For many of us, “Principal", was akin to a four-letter word growing up, for to be called to the Principal’s office was often the sight of ill-fated news to the attendee. To this day, it is why I change my name at a restaurant when leaving reservations, for to hear “Hollis” spoken aloud, has conditioned me to believe I am to receive a Saturday detention, rather than the grilled steak, they would have otherwise thought.
“Principle”, suggests an idea or concept that has been more or less proven to work. An action taken that has often been thrust into the trenches, experienced, tested and its final result to be accepted as nothing short of fact.
A long time ago, in a New York/New Jersey far, far away, (from Los Angeles), I was in the Boy Scouts of America. Our troop had a merit badge aptly named, “The Paul Bunyon Woodsman.” Other troops had sought varying leadership and sporting badges, while I was singularly fixated on the Bunyon award. Since it required the merits of one motivated Boy Scout to claim it, coupled with the fact that up to that time, no one else in the history of our troop had ever taken it, I decided that is was on, big time!
And so, like Captain Ahab armed with his harpoon in search of the elusive Moby Dick, I grabbed my Rambo headband, “suited up” and was off in search of the coveted prize. What followed that gloomy afternoon was this: I taught, “Totin’ Chip” - the Scouts’ knife leadership program to a fellow scout, and sawed through two fallen logs, (that took forever), only to be left with the final task of wood chopping through a group of small, upright logs.
As I raised my axe, tears fell from the sky, and within minutes the campgrounds were soaked. Try as I might to continue, my group leader took my axe mid swing and told me the challenge was over, that the weather would not permit continuance. I was so very close, and begged for a few paltry minutes for completion. By now, a group had stood by cheering me on. I was ordered off the challenge sight, leaving with my jaw clenched, my fists tight and an idea of what to do to his hammock later on that night after rehydrating myself.
I felt he, acting as the “Principal”, was conflicting with my, “Principles", of combat, and, from that point on, swore to always do things my way if I felt them just.
The next day I went home, never claiming what had been rightfully mine and would forever be associated with my troop as the guy who came that close to receiving the first ever Woodsman Badge. But, a few years later, my hand was raised as the best, "Teenage Heavyweight Bodybuilder" in the entire Nation, and I did it my way!
As it relates to our sphere and scope of training, there are no rules, only recommendations. What works for one person, may not work for another. That is why I never, ever, repeat the same workout twice with different clients for each is unique, like a snowflake.
But sometimes, affirming results, need the help of a “cleaner”, the one who will fix what has been broken or engaged in the law of diminishing returns whereby little is given for maximum effort. Allow me, if you will, to be your, "cleaner".
What follows are another superstar set of my top 10 Training Principles for shaking things up in your world and perhaps even getting you excited about training once again. Many of you may already be employing these terms and just didn’t know what they were called, until now. Some of you may liken them to special sushi rolls that are worth a look but like to stick to traditional fare, and yet, hopefully, all, or most of you, will try them.
Credit must be given to Mr. Joe Weider who attached names to what he saw countless gym-goers performing with regularity decades ago in bringing human development to a new level, and thusly developed the Weider Principles. Thank you, Joe.
1. Rest-Pause – By far, my favorite and most frequently used principle. The brain is programmed to complete a given set at all costs, but by temporarily ceasing the set before other muscle groups take over and allowing a few seconds for a temporary recovery, the body can safely complete the given task at hand, while keeping the tension, where it belongs, for the entire set.
2. Muscle Confusion – As your Trainer, one of my most valued assets, as the body does indeed adapt quickly to a continual stimuli, is to keep it off guard and constantly being forced to work. Exercises, sets, reps and the like, are continually spun to keep one progressing and excited about their workouts.
3. Holistic Training – Utilizes varying repetition ranges, speeds and angles, in an effort to stimulate differing muscle fibers that respond to unique training origins.
4. Peak Contraction – Is the final squeeze, or accented portion of the repetition, which can bring about more muscle control and definition.
5. Progressive Overload – Those whom lift the same, look the same. In my competitive days, my chest was much fuller when performing bench press sets at 405 pounds than it was at 315 pounds. (All in good form, of course.) This also was why I used my diet and cardiovascular activity to peak myself for a competition for I knew if I did not continue to do what brought me to the dance, (the heavy lifting upon which my foundation was built), it would be like taking the nails out of the house and thusly crumbling the foundation. Self-implosion? No thank you.
6. Pre-Exhaustion – The body is so smart that sometimes a challenging weight is simply not enough. What might normally follow a squat, the leg extension, sometimes should actually precede one’s workout in an effort to pre-fatigue, or increase blood-flow, to the quadriceps prior to the multi-jointed squat movement.
7. Negatives – Like your fine China, to be used sparingly. This is an advanced technique that actually works your muscles beyond failure, which might be called for when attempting to stimulate new growth. An example of negatives would be resisting the downward portion of the bench press until it touches your chest while your partner will lift the bar with just enough force to get one past the sticking point
8. Cheating – A definite no-no when it comes to marriage, exams and a pre-contest diet, but in the gym a completely legitimate action. It is perhaps the polar opposite of the Rest-Pause Principle, and calls for a slight swinging and increased body momentum near the end of the set to garner a few more repetitions and thusly further stimulate growth.
9. Muscle Priority – Let’s be honest, most of us try to always show our best and hide our less than stellar. The Muscle Priority Principal states that one begin each workout-week with his/her weakest body parts first in order to bring them up to symmetrical harmony with one’s more outstanding features. The most famous example is that of a young Arnold Schwarzenegger, who having first arrived in America had very underdeveloped calves. By cutting his jeans to expose the weak body part and training them first thing each week with total ferocity in their own little quiet war, what was previously weak, became a strength, so much so, that it helped him win a record, (at the time), 7 "Mr. Olympia" Titles.
10. Descending Sets – or Drop-Sets are another intensity generating technique whereby the muscle can be taken beyond failure. Let’s say one performs dumbbell curls at a given weight and gets, 10. Rather than cease the set, immediately perform more repetitions with a lighter weight, in an effort to increase the burn in one’s arms.
The hardest part of the gym journey is in showing up. If you’re contemplating a return, and thusly investing in yourself again, Training Specials are now available, running from NOW until Mid- October! Send your query to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Yours in health,