Now, nearly three months into 2010, I’m sure many of you are keeping true to your vows of gym commitment and I most assuredly need not remind you who you are, the driven and dedicated. And while I do see many gym- goers on a daily basis, what is often witnessed, (nearly three months in), is largely lackluster at best.
There’s the endless bantering betwixt friends and would-be dates, iphone texting, latest Lady GaGa video played, (or overplayed), on the LCD screen and a myriad more reasons to be less than present during one’s workout, let alone, set.
Some random observers are always surprised when they see me seemingly racing across the gym spending barely a moment at one given exercise. Their usual question is, “That’s it, just two sets?” My head tilts, my jaw tightens and a smirk transcends across my face as I reply, “Had you been present and given of yourself to each and every given set, 2 would have been more than sufficient in order to break down the muscle tissue and thusly stimulate new growth.”
Bear witness to a recent example. Just last week a rather tall gentlemen approached me inquiring what I do for my hamstrings to make them “pop” as he eloquently alluded to, or “sweep out like a bull’s belly”, as I stated. After his confusion as to my use of simile, I informed him that I probably am not doing anything different than he BUT I am squeezing each rep instead of kicking through like a bucking horse, (another simile), as most do. An hour later he hobbled over and thanked me for he Vinally achieved a pump in his hamstrings. I smiled and returned to my protein shake.
Are you doubting the importance of one given set and that it alone can truly make a difference?
A few years ago, my gym conducted a push-up contest. I was hesitant at Virst, not for fear of winning or losing, but in citing that I had nothing to prove. After all, a Mercedes Benz need not travel in the speed lane for everyone knows what it is capable of. (Another simile?) After further pondering the challenge, I thought about channeling my all into that one given set. I honestly do not recall how many pushups I completed that day, (although they were performed correctly – minus the bounce or coiled spring usually attributed to such a repetition-based exercise), but I do remember how pumped and swollen my chest was upon staggering to my feet. Furthermore, I was even sore for the next two days! Lesson learned, or in my case, applied? Give more and receive more!
Still doubtful? It is a given that a neophyte carpenter will utilize more strikes to embed a nail into a piece of wood. But an experienced carpenter will have the ability to harness all of his/her strength and accuracy to achieve the same result with less strikes thusly making the task less time consuming and more efVicient. Less is more. I believe intensity is not God- given but rather something to which we can all work up. to. Having trained since I was 13, (now 34), it is probable that I can accomplish in 1 or 2 sets what might take one less experienced with the iron 4-5 sets, and so can you!
What is at the heart of this matter all comes down to one thing: desire. Specifically, the desire for people to avoid pain and embrace pleasure; which can be found in every walk of life, including the gym. We are willing to pay almost anything in the form of pills, potions and varying surgeries that all promise the world when it comes to physique enhancement in an effort to undercut output and save time.
Fortunately, I learned at an early age the value of putting my all into a given set and exploring the possibilities of human development, begot by the simple revelation that our bodies are perhaps the one thing we truly have control over. While we are born with an inherit body type and structure, we absolutely can change the muscle size and body fat composition of our bodies. It was that very appeal that led to my national bodybuilding victory at the age of 19.
Believe me, when you are on stage in your underwear in front of thousands of people AND your parents are seated front row, you keep yourself honest and put in the training and you stay on that diet no matter what. (Especially after they’ve paid for your chicken breasts.)
What follows is my set list to help you give more and ultimately receive more every time you catch your physique’s reflection in the mirror.
THE PERFECT SET:
1. BE PRESENT – Many of us exist in the now by recalling days of yesteryear or sprinting forward to thoughts of the future. Being in the here and now and committed to the given set at hand will help to ensure that you derive the most from your set in terms of muscle stimulation.
2. BE EFFICIENT – Save the chatter for after the workout or at the very least, after your set. It takes only one incorrect rep to throw out a back, tear a muscle or worse! Like Rambo – get in and get the hell out.
3. GIVE – "Give to the set" is something I am often heard saying with my clients implying just that. In the course of say a pushup; lead not with the shoulders or an arched back, but rather the muscle at hand – the chest. Give the intended muscle to the exercise and receive (proper) muscle atrophy and renewed growth.
4. EMOTE – Be impassioned about the set at hand. Before any of my given sets, my mind has already completed it – it’s a done deal and thusly I have conquered my set. Once programmed with this imagery, the physicality of actually doing the set is like a train rampaging over previously laid tracks.
5. NOTHING ELSE MATTERS – Eliminate all distractions! Trust me, your problems and achievements will still be there after your set. Be present with your set in the here and now as you would a close friend in need of help.
6. TARGET SET – If you lift the same you will look the same. Despite the fancy terminology, (core), the fancy workout gear, (Under Armour), the fancy workout drink, (Muscle Milk), it all comes back to the stimulus. Weight training is by deVinition-progressive resistance training. Want to improve? Either lift more weight, (when able and in good form), or achieve a rep previously not attained with a given weight and the seeds of change are planted.
7. SOMEBODY'S ALWAYS WATCHING – You may not be giving your all and possibly fooling yourself, but someone sees how much, (or little), you are giving to your workouts. While this may not matter to some, it matters to me as I pride myself on my clients seeing that I am in the trenches just like them doing the good work of weight training. I am hyperaware that somebody is always watching, and whether that is for a workout tip, the selection of a new trainer, or a book of the month choice, you won’t catch me less than focused on the set at hand.
8. BE HONEST – Did you forego squats, (compound movement), in lieu of leg extensions, (simple movement), because you convinced yourself they were just as effective? That’s like haphazardly tossing your belongings in your drawer and citing your house clean. (I know.) Do right by the muscle for proper stimulation.
9. BE VISUAL – Reward or goal yourself. Week in and week out the completion and adherence to a workout lifestyle must be embraced with some sort of positive reinforcement to continue such. Yes being in shape is reward in itself, but really people, sometimes we all need a little more encouragement. Perhaps a diligent adherence of said lifestyle will be met with the reward of a cheat meal, a new pair of pants or my new obsession – a Nintendo Wii game.
10. EMBRACE PAIN (temporary) EMBRACE PLEASURE (long-term) – Just face it, face the set, use the intended muscle in strict form rather than recruitment from ancillary muscles. Place the tension on the muscle at hand. Remember, the lactic-acid buildup or burn is truly only temporary but the results…priceless.