What’s the problem?
We have no time!!!
Or at least we think we do. I know that when I was young I was a bit of an anomaly with in my family, I was the only one whom enjoyed exercise. I could chase a ball around a field all day and night. Then I started work, and that was a chore that just got in the way. Then the family came along, the career was still there and then I had a wife, and the cheek of it, she wanted some of my precious time as well. My solution, well to start with, was to run at midnight. My day went a little like this:
6am – Wake up with the kids
8am – Nursery and school run
9am – Train to London
12noon – Start work
9pm – finish work, start commute home
Midnight – Run
2am – sleep
How long was it possible to continue this routine? And it wasn’t even Monday to Friday. I had Saturday’s off, but I looked after the children all day so there was no chance for exercise. Sunday I went into work even earlier, I caught the 3.50 train into London so I could open the gym I managed.
I don’t tell you all this for sympathy, I chose my life, but I loved training and I needed to get some sleep. To help improve my mental health more than anything. I had a part time job alongside my job in London and this went out the window, then I quit my job in London and commuting. Then a friend gave me “Body by Science” by Doug McGuff.
The book really resonated with me. Everything I’d personally believed was validated. I remember having a discussion with another trainer about weight lifting versus body weight training. His perspective was that if you wanted to get stronger then you had to lift heavy. My perspective was if I worked on press ups, my strength would improve. How can your muscles know the difference between a barbell or your own body weight??
Science bit (ok its toned down a little)
The idea your muscles know the difference between the different types of exercises we do is just stupid. Each muscle in your body has one job (mainly, there are some exceptions), but its one of the first things you learn when studying anatomy and physiology. When muscles contract they are just trying to overcome the force applied against them, in the context of training.
Improving strength has very little to do with muscular size. It is mainly to do with how you contract your muscle fibres and how many muscle fibres you can connect. As an example imagine you have 10 muscle fibres in your bicep (the front of your upper arm) but you have never completed any form of exercise in your life (more common than you’d imagine) apart from walking (and yes walking is exercise). You may be able to use 40% of the muscle fibres available to you. If you then start to stimulate the muscle, your brain will start to connect with them. The next time you stimulate the muscles you may be able to recruit 50% of your muscle fibres. This will progress. Once you are able to recruit almost all of your muscle fibres, your strength will increase irrelevant of your muscle size.
Dr Fredrick Hahn, who wrote “The Slow Motion Revolution” speculates, the slow movement aids the muscle in learning how to contract by allowing chemical bonds between the myosin and actin protein filaments in the muscle fibres to learn how to react with each other. This chemical bonding is missed during explosive exercises as the cross bridges used simply don’t have time to connect correctly.
The studies reviewing this form of training are now so far reaching, its almost impossible to ignore unless you have your head in the sand or you just love spending time at the gym. Which, of course, lots of people do, but significantly fewer people than prefer sitting at home on the sofa. Especially if you are trying to escape your wife and kids and work and hobbies and friends and chores and anything else you want to hide from!!!
Here are some books you may want to look at:
Body by Science - Doug McGuff and John Little
Slow Burn Revolution - Fredrick Hahn
High Intensity Training the Mike Mentzer way - John Little
Lots of people train with more frequently than once a week, this is the minimum requirement. However, training to failure requires a certain tolerance to muscular discomfort. Not many people like this, some tolerate it, and so getting close to momentary muscular failure through slow motion training twice a week can be as good as it gets.
Mental health – I probably underestimate the number of people suffering mental health issues training with me. Only a handful have felt comfortable disclosing their issues. I openly talk about mine to encourage an open dialogue. Activity is useful towards a positive approach and many people chose to train more often for mental health benefits.