Reader beware: If you have, or are a relative to, a special needs/mentally disabled child/family member or in general are offended by the word “retard” please stop reading now. I understand it’s a sensitive word, and I would never wish any of those conditions on anyone’s loved ones. That being said, I’m not going to not use it. When have I EVER been politically correct?? You’ve been warned…
The 4 Pieces of the Puzzle
I REALLY think I’m starting to put a LOT of the pieces together for myself. I got into this whole fitness industry mumbo-jumbo “knowing” how to train myself and others. What I really “knew” at that time was only a 1/4 of the pie. Those pieces being the physiological adaptations of progressive overload on the human body and macro level nutrition, not to be confused with macaroni and cheese (so amazingly delicious). My understanding of block periodization programs changed drastically when I was allowed to find the biofeedback protocol. My understanding of macro level nutrition has changed since finding out about Intermittent Fasting and metabolic flexibility. I gave the combination of those two things a 1/4 of the pie because I only knew pieces of both of them. Now I think I’ve got the other pieces, making the combination of the two, half of the whole picture.
Last year was the realization of how important the Central Nervous System (CNS) is to training. Granted, if you follow “traditional” protocols and are a decent trainer, you can accidentally program this in while only “knowing” what I stated in the paragraph above. I’m happy to say that the more I read from great trainers on their websites, the more I realize they’re purposely programming it in. I’m sad to say, there’s only a handful of great trainers relatively speaking in the ENTIRE industry. I’m looking at you, douchey Gold’s Gym trainer. This accounts for 1/4 of the puzzle. For those of you keeping score, we’re up to 75%.
This year, predominantly the past 2 weeks, I’ve FINALLY put my 3rd observation together in a way that I think I understand it well enough to explain. What I’m talking about is the psychology of training and performance. Before any of you have a chance to jump on the “well duh” wagon, let me say that I’m well aware that there’s an entire field dedicated to Sport’s Psychology. That is, and is not, what I’m actually talking about here. To prove that I’ve been on this path for awhile now, I’ll refer you to last year’s Get Mental post.
By no means am I saying that I am an expert in any one of these facets, but I’m beginning to understand them all better and was at least able to put all the pieces together.
So what exactly is this last piece all about?
Have you ever wondered why some people seem to just walk into the weight room and house the f*cking weight? Like they have no sense of how heavy things actually are? I have friends that aren’t the brightest academics in the world, but if you were to tell them to go deadlift something for the first time ever, they could walk up to 405lb. and probably get it. Or maybe they’re bench pressing with someone stronger than them and they just kind of feel like seeing if they can do the weight the other person is. They may not have even attempted something 40lb. heavier than their previous PR, but sure as sh*t, they get it on their first try.
What I’m talking about there is “retard strength”. These types of people just don’t know what heavy is. All they see is a bar with some weights on it and they’re gonna lift the f*ckin thing. Numbers and weight are just “things”. All they care about is hitting that lift. These people seem to have the easiest time progressing session after session. These people don’t think. They just do. (Isn’t that a quote? “Don’t think; do.” If it’s not, I should copyright it; it’s pretty good.)
Compare that to me. I know I don’t come off this way, but I think. I think about everything. When I see weight on the bar, I think about how heavy it is. I think about how heavy it will be compared to the my last lift. I still progress each and every workout using biofeedback, but there is absolutely no way someone could say “hey, there’s 450lb. on the bar; go deadlift it” and expect me to get it. No way. I know how heavy 405lb. feels so I know how really a lot heavier 450lb. will feel. I may be retarded, that’s a given, but I most certainly do not have retard strength.
Last night I had the privilege of training with Mike Nelson (just like every Tuesday) and Adam Glass. I’m not qute sure how Adam had me pegged from the word “go”, but one of the very first things he said to me was, “Dave, do you know why I’m strong? It’s cuz I’m retarded. I have retard strength. You’re not retarded, and that’s something you have to learn.” No shit, eh? Do I really come off as that un-retarded?
Putting it All Together from the Top Down
I think a lot of people get it wrong and try to build from the bottom up. I’m now beginning to think it’s more efficient to build from the top down. First get your mind right. Find movements that test well and are actually fun to perform. This will ensure that you keep coming back for more. Next, this is only my theory, but it makes complete sense to me. Your brain (psychology) has direct control of your CNS. If your brain interprets something as heavy; it will be heavy. In turn, your CNS is going to say, “well fuck that, it’s heavy; you’re going to hurt yourself if you lift that, a-hole,” and then it won’t fire enough motor units to allow you to lift it….even if you’re structurally strong enough to do so. Next is just the ability to lift and move the weight. This goes back what I used to “know” when I got into this mess. This is the biomechanics of lifting weights. Lastly is nutrition. Nutrition really is a support role. Nutrition allows you to change or maintain your physique. If you want to get bigger, eat more calories. If you want to get smaller (hopefully just excess fat if you do it right), eat less calories. It’s that simple, right?
Stop Thinking. Have Fun. Get Strong.
This is my new motto when it comes to my own personal goals. For the past 8 months or so, I’ve basically been going to the gym 1 to 2 times per week. I haven’t been shy about telling you guys that and being honest about it. I’ve bench pressed in one of those sessions every single week, and to be honest (I had this revelation last night), the thought of getting underneath a bench press bar is absolutely mind numbing right now. I have *NO* love for traditional bench press whatsoever at this point.
What was great about having Adam around was that he had me try a reverse grip axle bench press. It was FUN and it tested great!! The best thing about it is that I’m already looking forward to next week so I can try it again. The other nice thing is that if I can bring that up, it *should* (this has yet to be tested) transfer to my traditional bench press. The other thing he had me try for the first time ever was phone book tearing. That was FUN as sh*t! In fact, I brought another phonebook with me today to take to the gym and hopefully get a video of it. What I realized is that I am in dire need of a change to my traditional strength training routine.
Last year leading up to my powerlifting competition attempt, I thought bench, squatting, and deadlifts were FUN as well. I made some great gains because my head was in it, and I was having fun doing it. While I do plan on competing again in the future, my goal from here on out is NOT to chase after my goal of a 1,200lb. total. My goal from here on out is just to get brutally strong doing things that improve my movement and are FUN. You do not think about how heavy things are when it’s fun. All you think about is how much fun it is and how great it is to see improvement week after week. Of course, I will still be choosing fun lifts that will eventually transfer to a bigger powerlifting total. Some things I have in mind already….
More reverse grip axle bench presses
1-arm dumbbell bench presses
1-armed barbell snatches
Long cycle kettlebell clean and jerk
Kettlebell bottoms up press
Sprints, jumps, bounding
** = These are still very traditional but since it’s been 8 months since I’ve done them, I still find them fun for the time being.
In the end, learn to control all 4 pieces of the puzzle and your progress will never stop, but you must first start by finding your inner retard.
Don’t Miss Your Chance
I was stuck in Corporate America for 9 years. I was miserable.
Then I took control.
You can too, and it starts right here.