The Primary Colors Of Strength…

Few Ingredients…

We learn the primary colors early in life, often before we even learn to read. From combining just 3 colors; red, yellow, and blue, all other colors can be reached. Often though, we don’t need much more than the primary colors to achieve a creative conclusion.

Though many great works of art include a myriad of colors from across the spectrum, it is the seasoned artist who understands best where and how to apply those colors, or even if they are needed. Even so, some of the most advanced artists through the years have been touted for their simplest works. We call this minimalism.

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The Workout As A Form Of Art…

All traditional strength exercises are variations of 6 simple movements; pushing, pulling, bending, torso rotation, squatting, and raising the extremities laterally. Every strength exercise is a variation of those 6 primary movements.  What is a workout, if not an expression of creativity…?

Pushing: The use of force to transfer a load away from our body. There is vertical pushing, horizontal pushing, downward pushing, and pushing through any angle in-between.

Pulling: The use of force to draw a load toward our body. We can pull from overhead, pull from in front, we can pull from below, or we can pull from any angle in-between.

Squatting, bending, torso rotation, and raising the arms and legs laterally have as many variations.

Other ways in which we can vary our pushing and pulling are by adjusting hand positions. Wide grips, medium grips, narrow grips, overhand grips, and underhand grips can all be used to promote variety in the pushing and pulling aspects of strength training. These varying angles and hand positions allows us to direct tension to different areas of our musculature. In squatting, varying one’s foot position can have the same effect.

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Primarily Speaking…

I try and teach my students that not every painting requires every color. In fact, the works of art I appreciate most are those with few colors and few complexities. Similarly, not every workout needs every possible angle, hand, or foot position. This is a mistake I see frequently with others; the more is better mindset. Walk into any gym and you’ll see people of all ages and all levels of proficiency performing set after set of many variations of the same exercise by changing angles, hand, and foot positions until they are exhausted.

Though I also tend to pursue this type of variety in my workouts, I do so more on a monthly basis, not by the workout. That is, in the course of a month I might include bench presses performed on an incline bench, on a flat bench, or on a decline bench.  I might perform chest presses on a machine, with dumbbells, or with barbells in a month’s time – there is value in all of these, but rarely do I duplicate them in a given workout. Not only can that duplication be detrimental to the muscles by over training them, it is a very large waste of time – my most valued commodity.

Though variety will help to foster progress in hypertrophy and functional physicality, it is variety over time which matters much more than variety within a workout. Like the simple painting, simplicity in the structure of a workout can offer more from less.

It’s Not Rocket Science

We live in the granite counter top generation. We decorate every wall. Most of us have at least some clothes in our closet which we rarely wear or have never worn. Our phones have more power than most of us can comprehend, and our cars now do things which we could do on our own not long ago. Increasing social and technical complexity are among our many co-masters.

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For my time in the gym, that is where the real beauty is; in a lack of complexity. I usually perform one variation each, of 6 basic movements in my workouts, and use the 13.7 billion year old force of gravity to affect them. Despite what social media, many fitness trainers, and the fitness industry at large might have you believe, it’s not rocket science – it’s a simple art. Be creative, and be well… rc

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Please check back in a few weeks to see what happens when I push the STOP button on the blender in my head. Oh, and there’s this from Van Morrison. Enjoy!

Follow The Leader…

Information overload…

When I design a workout or an eating plan for a student, I don’t make it complicated.  I draw from just a few scientifically proven principles, and on experiences that I have had with previous clients.   I may also draw from experiences other trainers in the fitness community have shared with me.  However, I won’t go too far with any of it because I believe basics work, and for most that’s all they require.

That said, getting people to follow even basic directions can be the most challenging part of leadership.  Too often people want advanced information from their primary instruction.

It's eating vegetables, and exercising.  It's not rocket science...

It’s eating vegetables, and exercising. It’s not rocket science…

A majority of people won’t require all the available information in the realm of physiology, any more than they will require all the available data from the university level.  Nor will they require a complicated framework or routine. However, week in and week out this seems to be what they want – the latest and greatest.

I think that’s where leadership in fitness gets it wrong more often than not.  Leaders attempt to give the student the latest and greatest, before the student masters the basics.  This in part, because it’s what the student asks for, but also because the trainer wishes to demonstrate intelligence and superiority, if not validity.

The information we gather as leaders in fitness does not all need to be pumped into the veins of our students.

One step at a time…

I was Skyping with an online client over the weekend.  During the conversation I recalled a home I lived in for many years.   It was large condominium, just under 2,000 square feet.  I occupied just one room of that home.  In that room there was an air mattress I slept on, and a desk for my computer.  Aside from that, I owned no furniture, and only passed through the empty living room and dining room on my way to the kitchen.

At the time I lived there my daughter was a teenager.  It occurred to me one day that my daughter and I didn’t spend a great deal of time at my house.  I mean, what could we ever do there except watch videos on my computer while sitting on an air mattress…?  Needless to say, we hung out elsewhere.

One week when she was 14 I decided to buy some furniture in hopes that I could foster more time together with her at my home.  Since I was on a budget most of the furniture I bought required assembly which means each piece came with directions.

I’m a guy, I don’t do directions.  Of course never following directions has led me to more failures than successes when assembling things, and more cursing than smiling.  This was my home I was talking about, and a part-time bedroom for my daughter.  I wanted to do this right.

Step.  Step.  Step.  Step.  Pretty simple formula.  I wonder why so many fail to follow...

Step. Step. Step. Step. Pretty simple formula. I wonder why so many fail to follow…

As I embarked on assembling a house full of furniture; tables, beds, curtain rods, chairs, shelves, etc., I decided that following the directions would be primary in the process.  With each table, each shelf, and each curtain rod, I followed the directions precisely.  And son of a bitch, after a weekend of reading information, and assembling it as instructed – one step at a time, I had a house full of furniture.

Directions in fitness…

It’s pretty simple.  Whether they come from me, a trainer in your gym, or from a well authored book, most directions are usually clear.  Follow them.  Understand each step before you take it.  Complete each step the very best of your ability.  Proceed to the next step.  Each time one instruction is completed; a meal is prepared, a repetition is completed, an exercise is finished, it is a mile marker on the road to the completed project.

Sometimes it's really a good idea to follow directions...

Sometimes it’s really a good idea to follow directions…

Despite how many times I have handed simple, easy to follow directions to students, I know more often than not they will accept them and never look at them again – especially in the area of eating.  Accept the plan.  Commit to the plan.  Follow the plan.  If you get confused, call the 800 number at the bottom of the plan.  Whether you’re putting together a new coffee table, or a new you, following the directions will lead you to a much better outcome than doing it on your own.  Be well.  rc

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Please check back in 2 weeks to see what happens when I hit the “stop” button on the blender in my head.  Oh, and there’s this from  Sonnybones.  Enjoy…