Spice Up Your Workout
photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc photo credit: consolidated.construction via photopin cc
photo credit: marfis75 via photopin cc photo credit: consolidated.construction via photopin cc
photo credit: Phil Dragash via photopin cc
So, thank you for permitting me to look at your exercise log. I see that you have been diligently keeping track of your work in the gym for the past two months. Congratulations! No, I am not giving you three cheers for your accuracy. Rather, I am expressing my excitement for your commitment to yourself. Reaching the two month point is a milestone for you. As far as the record keeping is concerned, I do need to ask a couple questions and make a few observations.
A workout journal can serve a wonderful purpose. Whether produced by a computer program which is connected to each machine in your gym or the old fashioned way, with a pencil, it matters not. On one hand, these records in printout form or handwritten notes provide a certain sense of accountability. You’ve been here and done that! This proves that you clocked in and out for the fun fitness part of your busy day. On the other hand, it tells me a little bit about you. You are definitely a goal oriented person who has a desire to see progress. Initially, that sought after progress may be reflected not in the mirror, but rather in the accumulated data you see in your journal. This can be very satisfying. In the early stages of your journey, you can make great strides. I should be able to quickly locate areas of improved strength by searching the numerical progression for various exercise movements which you have been faithfully engaged in for the better part of sixty days. Oh, bother! Something on your chart immediately catches my eye. In fact, I must tell you it is a clear red flag. Because of it, I know without a shadow of doubt that you capable of pushing yourself harder!
The first question that I have for you is this: Why do I see the same exact number of repetitions recorded for every exercise you have done since you have begun to workout? The second question: Are you really performing three sets of each of these strengthening moves using precisely the same amount of weight? Question three: How much of a rest period are you taking between these sets? The final question, number four: Are you focusing on correct breathing or just counting? Of course, I already know the answers because I have reviewed countless report cards from the gym over the years.
I repeat what I have already stated. You receive an A+ for attendance! Don’t laugh or dismiss the significance of this accomplishment. However, I have to be honest. Your grade for overall performance is but an average C. Don’t be disappointed. I will give you a little tutorial that will help you change that letter to something more pleasing. Despite the fact that some continue to perpetuate this silly notion, there is no magic number of repetitions that you must perform for any strength training exercise. Some report cards are filled with seemingly unending rows of 10s. Others are chock-full of 12s. Still more contain a boatload of 15s and nothing else. Though you have never been absent from a workout, what has been missing is uniqueness. I want to see something quite different from the collage you’ve created using the same number pattern. I need to see some degree of difficulty which would manifest itself in an odd assortment of numbers. So, please forget what your friend told you about that specific figure. I don’t even care if one of the trainers at your gym prescribed your current routine and said, “Give me ten of each, now!”
Your homework assignment is to work with an amount of resistance that will allow you to perform a reasonable number of repetitions to the point of complete failure. In your fitness classroom, failure equals success. However, if the term failure has you a bit concerned that I might demote you to Kindergarten, then I will use the phrase momentary muscle fatigue. This literally means the point at which you can no longer perform even one more repetition of an exercise without having to compromise the good form that is necessary for your safety. So, a reasonable number of repetitions may be anywhere between 8 and 15. Once again, there is no one number that you will be stopping at for each exercise. It is not possible for you to entirely fatigue each muscle or group of muscles by the same number of repetitions. You are engaging in different movements, which engage different muscles, which have varying strength capacities, and you are utilizing a different amount of resistance. So, does it make any sense to stop at 10 repetitions if you haven’t reached failure? Sorry, momentary muscle fatigue! If you do, which your record indicates, then you obviously have not worked hard enough yet. Consequently, your muscles do not need a rest period. You have not even finished a “set”. When worked to the necessary point of exhaustion, if you are going to attempt to perform multiple sets of the same exercise at the same weight, your muscles require a one minute break. After one minute has expired, your muscles have regenerated 75% of the energy which they expended in working to fatigue. That is sufficient to lift the identical resistance and perform another reasonable number of repetitions to exhaustion once again. A full two minute vacation is called for to reboot your muscles completely so that they are operating at 100% of their capability. Let me repeat myself, since repetition is the first step in learning. The point here is that if you are just camping out on a chest press machine after doing your favorite number of repetitions and then commence the movement again after some 30 seconds or so… you did not need to stop in the first place.
Does it take a little experimentation to find an appropriate weight to lift for the various exercises you will continue to perform? Yes. However, it is a simple, if not painless process. You should not be using the same amount of resistance and counting out the identical number of repetitions for a row movement as you do for a triceps extension. You are certainly not going to be as strong on the shoulder press as you are on the leg press. So, don’t fret about how many reps, but concentrate on perfect execution while lifting a challenging weight. If you can only do a couple of completed reps, then you need to lighten the load. If you find that you have strayed beyond the established reasonable range, don’t panic. Just work to fatigue, and add more weight for the next attempt. In any one day’s workout session, you may continue to perform 2 or 3 sets of the exercises you select. Only now, you will actually be doing a greater overall workload. Consequently, your muscles are going to thank you. Don’t expect extra credit points from me just yet. This should have been your approach to strength training from the start. But, that’s all water under the bridge.
In conclusion: Your muscles are not smart. They cannot count. Remember, you are working to a very specific feeling, not a very specific number! That feeling, which you will become very acquainted with, tells you when to stop. That feeling, which will lead to a bit more soreness, indicates that you have completed your job. So, just breathe out and lift, breathe in and lower, and lift again. Don’t stop breathing! You know how to do it. I hope that you have been taking notes, because I will quiz you on this subject tomorrow. I look forward to seeing your report card next month. Best wishes for straight A’s in your workout!
photo credit: Emmanuel Gadenne via photopin cc
Have you purchased a new driver recently? Have you had your existing driver reshafted with a pricey, high-performance golf shaft? Have you changed the shaft flex or had your driver lengthened? Have you opted to try a super-light weight shaft? Have you chosen the largest clubhead size available with the biggest sweet spot on the market? Are you “dialed” into the latest technology which allows you to experiment with degree of loft and face angles on your driver? Have you tried a driver head that is non-conforming by USGA standards? Or, have you switched golf balls this season? Have you been trying a different model by your favorite manufacturer or a completely new brand of golf ball altogether? If you’ve answered in the affirmative to a couple of these questions, then clearly you are desperately seeking distance. I am not picking on you, for you definitely have company.
I am quite certain that since the very inception of the sport, there has been this quest by virtually every participant to hit the golf ball with extreme length off the tee. The Scottish lay claim to be the inventors of the modern sport of golf. However, historians do debate somewhat concerning its true origins. Perhaps, it was the Dutch predating the Scotts by a century or two, who played some version of a club and ball game. Nevertheless, I find it particularly noteworthy that some of the earliest references to golf have to do with banning people from playing. As early as 1457, the official word was that members of the Scottish military were neglecting their duties, one of which was archery practice, to smack the little golf ball around. My guess is that the majority of these individuals couldn’t hit a ball as accurately as they could shoot an arrow. It might be a stretch to blame these early hackers, these military men, for the grand obsession with crushing the golf ball as hard as possible, but I think I will. They knew more than enough about the importance of executing perfect form to release an arrow directly at a target. If I were a betting man, I’d say that they abandoned all reason when they picked up one of the earliest golf clubs. So much for focusing on a target. Out the proverbial window went the precision with which they were trained and patience which they practiced in respect to archery. They surely ushered in the shouts of “Fore!” as they sent balls flying every which way but straight. Not surprisingly, we are told that in Scotland there were more bans on golfing issued later in 1471 and also in 1491. I speculate that it was not due to military personnel nor anyone else golfing while “on company time”, but rather such a ban must have been instituted in part due to the incessant chatting and boasting with those whom they usually enjoyed keeping company. Let me explain. What the official decree probably stated was that it was very troublesome that many were partaking in an activity which caused them to behave in an manner unbecoming of a true Scottish gentleman. I believe that it was these golfing pioneers who began the annoying tradition of bragging about how far they hit the golf ball. Competitions ensued, tempers flared as egos were deflated, and a few colorful metaphors were uttered. These long drivers littered the beautiful Scottish countryside with the covers of countless golf balls as they swung out of their kilts in the most ridiculous of fashions, all in the pursuit of outdriving their fellow countrymen. How despicable! I support King James II of Scotland for implementing the initial ban. Parliament thought they put an end to this childish practice by putting in place yet another ban under the direction of King James IV around 1500. However, he was deceived. Apparently, one of these fanatical golf addicts purchased a set of golf clubs and golf balls for His Royal Majesty. You can probably guess what happened. He may very well have gotten hooked himself. “FORE, RIGHT! FORE, LEFT! Play on, that’s my ball!” Um, King, your ball went over into that gallery of peasants.
This pursuit clearly encompasses all players of all ages and skill levels for all time. I suppose that is what makes it worthy of commentary or laughter. This pursuit causes a universal problem, over-swinging, shared by every golfer. Bubba Watson, Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Rory McIlroy, Michelle Wi, Lexi Thompson, and Laura Davies are some headliners on what would be a lengthy list of current tour professional who are known to swing “out of their shoes” on occasion. The up to date statistics for the PGA tour indicate that the average number of fairways hit is just 61%. The lady professionals are far more accurate on average than their male counterparts. This is not too surprising. But no one is immune from momentarily being inflicted with the craving for “taking it deep” and finding the wrong fairway. I have observed tour professionals on the driving range numerous times. They are amazing. They all can hit their drivers straight as a Scottish arrow! I am convinced that most could hit virtually every single fairway of every single round in every single tournament they play in if…here is the big if… they could control that urge to swing just a bit harder to pick up a few extra yards. So, if the world’s best struggle with this dreaded sickness, how are the rest of you to inoculate yourselves from this condition. Good luck finding the answer to that one! Ask the old King of Scotland. I don’t hold in my hand any cure, but I do have some advice. This doesn’t involve you being banned from the golf course.
Golf is not meant to be a long drive competition. So, don’t turn it into one. “Keeping up with the Jones'” never is a good idea in any endeavor. It seems pretty obvious to me that most who swing for the fences with their driver are also guilty of over-swinging with every club in their bag. I don’t get excited when someone tells me, “I can hit my pitching wedge 155 yards.” I truthfully think that too many of you are wrapped up in stats of your own. Numbers, numbers, please don’t give me numbers! Can you hit it straight? That is all that matters. Period. It does not matter if you hit a 5, 6, 7, 8, or 9 iron or a hybrid or fairway metal into a green. Just find the green and then we can talk about that other game called putting. Here is some food for thought: swing as hard as you can while maintaining perfect balance throughout the entire action. That will slow you down for sure! Try it. As you have hopefully discovered, with the manner in which golf clubs are constructed today, you do not ever have to swing overly hard. The ball just flies off the clubface if you strike it solidly. Yes, it goes as far as you need it to. Your timing is invariably off when everything is moving too rapidly. So, once again, I beseech you to slow it down.
If you want to hit the ball longer, relax your grip pressure. Squeezing the life out of your driver is a power killer. You need to avoid tension in your wrists, forearms, shoulders, etc. in order to potentially blast the ball out of sight. Do your rotate your upper torso sufficiently? If you can turn behind the ball so that your front shoulder and your chin make contact, then that should mark the top of your backswing. Do you create enough resistance between the upper and lower body at the top? If your back leg is not solid but rather collapses creating too much hip movement, you are going to be yelling “FORE” an awful lot. If you sway off the ball with your lower body, you are probably going to be yelling at yourself. Do you create and sustain a significant amount of lag with your trailing wrist in your downswing? If you don’t utilize this vital power source correctly, you are simply not going to be able to generate as much speed through the hitting area as you would like. Do you setup with your head positioned behind the golf ball? You must not move your head forward of its start position during the swing. Is your ball position too far forward or too far back in relationship to the width of your stance? So, if your investment in new driver technology still leaves you frustrated and wanting for more, I have shared with you a few questions to ponder.
Yet, I suppose the big question still remains, “Would you rather launch it long or stripe it straight?” I am convinced that the majority of you realize that with a few fundamental adjustments, a little compromise on the part of your ego, and good practice sessions, you can have the best of both. But, Oh, how tempting it is to simply “Grip it and Rip it”! Have a safe drive!
photo credit: familymwr via photopin cc