Written by Dave Thomas
Habits are good, but we are often prisoners of them, sometimes holding ourselves back from bigger achievement for fear of leaving our comforts.
Habits especially ring true in the gym where we tend to chase what we’re good at and run from deficiency.
Here’s a few habits you should break.
Stop Having Sex Like a Teenager (All the Time)
Max effort. No finesse. All intensity. Yelling out, “Time!” in three minutes and fifty one seconds with hands over head in victory.
“Intensity trumps volume” is a great saying in CrossFit meant to relay the importance of effort in your training. Meaning, the amount of effort you put forth is more important than the total amount of work you perform.
If fitness is your sport, this style of training is a necessity. If you are an amateur, it can be very beneficial to take yourself to that all out level of intensity, as it builds lactic threshold and the ability to sustain bursts of sub-maximal power over time (i.e. a 15 minute circuit with hang cleans @ 70%). Plus, it’s just damn fun to see what you’re made of.
However, do this daily and you’ll fall into a constant state of local muscular fatigue and you will deplete your max power over time. You’ll become a self-fulfilling prophecy of your training. Because you always train at 60-70% for speed, it’s all you’ll be.
This type of consistent training may mess with the diet of the weak minded. Ever finished a workout and found yourself driving straight to
Chic-Fil-A the donut shop? Dr. John Berardi calls this “hedonistic compensation” and I feel it applies in the HIIT world quite a bit. I know I am very guilt of it. We feel we have succeeded in such a grueling task that a natural reward is due, so we tend to negate our gains with poor food choices. We correlate the amount of sweat we produce to our results, when really it’s just a sign our body was hot.
If your goal is to train strength or add mass, it pays to slow down. Way down. Volume and intraset recovery are key.
The best route is to ensure that your output matches up with your goals. Know the purpose of the day and apply effort accordingly.
Everyday shouldn’t be hit it and quit it. Mix in some slow jams, son.
Stop Getting Shitfaced on Your Own Kool Aid
You know how
Bryan Pritz those kids at the soda station like to put their cup under every single option and get all jacked up on Dr. Mountain Cherry Pepper Dew? Most of us are content with a single option, while these free wheelin’ sons a bitches just let the good times roll.
We in the fitness industry could take a cue from these twerps.
Tell a kettlebell coach to do a hang clean and they’ll look at you like you drew a mustache on Pavel while he naps. Ask a weightlifter how much CrossFit has grown their sport and they’ll instead try and convince you how much they are disgracing its purity. Suggest a CrossFitter slow down and they’ll dump Progenex on your head. Prescribe powerlifting to a runner to improve economy and they’ll throw a vanilla PowerGel at you. Ask some of our members to do something for time and you’ll see a lot of rest days pop up.
When we opened Performance360, we were terrible weightlifters. We were competitive athletes who grew up training power lifts for sport, and I thought that entitled us to some special pass. It didn’t. I was sloppy and inconsistent and as a result, taught it as such. So, rather than continuing to do an insanely average job, we recognized deficiency and we immersed ourselves, became trained, got certified and became students again so that we could teach.
We are all just a tad too wrapped up in our own awesomeness. I know I am guilty of it. We often fail to see the enormous opportunity to use the knowledge of outside sports to improve our own inner circle.
True mastery comes from understanding the intricacies of other skills and applying them in contexts to help your goals.
Learn new skills. Get certifications you don’t think you need. Take new classes. Learn something properly. Do you always do the same three movements because you’re good at them while ignoring all else?
Whether your circle contains one or five hundred, a little outside seasoning will usually enhance the flavor.
Stop Being a Cookie
Too often we perform a movement in the exact same manner as our neighbor. Never mind the fact that height, mobility and strength levels may demand many forms of deviation from textbook.
Not everyone is better off pulling deadlifts in a conventional set-up. Try sumo if you’re stalled or constantly back sore. It has less shear lumbar spine force, bar travel distance and includes underworked adductors.
Not everyone should have the hands the same width in the clean and jerk (try wider) or snatch (try narrower). If you are hypermobile in your shoulders, a more narrow grip may increase stability in your snatches.
Not everyone will squat ass to grass. As I learned from Coach Julianne, spinal mobility will react differently based on where the barbell is placed in squat variations. Some folks can get lower when the bar is loaded overhead or in front rack than they can under traditional back squat spinal compression. Further, wider stance squatters will never reach ass-to-grass. It’s biomechanics, not their lack of effort.
By forcing everyone to homogenize, we’re often telling a Hummer to perform like a Mercedes, or worse yet, asking a broken engine to perform a drag race.
The textbook should be the guide, but not the bible. More like a loose set of rules that should allow flexibility to find what’s best for you or your athletes.
When a square peg doesn’t fit the round hole, you don’t toss the pieces. You find where they fit.
Stop Being an Anti-Bro, Brah
The only bros worse than the bros who only do curls and skullchrushers are the bros making fun of those bros. Right, brah?
I love dumbbell curls. We’ve programmed them at the gym for years and are only now embracing isolation as we should have been years ago. Isolating movements strengthens tendons and ligaments, helps correct imbalance, prevents injury and is great for aesthetic goals. (Did you know that it’s okay to have aesthetic goals?)
If you want to maximize muscle and strength gain, isolate.
High-rep, compound movements like squats, deads, rows and presses will always be king of the jungle. Because they train our body as a functioning unit across many energy expensive muscles, they have a very high anabolic effect.
When we high-rep squat and deadlift, anabolic hormones like testosterone and growth hormone are released by our body’s natrual endocrine glands. These anabolics hitch a ride in our bloodstream to our muscle cells and bind to hormone receptors, where it signals the cell to intensify the production of muscle protein contractile units.
And that…is where muscle babies come from.
By performing flies, raises, shrugs, curls and pulls we piggy back off of that anabolic hormonal release to take our smaller muscles to failure, and grow them alongside those major movers.
Isolating also provides a great opportunity to use the advantages of pauses and eccentrics to stimulate strength.
According to Charles Poliquin, slow, controlled eccentrics can generate up to 1.3 times more muscle tension. And because greater muscle tension means greater effect on muscle fibers, we grow more. There is evidence in bench pressing that those who can lower the weight more slowly are strongest. (1)
On occasion, focus on slow lowering in isolated movements for bigger and stronger muscles.
Stop Sucking at Kettlebells
One of the most productive movements we can perform is the kettlebell swing. I’m not talking about the usual asinine version of the common “American Swing” where you pick up a bell two sizes too heavy, jerk your lumbar spine into hyperextension and yank a bell overhead with all traps.
I’m talking about proper Russian swings that establish hinge pattern, the kind that kettlebell snobs masturbate to.
If you can learn to swing a bell the way it was intended, your training will see so much immediate improvement in the kinetic awareness of two major performance muscles.
The glutes and lats. A proper hinge pattern swing teaches activation and tension in both muscles like the American swing cannot. It builds grip strength, teaches us how to brace and breathe properly and even builds great shoulder health when we pack the joint properly.
If you can learn a proper hinge pattern under tension then you can deadlift perfectly from the beginning and pick up Olympic lifts with much greater efficiency (from the hang position). Many movements contain hinge pattern and the Russian kettlebell swing is the forefather of it.
We’ve run an entire skills class at Performance360 focusing solely on this hinge because we feel it’s that important to our athletes’ success.
Stop Firing Your Cannon From a Canoe
We always want to get straight to the heavy stuff because we want to go from zero to hero in a week. When we do so, we fail to develop the requisite shoulder foundation to allow ourselves that firing capacity.
Before we worry about taking aim from a wobbly canoe, we must first upgrade to steady war ships.
We must gain stability in our firing joints.
Training stability is why I love dumbbells and will always program them from beginner to professional athlete. Barbells do not build stability in the same way single arm action works. If you lack stability and you move straight into a barbell on everything, you’re basically hopping in the ring with Ronda Rousey after a month at your local MMA gym.
Your basic understandings don’t qualify execution at the highest level.
Movements like renegade rows, DB presses and farmer holds are a great start. Moving your way up to snatches, windmills and Turkish Get-Ups.
Your stability always dictates terms to your strength, and they are non-negotiable.
To recap, I suggest inclusion of isolation and stability in your training. I suggest taking the time to learn kettlebells while understand pace should correlate directly with your goals. Don’t think you are tied to the textbook with your mechanics. Get under the bar and explore.
How many of these are you doing? All of them? None of them? Start by scratching a few off the list and I promise you improvement.
Agree? Disagree? Let me know what you think, and if you liked it, please hit the SHARE button below.