(In the last article on this series of training for the aesthetics, I talked about the two biggest myths in the fitness world. The first one is that we have been duped in believing individual body part training is the best method to develop muscle. The second lie is that long distance running is the most effective way to burn fat. You can read part one here and part two here.)
The main problem I have with how the mainstream works out is that is based on individual body part training. For example, if you are training your chest, you focus primarily on your chest muscle, while the rest of your body goes to inertia. The concept behind this this bodybuilding procedure is to target individual muscle groups so that only the singular muscle will grow. Individual body part training requires you to purposely shut off the rest of your muscle groups so they won’t interfere with muscle group that you are isolating. This sort of thinking is actually the opposite of how an elite athlete moves his body. An elite athlete needs to be aware of how his whole body is functioning. The flaw with the individual body part training concept is that the body does not move one muscle at a time, but rather as one whole unit. One thing for sure there will be no “chest days” in this mental toughness program.
Full-body workouts are superior to individual body part training because they are designed to work as much muscle groups as possible, like the human body was designed to move. In fact, when you do an athletic movement like hitting a ball or lifting a heavy load, it is disadvantageous if you focus only on one muscle group. All movement, even something as simple as tying your shoes, requires your muscles to move in conjunction with each other so a kinetic chain is formed. This kinetic chain is how an athlete produces power and force by recruiting many muscle groups to work together to create momentum. A good example on how muscles are linked in this kinetic chain starting from the ground up is by looking at the anatomy of a punch.
The power of a punch actually starts in the feet and by driving the leg into the ground, the energy moves into the hips. The core transfers the strength from the lower body to the large muscles of the back, chest, shoulders and then expressed through the fist. Punching is like a physical equivalent to a combustible explosion. All the parts have to be in perfect harmony for the blast to occur.
The exercises in this mental toughness program will be primarily full-body, heavy compound or body weight movements because they are the best way to develop strength. Compound movements like deadlifts, squats, and overhead presses are multi-joint movements because they work several groups of muscles at the one time. The same can be said for underrated bodyweight movements like push-ups and pull-ups. Most people think bodyweight exercises are too easy, but if you focus on working many muscle groups in conjunction with each other, you’ll get more out of bodyweight work than you ever thought possible. One of the reasons I write this blog is because I feel that most people are not making the connection between the mind and body in their training. Individual body part training further weakens this relationship by separating body parts during movement. This sort of thinking can be disastrous for anyone who works out and is trying to be more athletic.
This mental toughness program is about developing your athletic skills. When I meet new clients, I usually do an assessment on how well they can move their body. The moves are nothing too challenging, but your basic three-dimensional movements like lateral side to side hops, hip mobility, broad jumping, quick feet, lunges etc. I have a client that could easily pass for a champion bodybuilder. He is huge and did only single body part training for ten years. However, when I assessed his movement patterns, he struggled big time and was completely out of breath. There is a myth that bodybuilders can’t move because they are too bulky. I’ve seen a lot of massive NFL players move gracefully on Sundays, so I don’t buy into this theory. I suspect many people (not only bodybuilders) lack functional movement skills due to years of individual body part training which has stifle their ability to synchronize their body as one.
So transitioning over from single body part training to a full-body protocol will be very difficult for many of you. Not in terms of moving the body as one unit, that will come in time. But, more psychological issues as some of you will have a tough time saying good-bye to your body part training session like chest day.
(End of part 1)
Today’s strength day WOD –
Work on establishing a two rep max for the following compound movements –
Dumbbell or barbell bench press
Strict military press
When we spend years of doing single body part training with light weights or cables, we tend to forget the number rule for building a more muscular body. The concept of improving strength will lead to building of muscles seem to be forgotten in today’s high tech world of commercial gyms. Before the 1970’s, the focus on strength gains using full-body protocols was how the majority of athletes and bodybuilders trained. Back then I would say people were a lot of tougher than they are now. From my observation as an educator with the primary grades, we are raising the future generations to becoming a bunch soft wussies. I hate to tell you, but most of you probably fall in this group as well.
So let’s old school with this strength WOD. Let’s go back in time when things were much harder to do in the gym because you only had a barbell and not a bunch of fancy machines which your grandmother could figure out how to do.
Many of my readers ask me if you use the same mental strategies for the strength WODs as for the metabolic ones. Yes, you do. In the met-con WODs, it is easy to see how you may need an extra push to finish them, especially when you are having a difficult time breathing. With the strength WOD, you need that extra push as well, particularly when you are working with heavier weights that push you out of your comfort level. If you don’t feel like you need that extra motivation, it probably means you are not going heavy enough. If you are approaching your last set of deadlifting and you don’t feel a need to be aggressive or have to refer back to your needs and purpose, that’s a sign that you are not challenging yourself. If you are about to do your last heavy front squat and there isn’t a rush of negativity infesting your mind, that probably means you using too light of weights.
So just like how you push yourself past the red line with the conditioning WODs, really force yourself to use more resistance on these strength training days. It doesn’t mean you have to pack on hundreds of pounds on every set. An extra five more pounds is sufficient. You may not be able to do it all the time, but aim to do it today while establishing what your 2 reps max today. In the upcoming weeks, you will go for new PR’s with the same compound movements.
When you use the same mental strategies as you do in the conditioning WODs, you will surprise yourself with how much strength you have been hiding inside of you.
Now go get uncomfortable and lift some serious weights.