Stress + Rest = Growth

How do you maintain long-term performance without burning it?

“Stress + Rest = Growth” is the equation presented in Peak Performance by Brad Stulberg.

In it, he describes the four-step process:

  1. Isolate the muscle or capability you want to grow.
  2. Stress it.
  3. Rest and recover, allowing for adaptation to occur.
  4. Repeat—this time stressing the muscle or capability a bit more than you did the last time.

The key is just manageable challenges.

“Just-manageable challenges manifest when you take on something that makes you feel a little out of control but not quite anxious or overly aroused.  When the task at hand is a bit beyond your skills you’re in the sweet spot. Any less of a challenge and you’d feel like “I’ve got this in the bag.” It’d be too easy and not stressful enough to serve as a stimulus for growth. Any more of a challenge, however, and the unnerving feeling of your heartbeat pounding in your ears would make it hard to focus. What you’re after is the sweet spot: when the challenge at hand is on the outer edge of, or perhaps just beyond, your current skills.”

This can be applied to your physical fitness, work life, or personal pet projects.

“Put all this together, and a paradox emerges. Stress can be positive, triggering desirable adaptations in the body; or stress can be negative, causing grave damage and harm. The effects of stress depend almost entirely on the dose. And when applied in the right dose, stress does more than stimulating physiological adaptations. It stimulates psychological ones, too.”






3 thoughts on “Stress + Rest = Growth

  1. Good post – I appreciate it from an exercise perspective, and was curious as I was reading what this should apply to (and happy you cleared up that it could be to work or a personal project as well).

    From a work perspective, I’m curious how you think business managers could use this technique to help their people grow. Too often it seems like stress & busy-ness is valued over rest.

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