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The Forgotten Secret Of Physical Fitness And Muscular Development

An old friend of mine called me this week to get some advice on his workout regiment and by the time I hung up the phone I knew I had a topic to discuss on my blog. You see our talk reminded me of what might just be one of the biggest roadblocks to success with seeing results from a workout routine. You told me to take an Ann Arbor class for pilates to help me reach my goals.

This roadblock could really be summed up with one word…distraction. Yes, that’s right distraction, in all its many forms. I want you to think about this for a second. It really is hard to argue with the fact we live in a time when there’s probably more distractions in general within society than any other time in human history.

The age of the internet, smart phones, Ipad’s, etc, has dramatically increased the access to information and that’s a positive I guess, on some levels that is. However, right along with these advancements there’s been some not so positive tag-a-long’s.

For starters, there’s a ton of information on the internet and not all of it is factually correct or helpful for that matter. If you think that just because something is on the internet it must be true, we need to talk, seriously.

Now I know my readers are far more intelligent than that (shameless attempt at flattery), but regardless of the subject matter we all have to do our best to avoid distractions and use discernment when assessing sources of information.

More after the jump…

What does this have to do with physical fitness Shane, you say? Well a lot actually.

This is more than just people claiming to be “working out” while somehow having the time to Facebook about it and send out a few tweets. This just blows my mind, but I won’t get on that stump.

Distractions are everywhere and of course not just in the gym. Walk through an airport, food court, or any public place and you’ll find people oblivious to the world (and sadly perhaps even a loved beside them) as they stare into their smart phone, tablet, etc.

With all the benefits these devices can provide us, I’m not so sure we’re all that better off with them than without them.

There’s obviously this kind of distraction from having too much to think about or do instead of focusing on one thing, but there’s also a form of distraction that comes from having too much information to sort through.

Let’s start by going back in time to the not so distant past of the first 50-60 years of the 20th century. If you were to step foot in a “gym” in the 1950′s let’s say, what do you think you would have seen?

Certainly wouldn’t have seen row after row of fancy exercise equipment with people in spandex shorts sitting down to supposedly strength train or others perhaps talking on the phone or watching the “tee-vee” while doing cardio.

More than likely you would have found some folks doing body weight calisthenics, free weight training, and the like. If you were in a gym at that time and didn’t know what you were doing you could have mimicked what you saw others doing and fared pretty well.

(Tip: don’t even think about mimicking what you see others doing in a typical health club today, that’s more likely to wind up being a case of the blind leading the blind).

If you wanted to learn more about any aspect of physical culture back in the day, you could’ve bought a mail order book or gone to the library and read up on the writings of men like Mark Berry, J.C. Hise, Peary Rader, and others.

There wasn’t much information about physical fitness and strength training, but what was available would’ve likely come from a pretty reliable source. In other words individuals who knew what they were talking about, those who didn’t just talk the talk, but rather walked the walk.

Fast forward to today and let’s say you were just starting out (or starting back) with fitness training. Doesn’t matter what the goals are, could be a desire to see an improvement in any aspect of physical fitness and body composition.

Where do you go for information on the most effective way to go about it?

Maybe hire a “personal trainer” at the local health club, ask that person at work who’s doing P-90X, search some articles on the web?

Oh, there’s lot of options, the problem is sorting through the clutter to find what’s best for YOU and YOUR goals.

To say there’s going to be some “distractions” to navigate around is an understatement. You pick the topic and they’ll be countless “so called experts” with varying advice all over the world wide web and in the media. It’s no wonder so many people are confused.

As someone who’s spent the majority of his life immersed in studying physical culture, it’s glaringly noticeable to me how the more things have changed, the more we’ve seen fundamental principals and truths get lost in all of the noise.

For example, ask the strongest guy in the local neighborhood gym fifty years ago, how do you go about adding muscle and strength and he would’ve probably just walked you over to the squat rack. Then perhaps instructed you to start pulling something heavy from the floor, pressing it over your head, etc.

He would have told you to frequently add more weight to the bar, train hard, eat the right foods, get enough recovery….then rinse and repeat.

There would be no talk about performance enhancing drugs, supplements, periodization plans, straps, belts, special lifting suits, none of that stuff.

His advice would have been simple, yet highly effective. You would know it was effective by merely looking at him and watching him train.

The key word here is…simple.

What’s the forgotten secret I was referencing in the title of this post? You betcha, SIMPLICITY!

When something works, do it! There’s no need to necessarily re-invent the wheel. But that’s basically what’s been done in the fitness industry for a long time now.

Don’t get me wrong I’m all about research and learning more about how we can improve on things, but let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. New isn’t always better and the longer I stay in this game the more I realize everything eventually goes full circle.

But I get it, there’s no sizzle or anything sexy about good old fashioned barbell squats, push-up’s, pull-up’s, and the like. It doesn’t have the flash (and therefore sell) like Zumba, Hip-Hop Ab’s, or whatever the latest fitness craze may be.

There’s always something new coming out and these things often have spokespersons touting a bunch of mumbo jumbo about how it’s scientifically proven to be faster, better, more effective.

Now look I’m not knocking everything that’s not “old school,” because if some fitness routine works to provide the desired results and it’s enjoyable for that person, I’d tell them to go for it. The key factor here being that the routine “worked” to provide their desired results.

Personally, I think there’s been far too much made about things being faster, better, easier, etc. But that’s what people want which is why it sells. I’ve got a breaking news flash for you…

There’s NOTHING easy or fast about changing your physique!

I sometimes remind my clients, “I never said it would be easy, only that it would be worth it!” That’s worth writing down somewhere.

Hard work is required, not an option. Mix in consistency and you’ve got something. Really not all that complicated as long as you’ve got those two things down.

But then again as fitness trainers, I’ll be the first to admit that we share some of the blame here for over-complicating things to the masses. Doing things like constantly throwing a barrage of new exercises at our clients, thinking this will make the workouts more enjoyable, they’ll be more entertained or something.

Truth be told, what they usually REALLY want is to see results.

If the basic movements like push-up’s, squats, rows, presses, etc, worked so well say fifty years ago, why wouldn’t they work well today? The answer is they still do!

We shouldn’t be in such a hurry to abandon the simple, basic exercises, for something new and trendy. Bottom line, do what works! If you find yourself a little surprised when what works best is often simplistic in nature, don’t be.

When you strip away all the B.S. you’ll discover the human body undergoes physiological change anytime it’s made to adapt to an overload stimulus. Your body doesn’t care (or know the difference) where it came from.

The key factor here being was there an overload stimulus of some sort to trigger adaptation.

Do enough push-up’s, squats, overhead presses, etc, and you’ll undoubtedly change your physique and get stronger. Doesn’t need to be cute or fancy. The point is simple works.

The question we have to asks ourselves is…are we doing the “simple” things often enough, with consistency, and sufficient intensity?

If someone comes to me for advice frustrated because they’re not seeing results from their strength training routine, I’ll often ask them how many push-up’s they can do.  This may sound odd, but follow me.

If they can’t do 20 body weight push-up’s, the first thing I’m going to tell them to do is  keep working until they can do 20 and then we’ll talk more.

There’s no need to talk about sets, reps, and which piece of equipment at the gym is best to use at that point. I’d be wasting their time and mine. Can you see how it doesn’t really matter when the foundation of muscular strength, endurance, and core stability hasn’t be laid down first?

If you could only do a handful of push-up’s (or maybe none) when you first started working out, but a month later you could 10, 20, 30, or more, there would be no question you got stronger.

You should be proud of yourself and excited about the progress if that were the case! You can’t expect to see chiseled arms and shoulders at that point, you’re just getting started.

Today’s world is one of instant gratification and “we want it now” mentalities, but wisdom tells us there’s not much worthwhile that comes quick or easy (except for maybe that winning lottery ticket, good luck with that one).

Work on getting a little better each month and simply keep your eye on the prize.  Affirm your victories (your mile markers of improvements along the way), and then just get back to work doing more of what got you those improvements in the first place. Perhaps progressing to even more challenging exercises as additions to your routine, but never omitting the basics.

Rinse and repeat…rinse and repeat.

Do more reps, add more weight, push yourself a little bit harder as you get stronger and in better conditioning. The game doesn’t change, you’re always simply looking to make your body adapt.

Have the K.I.S.S. principal (keep it simple stupid) in mind when examining all aspects of your fitness training and nutrition. Don’t over-complicate or over-think things.

If you can do 5 push-up’s then work on being able to do 10, then 20, and so forth. Keep getting better.

If you can squat 100 pounds for 20 reps, then work on being able to do 120 pounds, etc. Keep getting better.

You get the picture.

It’s not about some fancy new routine or anything like that. Not only will you find this simplistic philosophy to be effective, but you’ll also find it helps keep you more in tune with your progress.

Avoid the shiny objects, flashing lights, promises of fast and easy, and all the other distractions!

Lace up your shoes tight and just get to work.

Don’t know what to do for today’s workout? Do what exercises you know how to do, then and just try to do as many as you can in 30 minutes. Simple enough?

A workout of body weight squats and push-up’s done back to back (which could be done anywhere), will beat the typical health club workout on stationary machines hands down just about every time.

If you’re thinking you need something a little tougher, then fine, how about just hanging out at the squat rack for 30 minutes and seeing how many reps you can do with a challenging weight.

If you worked hard and gave full effort I can assure you either one would provide an overload stimulus which would trigger adaptation (not to mention probably leaving you in a heap on the floor).

How do I know this? Because I’ve done both.

This is obviously not to say every workout should be like this or that there’s nothing to the idea of smart workout progression, periodization, etc.

My point is you don’t have to be certified strength & conditioning coach, fitness expert, or trainer with an arsenal of hundreds of exercises to understand the basics (the fundamentals let’s say) and use them to your advantage.

Sure a knowledgeable coach can help you take things to the next level, but don’t let anyone tell you working out needs to complicated to be effective.

Work hard, keep it simple, rinse and repeat. That’s the secret my friends.

Feel free to leave your comments or any questions below. As always I welcome discussion on this blog. Take care- S.

Shane Doll is a certified Charleston personal trainer, fat loss expert, speaker, and founder of Shaping Concepts Personal Training Studio located in Mt. Pleasant, SC. You can register for a free no-obligations trial of his Charleston personal fitness programs and experience the Shaping Concepts difference for yourself.


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Category: Fitness Training.