Monday, February 14, 2011

Tip of the Day: Evade the Ego

This is something that would jump start tangible improvement for MANY in the exercise sphere: be it physical appearance, athletic performance, enhanced joint integrity, structural health, you name it.

Evade your ego when you go to the gym.  Don't allow it (the ego) to dictate exercise selection.

For the gents: this means prioritizing something besides bench presses and bicep curls.
For the ladies: this means dropping the "I'll just run today" mindset. Or trying something besides abs.

Don't get me wrong: I see no problem with working the "vanity" muscle groups from time to time.

But - if you're truly serious about looking, moving, and feeling better - you'll reap much more benefit from working areas of your body that your ego doesn't care about.  In order to develop a body that is structurally sound and prepares you for long-term success, your time will best be spent working the entire body.  Usually the things that are best for you are the very things you enjoy the least.

Men: you'd be surprised at how much your physique improves when you, oh I don't know, develop the backside of your body?  Many professional athletes possess the physique males would kill to obtain, and you know what athletes have?  Extremely well-developed glutes, hamstrings, and upper back.  These muscles are going to be the driving force behind running faster and overall athletic prowess, so it's no coincidence that the backside (or "posterior chain") is so well-developed amongst professional athletes.

Also, notice how many men develop shoulder problems as they age?  Frequently an enormous contributing factor is too much pressing (benching 3x per week, anyone?) and too little pulling (row and chinup variations).  Coupled with the fact that we sit with terrible posture at our computers all day (just like you're probably doing right now: slouching forward as you read this!).

Women: while going on a slow jog or performing 30 minutes of ab work may feel good, you may be surprised to know that it's actually going to be far more beneficial for you perform squats, lunges, deadlifts, rows, etc. in order to achieve the "look" you're seeking.  All "toned" really is is the appearance achieved when one has reduced body fat and increased lean body mass.  Exercises that burn the most calories, while building muscle, are going to get the job done.

Below are two athletes who train for performance, and I guarantee they're not spending an hour each day bicep curling in front of the mirror or trudging away on an elliptical.

Mike Boyle wrote a phenomenal short article in which he discussed this very same concept.  Here's a quick excerpt:
"The average persons work ethic in the gym is the equivalent to going to a restaurant, ordering dessert, getting too full from dessert and skipping the meal. Lots of empty calories and none of the stuff you need.
The truth is that training is much like nutrition. Ever notice that everything that is good for you doesn’t taste very good.  In addition, all the stuff that tastes great is fattening. Exercise is the same way. Most of the exercises that are best for you are the ones that are least popular and seem to hurt the most. Have you ever noticed the popularity of exercises where you sit or lie down. The whole machine concept is based on appealing to the lowest common denominator of human nature. You can exercise while seated on a padded chair. Just remember, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is."
Again, I'm not saying you should never do the things you enjoy.  If you like bicep curls, or going on a long slow jog, by all means go for it.  Just keep in mind that, most of the time, the things that are the easiest to do - or the things you enjoy the most - are going to be far from what you actually need to get you to your goal.

Ever notice how if a guy is short on time in a week and has to miss a workout, it will never be "Chest Day?"  But Leg Day, no problem to postpone!  If a guy has a busy week coming up and he's looking at his training split, his mindset will frequently go something like this:

"Hmmm, I have to miss a workout this week.  Leg day?  Yeah, sure...I can go without that for a few days.  My legs are sore anyway.  Omit Chest Day?  HECK NO.  Ok, I'll do chest this week, and maybe get to legs or back next week."

In a given week, I highly encourage you to prioritize what will give you the most return for your investment (hint: multi-joint movements such as squats, deadlifts, lunge variations, pullups, etc.) and then, if time allows, spend a bit of time working the "vanity" exercises. 


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