Thursday, September 6, 2012


I love to train. I enjoy picking up heavy things and putting them back down. I like learning new movements, getting stronger, running faster, and de-stressing in the gym. I enjoy the process of experimenting with new ideas and seeing how theory translates to reality. Training, for me, is and end in and of itself. I keep in shape, make fairly consistent progress, and stay sane(ish) by generally training by instinct with a little guidance from a solid knowledge base and a good understanding of what my body responds to and what it can tolerate. Most of the time, I can get away with just having a vague idea of what i want to accomplish in order to have an effective, enjoyable workout, but still have leeway to just play in the gym. I call this "Training ADHD." However, I eventually come to a certain point where I have a specific goal in mind that I am trying to accomplish. At that point, it becomes time to train with that goal in mind. That means training in certain rep ranges, using certain movements, and optimizing results.

Most people use the gym to achieve a specific goal, other than amusing themselves for an hour or so each day. This is where goal-setting, intelligent programming, and FOCUS come into play.

Step 1 in getting optimal results is to have a clearly defined goal to accomplish. One really cannot achieve optimal results if they don't know what optimal actually is. For some, losing bodyfat may be the goal. For some, improving athletic performance is the primary target. Some people need to gain muscle for their jobs, some just need to be able to go up and down the stairs better. Pick a goal and give yourself the time and means to achieve it. Write it on the fridge, post it on facebook (I know...the gym on FB...), make it your phone background, whatever it is, make it clear and attainable. Don't sell yourself short, but don't expect yourself to be setting Olympic records next week either.

Step 2 would be to actually program your workouts and perform them with your goal in mind. If you want to set an elite total at a powerlifting meet, work on the Big 3 (squat, deadlift, and bench press) with very heavy loads and low volume, do your requisite assistance lifts, then go eat and recover. If you want to set a new pace for yourself at a half marathon, practice running a few times a week with intelligent variability in distance, train with weights in a higher rep range, and keep your muscles limber. If you want to be a better Wide Receiver, train with relatively heavy weights in an explosive fashion for lower volume, coupled with agility work, plyometrics, and sprinting, while optimizing recovery. The point being that every goal has different methods of achieving it, so don't worry about what your neighbor is doing at the gym. Do what you need to do.

Step 3 is focus. You've picked a goal. You've got a solid plan to get there. The hard part now is to do it. One of the most common things I see in the gym is people trying to achieve a million things at once. When you first start training, you can see progress on multiple fronts pretty easily. But, once you've been at it a while, it becomes more important to pick one or maybe two things to focus on at a time. Try as you might, it's just not going to work well if you are trying to train for a marathon, lose significant bodyfat, set a PR in the deadlift, increase your bicep size, and learn the art of fencing by thanksgiving. You'll burn out, get frustrated, get nowhere fast, and make your trainer pull out his already graying hair as you drive him to an early hypertension-related grave. Just focus. When I train for a bodybuilding contest, i'm trying to strip bodyfat while keeping muscle and bringing out detail to show on stage. I'm not trying to achieve technical mastery of the hang snatch, play 3 nights a week of hockey, and ride my bike to St. Luis. I'm focused on losing bodyfat and keeping muscle. When Ely Manning goes to training camp, he's focused on improving his skills on the field, not adding size to his biceps and getting a 6 pack. (no, I am not in any way, shape, or form drawing a direct comparison between myself and a world-class athlete, just for the record) The point is, to get what you want, you have to FOCUS.

-Steve Decker

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