The purpose of this post is not to bully anyone or make anyone feel inferior, but rather to raise everyone's awareness about a cognitive process that takes place on a daily basis, almost in a routine manner for most of the population.
Self-Rationalization (SR) refers to the psychological defense mechanism that plays, formost, a subconscious role in the decision making process. SR is the process by which perceived controversial behaviors or decisions are locally justified and explained in a logical manner in order to avoid recognizing a true explanation that might might be unacceptable to the individual or their peers. It is a powerful defense mechanism and one I see employed all to frequently in the training profession from my own clients. Check the video below for some examples of self-rationalizing talk and a few good laughs especially if you yourself our a trainer.

If anyone has every met me and talked shop with me about training then they know I am a big lobbyist for deadlifting. If you haven't met me in real life then let me begin by saying "Hi, my name is Stevan and I am a 
pull-a-holic and the deadlift ruined my life." All kidding aside though I do love the deadlift and all its many variations. And because of this overwhelming love I feel for this lift I love finding evidence to support my love. Most recently I found a study published in the journal Archives of Physical and Medical Rehabilitation.

This study used electromyographic muscle activity measured in the paraspinals of the lumbar and thoracic erector spinae. The researchers compared EMG activity during six different exercises: a static supine bridge on a BOSU ball, a single leg body weight deadlift on a BOSU, a single leg bodyweight deadlift, a back extension, a lunge with 70% of 1RM, and a deadlift performed with 70% of 1RM. The comparisons showed that far and above the deadlift is much more effective for working the paraspinals. The lunge and back extension were next in line for highest levels of EMG activity. So clearly multi-joint exercises doen with moderate weight are much more beneficial then single joint bodyweight exercises.

This study means that the deadlift should be a staple exercise in anybody's training program who wishes to build a strong lower back, tight abdominal muscles, and remain injury free. Of course if you are some one who is experiencing lower back pain you must first achieve structural balance and functional balance, but once this has been a established the deadlift should be programmed to insure the back stays strong, healthy, and asymptomatic. 

Goal setting is absolutely crucial to progress, doesn't matter whether we are talking in the realm of strength and conditioning or fiance and economics. Goals define everything! They determine the rhyme and reason for every action you take. For example if you have a financial goal to say one hundred dollars a month for twelve months this goal would decide every purchase you made for the next twelve months.  But so often I find no one has goals and if they do they are general, vague, and non-measurable. This is absolutely catastrophic because if one has NO GOALS then one has NO PLAN because simple logic tells us the plan is suited toward the goal. Even when I meet someone that does state their goals it is to vague and general usually along the lines of "get more fit" or "be stronger". While I think its great that at least these individuals are considering and contemplating their goals these such examples give no direction or guidance. Perhaps Lewis Carroll put it in a more eloquent way:
Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?
The Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to
Alice: I don't much care where.
The Cat: Then it doesn't much matter which way you go.
To solve this issue I see plaguing the average fitness enthusiast I want to provide you with the definition of a good goal as well as the process in which one can move through to develop excellent goals.

1. A Goal should be specific.
A properly stated goal should be specific to the event, body part, exerces, etc. that one wishes to improve upon. The stated goal should both identify what is to be changed or obtained and the specific change one is making to the what.

2. A Goal should be realistic and attainable.
Now I know what your all thinking "I can do anything I set my mind to!". While I love the attitude I believe it is an asset to be realistic and practical. I mean if you have four kids, work forty hours a week, and maintain a household chances are spending two hours at the gym, while a respectable goal, is not the most realistic or attainable goal. But perhaps for someone with such a lifestyle a more realistic goal would be getting to the gym five days a week. You see for goals to be beneficial you must accomplish them and to be able to accomplish them its important you take into consideration all competing demands in your world.

3. A Goal should be measurable.
This one goes hand in hand with number one. The specific goal allows for measurement, for tracking. If you cannot measure your progress towards a goal then you can not determine if what you are doing is furthering your quest for the goal or if you need to make an adjustment. For example I here a common goal among most of my clients that is something along the lines of "wanting to be fitter." While this sounds like a great goal its actually really shitty for two reasons. Number one being its too vague, which we talked about earlier. Number two its not measurable. I mean what does it mean to be fitter, how do you define "fitter". For some it might be body-fat percentage. For others it may be a pound to pound ratio on the deadlift or improvement in one's VO2 max. You see for the goal to be measurable it has to be clear cut and defined with some kind of empirical quality attached that can be tracked and measured, allowing for progress reports and feedback as to how you are moving along without such a definition one is hopelessly pursuing a endless task.

Next time you begin to brainstorm new goals whether it be in the world of health and fitness or not try to ask yourself is the goal specific, realistic, attainable, and measurable. If you define your goals using these four qualities it will allow you to devise a much more prudent, practical, and purposeful plan.
Time for the third installment into the series of "Stuff to Read". I haven't got any feedback in the way of comments as to if any of my links are helping those looking for answers, but I hope that it is benefiting someone in someway. If you would like to request a particular topic you would like to know more about that I can either write about myself or link you to an article discussing this topic please leave your suggestion in a comment below other wise enjoy this weeks "Stuff to Read".

Working Out When You Don't Really Want to Work Out by Dean Somerset

Here is an excellent blog post from Mr. Somerset in which he talks about his own struggle to fit in training during a short vacation and his victory over an overwhelming amount of baked goods. In all seriousness it discusses an awesome topic that I think every individual can relate to please give it a look see.

Quick and Easy Ways to Feel and Move Better: Installment 12 by Eric Cressey

This is a great series of post that focuses on tips and helpful advice to improve one's everyday level of health, which is the big picture for all fitness professionals. In this particular installment Coach Cressey gives an excellent tip about mixing protein powder with cold coffee which I tried immediately and loved it.

The Death of Muscle Building by Jason Ferruggia

A rant unlike any other provided to you by the renegade nation leader himself. Mr. Ferruggia brings focus to a issue that bothers many coaches and trainers alike. This issue being the invasion of training by research lab monkeys. Don't get me wrong research is great, but more and more I here people questioning techniques because there is not enough empirical evidence to support a why for the results this technique produces. Jason, and I agree, argues that sometimes the why doesn't matter as long as the what is getting excellent results.
I am often baffled time and time again, month after month watching the same 60 to 80 regulars who make their weekly 4 or 5 visits to the gym yet I observe no progress. Their body composition remains constant and the amount of weight lifted for each exercise seems to never change whether lighter or heavier. I am astounded by this because I cannot fathom dedicating so much time and effort into a commitment yet never see a return from my labors. I have spent a lot of time pondering this conundrum and I believe I have a very simple yet profound answer to these individuals lack of advancement. This profound answer being the following statement:


I know I know this seems like a neanderthal's explanation, but before you move on and read the next blog hear me out for a few more paragraphs. This truly is the wall that stands between you and your goals. You simply are not willing to push your body to and past it's existing threshold for fatigue, which is an absolute requirement for growth, strength, and alteration of body composition. The reason for this failure to drive oneself forward is because it requires passion for your goals. It requires the willingness to suffer all pains and fight ahead toward the brighter lights. Yet many shy away from this necessary ingredient because it takes an effort above that of walking into the gym and doing three sets of ten on the bicep curl. It requires performing squats, deadlifts, and farmer's walks on a regular basis. It means driving yourself to grind out heavy sets and finish each workout with proper foam rolling and mobility work. The truth is that it takes more to reach one's goals than most are willing to give.

But if you are someone who is willing to give all they have toward your commitment. If you are willing to go for the ninth and tenth rep even when you'd rather quick at eight, then I promise you that you will be one of the few who does achieve their ultimate goals. Remember when that little voice inside is crying out for you to set the weight down and terminate the set that is the moment when you grab that little voice by the neck and silence it continue the set and move on to the next set. I'll end this blog with some sage advice given to me by my own coach:

"Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable."