I originally thought I would would call this system of exercise: Pillar. The reason is obvious perhaps, but when I learned about High Intensity Training, it seemed obvious to me, that this should be the foundation of anybody's education about how to exercise properly.
I've done all sorts of things that we'd normally classify as exercise, and I injured myself doing most of them. The problem with that of course, is that when I did injure myself, I had to stop all activity... The major difference between those things and Simply Stronger, is that the chance of injuring yourself in Simply Stronger are extremely low, as I explained in the last blog post.
THE 3 PILLARS - #2 EFFICIENCY
One of the things I used to accept as normal was the idea that it takes years to become a "master" at something. Although in some sense this is true - you do need to do something for a certain amount of time - Malcolm Gladwell's book Outliers suggest 10 000 hours worth. Although recently debunked as a concept, it still remains true that you can't do something once or twice and expects mastery. It usually takes a combination of the right genetics for the activity combined with many hours of practice in order to be proficient at something.
I don't think need to be doing something for a certain amount of time before you deserve to call yourself a master. I used to think that some day (probably after 10 years of practice), I'd become a master of tai chi, or kung fu and finally deserve the title "kung-fu/tai chi master". I thought that it would take years before I could "defend" myself or understand the deeper meanings of the techniques I was using. But what if I needed them yesterday? What if after my 2nd kung fu lesson, I was attacked? I wanted to know how to defend myself NOW. I finally did learn that it was possible to learn all of the applicable "techniques" in martial arts in only a few days of training, but that's an other story. You can read about it on my other website RandallMassage.com under the Tai Chi Tab here.
How does this relate to Simply Stronger? Well, I don't think it requires years or months of experience in the gym before you get both the benefits of exercise, and you feel like you know what you are doing. I think that in one session, you should know exactly what you need to do in order to get the benefits from exercise. You can practice these things, and get better or more effective or efficient at it, but you should know exactly what to do. No magazines to buy, no extra courses to take, no special shoes or gear to bye, no beginner vs. advanced techniques to learn. What I learned about martial arts and tai chi, and what I teach in Simply Stronger, are the fundamentals, the pillars if you will.
In the blog before this one, we discussed safety, and now we'll talk about how it's efficient. One of the main things I hear from clients in the first few sessions, is that they never realized how strong they are. Some who have been training in the gym in the past are lifting more weight than they even thought they would. They watch the weight they are lifting go up each week, and see and feel the benefits of being stronger in a matter of weeks. The reason this happens so fast, is that when we put a significant enough demand on the body, it responds by adapting. In this case, when the body lifts a heavy weight it adapts by becoming stronger in case it comes up against a similar challenge. Human beings are very good at adapting to their environment. In this case it's a good thing. In some cases, like when you starve yourself or go on a "diet", the body recognizes this stress, and makes sure it adapts and becomes better at storing food (or fat) in case you ever starve again. That might NOT be such a good thing if you don't really need to store extra fat.
So, just as it is ultimately better to eat food in moderation, it is ultimately better to do exercise in moderation. By the way, important point here that we will get into more in detail in later "chapters"; there is a seldom made difference between "exercise" and moving your body around - the way you would in a sport, a leisure physical activity, dancing or just playing around. Exercise has but one goal: to make your body strong. Now, we can debate what that means exactly, because if I say body, doesn't that include your brain or your mind? Yes it does, and many people who've done Simply Stronger say that they feel stronger not only in body, but in mind. In my opinion, once you are strong enough to go out and do the activities you love to do, "doing exercise" to stay healthy often turns into doing things you love that are like exercise, but you don't realize it because you're having too much fun! Both exercise, and having fun are extremely important to our health. What having fun means is somewhat unique to each person, but our bodies love to be moved, and our brains love to interact socially in some context or an other. Most of us are not happier alone, and if we are too weak to go out and be with others (think elderly people who are to weak to even get outside) then our health - not just physical - suffers.
So, keeping that in mind, doing exercise only needs to be done once or twice a week if all you are trying to do is get stronger. Now, if you need to lose weight or fat, there are other things we might discuss as it relates to that, but to start anyways, I suggest you learn how to exercise properly, safely and efficiently, and then use the gym to help you reach your goal of weight/fat loss.
To start understanding how doing the program once a week makes it pretty easy to see how it might make it efficient. Getting the maximum effect out of one hour a week (or less) of exercise, makes it pretty efficient. Especially if you have a limited amount of time to spend in the gym, this makes it the most efficient way you can get and stay in shape with the least amount of time spent in the gym. Again, let me be clear here, going to the gym once a week will get you and keep you a heck of a lot stronger and healthier than if you didn't go at all, but you may not get the same kind of physical changes you would like to see if you don't combine it with a more active lifestyle and an either reduced or controlled calorie diet. But in terms of being strong enough to go up and down stairs easily, carry heavy bags, put heavy things away on a high shelf is concerned, an hour of Simply Stronger will do it!
An other important aspect of the program that makes it efficient is the idea of going to Technical Failure, or Momentary Muscular Failure. MMF or Technical Failure or just plain Failure all mean the same thing. Getting to a point of muscle fatigue (that is harmless and temporary) that no matter how hard we want or will it to move, we just can't any more. This temporary state indicates to us that we have pushed the muscle's coping mechanisms to a point of adaptation. Meaning, the muscle will have to adapt so that the next time they are put under similar stress, they will be stronger and better able to handle it. Any time you push your muscles beyond what they are used to, they are likely to adapt, pushing them to MMF will assure you that they will. And they will adapt in a way that is much more apparent than if you didn't. This not only makes this way of pushing the muscle more efficient, it also makes the process more motivating. When each week you feel that your legs are stronger, you are that much more motivated to see just how much stronger they can get.
An other element of the training that makes it efficient, is the encouraged rest periods. The amount of rest needed in between each exercise performed as well the the amount of rest needed in between sessions is extremely important for your recovery and hence gains in strength. Waiting only a day or 2 and then hitting the gym again is often not enough time the let the muscles heal and rebuild so that they are stronger. Instead, they have to start the process over again because they're working again.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not saying that you can't go to the gym more than once a week. Many people do, and feel great about it, have the time to do it, and get the benefits of exercise from doing it. Most people however, do not have the time to go that many times, and so can benefit from a program like Simply Stronger. How efficient the program is can really only be influenced by one thing, and that's having a personal trainer or coach with you when you are doing it. This is the topic of an other chapter, but how hard we can push is influenced by our environment. We can push plenty hard on our own, but to see almost unbelievable gains, we often need someone there to support the process. More on that later.
To end this rather long post, I'll just say that no matter what you do, as long as you keep doing it, it will bring you benefits. Try to find something you see and feel is working, and that you can see yourself doing for a long time.
Many times in the past I've thought to myself: I should write a book! And as you can imagine... I didn't. I kept thinking - there must be more, I'm not quite sure I want to put my name behind this.
Now, I am sure that I want to put my name behind this. I have already put my name behind the Simply Stronger program, and invested more time and energy than for any other project.
This will be the beginning of my many attempts to "put it all down on paper". It will be somewhat of a continuation of the first couple of blog posts, in that I will need to get into the main parts of what make the Simply Stronger program work. The e-book will be done using some of the material I create here and I will add things to the book that will make it a more complete guide as well as create companion guides, or videos, or courses. I hope though that these blog entries are complete enough that you don't feel like you're missing some important elements. If for some reason you see or read anything that makes you feel that way, let me know. Send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
There are 3 basic pillars on which Simply Stronger stands on:
SAFETY - EFFICIENCY - SIMPLICITY
Here are 7 elements of safety of the program:
Slow - The tempo or cadence of the movements are done in such a way that momentum, centrifugal force, speed and other factors that could lead to loss of control of the weight are not an issue.
Control - Similar to the tempo, the movements are done deliberately, will focus and control, not just slowly. Like moving a large bowl of water filled to the brim from one place to an other, and then back again.
No rep counting - Repetitions are not counted. We often like to "get that last rep in", and in doing so, it's often the cause of injury, or unnecessary strain. What's important is to move a weight that is heavy enough that it doesn't feel easy or light, and to move it until we have tired out the muscle. It doesn't matter where in the movement this happens, just that it happens.
Machines - Using weight lifting equipment (Nautilus machines for example) are probably the safest way to created the stress on the muscles (and bones by the way) needed to grow stronger muscles. The obvious reason using machines is safer is the controlled environment and that even if you drop the weight you are lifting it can't fall on you, but also that you are forced to respect the movement of the machine (designed to match with your normal bio-mechanical movement) which helps to avoid "cheating". Not cheating in a bad way, but rather, when we are moving a relatively heavy weight, we need to move in ways that don't put our body's in awkward positions that could lead to too much pressure on our joints.
Progressive - Because everything is done in a way that matches your level of strength, flexibility, mobility and ability, you will always start out are YOUR level. Heavy for your might be lighter or heavier for someone else. From which ever point you start out at, you will always be progressing at your own pace, usually increasing in strength - steadily - 1 to 3% more each time. Add up a 1 to 3% gain in strength each time, and you have a slow and steady sustainable way of getting and staying stronger and healthier for a long, long time.
No balancing - Only one exercise requires you use your balance, and that exercise is only done when you've gotten considerably stronger, or are already stronger enough. The exercise is for your calves, and it's standing up on your toes. When you get strong enough to do it easily with both feet on the ground, you lift one up, are supported by a wall or chair or bar - so I guess it's not balancing after all! Your balance improves as you get stronger. Or I could also say that your balance suffers as we get weaker... None of the exercises incorporated balancing. I'd rather you get stronger, and the go ride a bike, take a long walk in the woods, go on a boat or go dancing to practice your balance. It's a lot more fun - I think.
Not complex - The more complicated a program or exercise is, the easier it is to mess it up. Simply Stronger is just that - Simple. Sure, as you gain in skill and ability, you can choose to get a little creative with you exercise program, but it certainly doesn't have to get complicated. It's all very basic, and that's all it needs to be. Here it is: 1- Squat down and stand back up. 2- Pull down 3- Push up (no not a push-up) 4- Pull towards you and 5- push away from you. That's it! All the basic movements you need to get and stay strong!
Well that's it for now. Some repetition from the last posts, but it's good to repeat things. It helps us learn, and it helps me express and teach it in clearer more concise ways, and allows me to teach it to people who are unable to come see me at the gym.
Look up High Intensity Training on YouTube, or look up Drew Baye, or Inform Fitness, or Ellington Darden. Just a few of the people and organizations teaching this stuff with great books and websites containing information that can help you learn more about exercising in a safe, effective and simple manner.