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.
In today's "Information Age" one can and will feel overwhelmed by the vast amounts of knowledge and differing opinions that is available to you in newspapers, magazines, and the internet. Now I realize this might seem a bit hypocritical seeing as intellectual fitness is part of this information machine, but our chosen role in this machine is to properly inform individuals on correct and effective ways to train as we state on our home page we believe in practical, purposeful, and effective methods. While realizing how much information is out there about proper exercise programming and how easy it is for an individual looking for effective methods of training to get caught up in complicated set and repetition schemes and orthopedically unsafe workouts. The truth to the question on proper programming is any program that offers progressive overload to stimulate further progress done with proper technique and intensity will produce results.
So before an individual can concern themselves with any of these complicated set and rep schemes or barbell squats on a stability ball (a bit much don't you think). One must have a proper foundation for there program and the foundation of every program is the repetitions performed meaning if one is using bad form on repetition then the whole program is useless. There are five coaching points we use at intellectual fitness to insure that what we call the "Perfect Repetitions" is performed. These five coaching points are minimizing momentum, pause when the muscle is fully contracted, emphasize the lowering portion of the repetition, body position and leverage, and maintain constant tension on the muscle through proper range of motion. The purpose of a repetition is to place a stimulus on the muscle that will elicit fatigue by focusing on these five points you will achieve the intended purpose of the repetition.
1. Minimize Momentum
Moving a weight too quickly will result in the weight gaining speed and eventually moving on its own removing the stress placed on the muscle. This will make the exercise easier and increase the likelihood of an injury to occur both of which are things an individual should try to avoid while training. One must take great care in the execution of the exercise placing emphasis on raising and lowering the weight in a slow and controlled manner. This does not assume that the will never me a moment when one tries to lift the weight will all out effort because as the exercise continues through the strength curve, which is the varying amount of maximal force the muscle is capable of producing in relation to the angle of the joint the muscle is attached to, the muscle will fatigue to the point where the force applied is not much more than the resistance it is overcoming. At this point any attempt to push or explode through this point will result in the weight continuing to move at the same speed. This means that one must hold back on force output at the beginning of the set, but as the set continues and the muscle fatigues the repetitions will be performed will greater effort while the speed of the motion does not increase until the effort is maximum and the movement is very slow to non-exsistent. These events follow the Size Principle of Muscle Recruitment which states it is the INTENT to raise the weight fast that is the key to activating fast-twitch fibers and developing explosive power. Not that the weight is ever actually moving at a high rate of speed. If the weight can be moved fast than it is not heavy enough to stimulate maximum power and strength gains. So when practiced a weight should be lifted in at least one to two seconds any thing faster means the weight is being thrown and throwing weight around does nothing to improve strength or power.
2. Pause When the Muscle is at a Point of Full Muscular Contraction
Once one has raised the weight in a slow controlled manner in a effort to minimize momentum thus making the repetition harder and safer the individual should pause for at least a count of one in the fully contracted position or top of the exercise. This serves two purposes first it insures that there is little to no momentum in the exercise second it proves to the coach that the weight was lifted in to position and not thrown there. This technique is also called peak contraction and is a form of an isometric contraction and since it is important to work all three types of a contraction to completely fatigue the muscle it is important to make sure and practice this isometric position which will make the lift more effective and efficient.
3. Emphasize the Lowering or Concentric Phase of the Repetition.
Lifting the weight is usually what most individuals feel is equal to one repetition however this is completely incorrect. The lifting or concentric portion of the rep is only half of the actual repetition. The second half of the repetition is the lower or eccentric portion of the repetition which is also the portion of the repetition we at intellectual fitness place great emphasis on because if properly used this eccentric portion can be used to make the biggest gains in strength and size. During the eccentric portion of the repetition your muscle is able to actually hold a load that is 40% greater than the load it can lift the reason for this is not truly understood all though the best explanation we have used to explain is that because there is less friction between the myosin and actin filaments than during the concentric portion do to the filaments sliding against each other which though this friction is very small it still creates added resistance so when it is removed as it is during the lowering phase of the repetition the strength of the muscle increases greatly. But the problem arises then how do you apply a greater load during the lower portion of the repetition when you are originally limited by the much weaker concentric portion of the repetition. This problem can be solved in to ways one you have a spotter add weight to the load before you begin to lower it, this isn't really practical and takes extra time which makes it inefficient, or you can increase the length of time the muscle is under the load. The latter of the two options is the most practical and is what we recommend at intellectual fitness. Thus we emphasize that the lowering portion should take any from 3-5secs to lower it any thing faster is dropping the weight again making the exercise easier and more dangerous.
4. Be Aware of Body Position and Leverage
In any exercise one can improve their leverage in an effort to make the lift easier, but in turn this makes the lift less productive. So remember with the right leverage one could lift the world. Remember that the point of a repetition is to place a stimulus on the muscle that will produce fatigue. So an individual should position their body in such a way that the leverage creates the most difficult but allows for the greatest range of motion within both safety and comfort.
5. Constant Tension
This coaching point is one that seperates the most skill trainees from the beginners. When one performs an exercise the muscle should be forced to work throughout the entire range of motion under a constant load. This isn't usually the case when most trainees lose their concentration on the rep and focus more on the completion of the set so they seek some moment of comfortablity by resting part way through the rep or bouncing the weight off of the rack. One should make the greatest effort to keep constant tension on the muscle through as many repetitions possible although we do understand there are moments in a set when you need a short pit stop to gain the strength to finish those last couple reps of the sets. This allows you to fatigue your muscle more efficiently and effectively.
If all of the above coaching points are followed you will have performed a Perfect Repetition. The final point we want to make is that one should focus on rep replication meaning that one repetition should not differ from the next and every repetition is the most important rep. If all these points are followed the foundation of your program will be effective thus translating to progress no matter what kind of fancy programing you employ. So instead of searching for the newest latest training scheme take a step back and re-assess your foundation: The Repetition!
Outward appearance is a huge motivator for many people who choose to take an interest in their health. Just ask any average gym-goer what their goal is and I will guarantee that in their top three goals (if they even have more than one) one is something like "build a bigger chest, arms, legs, etc." or "tone my butt, legs, arms, etc.". There is nothing wrong with making the focus of your training improving your physique, but what is wrong is how most go about structuring their training programs. I am not blaming the individual for this mistake because they really do not know any better.
For most individuals their training program is structured around an archaic body-part slip routine, such as mondays are chest days and tuesdays are back and shoulders and so on. This has become the norm for most gym rats since the early 1970's because of the increased popularity the sport of bodybuilding received during this time frame. With this increased popularity came tons of opportunities for marketing agencies, magazine companies, and the body builders themselves to make tons of money off of their extraordinary physiques. Before you know it these extraordinary, genetically-gifted men and women are publicizing their workout routines and diet plans to the general population. While their is nothing wrong with these individuals taking advantage of their entrepreneurial opportunities what many of these individuals failed to share with the public is that in addition to their discipline, hard work, training regimen, and diet plan they also were being helped along by biological enhancers things of which we call steroids and the like. The general population then draws the only logical conclusion, that if I eat and train like them the I will look like them.
This was the beginning of the end for a lot of individuals who spent many years seeking their perfect physiques inevitably failing in the pursuit. This conclusion has continued to perpetuate itself through many generations, some might even argue that it has worsened due to the invention of the internet. I myself was sucked into this line of thinking for the first five years of my training experience until I found the light and was pulled out of this growth-stunting way. After all of this are end result is people training six days a week doing one group of muscles per day viewing the body has individual pieces and segments rather than a whole. This had led to a complete distortion of how the human body functions and what a proper training program should look like.
The first step moving forward to ending this detrimental delusion is to change the way all people view the human body. We need to stop looking at the body from a reductionist standpoint. Isolating one muscle to this particular task without considering how it will affect the rest of the whole. I want people to begin seeing the big picture when it comes to the body and training. Everyone needs to see the entire body as one integrated system that only functions as a whole never as individual pieces of a puzzle.
I believe that the best way to begin changing this mindset is to change how we view the body in relation to our training programs. We need to throughout the idea of this particular exercise works these particular muscles and replace it will thoughts of movement patterns. This makes things much simpler and gives us a much more holistic view of the body.
There are only so many movements the body can perform, while their are a ton of exercises and variations to train these movements the movements themselves are the same. Here is my breakdown of movements that can be performed by the human body: vertical push, vertical pull, horizontal push, horizontal pull, quad dominant, hip dominant, spinal flexion, spinal extension, rotation, single-arm/leg variations. That is ten movements by my count while we could get into much more specific movements related to each joint of the body, such as circumduction. I want to keep the movements in terms of movements we can train safely and effectively. When we think of our training programs in terms such as these it really simplifies are training. I try to tell people to perform every movement listed above once or twice over a weeks time using three to four training sessions.
Remember the body is not a segmented machine. It is integrated and whole. If functions as a single unit. Think in terms of the movements the body can perform rather than the muscles that need to be trained.
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.
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:
YOU ARE NOT PUSHING YOURSELF HARD ENOUGH!
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."
I would say about an hour out of every day I spend reading or watching material from other professionals in the training business to try and continuously broaden my knowledge as well as develop ideas for programming and coaching. I run across many helpful articles any videos that not only are useful to me as a trainer, but would be helpful to all those looking for better ways to train. I'd like to start trying to share some of these helpful materials on a regular basis so here goes my first three things that you must read.
The Busy Trap by Tim Kreider
This is a fantastic article about the all to inefficient busy lives we live and how this is something we have voluntarily inflicted upon ourselves in an effort to somehow increase the importance of our lives. Please read if may open your eyes to some big mistakes you are making with your current schedule.
20 Things I've Told Clients that Made Me Seem Crazy by Dean Somerset
Very funny article but also very realistic because it addresses the big picture of health and why going to the gym and eating healthy means you are a health god. Health encompasses a wide range of issues and has many dimensions that can be considered.
Kneeling Overhead Press to Standing by Tony Gentilcore
Article that discusses a great exercise that everyone should be using or working toward using. Tony Gentilcore does an excellent job demonstrating and discussing the benefits. Remember this exercise is slightly toward the advance end of the spectrum and should be done only by those with enough motor control and core stability to perform properly.
This morning's blog is going to be aimed at sharing vital information that will in no doubt aid any and all efforts you are making toward improving your health and outward appearance. This particular topic I believe is often lost in translation from trainer to trainee and even more so through the mainstream media. But it is of great importance that me and trainers alike continue to directly share the accurate information to those who are so desperately searching for it. And if nothing else I believe this discussion will allow me to voice opinions that I hold very strongly and hopefully help others to understand that although its partly lack of education that leads to many a person's fitness woes, it also is caused by a failure to change mental behavior patterns. I mean we all understand that eating fast food is bad, but many continue to eat out on a regular basis. This phenomenon is caused by learned behavior patterns that keep us in our same old health rut.
To begin it is fundamentally important important that one understands that there exist a large difference between weight-loss and fat-loss. I think its important to here this statement because in my own experience with clients to many get caught up on what the scale is reading. Weight is a subjective number and easily manipulated, the truth being that the scale really tells you nothing. Consider the following examples:
If I were to instruct you to fast for an eight hour period and weigh yourself before and after you would weigh less.
If I were to instruct you to not drink any fluids for a complete day you would weigh much less.
If I asked you to cut off your right hand and foot you would weigh less.
In all three scenarios one in fact does weigh less, but does this loss of weigh indicate an improvement in health or wellness? The answer to this being HELL NO IT DOESN'T!
In fact many people would benefit from taking their current mindset about weight-loss and throwing it out of the window and begin thinking in terms of fat-loss. That is one focuses on maintaining and gaining as much muscle mass as possible while systematically eliminating excess body fat. This approach makes perfect sense because physical properties of fat tissue and muscle tissue. A pound of fat is exactly equal to a pound of muscle and don't let anyone tell you differently, but the key difference is that muscle has a great density than fat meaning it requires less muscle tissue than fat tissue to create one pound. This has huge implications because it means one can actually lose body, gain muscle mass, and have a net weight gain yet look much smaller than the day they began their training program.
Now while training properly in such a fashion to elicit incredible fat-loss is important, diet with always be weighted more in terms of importance when considering issues with body composition. YOU AND NOBODY ELSE CAN OUT TRAIN BAD NUTRITION! And while there maybe a multitude of things one needs to change in order to have the perfect diet a much more successful strategy is to identify problem areas and trigger events that create poor food decisions and work to change these particular occurrences. For example cutting out weekend brunches or trips to the local fast food restaurant would be excellent ways of beginning the process of changing behavioral patterns.
In the end its all about restructuring one's cognitive behavioral thinking patterns to produce great results and improve one's health and well being.
I had some time between clients this evening, so rather than read another article discussing the oncoming doom of the American economy I figured it would be much more fulfilling and productive to handout a few tips on how anyone can improve their deadlift performance.
1. Deadlift with picture perfect form.
-Your feet should be slightly narrower than shoulder-width apart, and the bar should be against your shins.
-Keep your chest tall, brace yourself using your abdominals (like preparing to take a punch), and sit back into position, arch the lower back as forcefully as possible while keeping your shoulder blades smashed together (like your pinching a pencil between them). From here I cue everyone to push their hips backwards until they can grab the bar, avoid any motion that resembles squatting down.
-Once you have gripped the bar, squeeze it like your mean to crush the metal while simultaneously squeezing your shoulders backwards and down. This allows you to engage the lats as well as activate the fascia which connects between the thoracic and lumbar spine increasing the spines stability. If done correctly one should feel quite a bit of tension in the hamstrings and up into the glutes.
-Be sure to keep your chin tucked in and look at a spot about 8 feet ahead of you on the floor, fixating on it for the remainder of the exercise.
-Begin by keeping your elbows firmly locked and driving your weight into your heels and your heels into the floor. As you begin to pull the bar and ascend be sure that the hips and shoulders move in sync. Hips moving before the shoulders can have disastrous consequences.
-Once the bar has ascended past the knees all that is left to do is extend the hips and lock out the top position for the finish. This is done by firing your glutes and pushing your hips through to the wall in front of you.
-For most this is the portion of the lift that seems to be the most difficult. Do not break your knees rather begin the descent by breaking at the hips. Begin by sitting back allowing the height to reside in the heel of the foot, while allowing the bar to slid down the front of your thighs.
-Do not lose the tight arch you have created in your lower back and don't allow the shoulders to pitch forward and round.
2. Pull Frequently and Heavy
Please do not take this tip out of context and begin lifting heavy every day of the freaking week. I simply mean that if you want to master the deadlift and become a much stronger deadlifter you need to maybe deadlift some.
In my opinion you should try and pull at least once per week. I also believe you must begin with a low-rep protocol somewhere between 1 and 6 reps. Strength in the beginning is associated with increase in the Central Nervous System's ability to recruit muscle fibers. Hence the reason why people see improvements very quickly in strength before body composition begins to change at all.
I hardly ever deadlift for more than five reps because anything more than that often results in terrible, unrecognizable form.
3. Take off your shoes
This recommendation comes on the heels of finishing the awesome book Born to Run which shines a great light on to the shoe industry and the sham that has been created regarding our footwear.
Without shoes you are about 3inches closer to the ground, which means thats 3inches less the bar must travel. By taking off your shoes it also allows you to pull more effectively through your heels and increase glute and hamstring recruitment.
Run. But these three tips should go a long way in helping your deadlift. I have a few more tips regarding the deadlift and for anyone who would like to have them please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I would be happy to pass the rest of the list along.
I can not say enough about the issues worrying causes people. Worry is by far the number one self-imposed stressor that is dealt with on a daily basis, but the irony of this stressor is that it is self-inflicted unnecessarily. Worrying is a cognitive behavior meaning one can alter and manipulate it. Most accept worry as just another part of their daily routine, without realizing that it does not have to be. This worry can be motivated by all kinds of situation in all areas of someone’s life be they health, children, or work, but for the majority the worry has nothing to do with the current status of any of these areas. The worry is caused by the individual’s constant “what if” thoughts. “What if” thoughts are the prime cause of all worries. They are our constant anxious feelings regarding how we will handle unpredictable future events. These thoughts are the poisonous cognitive behaviors which manifest themselves as worry. But as mentioned before we can alter this behavior, which means (and this goes for everyone) STOP WORRYING!
To spend your time constantly thinking of “what if” is a waste of your time and this is primarily because majority of the factors that will influence this future unknown “what if” are OUT OF YOUR CONTROL! One should spend no time thinking or worrying about things which escape one’s control. One should focus only on what one can directly affect. Why worry about crap such as, “what if my business fails”, “what if my new approach yields me nothing”, “what if I don’t have the talent to do this”, “what if my program isn’t structured correctly”. I mean screw it! Do not waste precious energy on such worrisome, uncontrollable, and pointless negative thoughts. Instead direct all possible efforts and thoughts toward continuing success moving past failures on to greener pasture. Before narrowing focus on to how this affects fitness get let me leave you this question to ponder. Do you think people such as, Michael Jordan, sit and think about “what if”? There is what has been and what is, the rest (what is to be) is always in a state of flux.
Now to narrow the scope on to how worrying causes issues with fitness. Most probably don’t think to consider their thoughts as the primary issue, most look and evaluate actions first, but ultimately attitude and thoughts are much more important. I see this manifest itself everyday in both my clients and members. It seems that just about everyone who is exercising is constantly worrying about exercise selection, set and rep schemes, weight, or some other relative program variable. The worry often stems from lack of observable results or progress. But what is truly amazing is the time a person gives to an effort the individual usually begins “what if”ing after two days of committing to an approach. Here is a great example of this phenomenon in a conversation I had with a client:
Client: “Do you think I am losing any bodyfat with my new commitment to strength training because I am just not sure it’s working”
Me: “Yes I am extremely confident that this WILL result in increased body alteration”
Client: “Are you sure? You don’t think I need to start doing extra cardio because I haven’t seen any difference”
Me: “How long have you been trying your new routine for?”
Client: “About 5 days.”
Me: “um . . . . well . . .”
Client: “I think I am going to start doing more cardio instead of strength training”
Do i need to state what is wrong with this individuals processing. Here is the issue worrying causes for fitness. People try something new in an effort to improve, yet wind up abandoning if before it has enough time to have an effect. This is why so many never reach their goals. Here we need to go back to advice from the beginning “only focus on what you can control”. You can’t control your biological processes or the rate of your metabolism, but you can control what you eat, when you eat it, and how you train. If these all align wish your goal don’t worry about the results they will come just focus on doing what your suppose to and the rest will take care of itself.
So in closing, put away your useless “what if”’s take back control of your thoughts and training and focus only on what you can directly affect.
Many people I talk to when asked about their future or career have little idea about what they are doing or what they want to to. One must have clear set and determined goals laid out in an organized fashion to accomplish a larger more all incompassing goal. This principle applies to every endeavor an individual engages in. Without a plan one is more suceptible to distractions and inefficiency. Applying this principle to health and fitness one must a plan when entering the gym a pre-determined, pre-constructed plan that will allow one to stay on track and progress. So next time your at the store invest in a notebook and a good pen. Set aside some time throughout each day to sit down and write out your workout for the following day. This progress will go along way in making your workouts more productive and efficient as well as allowing one to monitor progress more accuratell