Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Building Blocks of Lifting

We all have
to start somewhere.

I always liked this piece from Carter. It speaks volumes about having the patience to learn things properly from the start. Enjoy!

"Have you ever, in your adult life, been spoken down to like a child? That condescending tone; that instructive air of arrogance - oh boy I bet your blood boiled! Well I hope to avoid that but if you’re a beginner in the weight room, I’m telling you right now that you’re not unlike a child. And like a child, you may want something – in this case a program – but you’re not going to get it. Why? Because you’re not old enough – in training years that is.

Okay so preface or no preface, I can see that you’re still starting to redden in the face at my brazen assertion but please bear with me. Although I’ve likened you to a child, I promise you that I’m not going to speak down to you as I might a child. Quite the contrary, I’m going to reason with you. And I’m going to do so by starting with an analogy.

When you were in early grade school, did they teach you calculus? Did they hand you a crayon and tell you to write a lit review on Dr Seuss? Did you run gel electrophoresis to prep for mass spec analysis? No, of course you didn’t. You learned what numbers, letters and objects were. In other words, you were taught the very basics. Before you could perform math, you had to count from 1-10. Before you could read or write, you had to recite the alphabet. And way before you were taught what DNA was, you had to know that Jimmy had to excuse himself to the door on the right while Jenny had use the door on the left.

Your parents and teachers certainly expected you to learn and to advance your abilities along but they didn’t expect you to know how to make use of the fundamentals before being comfortable with said base units. Their patience in these early years was likely shaped by your young age but their expectations were given form by understanding – consciously or not - how we as human beings learn. That, as remarkable as we humans are, we still need to break things down or build things up from the sum of their parts. In other words, we need to have a grasp on the building blocks before we can begin building.

So knowing that you had to learn the alphabet before being able to read
Barbell Back Squat in an exercise program; and knowing that you had to count to 10 before you could decipher what 3 x 8 meant when the set x rep scheme was provided in the plan; I ask you now, just why the heck do you think you should start a program or system without having a firm handle on the base units involved?

The fact is that you shouldn’t. We’re an “I want it now” society but when the weak link in the chain is you, not much can be done until you’re brought up to speed. And being brought up to speed involves being comfortable with the basics. What are the basics when it comes to resistance training, you ask? Six compound lifts that give form to any other exercise you could possibly want or need to perform. These being:



Bench press / push-up

Shoulder press

Bent-over row

Pull-up / Chin-up

Learn how to perform the above 6 lifts and you’ve unlocked the reading, writing and arithmetic of the weight room. Don’t learn how to perform these lifts and resistance training will always be a second language. Not unlike broken English or having to add by using your fingers, sure you may get by but it will be an arduous, non-optimized time.

So do yourself a favour and take the time and effort now to get comfortable with the big 6. And no, you probably won’t get comfortable with them by watching a video or reading instructions – especially in the short term.

So yes that does mean that you’re either going to have to spend day in and day out, week in and week out and month in and month out playing around on your own; or that you’re going to have enlist the help of someone – in person – who can help you. I don’t care if it’s Uncle Johnny, the neighbour’s son who just got home from university, or a paid professional. Your task is to learn these lifts by whatever means necessary.

If you do go the paid professional route, it doesn’t mean that you have to hire them on to train you or to run you through some inane bosu ball circuit put together by the suits who run the club. So ignore their sales BS or their assertions of “you have to do this or do that.” Go in there, tell them “I’m going to pay you to teach me these 6 lifts over the course of the next 2 weeks.” Trust me, if they’re worth your employ – that is they know what they’re doing – they’ll appreciate your request and happily have you well versed and on your way to a better you in no time.

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