Monday, July 16, 2012

Make Easy Workouts Harder

It doesn't surprise me that so many gym goers continue to perform the same exercise and same workouts day after day without changing one bit. Yesterday at the gym, I ran into an old friend (from another gym we used to workout at). Tim looked exactly the same way he did when I last saw him--3 years ago! After a mini BS session on catching up, we returned to our workouts.

In between sets, I would watch Tim's workout. Before you make it sound strange, I couldn't help but notice him performing the same routine he used 3 years ago. Tim was exactly the same build--no more or less muscular--yet, he looked like he put in a lot of effort on each rep. If someone puts in that much effort in a workout, they gotta want to "change", right?

Why do so many of us rely on workouts that showcase the exercises we are "already good" at? In order to elicit a change in body composition, we need to participate in exercises that we find difficult. Yes, I said difficult...or the more socially accepted term: challenging. 

Charles Staley calls it "180 Training"-- which simply means people should perform the opposite of what lifters are normally are good at. I agree 100%. Too many exercisers perform the same activities that they have become efficient in and eventually decrease the amount of calories the body burns..or in some extreme cases, suffer over-reaching episodes and injury. 

I subscribe to the belief that I never want to be the best at one thing. I want to keep my mind and body working hard. When I sense my body is getting more proficient at an activity or exercise, I tend to back off of it or schedule a hiatus.  We need to find exercises that we "know" we will have difficulty in and make it our goal to perfect them. Once perfected, we need to add an external load. Once an external load is applied, we add more or we change the environment. Here is a quick and simple example of exercises:

Seated Chest Press Machine
Lat Pull down
Leg Press
High Row Machine
Leg Extensions

More Difficult
Standing Chest Press on Cable tower
Body weight Chins
Barbell Squat
DB Rows
Single Leg Squat

Working areas of the body that have shown proficiency in a specific exercise with a different pattern and load vector make the session more interesting and elicit more physiological response. For instance, if someone is great at bench pressing and can press enormous amounts of weight, I like to shift things around by emphasizing the pectoralis muscle as a powerful stabilizer during TRX Ab Rolls:

Not only is this a great "core" drill, but the pectoralis major and anterior muscles get a great workout simply by isometrically stabilizing the levers I create with my arms and the movement.

For someone that likes to perform seated chest presses (as in a machine), I prefer to mix things up with a standing version of a cable row (using a dowel):

Not only are we working the "back" muscles, but we forcing teh body to resist rotation without the use of a machine; and we are using a standing position which gets more individuals out of the seated posture that they use most of the day. 

When training clients, it is very easy to simply change the program around to get progress going again. Most clients will view starting a new exercise and learning a whole new pattern as a step backwards. But the truth is,  the bigger picture includes a future of better functionality, strength, and health.


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