Gravity Management Part II; Return Of The Three C’s…

An Approach To Strength

Strength; I think about it from time to time.  What it means to me, as well as what it might mean to others.  I like to teach people to develop strength inside the gym that will apply to one’s life beyond the gym.

It’s one thing to be strong in the weight-room, with all your friends looking on, doing things you will never replicate in everyday life – just for the sake of doing them. It’s something entirely different to apply strength, earned in the gym, to the would-be strength needed in everyday life. I much more think of my weight-room as a theater where I practice gravity management, than as a place to just lift weights.

To my way of thinking, the words which best relate to physical strength, in exercise, are capacity, command, and concentration. I call them the three Cs of strength.

The Three Cs At A Glance:

Capacity = Weight; the poundage used in a strength exercise.

Command = Form; the manner in which the exercise is executed and managed.

Concentration = Intensity; the (psychological) limits an individual is willing to meet in order to complete an exercise in good form.

The Three C’s Close Up

Capacity: For (maximum) progress, I suggest the weights selected for your resistance exercises should be heavy enough to be challenging, yet moderate enough that you can manage the weight; not to breach excellent exercise form. Establishing, regularly meeting, and even (occasionally) pushing this boundary is paramount to maximizing your capacity for strength outside the gym.

This is where progress comes from. If you are seeking to do 10 repetitions of an exercise, the leg press for example, the weight you select should be heavy enough that the 10th rep would be (about) the last rep you can perform within the bounds of strict form. If you perform 10 repetitions in this fashion, then you are meeting your capacity, and may wish to increase the weight. Conversely, if 10 repetitions doesn’t come without a little cheating, grunting, and struggling – game over, lighten it up a bit until your form is again sound.

Command: Correct form serves several key functions in weight training, not the least of which is that lifting weights within the scope of good form will serve to keep you injury free. Secondly, using good form in your strength exercises in the gym will help influence the command of your muscles outside the gym – moving those flower pots on your patio might be a lesser task when you feel that sense of command.

Concentration: The intangible in strength training – the Zen of it all. Simply, concentration is the amount of mental energy you choose to direct to your muscles, that they may efficiently convey the weights to the limits of your ability. This is the hard C, because most of us don’t truly recognize what our limits are, let alone, strive to take an exercise to the edge of possibility.

I am frequently asked by people how strong I am – how much weight I can lift. My typical answer is this,

“I don’t really pay too much attention to how much.  When furniture needs to be moved, I don’t bother to pick up the phone and call for help.”

This is often discarded as a smoke screen to the inquirer, as if to hide my secret steroid regimen, or my four-hour workouts in the middle of the night. Truth is, the things I do in the gym are not all that different from what you may do. My workouts probably take me less time than yours because they are predicated on efficiency, and constructed on the principle of the three Cs.

A Braid Of Strength

The three Cs can’t really be examined any more closely as individual Cs, because they are woven together like strands of muscle in your body. No one C is any more or any less important in your workout than the other two Cs. It’s a sort of 3-legged stool of physical strength. You establish your capacity, add in command, and bring them together with concentration. It’s efficient, very rewarding, and when mastered can offer a level of personal fulfillment on par with the observance of prayer and other religious ritual.

Month after month, the fitness media captures millions of people (and their money), selling them the best exercises and the perfect workout.  In reality, it’s not those workouts nor those exercises that evoke the change you seek in your body. Nor is it the number of sets or repetitions you perform. It’s not even the sequence in which you do things in the weight-room which matter most.

What matters much more than all of that is how you perform the exercises – what you put into them. Like anything else in life; business, faith, relationships, etc., the rewards you will gain from your workouts will be relative to the thought and efforts you put into them. If among your objectives is to be stronger outside the gym, applying the three Cs inside the gym will serve you well.  Be well. rc

21 responses

  1. I mean, what can I add.. you have said it all! I know in terms of weight & reps, I don’t even set a rep count for myself.. I know which weights I can & can’t do & what will be too heavy to keep correct form so I go at it & keep going until it is too hard to keep form whether it be 8 or 10 or 15. Yes, I do try heavier weights at times but if I can’t keep my form, I stop.. unless I want to try 2-3 reps in good form just for the feel & to push myself & then I drop set. It all epends on what I have in store for the workout.

    Concentration.. I am there! There are times that I don’t even hear the music in my ears from my iPod shuffle. I’m working out & focusing & maybe a take a breather & all of a sudden I hear the song.. now that is concentration! 🙂

    I so agree with your last comments…. all this crap about what the stars do & this & that person does. All crap. There is no best this or that…. it is only that you get off your butt & do it, whatever it is & apply yourself.

    Great post Roy, as always!

    • Jody: “Concentration.. I am there! There are times that I don’t even hear the music in my ears from my iPod shuffle. I’m working out & focusing & maybe a take a breather & all of a sudden I hear the song.. now that is concentration”

      I’m not making this up Jody. About 6 years ago I was in the gym doing set after set of pull-ups. After each set I looked out the window as I caught my breath. I was the only person in the gym. You would think I would have noticed that my car, parked just outside the window by the pull-up bar, had been stolen. I did not. True.

  2. Maybe the only thing I would add to that is consistency.

    Doing strength or any physical endeavor, properly, with determination over a consistent period of time will get results.

    I love what Jody wrote too, those days, those moments when you put down the weight after than last rep and then realize what song is playing. That’s another level of being right there.

    Awesome post Roy.

  3. Roy,
    This is spot on!!

    And that third C (Concentration) – the Zen of it all – that one can sometimes be the hardest of all (for me).

    …you get out what you put in… (so well said!!)

    • Thank you Lance! Honestly, concentration is my favorite part of the ritual. Doctors are increasingly prescribing strength training for adolescents with ADHD because of it’s proven ability to promote and improve concentration.

  4. I do try to use the three C’s when I workout, I just never thought of them that way before. One of my problems lately has been that my elbow joint hurts when I add more weight, not too much weight, but enough to fatigue the muscle. Any ideas about how I can prevent injury and still use a challenging weight?

    • Karen: The best advice I can offer if a movement is painful, beyond the pain of burning muscles, is to avoid the movement. Strength training should make your life better, not worse. Call me some time, or email me privately with more specific information and I will try and offer some more advice.

  5. Thanks, Roy! Something actually snapped in me last weekend and I’ll finally feel in control of myself and my workout. What is was? Not sure, but what I do know is these things you speak of, the 3 C’s, are exactly what is going on that keeps me going on.

    I’ve found I DO have the capacity to lift heavier.
    I put up a mirror in my workout room to not only focus on form, but look to be sure.
    And I now have the space to shut everything else out (behind closed doors) to put forth the concentration needed.

    Note it helps to block all else out with extremely loud music which I couldn’t do before for lack of my own space.

    Thanks for the post.

    • Lisa: Private space makes such a difference. I own my own gym, though I still frequent other gyms. The workouts I get at my own place, after hours when I am the only one ther, are far superior. Privacy is a midwife for increased concentration.

  6. Asking you how strong you are is like asking an artist how long it took them to do a painting!

    I really appreciate this post! Concentration is an area where I am remiss and I now understand it better. Thanks, Roy! With your expert guidance I hope to be getting A’s with my C’s from now on!

    • Dr. J: “Expert” is a harsh word. I hope you won’t use against me some day 😉

      I always loathe the question, “How much can you bench…?”

      My usual response is,

      “I’m not sure, but I can drop you like a wad of snot and mess your legs up worse than polio ever could…”

      ‘Nuff said. That’s true by the way, I say that a lot. Always good for a wide-eyed secret laugh.

  7. I have a wonderful example of “command”. A few days ago, my mother called me over to her house to assist in removing a few “heavy” objects for her. The first object was so easy to move, I remarked to her that it wasn’t really that heavy. She then told me, “You can move that easily because you are young.” I instantly replied, “No mom. I can move it easily because I lift weights.” True story.

    P.S. Love the last paragraph in particular.

    • That’s a great story Bobbie, one I appreciate becuase I live it also. I look forward to the story you will someday tell about John needing your help to lift something, and you walk over, pick it up, and move it all on your own 😉

  8. This would be a great thing for all newbies to strength training. I was watching someone the other day (who works out with me and shall remain nameless) and I could not help but think she really needed to use lighter weights because her form was horrible. (She was doing bicep curls with squats.)

    • Diane: Strength training, like so much else in life, has been over-thought to the point of regression. Simply put, let you instincts and logic be your guide. It’s not rocket science, it’s just proper moving.

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