Do I Always Need To Feel An Exercise Working?

"Where should I be feeling this exercise?"
This is a question that comes up fairly often in a gym setting.
The assumptions are that extreme muscle fatigue will not only be present in every useful exercise, but that if you don't feel it in the right area then you must be doing something wrong.
Beware of this absolute mindset in your training.
There are many valuable exercises, particularly in sports training, where you won't necessarily feel any specific area fatiguing.
The most obvious example would be sprinting.
Sprinting is the #1 strength exercise for all your lower leg muscles. Yet I've never heard someone run a 40 yard sprint and then say, "Ooh, I really feel that in my calves!"
Other deeper core stability drills, like a Trunk Stability Pushup, simply feel difficult overall. They don't give you a muscle burning feel, but they do a tremendous job of enhancing true core stability.
These are just two of many examples where the benefit isn't apparent based on how the drill feels, but rather by what it does.
Those match up sometimes, but not always.
Then there's the drills where you may experience fatigue in many locations, but will only really feel it most in your weakest link.
Deadlifts are a good example.
If your grip is weak relative to your legs, core and back, you'll feel it working mostly in your hands and forearms.
If your legs are the weak link, it'll shift the feeling there.
Same goes for a weaker core, where you may experience mostly back stress.
There are, of course, some benefits to understanding how a drill feels.
Using the deadlift example above, you may feel it more in your lower back because of poor posture. You may experience knee pain if you don't keep them aligned over your feet.
Yet overall, you'd be wise to consider how an exercise feels to be just one of many ways to evaluate an exercise's worth to you or how well you're performing it.
Using a 'go by feel' approach to strength training was rooted in the bodybuilding approach of the 1970's and 80's.
In athletics, where the strength you build in the weight room must have a high coordination aspect for it to transfer to your actual sport, the need for feeling muscles in isolation is a limiting approach.
Choose drills that lead to better performance, and use proper technique as your guide, instead of keying into whether you can feel muscle fatigue or not.

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