The biggest problem I see with people getting results in their fitness programs is using a "Hey FitFam! I just crushed my latest gym sesh!! #BEASTMODE!!!" approach to get more. Meanwhile, what they fail to FOMO with you is that the next day every joint in their body hurts, they feel like crap and its going to be three days until they crush another "gym sesh."
This my friends is not effective way to get more fit long term. Oh sure, you'll have great instaworthy gym seshes to share with your fitfam, but your workouts will be instaworthless.
You want an incredibly effet way to fix this? Are you ready for the fitness revelation for the ages? Here it is:
Begin with boring and use a basics work best approach to rebuilding your workouts. The more simple the better.
Not very instaAWESOME (yep, totally just made that up) is it?
To crush your next gym sesh, you completely master what Juan Carlos Santana MEd, CSCS calls "The Four Pillars of Human Movement." (1) Meaning, you absolutely own the basics of:
1) Locomotion (walking, running, skipping, etc)
2) Level changing (squatting, hinging, lunging, etc)
3) Pushing and pulling
4) Rotation, or more importantly, strengthening the muscles that prevent rotation.
You can also go the Dan John route and use his list of muscular mastery to get stronger (2):
1) Carry loads
6) The other thing (which I use for anti-rotation work)
You'll notice the above lists are pretty damn similar. In fact, other than spelling differences, I'd say they are the same.
There's a reason for that. It rhymes with basics work best.
To me, it means this is a pretty effective way to get stronger, leaner, faster, etc. Its the strategy I use with my clients and for myself because this simple (not easy) approach to working out always moves the needle in a positive direction.
Sounds great right? Wrong. Most people won't do it and instead opt for 14 different approaches in one workout.
Meaning? They want the latest "CardiogaPlyolatesKickCycleBodySculpt-X" fad fitness class to get "healthier." There are many reasons IMHO this doesn't work long term.
Never wanting to add speed to movement dysfunction probably ranks at the top. I've seen enough people move since 2001 to know its the rare person who can survive this approach and actually get some results.
You CAN'T build strength, explosive power, strength endurance or speed in one workout. Ross Edgely, in his book "The World's Fittest Book (which is a brilliant read btw)," brings this back to the S.A.I.D. (Specific Adaptations to Imposed Demands) Principle. He says working on multiple facets of fitness at once puts your body into a state of not knowing what it is you are trying to get it to improve (3).
This is why working in 4-6 week phases (stability, strength, speed, strength endurance, explosiveness, etc) and concentrating on only one specific facet of your fitness is so critical to exercise success.
To me this means:
Build a stable base. If you've got movement gaps, fill them in. With your gaps filled in, you can work on getting stronger. Since you can only put out the amount of power your joint stability allows, this is a good thing. Think trying to fire a canon from a canoe and you'll get the point.
With a more stable base and a stronger structure (READ: your muscles can safely move your bones the right way), now you've got some options:
1) You can make it bigger by putting on some muscle (which does wonders for fat loss btw).
2) You can make it more explosive because you now own a stable foundation that allows your brain to green light your muscles safely putting out higher levels of power.
3) You can work on getting faster because you've reduced your risks of hearing "the doctor will see you now."
4) Its a pretty simple formula.
The best way to achieve said awesome in the gym? Begin at boring. This ain't rocket science here people.
Damn near two decades of training people has shown me the following approach to work really well. Regardless of if you're brand new to working out, or you're a grizzled gym vet with the callouses to prove it, this will be effective.
1) Get a thorough fitness evaluation. You want to find out what's working, and more importantly, what might not be working so you can, well, start working on it. It may seem like a lot of work, but it works really well long term for your workouts. If you haven't gone to another site after that bit of literary wizardry, thank you very much, I appreciate it.
2) Use the above mentioned movement basics from Santana and John to absolutely NAIL your form with LIGHTER LOADS. If you do this, you'll start laying down a rock solid movement foundation to pick up heavier things, move explosively or work on getting faster later on. Form over function people, always.
3) I love it when people start with bodyweight training. Its how we built our movement patterns as infants, and it still works now.
If you've got a movement gap, like Shakira says, your hips "won't lie." Neither will the rest of your body.
If you can't have another set of eyes on you while you move, this is a great close second. Single leg squat variations, pushups and rowing variations (rings, TRX, etc) are an effective way to find out where you're leaking strength, and more importantly, how to plug those holes.
4) After you've nailed your form with bodyweight, start dialing in your diagonals. Meaning, strengthen the way your right shoulder works with your left hip and vice versa.
Our bodies are engineered to move this way (see walking), and if you want to learn how to explode with power, this is the way to go. If you want to keep your low back happy, this is the way to go. If you want to move better to feel better so you can look great, this is the way to go.
If you want a good hair day (the foundation of ALL good days as far as I'm concerned), this may work too. I really don't know why, but if a dapper do works for so many other things, I'm confident its worth a shot.
You best work your diagonals with split stance positions while moving a single arm pushing or pulling with cables pulleys or exercise bands. An alternate arm movement pattern works here too. You can use dumbbells or kettlebells to work on this, but I feel the movement menu using bands and pulleys is more robust and more user friendly.
START WITH LIGHT tension/loads to make sure all of your dots connect. Here are a couple of examples:
If you don't have access to bands or pulleys, bodyweight crawling variations a great substitute.
5) Once you've nailed the first four things, pick ONE skill to master and do it. For me, I want to do a muscle up with gymnastics rings.
I started this journey only to be taught by my body that my external shoulder rotation wasn't where it needed to be to be able to do pullups and dips correctly. I put too much load into my elbows and eventually developed pain at the base of my thumbs pushing.
This is why an eval is so important. I skipped this step and didn't know I was moving incorrectly. Lesson learned, hopefully.
Several boring hours later working on basics, the thumb pain is just about gone, my shoulder mobility has improved and I can go back to strengthening my back to work on my dips. I tried to cheat the system and accelerate the learning process and lost.
All it got me as an expensive bill from the piper. The take away? He always collects.
Alright, if you got down this far, you're now a more informed fitness consumer. You've got a very simple solution to a seemingly complex problem in your gym workouts.
If you live in the Silicon Valley and are ready to build a rock solid movement foundation to "CRUSH YOUR NEXT GYM SESH!!", let's set up some time for an eval to get you started.
Have an awesome week!
1) "Functional Training: Exercises and Programming for Training and Performance," Juan Carlos "JC" Santana, MEd, CSCS
2) "INTERVENTION: Course Corrections for the Athlete and Trainer," Dan John
3) "The World's Fittest Book," Ross Edgley