167 – James Steele, PhD – The Problems With Measuring “Effort” In Resistance Training Science



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James Steele, PhD (Instagram / email – james.steele [@] solent.ac.uk) is the Principal Investigator at Ukactive Research Institute and Associate Professor of Sport and Exercise Science at Southampton Solent University, UK. He has published many peer reviewed articles on a variety of areas relating to health and fitness with particular focus upon the impact of resistance training.

In his role at UKactive, Dr Steele is working to translate academic expertise into real world practice, and utilise the insight of what is happening on the ground with Ukactive members to further the knowledge of what works in getting the the UK moving.

Listen to my previous podcasts with James here.

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In this episode, we cover:

  • James’s role in changing and improving the physical activity guidelines in the UK
  • A review of James’s research into the role of effort in resistance training and it’s importance in future research and personal training
  • James’s current workout routine
  • The upsides and downsides of the quantified self movement
  • How is meaningful is “statistical significance” in most resistance training science?
  • … and much, much more


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Comments 10

  • @ Lawrence,

    Sorry, but I do not care for this man’s information. He may be a nice individual, but I find him intellectually dishonest and sending mixed messages. To begin with, I find he uses excessive words to describe things. I’ve found that with excessive words, there does not fail to be errors. He recently had a lecture where he describes “there’s no such thing as cardio,” yet here he talks of the current guidelines of 150 minutes of moderate exercise (cardiovascular). He states some exercise is better than none but sends a subliminal message that cardiovascular activity is suboptimal in his lecture. I reviewed his studies and found them to mainly deal with resistance exercise. Since this is what he studies , why does he lecture on what he does not study … aerobics? Resistance exercise uses mainly the anaerobic portion of cellular respiration. I have no issue with his resistance training information. Is he afraid that cardiovascular conditioning is far more popular and beneficial than resistance training ever will be?

    Success leaves clues!

    The Dutch speed skating team dominates the Olympic Games like no other. They decreased their proportion of anaerobic work. Olympic medals say a lot, but speak little!

    • Uhg! “Intellectually dishonest” is a strong accusation but I’m not surprised considering marcrph’s previously well documented biases. Maybe we should give marc a break here and call this hyperbole, or maybe poor contextual reasoning (we’ve seen this before)?

      • I agree but this is just typical of Marc and his fundamental misunderstanding that only certain types of activities affect the heart & lungs while others don’t .

      • It’s also interesting that Marc claims that he doesn’t ” approve ” of Mr Steeles information as if that’s supposed to mean something . Why listen to it in the first place ? No one is forcing Marc to come to someone else’s site and listen to anything .

        • Well, everyone’s entitled to their opinions, but to call someone you disagree with intellectually dishonest is a low blow IMO. But I can’t say I’m surprised…

          • I’m not surprised either . I also think the ” everyone’s entitled to their opinions ” is an old hackneyed phrase that really means everyone’s entitled to their ignorance and/or stupidity . And this prevents us from questioning our own preconceived notions and perceptions about things often to our own detriment and that of others .

  • Interesting discussion around effort and failure. It is a simple enough theory: train with a high enough intensity or effort, going to true muscular failure, and you can get away with brief and infrequent workouts, at least with respect to strength development. But perhaps the devil lies in the details. How do you know your effort was high enough? How do you know the intensity was high enough? What, exactly, is “true” muscular failure? You’ll know it when you feel it is one answer. But it is hard to do science around that kind of subjective assessment. It will be interesting to see if they can get better at defining and quantifying this stuff.

    I do agree with his comment that going to failure with lighter loads can involve a good deal of discomfort, and that using heavier weights (and shorted time under load) can alleviate this, and make it easier to reach “true” failure. Years ago, when I first tried doing very slow cadence reps (10/10), if found that I could control the movement better with lower weights, but then the TUL got long, and it was hard for me to differentiate between hitting failure vs stopping because the burn in the muscle got too uncomfortable.

    It is also good to be reminded that he thinks about exercise from a public health perspective: how to do the most good for the greatest number of people. That may lead you to different recommendations than would be appealing to a hard core fitness enthusiast.

  • I don’t think that the vast majority of people involved in exercise will ever see the light so to speak , and some might see that as pessimistic but that’s what i’ve observed over 25 years in exercise . Too many vested interests in exercise that will circle the wagons if they’re challenged & questioned . As for effort most people will not be willing to push themselves very hard because lets face it here , it’s very unpleasant to push yourself very hard in exercise . It hurts ! But as John Little has said you’ve got to be willing to crack some eggs to make omelette’s . We all have to do many things in life we don’t want to but we do them none the less . I think that rest pause as i’ve found myself is a good technique to kind of bring the intensity from a simmer to a boil in terms of assuaging the burn .

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