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• January 16, 2017   |  

Don’t Just Do It. Feel It!

Strength Training Tips 2017

Don’t Just Do It. Feel It!

By now, everyone—except the densest of politicians—understands that engaging ourselves in strength training is essential, if we wish to reach our individual potentials to be healthy and active for as long in life as possible. Every year, more and more adults begin strength training programs, especially in January. And while many of us succeed so well in our first few months that we continue to do it year after year, a much greater number of us begin to feel our progress level off after a few months. We drop out of strength training by late spring.

Why do so many of us give up on strength training when we know it offers so many health benefits? Is it too difficult? Too painful? After more than 50 years of observing people perform strength   training exercises, I believe there is one primary reason why some people quit strength training so easily and so quickly. They never take the critical step up from a beginner’s level—ju185st doing an exercise—to the next higher stage of training—really concentrating upon what is going on in your body as you experience each repetition of every exercise.

Just doing an exercise is a mechanical activity. With a certain amount of weight as resistance, you count until you complete a predetermined number of repetitions, say 15. When you finish repetition number 15, you say to yourself, “Glad that is over. On to the next set.” You did your job. You followed the formula in your training plan. Your focus was on doing a certain quantity of work and you did it.

In the beginning stages of strength training, “Just do it!” works. Your body responds to new forms of exertion by growing more muscle and bone tissue. If you are eating intelligently, you become leaner as well. However, within a few months—if you do not progress beyond this very limited mechanical stage of strength training—you will become frustrated. Soon, in most exercises, you will be unable to increase the resistances you use or the number of repetitions you can complete. You will feel as though you are stagnating. Guess what? You are stagnating. Even though you know you are healthier and more energetic than when you began, if you do not progress beyond the mechanical stage, you will give up strength training.

So how do you go beyond the mechanical, “Just do it,” level of training? Quite simply, you change your mental focus radically. You cease to think about moving a piece of equipment or lifting a certain amount of weight for a certain number of repetitions. Whatever apparatus you are pushing, pulling, or lifting disappears. You transcend the mechanical aspects of the physical event in which you are participating. Instead of thinking primarily about how many repetitions of an exercise you are performing, you picture in your mind the fibers of the target muscle group in that exercise as they lengthen slowly and completely and then contract completely and powerfully. If you really concentrate, you can strip away the skin covering those muscles and visualize your tendons as they pull on the bone and see your red muscle fibers as you squeeze them into a full contraction and then lengthen them into a full stretch. You are internalizing your exercise experience. What could be a repetitious mechanical event becomes an intimate and exciting form of communication between your mind and the regions of your body that you are stimulating.

So, if you are not counting repetitions, how many should you do? Who knows? Just continue to perform very slow, graceful, controlled repetitions until your brain tells you that you have challenged yourself vigorously, but also, that it might be risky to try to do more. In other words, do not stop at some predetermined quantity of repetitions; rather, continue to do focused repetitions until the feeling in your body is so exciting that your brain tells you it is not safe to try more.

When you endeavor to internalize every millimeter of movement of every repetition of every exercise, you may not actually complete as many repetitions as you would have by just counting off 15 predetermined ones. When you internalize your strength training endeavors, you produce much more powerful contractions, which means you fatigue the target muscles more quickly, that is, with fewer repetitions than in mechanical training. In short, internalization produces a much higher quality of exercise stimulation, one which will help you to grow much stronger than you would with externalized training. But there is something even more beneficial about internalized training. When you focus your mind as intently as possible upon the muscle groups you are challenging, you will find your training experience to be unbelievably exhilarating, so exciting that you will never quit. Just feel it! Wow!

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Strength For Life

Strength For Life