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The Gym, Reps, Sets, Synergy and Workouts.

You perform your reps, sets and workout with one of the tools – dumbells, when you search for that ‘elusive pump’ feeling in the gym.

In my almost three decades in the ‘iron game’, I have learned many things.

About gyms, about people, about different training methods and styles, about perceptions, about limitations, about the mind, and about muscles, fat loss and body sculpturing.

I have learned a lot, filling my domain knowledge of subject areas that have always been fascinated about. And still am.

The Gym

I’ve always believed the gym was a micro-cosim of society. It is a metaphor for Life.

It does not represent reality – it tells (beautiful lies) about people. What it basically says, in my opinion, is I’m bigger or better than I really am. It is a kind of fantasy world.

But the gym is also not pure fantasy – it voices and indirectly describes and reflects, the real world (outside) by people the same people that make up the gym, by inventing little worlds that resemble it, loosely or closely.

I find it fascinating because, like Forest Gump said of life – “life is like a box of chocolate, you never know what you’re gonna get.” That is exactly how I feel before each visit to the gym. You never know what you’re gonna get, like who will be there, what equipment will be available when you need it, whether the gym will be “packed to the rafters” or quiet and empty.

No, you never know what you’re gonna get.

The gym alters reality to allow us to ‘see’ reality better.

What I find most interesting is that the gym lies (if it is a good gym), to reveal the truth to you (about the world outside the gym).

Each person in the gym has their own history, their own story, if you pause and ‘listen to what they’re not saying.’ Each person’s story is a metaphor for an aspect of the Real World.

The gym, in a sense, and among other things, is allegory. What it gives you (if you’re willing to listen and look and feel) is the real world – indirectly.

Maybe, that is why the gym is appealing to many of gym-goers world over. Maybe, it just allows us ‘let be.’

It allows the world each person is creating within their minds to come into being for themselves and everyone else in the gym … by leaving the real world (outside) well enough alone.

Just for those minutes or hours they are in the gym.

The gym allows each user the ability to create their own worlds in their minds. That is one of the reasons why, I think the gym has been so appealing to me all these years because it is fundamentally, how real life goes.

You see, most people proceed each visit to the gym with ignorance and uncertainty; then they get glimpses of the ‘truth’ – their truth, or moments of understanding. And, if you’re like most people, you rarely (and usually too late) get to ‘see’ the whole version of reality.

The gym is, maybe, the TRUEST REALISM.

Members of my ‘extended family’ when I used to own and manage my gym for seven years. Some of the best and hardest years of my life so far. I loved leading the members (predominantly males – 70%) and they allowed me to take them to unchartered territories for us all. The gym was (unlike today’s) a social place. An ‘inbetween home’ between your place of work and your home. That’s me on the extreme left.

 The workout.

Every workout is got to be about some part of the body or … I guess, these days, the ‘whole body.’ Every workout has got to be about something at the very least.

It doesn’t take much to do a workout – less still to do a set or just a handful of sets. In terms of action, I mean.

A workout to me is more than just a number of sets or selected exercises performed for a pre-selected number of repetitions. To some, a workout in the gym with traditional weight-training equipment is akin to a meditation hour or so. No, a workout is the pattern of a thing, a living thing – its rhyme and reason. It is what a moment or a memory or silence is about, if that makes any sense.

A workout does not need to be scientific. There are many types of workouts and I have tried and experimented with many over the last three decades.

To me, a workout is the genius of a thing. A workout could comprise just about anything, it may even be nothing. A workout is what you experience to write the story you are writing in the gym.

The Sets

A Set is simply, one tool a gym enthusiast might use to fulfil his goal to achieve a workout, the workout he or she imagines he is going to do. The set is, to some extent, a form of a workout in itself which uses action as its mode, usually in the form of a slight discomfort or pain.

The set intricately and closely connects one exercise to another, usually through a causal chain, ending in a moment of pain and pleasure or what I refer to as ending in a climax.

I have done thousands of sets since I began lifting weights in my late teens almost thirty years ago. To me, a set is a miracle and a mystery. A set is the track from somewhere to somewhere else – the start and the beginning of a mii-project, a small journey.

It carries the performer from silence to understanding, from nothing to something.

A set to a workout is like a river is to a whole catchment. Namely, everything. The part serves the whole; it is what the whole comes down to.

It is the point, the ‘dot.’

Sets alone or sets performed in no particular order mean something to the enthusiast but not much. I find that when I am doing a set, I am telling a part of my story, my life because what I am striving for ultimately is, meaning. And how does meaning arise when you’re doing a set?

It arises when I put the repetitions required to perform each and every set into an order in which I have learned to recognise a pattern of relationship (through the many thousands of sets and workouts I have performed over the last 3 decades).

I then derive meaning.

Over the years, I have learned to recognise relationships between sets and causality. We all have that gift for seeing and attributing meaning patterns – and for storing and repeating them in mind and workouts when recalling. We do this for almost everything in our lives, it is just easier on our brain as the brain relies heavily on autopilot, ultimately to conserve energy.

We humans, make sense of life that way, by learning how things interact, what causes what. The only thing is, like anything else, learning so, takes time.

Climaxing at the end of a set is one kind of pleasure, a lot of time, with pain thrown in to the mix. The completion of the pre-determined number of sets is not the point of the workout.

So, the point of a workout as I see it and story-tell, is in the ‘feeling.’

It is the feeling that allows one to build and soak in the ‘essence of the exercise.’ And how do you get the essence? That involves much, much more than just lifting a weight against gravity and moving the weight from point A to point B.

I will save that ‘find the essence of the exercise’ to another blog.

Providing a little bit of assistance. My pupil here ‘feeling the essence’ of the exercise.
All relationships require work and time .
Sometimes, its the little things, that determine your success in pursuit of a worthwhile goal.

Reps

Reps, is the shortened version of repetition. Part of gym lingo. It is the basic unit of a set and the building blocks of your workout. It is the number and tempo that dictates what kind of set you’re doing and the feeling you get at the end of the set (if you get any at all).

Not every rep is the same, just like not every golf swing is the same, using different clubs for different strokes.

Performing the rep is when you ‘get your hands dirty.’ It is when you feel the blood pumping excitedly through your veins. It is when you sweat. You sweat to earn those muscles. The rep is when you experience what I call a ‘continuous progression of focused moments.’

Some people call this meditation.

Everyone is at varying levels of meditation and are, ideally, working towards improving their meditation ability or what we, bodybuilders refer to ‘mind-muscle’ connection.

This is when you ‘feel the essence’ or what Arnold calls the ‘pump’. It is an elusive thing and not many gym rats get to experience this climaxing moment. It is the holy grail of lifting weights. It is one of the factors that separate real bodybuilders from the gym rats.

So-called self-help gurus have, for decades now, spoken about how one can ‘get in touch with one’s inner-self. Well, I have news for everyone, bodybuilders, real, authentic bodybuilders have been their inner-self for over a hundred years now.

Bodybuilders have a very highly level of understanding of getting in touch with one’s inner-self, because you couldn’t really get any more any ‘in touch’ with yourself then getting in to the individual cell, with vitality-infused blood.

Feel the essence, I say!

Fully focused!
A true warrior & champion. Phil applying principles in one of my programs and adopting my framework.
Focusing on making every repetition of every set of every exercise as ideal as possible.
Practise does not make perfect – Perfect practise makes perfect!
Photo: Retired Champion Ex-Australian Wallaby Captain & NSW Waratahs Captain and player in action under my watchful eyes.

Synergy

Sets alone or sets carried out in no particular order could mean success … but very little: Second set, 8 to 12 reps, power on the positive, control on the negative with a 2-1-3 tempo! Oh, I get it. A workout is completed; sense of achievement arise. How does that happen? It happens because the gym enthusiast/bodybuilder puts the sets in an order in which he has learned to recognise a pattern of relationships and so can derive satisfaction and purpose. It happens because of the innate human avidness of the human GIFT for seeing and attributing meaning to patterns – and for storing and repeating them in mind and body and spirit (dare I say, speech).

We humans make sense of our life and in the world we live in by learning how things interact, what causes what. The way every cause has its effect; the way every action has its actor, its object and its consequence. So, most gym rats learn that for every

What I am trying to say is that put a man and woman who like the look of each other in a place together and what you’ll get pretty soon, among other things, is someone doing something; and someone doing it back; and two people doing something together. What you get is ‘synergy’.

Sex; a relationship; perhaps issues. What you get is sets performed – simple, compound, complex and compound-complex, fragments and fractals.

What you get is synergy.

Anyone can ‘lift weights’, but unfortunately, not many can lift weights with synergy. And how do you do you make those reps, those sets perform their alchemy and achieve synergy and purpose.

I have found that one can learn the many different types of training ‘techniques’ and ways of lifting without ever knowing what the essence feels like. Just like you can understand the whole scheme of evolutionary history, without ever knowing why a minah bird moves exactly, and with such intelligence, as it does – why that is necessary and how it came to pass.

Achieving and feeling the essence and flowing with synergy in your workouts is another lively mystery.

A tip: one needs to learn rhythm. This comes after years of deliberate mind-muscle-heart-spirit practise. One of the greatest joys of doing a workout is not just achieving synergy but also making music within.

That is when you get hold of ‘that mystery’ and master that miracle within.

Good repetitions of good sets of good exercises performed well, amongst other variables, performed with synergy and music .. .makes for a good workout.

And the more balanced and elegant one’s sets are, the sounder they are structurally, the better one’s workouts will be.

You approach what I refer to as the ‘state of beauty’ … an enlightened state that brings you closer to balance and symmetry, a state of finite bliss. A state of enhanced balance and symmetry, when done correctly.

Not many gym enthusiasts ever get to that state. That is ok, most don’t. … and most don’t know how to, either.

 

Until next time,

Captain Viking Pirate Vaughn-Van-Valentine (VvV)

Collage of some bodybuilding poses

Collage of members of my gym in action … many, many years ago.

Quality Plan + Quality Implementation allowed Team Valentine (my wife & I) to beat the best in the sport here in Australia and stand on the stage against the best in the World.

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Eating and drinking in excess this Christmas and New Year can help you lose weight – a lot of weight!

Muscle is precious. Build muscle then, do everything you can to preserve it.

Muscle is precious. Build muscle then, do everything you can to preserve it.

Don’t believe the headline – eating and drinking in excess this Christmas will not help you lose weight!

But I am making a point as to how we can become needlessly fearful (because of all the conflicting views out there) of exercising with weights or eating certain foods or doing just about anything.

Everyone seems to have an ‘opinion’ these days with the proliferation of social media and a lot of these views have insufficient and inappropriate evidence (scientific) to back them up. This applies to almost everything, but especially, weight/fat loss and exercise and eating and drinking, because well, we all do these activities, more or less.

It seems that everyone is suddenly an expert.

Anyone can show how, by selectively citing some scientific research and blowing it all out of context, you can build a case for any argument, including the subject heading that I have used.

If you have a small amount of scientific nous, it is super easy for someone to give an opinion and by selectively citing some scientific research (based on some ridiculously small sample) and blowing it all out of context. You see this quite regularly on mainstream media as the ‘sensationalism’ of these stories sells ratings.

Below is the start of my view on fat loss and body re-engineering …

If you need to lose fat leading up to the festive season and summer (in some parts of the world – like Sydney, Australia) – build muscle. Naturally. Full stop!

There are countless weight-loss programs on the net and every where you go and read. Terrific for increasing awareness. However, fat-loss plans and weight-loss plans that don’t include strength training, fundamentally, rob the body of muscle.

Now, you don’t want to do something that robs the body of muscle because the process of ageing does this anyway. Ageing, is partly, by definition, the deterioration of muscles due to the reduction in protein synthesis.

Weight-training to build muscle ‘off-sets the on-set of ageing’. It is the potion of youth. It keeps people younger, longer. I know, because I have witnessed these people who seem to look and act five, ten, fifteen and twenty years younger.

The common denominator: they build muscle!

I’ve always told everyone I have ever helped over the last two decades that every kilogram of muscle is a fat burning dynamo! Yep, a fat-burning dynamo.

If you compare your body’s metabolism (the rate at which it ‘burns’ calories) to that of an engine of a car, when you build lean body mass (muscle), you increase the engine size and power of your body. Your car engine (metabolism) goes from, say, a 1.8l engine to a 4.0l or even an 8.0l engine over time.

Muscle loss reduces calorie requirements, makes fat loss more difficult, and creates increased obstacles to the maintenance of a lean body, once the excess fat has been lost.

Fundamentally, your ‘life-force’ (or vitality) will be sucked out of you and you will literally feel like cr&p! Every single minute of every single day. Now, why would you or anyone for that matter want to feel like that every single day. I could and still can’t understand why people still do this to themselves. Instead of doing ‘life-affirming’ actions, they instead do ‘life destroying’ actions.

Not smart. Not sustainable.

Put simply, and to sum up – always remember, to help maintain a lean body, build muscle.

It is as simple as that!

However, like some philosopher once said, “the easy things are also the hardest things to do”.

So, don’t think. Do!

If you can dream and imagine a much more improved physical version of you and believe in executing a plan to get you there, by all means go for it!

With 8 x Mr Olympia - "The King", Ronnie Coleman. Now, this man built and carried on his frame an unbelievable amount of muscle - 300lbs worth of it!

With 8 x Mr Olympia – “The King”, Ronnie Coleman. Now, this man built and carried on his frame an unbelievable amount of muscle – 300lbs worth of it!

And don’t worry if you have never entered a gym in your life or you haven’t done anything since your late teens or early twenties. It is never too late to start.

Regardless of your age, or how out of condition you may think you are at present, I believe it is never too late to start an exercise program. The power to decide rests in your hands (literally when you start lifting weights in a gym to help the person in the mirror – YOU).

You can transform your fitness and muscle strength at any age, along with your appearance, and health. I believe this is important because from my observations as a coach over the years, when people’s image improves, their performances improves too. Feeling good about yourself is an important part of being a well-balanced human being.

Make that choice – for you or a loved one. Make that choice to help you so that you can enjoy not just a long life but a good quality life by lowering the risks of early on-set of age-related physical and mental diseases. Respect and love the most important person in the world to you – YOU, first.

That way, by default, everyone gets the best of you, too.

You have one life, make the most of it all the best in the choices you make. No one else can make them for you, so choose well.

To assist in the quality of your life right now, consider improving on these:

  1. Eat – well composed, portioned meals, more frequently. If it is green leaf (and not a frog), include it in your meals.
  2. Water – drink adequate levels of water daily. An average adult should aim for 3L per day.
  3. Move – a combination of weight training, cardio and stretching done two to three times per week.
  4. Enjoy yourself – don’t forget to have fun and laugh at least once a day.
  5. Socially engage with your community in person.
  6. Get, learn and apply the basics (of life) right so that YOU can ….

Muscle is precious. Build muscle, then do everything you can possibly to do to preserve what you have. You will thank your lucky and wise stars as you age.

Don’t accelerate the ageing process as age does it for you anyway. Build muscle, as if your life depended on it (and it does). Build muscle as it is your personal preventative insurance against age-related diseases as your life ticks on … tick, tock, tick, tock!

Then, watch your energy, mental state and vitality soar to new heights and ….

Live, really live.

Until next time,

Be the best you can be for you, first, then by default, everyone gets the best of you. Vv.

Be the best you can be for you, first, then by default, everyone gets the best of you.
Vv.

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awareness, basics of training, beauty, better choices, Body shape, change management, choices, Energy, fundamentals, muscles, recreate, self improvement, shoulders, symmetry

Shoulder Boulders.

Retired rugby legend: Ex-Australian Wallaby Champion Captain & True Leader - Phil Waugh. Setting his own standards of excellence in all areas of his life, following my framework. Working towards improved balance and symmetry in his life.

Retired rugby legend: Ex-Australian Wallaby Champion Captain & True Leader – Phil Waugh.
Setting his own standards of excellence in all areas of his life, following my framework.
Working towards improved balance and symmetry in his life.

One of the most painful sights I see on a man is small shoulders.

When I say ‘small’, I mean that he or she is genetically small on the upper torso width, and I am not talking about ‘lat width’ here. Admittedly, shoulder width is limited by a person’s clavicle width. The smaller the clavicle width, the smaller the shoulder width.

Some blokes accentuate this problem though. In the gym, they focus on their chests, arms and back and forget about their shoulder widths – the very thing that adds to the elusive ‘x-frame’ that every man strives for in shape in his life.

The elusive ‘x-frame’ is somewhat a rare commodity in the modern-day masculine shape. If a man has a narrow clavicle width, he starts out with an disadvantage but he does not have to stay that way. How could he address this problem? Well, the smartest thing to do is to lift weights and to build the shoulder muscles. And what are they?

Well, firstly – they help define (from a physical point of view) what a true man is. I know this statement is rather old fashion and somewhat controversial, but I believe it still holds true. A man’s man is partially defined according to the shoulders he has on him.

Obviously, this is not the only point of ‘being a man’ but it does contribute to the aura of what it means to be a man. Secondly, no man in his right mind would not want bigger shoulders than he already has. In my opinion, the bigger the better. Bigger is better in this aspect. Full stop!

The shoulder muscles are used every time you push or pull or twist your upper torso. That means every time you use your arms. They are some of the most used muscles in the body since you were a toddler.

The shoulder muscles are composed of three distinct muscle heads – the posterior, the medial and the anterior deltoids. All three heads need a good delicate balance throughout. This can be enhanced through weight training.

A good sequence of exercises could include:

  1. Barbell presses.
  2. Barbell upright rows.
  3. Dumbell side lateral raises.
  4. Rear dumbbell later raises.
  5. Dumbell shrugs.
The pursuit of harmony (balance & symmetry) poses a few challenges to help us get closer to its achievement. To achieve order and beauty one needs to strive to wade through chaos (disorder) in everything one does.

The pursuit of harmony (balance & symmetry) poses a few challenges to help us get closer to its achievement.
To achieve order and beauty one needs to strive to wade through chaos (disorder) in everything one does.

Like I said earlier, one of the most painful sights (from an aesthetic point of view) is to see a grown man with less than ideal shoulder width. Most men fall short of the ideal ‘x-frame’ width. Most men have the choice to do something about it. Most men can help build those shoulder boulders with a application of a well thought-out weight-training program.

Another important point I would like to stress is that what is most important is not that you have ‘big’ shoulders. No, anyone can have big shoulders! What is most important is to develop the ‘caps’ on those shoulders. Shoulder width is all about ‘caps’, not so much muscle meat.

So, work on your width with weights. Yes, I encourage that.

But when you do, remember to build those ‘twin caps’. Remember to ‘cap’ those delts (short for deltoids). There’s a lot more to just lifting weights when it comes to sculpturing your physique. Like I have always said, anyone can lift weights, but very few ever learn how to sculpt a physique, just like anyone can swim, but very few can swim like an Olympian.

Part of the key: Focus.

All the very best in your workouts.

All the very best in your search for balance and symmetry. All the very best in your search for beauty. As Keats said “Beauty is truth and truth, beauty. “ How true. You get closer to beauty through the search for balance and symmetry or elegance in all areas of your life.

The physique is one area/aspect. Keep it simple.

So, build those delts, those shoulders but most importantly, build those ‘caps’. It is those caps that will help you attain that elusive ‘x-frame’.

Awaken the sculpture, the artist in you. Build those shoulder boulders!

Let loose …

 

Until next time,

2007 World Natural Bodybuilding Championships staged in NY, USA. Represented: Australia. Placing: 4th. Judged criteria heavy on balance and symmetry.

2007 World Natural Bodybuilding Championships staged in NY, USA.
Represented: Australia.
Placing: 4th.
Judging criteria heavy on balance and symmetry.

Back Double Biceps - few days out from the Australian Natural Bodybuilding Championships Result: 2nd in Australia. Here, you can see the "x-frame" and shoulder boulders in action. Takes years of focused work.

Back Double Biceps – few days out from the Australian Natural Bodybuilding Championships
Result: 2nd in Australia.
Here, you can see the “x-frame” and shoulder boulders in action. Takes years of focused work.

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life, mind-muscle connection, muscles, training

Focus on the muscles you don’t see in the mirror.

A good teacher is hard to find but finding a good student is even harder. Plan the work - to work the plan. Photo: discussing fine points of one of my programs with retired legend of rugby - Phil Waugh.

A good teacher is hard to find but finding a good student is even harder.
Plan the work – to work the plan.
Photo: discussing fine points of one of my programs with retired legend of rugby – Phil Waugh.

We do more things in the front of us than we do in the back. It’s easier and comes more naturally.

That is the same for your muscles – it’s easier to focus on the muscles (the ‘mirror muscles’ as I call it) as you train them. Even then, a lot of trainees don’t really feel the essence of the exercise. The great Arnold Schwarzenneger referred to it as the ‘pump’.

“here we go … 1, 2, 3 …. (counting, while looking at himself in the mirror) … 4, 5, 6 (thinking – yes, I can see my biceps in the mirror … yes … 7, 8, … yes, I think I can feel it finally …. 9, 10). Stop!

A typical set performed by a physique trainer (by definition, any person who lifts a weight to improve their strength, appearance, health or fitness is a ‘bodybuilder’).

Most trainees struggle to feel continuous tension of the working muscles and maybe lucky to feel the last 1 or 2 reps in a set. Not good for maximizing muscle in the time you spend in the gym. This comes with increased awareness of proper technique in exercise execution.

Training your mirror muscles (the societal favourites – the chest, biceps, delts and abdominals is important but I believe, not as important as focusing on the muscles that you don’t see in the mirror, the muscles you can’t see.

These would include – your trapezius, rear delts, upper and lower back, glutes, hamstrings and calves. Why do most gym enthusiasts favour the mirror muscles?

Simple answer: it is easier.

Ex-Australian Wallaby Captain - Phil Waugh performing a set of squats. "Feeling the essence" of the exercise is vital to attaining desired results. Practise does not make perfect, perfect practise makes perfect.

Ex-Australian Wallaby Captain – Phil Waugh performing a set of squats.
“Feeling the essence” of the exercise is vital to attaining desired results.
Practise does not make perfect, perfect practise makes perfect.

The thing is focusing on your mirror muscles while training is a helluva lot easier than trying to focus on the muscles you can’t see.

I believe it is very, very important and well worth the effort to connect and experience that ‘mind-muscle connection’ that many of you would have either heard about or felt. This is put in practise in full when focusing on the muscles you cannot see.

There are many benefits of prioritizing the muscles you can’t see. In my over two decades of training and helping hundreds of individuals, three real benefits of focusing on the muscles you don’t see in the mirror are:

  1. It reduces risk of injuries. By the time a person starts weight training, he or she would have spent most of his or her life building and predominantly using the anterior chain muscles (muscles in the front of the body). Bringing up the rear muscles would enhance balance of skeletal mass which would lower risks of injuries.
  1. Accelerates the growth of the mirror muscles. Most men dream of building a bigger, more shapelier pectoral muscles (chest) and bigger arms (biceps) – the popular mirror muscles.

So, the majority would naturally do more sets of exercises to work these muscle groups thinking that more sets will build bigger muscles. Big mistake.

More sets and more weight does not necessarily build a bigger chest or arms, only increases your risk of injury to the most common joint injury: the shoulder (deltoids). The thing is there is a safer approach. If you work and train the muscles you can’t see in the mirror like the triceps and rear delts and the upper and middle back, your ability to do the chest and biceps exercises would increase.

  1. Better balance and symmetry. With better balance and symmetry you don’t run the risk of suffering from postural problems which a majority of the population seem to suffer from, especially the aged.

Better balance and symmetry will give you less aches and pains in the joints and have better mobility and have less chance of seeing physios and chiros for problems cause by muscle imbalance. After all, its body shape, not body weight, that matters. Remember this: most, if not all, joint issues stem from muscle imbalances.

Loading the 'guns' with proper execution. Here Brad is building his 'mind-muscle' connection under my watchful eye.

Loading the ‘guns’ with proper execution.
Here Brad is building his ‘mind-muscle’ connection under my watchful eye.

Are you struggling to or not sure how to focus on the muscles you can’t see in the mirror? Here are three things I think could help you focus on these muscles and get the most benefit from:

Close your eyes. Use your imagination and ‘see’ the world from the muscles point-of-view. Shutting your eyes will help you tune in to your muscles and rid your mind of distractions. I wouldn’t recommend this approach for all the exercises due to the obvious dangers. Don’t use this approach when doing standing exercises like, say, deadlifts ( I like to call them “happy lifts’).

This method is ideal for lat-pulldowns or 1-arm dumbbell rows or leg curls. For the best results, effort alone is not enough. One must also use one’s imagination.

Practise posing. I’ve always said different sports require different habits to be relatively successful at it. For example, a soccer player needs to practise dribbling skills, passing and a rugby player has to be able to pass and kick and tackle. All this is done in the appropriate playing field.

Back double biceps in the gym. Practise posing in the gym is important for enhancing that 'muscle-mind connection'. Vital for growth and progress. Increases your awareness of yourself.

Back double biceps in the gym.
Practise posing in the gym is important for enhancing that ‘muscle-mind connection’. Vital for growth and progress.
Increases your awareness of yourself.

When you’re in the gym, you need to also practise the habit of posing. This is the appropriate ‘playing field’ for a person training with weights. This may seem very ostentatious, but it shouldn’t be as it is a great feedback mechanism that allows you to improving overall balance and symmetry.

Isometric tension of any muscle group through the holding of a particular pose (say ‘front-double biceps’ for example) helps stress or ‘pump more blood’ in to the muscle area. Especially if you do the posing immediately following a set.

Do this: after finishing a set of exercise, strike a pose! Aim to tense and tighten the respective muscle group for up to 8 seconds. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze!

The power of touch. If you have a training partner, terrific. You can simply ask him or her to lightly place his hand or fingers on the area of the muscle group that you’re working as you exercise. There is a definite neuro-muscular connection. This method can help you assess whether you’re using the muscle fully or you are cheating by using other surrounding muscles. More weight lifted does not necessarily equate to bigger muscles.

To build good, clean, quality muscles, remember to leave your ego at the door.

All the best in your journey towards your BEST.

Eat well. Train well. Rest well. Repeat.

Until next time,

Night before contest in NY, USA. Placing: 4th in the World at the World Natural Bodybuilding Championships.

In my hotel room the Night before contest in NY, USA.
Placing: 4th in the World at the World Natural Bodybuilding Championships.

Seek balance and symmetry in all areas of your life. Spiritual balance is very important. It will align you with life's energy better. It will help you get internal/external balance. Vv.

Seek balance and symmetry in all areas of your life.
Spiritual balance is very important. It will align you with life’s energy better.
It will help you get internal/external balance.
Vv.

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adaptation, basics of training, change, fundamentals, muscles, Strength training

3 important fundamentals to consider when you lift weights.

A good teacher is hard to find but finding a good student is even harder. Plan the work - to work the plan. Photo: discussing fine points of one of my programs with retired legend of rugby - Phil Waugh.

A good teacher is hard to find but finding a good student is even harder.
Plan the work – to work the plan.
Photo: discussing fine points of one of my programs with retired legend of rugby – Phil Waugh.

The Rugby World Cup is kicking off in a few days-time with the hosts (England) going up against Pacific Island Rugby Powerhouse Nation, Fiji in the opening match. Wow, what a game that will be. I’m looking forward to watching it.

The Australian Wallabies are hoping they can repeat history and win the title for the third time but they also have to contend with the other countries’ title aspirations too.

One thing is certain, all the coaches of these national rugby teams have tried their very best to simulate the conditions of the games in the World Cup in their training methods. Some coaches and players have been lucky enough to be a part of previous World Cups and some very lucky ones have also experienced what it is like to win.

However, no preparation can prepare you fully for the real thing. The pressure can be quite overwhelming for everyone involved. Some people excel and some crumble (I witnessed this in the two World Natural Bodybuilding Championships I took part in). I’m sure every rugby player clearly understands his responsibilities to himself and then to his team. But knowing your goals is one thing, understanding the terrain and types of conditions you have to go through (and still perform as you planned) is another.

This is where experience counts.

Body-building is no different with the approach (no matter what level you’re at): before you can begin a journey of any kind, it is critical that you understand the terrain. This journey can be likened to one of self-discovery, of increased awareness.

In the journey, you will learn the limitations of your own body (no matter what level you are at in your health and fitness). The players in the World Cup will also learn of their limitations and capabilities in the games they face.

In my experience in helping people over the last two decades, no two people are exactly the same. Believe me when I say that no two bodies are exactly the same.

No two.

With this said, let me highlight 3 of the fundamentals of training you should consider:

Helping Chris close the gap between how he imagines himself to be and what he sees in the mirror. Or in other words: Manifesting the 'unfolding universe' of his 'enfolded' invisible universe (what he imagines/dreams) Vv

Helping Chris close the gap between how he imagines himself to be and what he sees in the mirror.
Or in other words: Manifesting the ‘unfolding universe’ of his ‘enfolded’ invisible universe (what he imagines/dreams)
Vv

To breathe and to breathe properly.

We need oxygen to stay alive. We are all acutely aware of this.

However, how many of us pay close attention to how well we breathe? I have found over the years that many people know a little bit of something but most people don’t do it well. I always tell my students to ask themselves the question: How well am I doing this?

This could apply to everything in life. For example, most people who go to the gym have some idea of how to do a bicep curl with dumbells. Most of these same people don’t ask themselves how well are they doing the exercise. So, a lot of people can be doing it a certain way for years and doing it wrong for all that time.

It’s the same for something as simple as breathing – are you breathing well? Ask yourself the question – “how well am I breathing?” Deep breathing should be part of every person’s daily life from the moment you wake up in the morning. We need to try and flush our lungs with as much oxygen as we can when we are not exercising too.

Understanding how to breathe properly while executing weight-bearing exercises is very important. You put yourself at high risk of injury if you breathe incorrectly. Few people take the time to breathe deeply during the course of the day. The importance of this practise to the quality of your life over time should not be underestimated.

You need to ‘know’ your breathing and understand how to control it – to control its rhythms.

We all know that oxygen is vital to life, it powers your engine room – your metabolism throughout the day. It is pumped via blood to the trillions of cells throughout the human body, taking with it nutrients and the essence of life.

Breathing, proper breathing, breathes more life, more energy in to yourself – your being and is critical to the creation of new muscle.

The philosophy you follow heavily influences whether you achieve your goals in life or not.

The philosophy you follow heavily influences whether you achieve your goals in life or not.

Frequency of training

A critical question before setting out on a journey is knowing clearly what it is that you would like to achieve, similar to what results would you like to achieve in the gym? Another question most aspiring body-builders ask themselves is the age-old question of how much should you train to get the result you’re looking for?

I was asked this question by a student of mine recently and I told him that three days a week is sufficient. Does that surprise you? Well, it shouldn’t if you know what you’re doing and you train with efficiency and effectiveness in mind within a plausible, well-tested philosophy.

I’ve seen it many times before over the last two decades in the gym where men (and women) believe that they need to train five or six days per week to get stronger or increase size. Well, I have one thing to say about that – you don’t need to!

Training six or seven days a week will not triple your strength or double your size. You’ve got to understand another critical thing – muscle grows and your body recovers and repairs itself when you rest. Weight training more than three times a week is simply over-training depending on your experience and age.

Your body and in particular, your muscle tissue is broken down when you train and rebuilds itself when you are at rest. The body is forced to adapt to the stimulus you provide through training and it is in the process of adaptation that the muscle grows. Not before.

Instead of building lean muscle mass and moving towards their desired physical look, most people lifting weights (body-builders) are usually over-trained and even people who have been doing it for a long time are unaware that they are actually losing hard-earned muscle.

Knowing and scheduling in rest days in-between your training days is a key fundamental principle to consider and apply appropriately.

Practise does not make perfect - perfect practise makes perfect. Vv

Practise does not make perfect – perfect practise makes perfect.
Vv

Training ‘split’ or weekly training routine

The ideal ‘split’ for people is a Monday, Wednesday and Friday sessions and from experience, the majority of people like this split. The other good alternative is Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday schedule.

Find one that works for you and stick to it. Having enough sense to stick with something, anything – a chore, a task or a workout training routine – until its completed, pays off.

Remember ‘stickability’ is 95 percent of ability.

Keep these fundamentals in mind if and when you decide to make the journey of self-discovery with weight-training.

All the best.

Until next time,

Abdominals/Thighs Pose at the 2007 World Natural Bodybuilding Championships held in NY, USA. Ranked: 4th Best Natural Bodybuilder in the World.

Abdominals/Thighs Pose at the 2007 World Natural Bodybuilding Championships held in NY, USA.
Ranked: 4th Best Natural Bodybuilder in the World.

I like this hat.

I like this hat.

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action, awareness, belief systems, Beliefs, body, choices, Energy, game of life, Imagination, life, long-term perspective, mind, muscles, perspective, planning, respect, self-image, truths, workout, you

Top 3 Keys to a successful workout. Key #2: Elegance.

February 2015. At my old school gym, just about to do a set of barbell biceps curls or  what I would sometimes refer to as 'loading the guns with ammunition'.  Hope you're wearing your bullet-proof vests, take cover!

February 2015.
At my old school gym, just about to do a set of barbell biceps curls or
what I would sometimes refer to as ‘loading the guns with ammunition’.
Hope you’re wearing your bullet-proof vests, take cover!

One of the many things I have learned early in life is that the “big truth” will always beat the “big lie”. The truth is we are more than meets the eye – but having a physique sure makes a difference in how people treat and react to us.

What is that saying that we’ve all heard growing up – “Don’t judge a book by its cover”.

Well, it is lovely and idealistic but the truth is we all do. The whole world does, every single day in everything we do. Matter of fact it is how one of the many public games is played on this planet. That is one of the many less than ideal characteristics of most human beings – we all judge things we ‘see’ by how they ‘look’.

That is just how we are wired.

Packaging for products is vital to the successful sales as it directly influences consumer purchasing behaviour and ultimately the ‘bottom-line’. Manufacturers know this and marketers get huge dollars for helping them do this.

Now, another thing I have learned in over 23 years in the fitness industry is that Self-perception or how we see ourselves, greatly determines how we look.

You see, “Inner image creates outer image”. Now, I know there are some idealists that may disagree, and that is fine. On the whole, this statement runs true for all of us. But here is one of the interesting things, one of the encouraging possibilities – it is one’s perception of one’s self that creates greater possibilities.

Drop your past when need be, when it does not serve you any longer. Let go of beliefs and belief systems that does not add any value to your current phase of life. Remove beliefs that limit you, beliefs that do not allow you to reach for your best self.

In my experience, another key element that makes up a successful workout is – elegance. I think this is attained if you’re natural and genuine, searching for an artistic approach (sculpturing as opposed to just lifting weights) and having a great appreciation for “balance and symmetry” (another definition for beauty).

Not many people ever get to this level and truly experience the ‘essence of each and every rep of each exercise’. Just as not all golfers ever play as effortlessly as a Tiger Woods or a professional on a golf course, instead with constant frustration of under-performing handicaps.

Just because you can hit a ball with a club does not necessarily mean that you will hit it in the direction of the hole. This is the same as lifting weights in the gym for the majority of people – you see, anyone can lift weights but only a few ever learn the art of body-building and choosing the right exercise (club) for the right moment (set etc).

Elegance in your workouts or the ‘search for balance and symmetry’ is hard to describe but I find it easy to recognize when I see it. You see it when top sports-persons play for example – Roger Federer gracefully hitting returns on the tennis courts or Jonathan Thurston having all the time in the world to kick in rugby league and effortlessly creating a play out of nothing. Or Maria Sharapova gliding across the courts or Usain Bolt bolting like lightening on the 100m track.

It is sheer beauty, ultimate elegance displayed before your eyes. Very few things can beat the feeling you get from witnessing ‘elegance in action’.

Making elegance part of you or what you do is a reflection of attitude combined with aptitude but taken to the HIGHEST LEVEL with the ambition of being the BEST. To achieve this takes the gifts of Energy and talent harnessed with a magnifying focus towards BEING THE BEST YOU CAN BE.

It requires hours and hours of not just practise – but deliberate practise with sustained FOCUS over many years.

Elegance fascinates me because I believe there is something eternal about it.

So, a successful workout for me is elegant (efficient, effective and a little sophisticated). This is similar to what we call –

  • FREEDOM … in dancing
  • SELF-EXPRESSION … in relationships
  • Being in the ZONE … in sports
  • EXCELLENCE … in work
  • NATURAL … in family
  • Looking HOT … in Sex
  • MAKING A DIFFERENCE … in Society
  • Getting the JOB DONE …. in business

So, there you go. After 23 years of working out in the gym, and my love of reasoning from and making deductions from patterns observed, my 2nd key to achieving a successful workout is simply: Elegance.

Strive for this if you haven’t already done so.

It is more efficient, effective and reduces the risks of injury giving you longevity and more years of enjoyment.

Learn to learn, again.

Strive towards the new man (or woman) that resides in you, with elegance in mind.

All the best in your journey.

 

Until next time,

Side Triceps. Australian Natural Bodybuilding Championships. Lost by 2 points. Final placing: Runner-up.

Side Triceps.
Australian Natural Bodybuilding Championships.
Lost by 2 points.
Final placing: Runner-up.

With my friend and coach at that time - 2 x World Number 1 (natural bodybuilder).

With my friend and coach at that time – 2 x World Number 1 (natural bodybuilder).

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action, awareness, belief systems, choices, Energy, Goals, long-term perspective, long-term strategy, muscles, planning, risk, Strength training, Vitality, workout, you

No Brain, No Gain.

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I love a lot of old school training philosophies. Most are simple, to the point and cut out a lot of irrelevant stuff – things some of us refer to as ‘BS’.

While I adopt some of these fundamental training principles in my training I always assess the relevance of anything towards my goals and my needs. For example, assessing the legitimacy and relevance of a saying I have heard over the years:

“No pain, no gain”.

Put simply, I don’t fully agree with this. While I agree in simplicity for most things, I think this statement is too simplistic and too ‘black and white’. There are many ‘grey’ areas that should be considered especially in regards to the “risk-to-benefit’ ratio of exercises chosen.

It’s working out with your ego not in check. I have always believed that if one of your aims is to train in such a way to get the most benefit out of the time invested in your workouts, then you should leave your ego at the door.

Also, I think it is quite a negative slogan and should be replaced by something that is more positive and relevant to today’s every-day-person – like maybe:

No brain, no gain. Don’t train.” for the thinking bodybuilder.

I believe everyone who ventures in to this world and lifts any weight to assist themselves towards a better version of themselves, is by definition, a body-builder (whether you’re a grandmother lifting 1kg weights or a powerlifter squatting 200kg.

Everyone should strive to be a ‘thinking body-builder’.

To truly benefit from this, one should learn the basics of old-school training techniques with selected exercises that give optimal results, with safety in mind.

You must choose the right system of training for your specific goal in order to get the most benefit from your workouts in the shortest time. Ask yourself what is your top 3 goals and then narrow it down to the most important goal. Is it strength? Is it power? Is it a combination of strength and muscular growth?

You see, what I have found in over 23 years in the gym is that most people don’t have a plan, no, most people have what I refer to as a ‘goal’ or objective and their training program is haphazard at best. They try so many things at the same time, while all the while, hoping that they will strike it lucky. It is quite evident that similar patterns of behaviour happens in other areas of life too for some. For example, you see this in the popularity of games of chances – like lotto and gambling machines, despite the extremely low probability of hitting a jackpot, people still participate, losing more and more of their finances.

I have asked many gym enthusiasts over time, questions regarding why they have adopted a new ‘fad’ of training. I might ask them why they work out a certain body part first or do certain exercises before another in their routine, or what their goal is in doing 50+ repetitions on an exercise they either have an illogical answer or no answer at all.

Or, they are just doing it because their friends are doing it. Very sad indeed as they may not have considered the risks they are putting themselves under by following blindly.

Most people go about their training in a manner similar to someone who tries to bake a cake without any recipe laid out for them. They know bits of information, for example they know they need some sugar, some flour, some butter and need to put in in the oven. However, they have no clue about the temperature they need, how long they need to bake it for and other smaller, but important ingredients that go in to a beautiful looking and tasting cake.

Chaos results in the kitchen and frustration and higher risks of injury prevails in the gym. Not smart at all.

The human body and mind is a very sophisticated machine and to re-engineer it without a plan from an informed person is like building a house or an extension to a house without an Architect’s plan. It is fraught with higher risks.

Wasted effort. Wasted time. Very inefficient. Ineffective and unsafe. Not ideal indeed.

What you need, and what most people around the world need is a ‘working plan’. This is what smart training is all about. Increase your awareness of yourself, determine your needs and then seek help.

Here is a check-list of my 9.5 key factors to consider when you are selecting a type of workout or workout schedule:

  1. Your main goal.
  2. An honest assessment of where you are at – key KPIs on your health and fitness status.
  3. The duration of the program (3 months, 6 months, 6 weeks?)
  4. The rigidity of exercise execution (what emphasis is there on strict form).
  5. Rest time between sets.
  6. Total number of sets performed (per exercise; per muscle group and per workout).
  7. The amount of weight to be used (start, during and end of exercise).
  8. The tempo (speed of individual sets – at the start, during and end).

9.5 The number of reps (per set – at the start, during and end).

So, let me say it again, before seeking help from a suitably qualified and experienced professional, make sure you at the very least, think about what your main goal is. The professional could help identify your destination and help you formulate a plan that would give you answers to the above key variables.

And why would you want to do all this?

Well, you would not go and see or get advice from a plumber if you needed help with your tax return now, would you? I would hope your first port of call is an experienced qualified Accountant.

Become a thinking body-builder, no matter what age you are or how experienced you are.

And remember…. No brain, no gain – no train.

All the best!

 

Until next time,

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