Saturday, January 21, 2012

Keep it Under Control

In the last post I stated that I believe you should keep your mind focused when you're lifting and sprinting hard.  It is also my opinion that you should keep your body in control in these situations as well.  What do I mean?

No Herky-Jerky is what I mean.  I guess bodybuilding types would call it 'cheating' or cheat reps.  Basically - twisting, leaning, or otherwise contorting your body to leverage an advantage so that you can squeeze out another rep or move past a sticking point.  Oh, this works all right.  Been there and done that.  You can certainly pump out another bicep curl or pull up if you angle it right ... but why?  Why take on the increased risk of injury for another rep or two when you can climb that hill with safer alternatives?  Because it looks cool in the gym?  Well, if that's you, then I'm not going to be the one to convince you to change your ways, just don't come crying to me when you injure yourself trying to look all macho.

The great thing is, we can reap the benefits we need from lifting and sprinting hard, without taking on undue risk of injury.  But don't let me have you thinking that by lowering the injury risk we're at the same time lowering the intensity level.  Oh no.  The intensity must still stay high.  And I'd even say that as you get better at this stuff, you'll learn to safely increase your intensity level ... little by little.  This is partly where the mental focus comes in that I talked about in the last post.  Learning to listen to your body is so key ... I know I keep harping on this in my blog, but it truly is important in all that you do.

Pack Full of Plates
When I first ditched the gym a couple of years ago, I was worried about not having enough 'weight' to do the heavy lifting I was used to.  I'm fairly strong and knew that if I wanted to keep things in the 7-10 rep range as I did at the gym, I would somehow need to add weight.  I decided it might be healthier to do that by stuffing a backpack full of weights rather than by stuffing myself full of donuts.  So enter the backpack full of weights.  A brilliant idea actually.  And in itself not dangerous, but as you can guess by the title of this post, I started to let things get a little out of control.  I started to play a numbers game by counting how much weight I could pile into the pack and how may reps I could do ... always trying to climb higher and higher.  Now wait a minute you may be thinking ... isn't that the idea of getting stronger, by slowly making progress.  Sure.  Nothing against progress.  Nothing against tracking numbers for that matter.  But what I'm preaching here is to be careful if you go down this path.  Be careful that 'playing' the numbers doesn't become more important than listening to your body and how it is reacting.  The weight in and of itself is not important ... working really hard and fatiguing your muscles is the goal.

I remember occasionally getting anxious before workouts, sometimes even taking coffee (which I don't like) in order to psyche myself up so I could hit the weight and reps that were next in line.  Again, nothing wrong with trying to do your best, but when I 'knew' that I had to get one more rep than last week, or put 5 more pounds in the bag and complete X amount of reps, I was setting myself up for injury.  Instead of focusing on muscle failure, I was focusing on numbers.

Luckily, I didn't have some catastrophic injury or anything.  My problems came about when I tried to use my whole body to squeeze out that last, or extra repetition.  Every other month or so, I would tweak my neck by doing this.  Not bad enough to stop lifting (if it was, I wouldn't have continued by the way, I'm not a masochist).  Just degrees of uncomfort when I would turn my head side to side.  And then there was that one time I just reached for something at work and my upper back tweaked out.  It definitely wasn't from the reach.  I had set up for that injury from heavy weighted pull ups earlier in the day.  But like I said, it wasn't the 'heavy' part that did it.  It was the herk-jerky bounce, kick, or what have you, to get that last rep out. 

Now when I work out, I focus on failure.  If I don't happen to feel as good this week as I did the one prior, that's okay because I'm not chasing numbers.  I will still reach failure.  Whether I use slow reps, static holds, extra weights or some combo of all of those, I know I will reach muscular failure.  That itself takes a load off my mind heading into my workouts.  And for those of you who think this sounds all sissy like and that the only real way to know if you're progressing is to look at the numbers ... I say that you don't know how to listen to your body properly.  Touche!  If you are paying attention, you will damn well know if you are making progress or not - or worse, over training.  

So my point here is to keep it under control.  Focus on controlling the weight during your repetition. Focus on reaching muscular failure.  Whether that be via a machine in the gym, or a pull up or dip outside.  And it doesn't matter if you're using moderate rep speeds or going very slowly ... Keep It Under Control.

No comments: