Training Effects – Exercise Does Not Make You Stronger…

Those that know Mark Borslein, Physio, know he likes to champion specific mantras (often over and over and over). One of his fundamental lessons is:

“Exercise does not make you stronger.”

At that point, you could imagine he walks out of the room and gives up on being a physio and on advocating exercise as the number one health drug. But of course, knowing Mark, he’s really just trying to bait you.

“Exercise does not make you stronger… it breaks the body down. It’s the relative rest after exercise that allows the body to repair and become stronger than before.”

The physiological truth is, the body experiences 4 general training principles:

1. Specificity

2. Overload

3. Recovery and Adaptation

4. Reversibility or Detraining

The Overload Principle involves the regular application of a specific exercise overload, enhancing physiologic function to produce a training response. Exercising at intensities greater than a minimum threshold induces a variety of highly specific adaptations that enable the body to function more efficiently.

(Examples of adaptations that increase the capacity to tolerate higher doses of exercise)

Achieving the appropriate overload requires manipulating combinations of training frequency, intensity, and duration, with focus on exercise mode (ex. only running makes you ready to run). The concept of overload applies to athletes, the sedentary, people with disabilities, and even cardiac patients.

In the following diagram, you can see a graphical representation of the ideal training effect:

Vertical Axis: “Exercise Dose (Intensity or Duration)”

Horizontal Axis: progress of time

Red Line: maximum physiological capacity for exercise demand

Green Line: minimum threshold to create training effect

Blue Line: Alternating exercise and rest over time


Over time, it’s necessary to note:

  • the red line gradually rises, indicating the maximum physiological capacity for exercise demand has increased
    • i.e. body can handle more exercise
  • the green line gradually rises, indicating the minimum threshold to create a training effect has increased
    • i.e. takes more effort to benefit from exercise (diminishing returns)
  • without rest, the blue line would continue rising and exceed the red line, the result would be an overtraining effect, and possibly an injury or illness
  • exercise loads that were once in excess of our maximum can become unable to induce a training effect after significant adaptation
    • i.e. looking at the below chart, the orange dashed line shows what was once an over-dose of activity (above red line) is not even sufficient to reach a training threshold (green line)


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