's hard to grasp that less can be more.

Hanley Tucks said...

So you're saying squatting for 77 days straight might not be good for you?

Come on, that was an easy one, I had to say it... :D

Boris said...

Absolutely Matt.

I think I passed the hump there at about day 7... after that it was all just trying to keep it together. Of course, on some level, part of the purpose was to suffer so I accomplished that.

Fred said...

Stronglifts 5X5 had me squatting 3 times a week. I did get stronger - a lot stronger - but as I increased the weight with each squatting session my form started to suffer until one day I tweaked my lower back. Now I'm not squatting at all! Diminishing returns? I think so.........