Just Because

As mentioned here recently, I believe that training should be fun. If you enjoy what you are doing, you’ll bring more passion to the gym. If I truly dislike an exercise or routine, I won’t do it. Why bother? My competitive days are over. There is no reason for me to do something that I dread. There is almost always an infinite list of options that are equally useful.

Fun for me is often a moving target. I regularly shift gears towards new goals. Doing so helps keep the training fresh and challenging, as opposed to dull and monotonous. Considering that I’m only 32 years old, I am hoping to have at least another 50+ years of exercise in me. I can’t imagine doing the same thing day after day for the next 50 years. Variety for me isn’t just about avoidance of plateaus, but perhaps more importantly avoidance of boredom. This isn’t to say that I randomly knock my routine down and start from scratch, but I will make subtle adjustments and changes. I may target a new exercise or perhaps a new variation to an old exercise. I may also reintroduce a movement that I’ve used in the past. For example, I haven’t flipped tires in a few months. There has been too much snow and ice on the ground. I’m itching to use the tires again, but I’ll need to wait until spring. Tire flipping isn’t new to me, but taking a break from the exercise has rekindled my interest.

The shift in gears is similar to the weather here in New England. No matter what season it is, there will always be people waiting for the next season to come. During the cold winter, you can’t wait for the spring. During the spring, you can’t wait to hit the beach in the summer. During the humidity of August, you can’t wait for the fall. After raking leaves in the fall, you can’t wait for the first snowstorm. We are always looking forward to a new season. I often feel the same way about training.

One of my recent additions has been the parallel grip deadlift (using what is often referred to as a trap bar or hex bar). I unexpectedly received the bar as a Christmas gift a little over a year ago. At the time, I had never used such a bar. It was brand new to me. I initially used it for a few weeks, but then put it aside after leaving for training camp with a boxer who was preparing for a bout last year. I was away from home, so didn’t have access to the bar.

I started getting the itch to use the bar again last year however. It’s been an on and off thing for me. I then mentioned using the bar on my forum, and was bombarded with private messages asking why I used the bar. What was the reason? It’s as if there had to be a functional, highly classified, spec-op, Spartan warrior secret for me using the bar.

Wrong!

All I could muster for a response was just because. I’ve been using the bar because I’m enjoying it. It’s new and different for me. I can’t say that using the bar has or hasn’t made me better at anything. I don’t know. I didn’t wake up the day after using the bar with super powers. I work hard no matter what I’m doing, so I rarely notice a major difference from a single movement. All that I know is that I’m better at lifting the bar than I was before I lifted it. Does that even make sense?

Some people didn’t like this response. They needed a reason. WHY ARE YOU DOING IT! Why aren’t you using a regular barbell!

Meanwhile, all I can think is why do you care? Is it really that big a deal? My wife bought me the trap bar as a gift. I picked it up and liked how it felt. You may like red cars and I may like blue cars. I’m not going to run you off the road because we have different preferences. You may like the feel of a barbell, while I personally like the feel of my trap bar. Who cares?

In a few months or years, I may take an interest in traditional deadlifting. I honestly don’t know. I’m sure the time will come when I get bored with the trap bar. It’s just happens to be something that I’m enjoying at the moment. I’ve never spent much time deadlifing, so I’m sure the deadlift bug will hit me again at some point. Perhaps next time it will be with a traditional barbell. If it does, the reason will surely be just because. There is a primal feeling to picking up a heavy weight from the ground. I can now see why people really do enjoy it. It’s fun. My son even enjoys watching it. He says, “Daddy, pick it up.”ย That’s all the motivation I need!

As for the trap bar, one unique feature (at least the model I have) is that there are two handle options. Below is a video of me pulling 585 pounds. I flipped the handle over on the bar which shortened the range of motion by a few inches. This really made a difference for me. Last week, I had failed on 585 with the handles turned the other way.

My bar holds 6 plates, plus a collar. I can load five 45’s and one 25 (totaling 545 pounds), but the next step up is 585 (six 45’s). I don’t have any 35 pound plates so I can’t jump to 565. Last week I pulled 545, but failed on 585. This week, I turned the handle around and 585 went up nicely. I suppose this means that I need more work on the bottom of the lift. I’m hoping to pull 585 soon with the full range of motion.

I’ve watched some monsters on Youtube pulling 800+ pounds with the trap bar, so that’s motivation for me! I can definitely see how pulling heavy loads can become addictive. And if it isn’t for you, I respect that too. We all have unique interests, and that’s something no one should attempt to change.

Even good old Dr. Seuss could tell you that…

“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”

And in the words of Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (one of my favorite quotes, that I often reference):

“The shoe that fits one person pinches another; there is no recipe for living that suits all cases.”ย

If only more people listened to Jung’s advice…

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18 comments:

  1. With that comment you spoke from my heart!
    As a member of your great board I often think other posters should have more fun in training than looking for ‘a functional, highly classified, spec-op, Spartan warrior secret’ as you put it so well. Great reminder, thanks.

  2. Thanks Ross for a another inspiring post. Everything you said made perfect sense. Jimi Hendrix once asked something like “who is going to have to die when it’s my time to die?” The point being that it’s your life and you need to live it that way and not waste your life trying to follow everyone else. Different strokes for different folks. Thanks again.

  3. I think “Stop running red cars off the road” by Ross E is just as profound as Jung. Better visual, too!
    Seriously.

    As long as we’re quoting musicians (thanks for the Jimi quote!)…
    I think Frank Zappa’s “Shut up and play your guitar” is pretty apt as well.
    Who’s guitar? YOUR OWN.
    Stop trying to analyze, play and interfere with everyone else’s “guitar.”

    I got my own- “Don’t run my guitar off the road!”
    hmm not so catchy. ๐Ÿ™‚

  4. Great post. We are comparable ages and it heartens me to think that I have 50+ years of exercise in me.

    I do believe that is the song “Powerslave” your listening to as you lift here. Your an Iron Maiden fan/ Check out the thread running on them in GD forum at the mo.

  5. Ross, as usual, you’re right on target! In fact, I think that this “secret” is the biggest reason people lose interest in exercise, or don’t exercise at all. They “don’t know what to do,” or “don’t know how to do it.” Just MOVE! Do what feels good. It will lead you in the right direction. But life is movement…you gotta move.

    Nice work on the trap bar, btw. 585 is nothing to scoff at.

  6. Wow, im very glad you posted this. I was starting to feel a little odd man out for not following everything you do. I have been implementing some of your conditioning techniques to my already established routine and must say I have had quite the increase in strength. Im not going to abolish all the hardwork and research that has gone into my own routine which is majority free weights and bodyweight conditioning. I feel that what you say is meant for us to analyze our own ways and take the good stuff that works for us. Everything someone says isnt going to work for everyone. Just that simple. ๐Ÿ™‚

  7. Way to many people look at fitness as a chore. Those people will be lost forever. One 60 year old guy told me he always thought of exercise as punishment. In sports when you screwed up you ran laps or did push ups in the military same thing. It’s taken him all these years to finally realize that it can be enjoyable just for being enjoyable. The quote about the cars made me laugh out loud!

  8. yep everyone is different so why try place a standar for every single routine, right?? always great words that push my motivation everyday thanks man…

  9. Marvelous. I laughed at the part with the “highly classified, spec-op, Spartan warrior secret”. So true, people should start leading their own games instead of trying to follow others. It’s all about the fun in the end and before you realize it you’ve got a step closer to your goals. ๐Ÿ™‚

  10. I think that most people are shocked, because they think they have train every minute and every second functionally. And they expect the same thing from you Ross. I can understand this, but they are concerned.

    For example i like to train with Chest Expanders.
    I donร‚ยดt know if it would help as a boxer, wrestler etc.
    But itร‚ยดs fun and it makes you stronger in a different way. On the other side i like to train for explosive strength qualities and cardio or endurance stuff.

    George Hackenschmidt was a huge guy, he picked up barbells regularly, but at the same time he was functional.

    Sandow trained with a lot of equipment, yet he was very agile and can jump very high. For example he could make a somersault holding 1 50 or 75 pound dumbbell in each hand. Many people call him the “Father of Bodybuilding”, but he was a good wrestler, too.

    I hope you break the 600 pound mark Ross!!! ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. Hey man, i’m brasilian 20 years. Your trainning tactics are so amazing, i’m a big fan of your work… Congratulations!!
    Sucess for you!

  12. Awesome post Ross! I’ve only been reading you’re posts on this blog for the past year, but I must say that they always sock me the truth every time. Keep it up man!

    (Great choice of background song there, Powerslave is a beastly workout song…UP THE IRONS)

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