I’ve been strength training a long time. It’s been on my mind ever since I walked into the gym at the tender age of 13, enrolling in my first “weight lifting” class so I could use the YMCA facilities without adult supervision. The gym was a place I could work on myself. Watching strong bodies move was motivating to my younger self. I wanted to be impressive. I longed to develop strength and power. I associated being strong and athletic with confidence, standing out amongst my peers, gaining attention and admiration.
This became a passion, that ebbed and flowed for many years, mostly mimicking bodybuilding style training, which although good for hypertrophy (muscle growth), it was not the most efficient style of training. Alas, I knew no better, but it kept me coming back for more week after week. I was constantly learning.
After 10 years of purely weight training I had a chance encounter with a rock climber in a gym in Albuquerque NM. In between sets of bench presses and bicep curls I kept glancing over and watching his powerful, extremely lean body, moving on the climbing wall. It was impressive to say the least. Watching muscle, fitness and athleticism being displayed in that manner was completely new to me, and from it, a curiosity was born. I saw potential. I saw the future. I desired a transformation.
I spent three years becoming immersed in functional training. Movement based strength training. Bodyweight, leverage training. I utilized controlled, suspension based exercises: gymnastic rings, pull-up bars, medicine balls, stability balls, climbing ropes. Every rep engaged the core. I learned what “body tension” felt like. Each rep was confidently approached. I believed in it’s successful completion before the attempt was made. Over time, I transformed. The previous struggle of controlling the weight, was now a struggle to control my body. A monumental shift in focus. The gym/studio became a place to grow. It had purpose again. It was no longer a routine, expected daily event. I engaged in 2-3 intense sessions per week, while focusing my other efforts on the sport I sought to improve at.
Strength. Movement. Sport. Image. All these things are linked. When I saw these elements linked in action it opened up my eyes to the future. If I was to stay fit and keep progressing I needed to attach myself to a lifestyle activity that required utilization of my competitive nature. A fusion of my passions so to speak. I had no idea where this would lead, and really, did not care. Total immersion requires this blind faith following of routine. When the goal is to change your body to complete a task, OR to be more efficient in the activity, repetition and structure is the key. Deviations, in the beginning months and even years of training can be highly detrimental to progress. This relentless requirement, which was completely self-imposed, thrusted me forward.
This period of development is a permanent stamp on my approach to fitness. If I look closely at this training period I see simplicity and minimalism at it’s best.
- Bodyweight, Gymnastic Movement
- Leverage, Suspension Training
- Core-Specific Exercise
- Intense, Focused Sets of Maximal Effort and Focus
- Rings, Medicine Balls, Dumbbells, Ropes, Bars
Learning the exercises. Failing or encountering difficulty is key to development. From here we can break down the weaknesses that caused the failure. This process of developing strength through controlled movement connects and unifies us with our bodies. Sport gives us this unification. The gym enhances our development in sport. Downhill ski racers are powerful, sharp and controlled athletes. Rock climbers are strong, powerful, gymnastic movement specialists. Distance runners are masters of efficiency and pain tolerance, striving for the perfect balance. Wrestlers are the ultimate fusion of endurance, power, strength, flexibility, balance and technical movement. What unifies these activities is movement. We seek to understand movement NOT in a complex matter, but in basic steps. Gym training, properly imposed, should be about understanding movement and effort, and about learning proper progressions of exercises, and correct implementation.
Complexities, fads, trends, extremes… they will come and go. We will always have our bodies and we will always have Sport. Constants. Choose to learn, not shortcut. Choose sport and lifestyle over quick fix programs. Find your passion. Be intrigued by activities that inspire you. Even if you never intend to explore a proficiency in them, let them be a source of inspiration. Let yourself be impassioned. Read a book about someone who accomplished something that was truly hard. Learn about sacrifice and devotion. Gain confidence from human completion of projects, goals, and life events. Come to the realization and understanding that you are better than you think you are, and you can do more than you think you can.
Mindset trumps everything.
Onward and Upward!