Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Find out where you are weak, then get STRONG!

Let's face it, most of us do what we're good at and avoid what we suck at.

It's human nature.  We want to feel strong, talented, and skilled.  When we're in the gym we want to perform exercises and movements that were are comfortable with, and make us look good. 

If we can't do an exercise efficiently, or can't lift enough weight on an exercise to make us appear strong, we usually don't perform the movement and revert back to something that might turn some heads.  It's actually pretty dumb when you think about it, if something is challenging shouldn't we perform it more than something that is easy?

I'm reading Dan John's book Never Let Go, it's a great read by the way!  Dan discusses different lifting variations and routines he has used on himself and his athletes for a number of years.  I decided to put some of his advice to work and change my current movements and exercises to things that I've avoided for a while- because I'm just not that good at them.

Enter the Front Squat.  Yeah, I've done front squats recently but the weight was less than adequate.  So yesterday I decided to do 5 sets of 2 and work up to a heavy weight - I was humbled.  Once I loaded some weight on the bar I felt my form was less than average and I contemplated saying screw it, and going into some heavy deadlifts.

I managed to gain some common sense and stick to Front Squats, even though they were handing out a major blow to my ego. My legs and midsection were both fatigued and by strength standards, I didn't even go that heavy! That's just what I needed and maybe you do to......

Think about what exercises you can't stand, the ones that make you feel weak, and you avoid at all costs.

Now think of what your good at, what makes you feel strong and in shape?  What exercise do you do that makes a couple heads turn in the gym?  Forget about those exercises ( for about 6 weeks).

Start to do what you suck at, what makes you question how  (If your good at everything, start writing an e-book).

Here are some examples:

If you can leg press 10,000 lbs - start doing a REAL squat, below parallel (if you think it's bad for your knees, you're a moron)

If you can do lat-pulldowns with the whole weight stack, try doing REAL (all the way down and all the way back up so the chin is over the bar) pull-ups or weighted chin-ups.

If you can bench the Sears Tower, give a single arm incline dumbbell press a try.

If you can Back Squat with perfect form and a good amount of weight, put the bar in the front or for a real humbling experience try an overhead squat.

If you can do a seated should press with more weight then most people bench, try a standing one arm dumbbell press- it will make you feel modest.

If you lift for reps, lift for time - movements for 30 seconds will wish you were counting reps.

If you usually do sets of 10- 12 reps, try to do 2-5 reps and vice versa.

There is a reason that when you go into a gym you probably never or very seldom see the exercises listed above performed - they are hard and humbling.  Think about it.  Next time you walk into a gym take a look at how many people are on the leg press and how many perform an overhead squat.  Or how many people actually perform real chin / pull ups instead of a lat pull down.

If your concerned about your core,  adding some weight to the bar during a front squat or overhead squat will provide a lot more stimulus than the 15 min abs class that's so popular at most gyms.  A standing overhead dumbbell press will also test core strength and if you attempt to combine that movement with a lunge total body stabilization will be improved as well.

It's natural to "show off" every now and then.  If you can deadlift 500lbs, it's definitely something to be proud of, but doing other exercises that incorporate the same muscle groups will bring that deadlift up even more.  A snatch grip deadlift can provide a greater range of motion and work grip strength, but of course you have to use less weight- which can bruise your ego.
Snatch grip deadlift from a deficit, even more of a challenge!

After my eye opening experience yesterday, I wanted to share my pain with you and offer some tips to make your workouts more challenging, more beneficial,  and more less enjoyable.

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