Box Jumps, Medicine Ball Twists, Slams, Battling Ropes, Rowers, Ladders, Reaction Drills….All may have their places within areas of the industry. The Fitness Industry is vast and welcoming to any goal you may have. In fact, it’s one of the major attractions people have to this realm. There is something for everyone.
But what is your “something”?
When it comes to physique development, and aesthetically minded individuals, Charles Poliquin‘s words of “one ass, one saddle” must be heeded.
Mike Demeter asked a jesting question this week that nearly had me on the floor in stitches: “I’d like to hear Arnold come out and lament about not putting medicine ball slams into his Olympia training. Or, Zane come forth and declare that CrossFit would have taken his physique to another level on the stage…NOT going to happen.” This, my friends, is called perspective.
In the same vein, a typical guy wants to lift like Dave Tate in the gym, and look like Frank Zane at the beach. Again, unlikely. There is no more or less honor in either approach. They are simply different. (Thanks to Mike, again, for this nugget.)
For women, the same can be said when flipped on it’s head: the image of full, round, lifted glutes is tantalizing, yet sought after by doing thousands of reps (or none at all), as if the body will expand like a balloon.
The men and women of the world with the greatest physiques indeed train muscles, not movements. Through training the muscle, you produce fluid and controlled movement.
And, to the “functional” zealots out there, when the fuck am I going to need to slam a moderately heavy object into the ground? Repeatedly? Whilst annoying the entire population of the gym?
Think on your sins.
These are not “evil” exercises. Simply, a (strong) case can be made for more effective ways to spend your training time if bringing your best physique to the table is priority number one.
Thus, when training for an aesthetically pleasing body, that looks as good as it performs, take note of the following:
Your goal is to rid yourself of unwanted fat (the level of leanness is entirely up to you), while creating strong curves in the right places. What are curves? Muscle, and only muscle.
Your goal is also to become exceptionally lean, while creating the V taper, or X shaped physique. What produces this X? Muscle, and only muscle.
On both accounts, strength and hypertrophy of key areas is needed.
Okay, Cool. How Do You Do This?
The fastest and most effective method of achieving this is through training muscles through various ranges of motion, whilst maintaining time under tension, inducing metabolic stress, cell swelling, hormonal response and focussing on the goal at hand.
Your goal is to build (or maintain) muscle, regardless of gender or demographic. Given this, heed and refer back to the following points.
Although simple, I see each of these principles being shattered, walked on, or shoved in a dark hole every day. Simplicity, in all it’s glory, is often the most effective route to success.
1)Tension, And Time Under It
What do you think is a greater “disturbance” to your body’s homeostasis?
1) A set of 15 rep Heels Elevated Barbell Squats to failure, taking four seconds to lower yourself to the bottom?
2) A set of 50 Plyometric Box Jumps?
If you answered with number 2, we’ve got some work to do.
Tension is the combination of significant load being moved across a range of motion, for an extended period of time.
Breaking down the above examples, Box Jumps provide very little total time under tension. The execution of a jump consists of a short flexion of the knees, with zero external load placed on the body. With each rep, tension is released, therefor negating any meaningful muscular damage that might have been possible.
As well, the mental environment needed to execute 50 reps of box jumps negates any meaningful concentration whatsoever. You may say something like this:
“Ohmygod. I’m going to lose my breakfast. Why does this hurt so much? Why am I so annoyed? Why do I feel no fulfilment having just completed that? In fact, I feel deflated…”
Heels Elevated Barbell Squats, on the other hand, are a completely different story. Although the exercise takes a great deal of skill to execute effectively, the effort is rewarded handsomly.
From the outset, a significant external load is placed upon the body, creating tension in the vertical plane. Then, when sinking into the hole, quads, glutes, calves, hamstrings, spinal erectors, abs and shoulders are all under a massive amount of tension.
Provided you keep good form, each rep continues the tension across the full specturm, knocking off muscle fibers one-by-one, and creating some of the largest metabolic disturbance possible in a give exercise. The nature of the exercise -controlled- lends itself well to extreme concentration, boosting your mental game. You may say something like this:
“Ohmygod. I’m going to lose my breakfast. My quads, ass and hams are on fire! Why am I not annoyed? Why do I feel as though I’ve accomplished something substantial? You know what? I’m a boss.”
Also, it can be guaranteed that you will be breathing just as hard -if not harder- than if you had chosen Box Jumps, instead.
At the end of each exercise, exhaustion is inevitable. Disturbance in the Force, confirmed.
Yet, which one do you think will produce the drastic and noticable physique changes you are looking for?
The answer, I hope, is obvious.
2)The Undeniable Power of Internal Focus:
Your body and mind have no grasp of what the hell is going on whilst being thrust from boxes to balls to ropes to Bosu’s. Zero focus. Zero targeted intent.
I can guarantee, the only thing going through your mind when performing such circuits is:
“Fats! I want to burn the fat! Maybe, if I move faster, forget about form, i’ll lose even more fat!”
Eat less PowerBars, and maybe toss the Gatorade? See how that works for a few weeks. Get back to me.
Coming back to the squat example above, certain training modalities just lend themselves better to focus. Focus, is the foundation for everything.
3)Target Physique Building
Break down that program by starting with an anatomy chart. Know your weaknesses, exploit and destroy them.
Mirrors are often deceiving. Instead, have a friend take some honest pictures, allowing you to critically evaluate what needs work.
At the same time, establish where you have strengths. Everyone has them. I don’t care who you are – love, nurture and take pride in your body, while doing what you can to improve where you want to.
The focus is to cause a series of events that results in the BUILDING of lean tissue, when supported by rest, recovery and nutrition. As a result, you will maintain, or possess more metabolically active tissue (muscle), have an increased metabolic rate during the hours after training and while you sleep. On top of this, you’ll partition nutrients to the right places (muscle, not fat) more effectively, slowly enabling to increase your calories, resulting in a loss of fat in the long run.
Any trainer can cause you to vomit, bathe in sweat, and curse their name – all without stimulating any meaningful effect on your physique, other than burning a few nebulous calories.
You will also most assuredly hate it
Perceived exertion doesn’t always tell the whole story. Place your focus where it matters most.
5)Full Spectrum Recruitment
By inducing a significant amount of metabolic stress (through concentrated volume), high threshold motor units (those babies that have the greatest ability to grow) can be recruited and exhausted.
As Brad Schoenfeld explained in his paper “Potential Mechanisms For A Role Of Metabolic Stress In Hypertrophic Adaptations To Resistance Training”, now indexed in PubMed, the exact mechanisms on how metabolic stress enhances fiber recruitment can only be speculated.
What we DO know, is that a specific kind of training works, and works well, to ensure you provide the stimulus needed to produce change. This change comes from the recruitment and annihilation of actual muscle fibers – not loaded joints.
This is called “Resistance Training”. You know this term well, yet it’s often clouded.
“Resistance”, is specific to muscle tissue. What this should really say, is “Meaningful Resistance”.
Key words, indeed. No wasted movement. Everything has a purpose. Absolute load is irrelevant when compared to the effect you are producing on your body.
Loading, heaving, hoisting and jerking; useless outside the realm of ego lifting.
Much in the same way, when “functional” implements are prioritized ahead of the bread and butter, the magic of targeted physique training is lost. Basics are the foundation for a reason, and will serve you well in your life-long journey.
You’ve thought of that, right? This whole “fitness” thing (I despise calling it that) is for life.
Taking A Step Back
Aesthetically, the above is obviously beneficial. More importantly, however, is the bond you will form with your body through internal focus.
By combining the above principles and applying it to what your currently doing, you’ll ensure priorities are kept where they should be.
The point of this is not to demonize certain implements and training modalities entirely. It is simply to establish what your goal is exactly, and prioritize your training methods accordingly.
- Tension. Create it. Keep it.
- Focus. Internalize what you need to feel.
- Target your program. Unbiased, analytical approaches should be embraced.
- Change your mindset on training. Stop trying to burn fat. Covet the retention and construction of new curves and tissue.
- Recruit the fibers! Recruit everything in your power by using the optimal training methods for your goal.
After engaging in some self-examination (you dirty mind, you) and removing all bias, you may find yourself at a loss for what to do next.
You know where you want to go, yet have no compass, no map, and no equipment to get you there.
Shucks, good thing I offer Private Coaching to driven individuals. I supply that compass, the map, and possess an entire armoury of equipment to do what needs to be done in order to reach your goal. Health, physique enhancement, new wardrobe, and a skip in your step (actually, this is probably limping – we train calves here at Josh Hamilton Fitness).
Sound like you? No fear. Check out this page and fill-in the quick form to jump-start your journey.