I think we’ve just passed the Monday where lots of people give up on there New Years Resolutions but if you’re into the whole new year new you thing and you’re still going then well done.
Something I talk about a lot is long term adherence to an exercise program and why so many people give up after such a relatively short period of time. I imagine part of the problem is boredom, and this was my struggle. The gym is not an exciting place to spend time and I know personally that if all I did was traditional gym based exercises then I would not be a trainer today. You may have noticed the weird and crazy shit I like to add to my training. A lot of that is for my own sanity. I don’t have the talent to be a dancer or a dance choreographer but I can really appreciate the freedom they need to create movements and move in any way they like. Why can’t I apply that concept into strength training? Strength training in essence is just loading muscle tissue over and over so it will adapt, grow and become stronger. So the question for me is just how many ways can you load a muscle?
The thing I’m really interested in is skill development and generic gym strength training requires very little of this. If your goal is to put as much load through a muscle then you should pick movements that require very little skill, using machines would be optimal as there is very little room for things to go wrong and you can really work a muscles to the max. This sort of brings me to my issue with gym work is that it’s so focused on developing hardware, working muscles and I believe this to be such short term thinking. You train and your muscles grow and it’s all going great until life throws you a curve ball and knocks you out of your rhythm. Injury, illness, work stuff, family stuff or plain old laziness and then what happens. Your body gets rid of that muscle you worked so hard to attain. So what’s the point in growing muscle if you’re eventually going to lose it?
My solution to overcoming this –
Focus on developing skill, as movement skills you develop don’t ever really leave you.
Here’s an example of me throwing a question mark kick on a bag. I learned this movement when I was 16 and training for karate tournaments and would have been 10 years at least since the last time I attempted that movement and this video.
Yet I had it on recall almost as sharp as ever and was even able to land it a few times in sparring which was quite surprising. I still had those skills I developed as a teenager in my locker in my 30’s which is pretty cool. So the skills that you develop will stick with you for a long time, but the muscle you build will come and go. From a longevity point of view there’s only one winner there when it comes to focus on training. I’m not saying to neglect the develop of your muscles, but the wonderful thing about training is that as you develop skill it will increase your ability to load your body and this will get them to grow. So you can make your chest grow on the pec dec machine in the gym, or you can develop bench pressing skills and load them there, you can develop push-up skills and load them there or you can get good on the gymnastics rings and load them there. Muscle doesn’t know the difference as your just putting load through it, but the nervous system knows the difference.
My advice for developing skill would be to hire a good coach who understands this process and avoid rep counter PT’s who only care about your short term results so they can get a good before and after picture.