We’re less than a week from the start of the 2014 Winter Olympics. A few weeks ago I began to realize some anticipation for the spectacle, but it faded quickly as past experience has reminded me that there will be very little sport presented in comparison to the nauseating amount of meaningless interviews. The athletes will display some tremendous gifts and skill and I’m convinced that the network will exceed my expectations in presenting the competitions. My expectation is that their coverage will be more horrendous than ever.
I don’t remember a time when sports spectacle wasn’t inundated with the moronic repetition of “What does this mean to you?” and “What will it take for you to win?” I don’t want to belittle the competitors; it’s just that I’m interested in the competition and not their thoughts. I’m sure their lives are interesting, but plenty of other peoples’ lives are more interesting and this forum is athletic competition. There’s enough action to fill the air time without interrupting with the chit-chat. I expect it to be worse than ever because for nearly two decades television programming has increasingly gravitated toward what some erroneously call “reality tv” which is nothing but mindless commentary.
So what does any of that have to do with exercise? Only that it points out a natural human propensity to express ourselves. Since the only purpose for exercise is to increase muscular strength, and efficiently reaching an intense level of inroad is what precipitates that adaptation, then the resources that are used for self-expression are detracted from the goal. It’s another example of something that we do naturally that must be consciously overridden in order to get the greatest effect.
It should be obvious why an exercise session must be conducted in a private setting. Beyond that, communication between instructor and subject should be restricted to one direction while the session is in progress. A qualified instructor knows the experience of extreme effort. There is never a need to express discomfort or even to acknowledge that an instruction is understood. It’s important to demonstrate the compliance for one’s own benefit even if it’s not perceivable outwardly.
For the final time; the list that I composed as a measure of progressing to more effective exercise with the last 5 items expounded. Think critically about taking each one to the extreme for the purpose of improving the exercise stimulus.
1) Avoid distractions
2) Position carefully
3) Maintain stationary origin
4) Mastery over breathing
5) Proper attire
6) Avoid firing out
7) Avoid shifting positions
8) Avoid re-gripping
9) Grasp the repetition cycle concept
10) Avoid momentum
11) Minimize acceleration
12) Mastery over turnarounds
13) Constant load
14) Mastery over unloading
15) Exi t properly
16) Mastery over discrepancies
17) Avoid changing speed
18) Mastery over pace
19) Recognize and avoid energy savings
20) Exaggerate range and form
21) Reach legitimate failure
Failure is a goal. This is one of many apparent contradictions associated with exercise. How is failure defined? For the purpose of charting performance, failure is the point at which movement within prescribed form ceases. (Prescribed form includes, at least, all of the factors on this list.) Yet the stopping of the movement in proper form may result from the subject’s choice rather than the muscle’s strength being inroaded. This nebulous amount of inroad is really the goal because it is the thing that provides the stimulus for growth. Failure is considered the goal because it provides a defined limit, albeit a crude definition. If a deep inroad is reached without failure occurring then intensity is low and the stimulus likely is less than optimal. If failure is met without deep inroad then intensity may be too high for optimal stimulus. The important thing is that reaching failure is not decided upon, but rather it is decided against yet occurs because of exhausted resources.
22) Eliminate facial expression
Just like form discrepancies, facial expression is a natural function almost involuntary. Gritting teeth, grimacing and squinting all seem to creep in unless there is a conscious effort to remove them. A little bit of attention can be very effective at directing that energy toward the muscular effort that is intended. This allows those muscles to be challenged more deeply instead of being interrupted by the subconscious shift of focus.
23) Move quickly between exercises
This doesn’t mean rush. It means moves purposefully. Take the time to unload correctly, but don’t add anything extra; shaking or stretching. These are really nothing more than stall tactics. Move in the most direct path to the next exercise and load in the same purposeful manner. Hurrying to start the movement can only detract from the desired effect. Moving with precision doesn’t require more time than moving recklessly.
24) Engage squeeze technique
This probably has the appearance of the most pointless use of energy possible. It certainly would be except for the fact that inroading strength intensely is the only point to exercise. That means this high level of effort is the most on target technique possible. It is critically important that it be used under control. I prefer to call it a maximum effort and that maximum effort is precisely why its controlled use is critical. It is a gradual buildup of effort against a practically infinite resistance at the point of fullest contraction, the stroke peak of the positive movement. It requires a positive stop for an extension movement that will prevent full extension and thus prevent unloading. The point is not to display force output (hammering against the stop is not useful although it may impress those who are immature) but rather to present the highest challenge. For the sake of safety it should only be used during the 3rd and subsequent repetitions. Approximately a minute into intense effort, the force possible at maximum effort is well diminished from the force available at fresh strength. This allows one to use a very high effective load even while employing a lesser load setting which then allows deeper inroad at failure. Proper instruction is essential.
25) Inroad beyond failure
What’s the point in trying if I’m physically unable to make the thing move? Aha! That is the point. Movement of the machine or of the body is not what we’re after. Movement is a result of making some effort; it isn’t a cause of anything. The inroad is what we are after. Movement is an unnecessary distraction. Once the point of failure is reached then it is important to not allow the effort to diminish even though the force output is plummeting. It requires great will and discipline to continue inroading for an additional 10 seconds while there is no apparent incentive.
This list is meant to be simply a tool for evaluating progress in the practice of exercise. There is no way to quantify any of these items. Improvement is always available. The latter items are those that are increasingly dependent on the prior items all in an effort to more efficiently inroad. The depth to which this inroading is effective and possible through this process is a far more complex topic.
Now is the time for self-expression. Please share thoughts and ideas. I promise I won’t ignore them.