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Archive for the 'Training' Category

Bad Days Are Inevitable – Keep Grinding

One of the most common misconceptions about exercise or sport is that you will eventually reach a point when you no longer have bad days. The assumption is that as you gain strength, the work becomes easier.

Good days and bad days

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but unfortunately the work never gets easier. I’ll even take it a step further and say that as you become stronger, the work becomes more difficult. It’s much more challenging to gain strength when you are already strong. A beginner to the game can gain strength by doing almost anything. That early phase of newbie gains will eventually expire however. It is at that point when you must really bear down and prepare for the long haul. True strength requires a significant investment in time.

Throughout your journey in strength, it is important to understand that you will have bad days. It is inevitable. Anyone who suggests otherwise is either full of sh*t or just plain ignorant. I have no problem admitting that I fail on many of my attempts. I’m also human and have bad days in the real world just like everyone else. I have yet to meet anyone who has never had a sleepless night or dealt with unfortunate circumstances that distracted from their goals.

I am always surprised to read emails from people who ask what I used to do when I had bad days. I had two such questions come in this week alone. These questions are asked under the false assumption that my bad days are a thing of a the past. Unfortunately for me, that’s not the case. I still have my share of bad days in and out of the gym.

As far as dealing with these bad days, I never let one day define the life that I have lived for several thousand days. Whenever I hit a bump in the road, I try to keep the following points in mind…

I. Don’t Panic

First and foremost, don’t panic. Having a bad day may mean nothing more than you are human. Don’t dwell on it. The worst thing that you can do with a bad day is magnify it so that it becomes a bad week. Rather than harping on the problem, try to have a short term memory and move on. Every day is a new day and no days are promised. No matter how bad of a day you’ve had, be fortunate that you get another chance to wake up the next day and start again. Not everyone will be so lucky.

II. Keep Grinding

Since we know that bad days are inevitable, they should not come as a surprise. Don’t be caught off guard and never let a bad day throw you off track. If you have goals that matter to you, you owe it to yourself to keep grinding. A temporary setback is just that. It is temporary. It does not need to be permanent unless you allow it.

III. Miss A Day

As macho as it may sound to proclaim that you never miss days, there are times when it makes sense to skip a day of exercise. Using myself as an example, I have trained regularly for over 20+ years. Missing a day every so often is not going to negate all of the hard work that I have put in before. Some of my best days of training have come after I have forced myself to take a day of rest.

IV. It Could Be Worse

If your biggest problem in life is that you missed a rep on the bench press, it is safe to assume that things could be worse. Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill. One of the reasons that I share so many inspiring stories on this blog is to put our own problems into perspective. My worst day pales in comparison to some of the stories that I have shared over the years. I say this not to minimize any individual problem, but instead to serve as a reminder that things could almost always be worse.

Don’t drown yourself in self-pity. Get back on your feet and keep moving forward. No one said life would be easy.

V. Listen To Rocky

When in doubt, you can always count on Rocky Balboa to point you back in the right direction. His speech below is as epic today as it was when I first heard it.

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You have to fight through some bad days to earn the best days of your life.

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Training Blind To Enhance Proprioceptive Efficiency

Earlier this week, I posted a short Instagram clip of me skipping rope while blindfolded. Since I was wearing a Superman shirt, I jokingly mentioned that I was testing my x-ray vision. Afterward, I received a few emails from athletes who were curious if the blindfolded work was performed as a joke or if there were actual performance benefits.

To answer the question, I did post the clip as a joke, but there are potential benefits to performing certain skills while blindfolded. I first read of blindfolded practice many years ago in Mel Siff’s classic Supertraining text. His writings brought back memories of movies such as Bloodsport. If you recall the 1988 film, you may remember seeing Jean-Claude Van Damme practicing with a blindfold.

Blindfold martial arts

Blindfolded practice goes far beyond any Hollywood movie however. For example, Mel Siff highlighted the potential of such work to enhance proprioceptive efficiency. In layman’s terms, proprioception is our sense of position and movement. It has been described as our sixth sense. In other words, we don’t just see, hear, smell, touch, and taste. We also possess a sense or awareness of the position of our bodies.

As for relevance to training, Siff wrote the following:

The integration of information from all the other senses (sight, sound, hearing and touch, in particular), together with this proprioceptive information enables us to execute a given movement in the most appropriate way in terms of pattern, velocity, acceleration and timing. This involves coordination of eye-hand, eye-foot or body-apparatus, processes which receive a great deal of attention in technical training. Inadequate time, however, is generally devoted to specific training of proprioception…

One way of improving proprioceptive efficiency is to diminish or block input from other sensory systems such as the eyes… Research has shown that blindfolding does not disrupt motor activities; on the contrary, it has been found that exercises are performed with greater precision and stability when the eyes are closed or in darkness. The athlete remembers joint angles, the degree of muscular tension, the amplitude of movement and movement patterns best with the eyes closed and reproduces them more easily. Subsequently, when the movements are done with the eyes open, the athlete’s enhanced motor sensitivity is preserved and his technical skill improves.

With this in mind, it can be useful to briefly practice certain skills blindfolded. Jump rope training is one of many examples. Initially, you may find yourself drifting off in one direction. Shadow boxing for a fighter is another useful option. Many fighters will be surprised at how their balance fails when throwing combinations without vision. A few minutes of light practice can certainly prove useful. Siff even mentioned practicing Olympic lifts and powerlifting movements without vision.

In summary, I am not suggesting that you should always train in the dark. Blindfolded work does pose a unique challenge however that can enhance qualities that are otherwise ignored. Just a few minutes, a few days per week, is often all that is necessary.

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The only thing worse than being blind is having sight and no vision. – Helen Keller

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Homemade Obstacle Course Training

There is no denying the increased popularity of obstacle course races in the last five years. It seems like there is a new course or event popping up in my area every month. Consequently, people from all walks of life have taken interest and begun to participate. As a result, it is not uncommon for my inbox to be flooded with questions about these events.

For instance, I am regularly asked how one can go about training for some of the specific tasks that will be required during the obstacle run. Others have asked if it is possible to construct a mini-course for general training.

Fortunately, it appears that obstacle course training can be easily replicated without breaking the bank. The video below offers a prime example.

You will be hard pressed to find a more low-tech course, yet you can be certain that this small space provides countless challenges. My mind is already racing with new ideas after seeing this brief clip. I am eager to add some obstacles around the outdoor hill sprint path that I created last year (see here).

Once again, it is amazing what can be accomplished when you combine creativity with ambition. Anyone who believes that a formal gym setting is required for general fitness has been brainwashed by the industry. The average person needs nothing more than to get up, get outside, and get moving.

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It takes half your life before you discover life is a do-it-yourself project. – Napoleon Hill

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Inexpensive Jump Rope Training Demonstration

If you are familiar with my site, there is a good chance that you have seen me jumping rope. The jump rope training clips that I’ve posted to Youtube have received several million views. As a result, it is not uncommon for me to receive questions about skipping. Perhaps the most commonly asked questions are related to rope selection. For instance, I am often asked if high-speed cable ropes are necessary for fast turning styles such as double or triple unders.

Fortunately, specialty ropes are not required. Expensive ropes are not necessary either. In the video below, you can see a brief demonstration that I filmed with an inexpensive PVC freestyle rope. It is actually the same rope that I used in my jump rope DVD. The PVC cord was purchased for only two dollars. Clearly, rope speed is not compromised and the rope is also useful for a variety of freestyle movements.

In summary, while high-end ropes have become popular in recent times, the old school ropes that I started with almost 30 years ago are still as useful as ever. And while certain cable ropes will undoubtedly turn faster, more speed is not necessarily an advantage of jump rope training. As an athlete and trainer, the rope is just a tool. We are not training for the rope. We use the rope to improve other athletic qualities. Therefore, working with an easier rope may not help us in the long run. I have seen many athletes who can perform double and triple unders with stainless steel ropes who are completely lost when attempting the same feats with a regular rope.

Call me old school, but I would rather develop the skill to function with any rope. As the old Michael Jordan commercials would say, it’s not the shoes. We can modify that famous slogan to say that it’s not the rope. What matters more is the athlete behind the rope. Develop true skill and you can use any rope that you find.

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Price is what you pay; value is what you get. – Warren Buffett

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Homemade Thick Grip Training

In my last entry, I demonstrated how a foam pool noodle could be attached to a doorway pull-up bar to prevent damage to the door trim. You will only need a few inches per side to protect the trim. Most pool noodles are sold in much longer pieces. Fortunately, you can use the excess material for another do-it-yourself project.

High density foam can also be used to create an inexpensive pair of portable thick grip attachments. Simply cut the foam into two small pieces and then slice an opening on each piece to fit around a bar. You should then thoroughly wrap the foam in a few layers of duct tape for added protection. The result of this low-tech set-up can be seen below.

Homemade fat grips

These portable attachments are inexpensive and effective. Thumb strength will certainly be challenged when performing pull-ups from these thick grips.

Thick grip pull-ups

As for longevity, high density foam is much more resilient then some initially assume. I have used foam attachments for many seasons and have not noticed any compression or loss of shape. I have also had success using foam to create very durable dip belts. I have used the dip belt below for several years. I have loaded it with well over 200 pounds without any problems. The dip belt consists of nothing but a foam pool noodle, chain, duct tape, and a carabiner spring-link.

Homemade dip belt

In summary, if you are looking for an inexpensive and effective way to challenge thick grip strength, a foam pool noodle is one option to consider. And while I do demonstrate additional options in my Untapped Strength book, these foam attachments are perhaps the easiest to make. It will take a few minutes at most.

Lastly, if you already purchased foam to protect your door trim, these thick grips are an added bonus that can be made for free. Free and effective are two of my favorite words. You can’t go wrong with these inexpensive attachments.

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Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. – Arthur Ashe

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