Going “outside” an activity to improve that activity
Rearranging the contents of the box is finite
What is it athletes seek from their training efforts? I believe it is something quite profound: a radical physical transformation. How does an athlete improve performance? One of two ways: either improve the skills required to play the sport or improve the human body. Skills might include the improving a golf club or baseball bat swing, or a tennis racquet serve. Working on a curve ball or passing route is a skill. What is meant by “improved body?” More muscle, less body fat. Pull that off, become larger and more muscular, and any athlete becomes better.
What athlete doesn’t benefit from becoming significantly larger and more muscular and significantly leaner. How is the better body built? Resistance training is combined with cardio training and coordinated with disciplined nutrition. Over time, and with consistent training and serious nutrition, the athlete builds muscle and melts off body fat.
The eternal goal of resistance training is to trigger the growth of lean muscle mass with a concurrent increase in brute power. The eternal goal of cardiovascular training is improved stamina and a concurrent reduction of stored body fat. Any athlete that succeeds at becoming way bigger and way leaner becomes way better – regardless the sport.
The quest to trigger a radical physical transformation need include a resistance training element that strengthens and muscularizes the body. Fat loss is triggered by consistent cardio coordinated with a highly disciplined nutritional game plan. To dramatically alter the human body, there needs to be a coordinated effort undertaken (simultaneously) in four interlocking activities: resistance training, aerobic training, nutrition and brain-train, i.e. addressing the psychological issues related to transformation.
Within the four transformative disciplines, sooner or later the athlete exhausts the possibilities. At some point, in order to progress, the mature athlete needs to step outside the box of conventional thinking. Over time, the athlete exhausts the possibilities - when confined to the contents of the box that is conventional thinking. Over time, the successful athlete works through the all the classical workout strategies, exhausts the cardio possibilities, becomes familiar with all the nutritional approaches. What then? How do you generate physiological momentum out of thin air?
The only constant in the transformative process is stagnation. The human body does not want to be transformed: it seeks hemostasis, normalcy, a continuation of the status quo. To transform the body, it is necessary to force the body to build muscle. This is done by serving the body with certain physiological imperatives. The body is maneuvered into constructing new muscle tissue. The body does not want to give up its stored body fat, which it views as currency, as insurance against famine, a genetic holdover from primal times. Through skilled blending of intense exercise and tight nutrition, the body is maneuvered into using its stored body fat as fuel.
All strategies will work – initially – almost any ridiculous training regimen will obtain results for an untrained body. Trainees mistakenly turn the lame routine (that could only elicit gains on a virgin body) into a religion. The trainee knows his lame-O system works on account of the sensational results they obtained in those glorious first six weeks. The problem is that it is now four years later and the trainee has made zero gains sticking to his beloved training routine. This same fundamentalist mindset causes trainees to develop unhealthy allegiances to favored aerobic modes and favored diet strategies.
Complacency breeds stagnation. Picasso once noted that “A man must be periodically jolted out of his torpor (stagnation/complacency.) One common problem encountered by those intent on transformation is an inability to step outside the box of conventional thinking. Even the diligent and serious trainee can be flummoxed and thwarted by a lack of creative thinking. Here are a few illustrative examples of outside the various boxes in the transformative arts.
Resistance training: how does a trainee step outside of conventional resistance training in order to improve resistance training? One way is to sync weightlifting with nutrition to accelerate the lifting goal. Elite trainees always have a resistance plan of attack. Generally speaking, most serious weight trainers have one of two distinctively different goals: either, add lean muscle mass, or, get ripped.
Avoid being at physiological cross-purposes: those that seek to (simultaneously) become more muscular and leaner are biting off more than they can chew. This can be done, but the degree of exactitude required is beyond the capacities of normal people leading regular lives. More doable is the approach that picks a direction (add muscle or get ripped – one or the other) then places the goal within a timeframe (12-15 weeks.) Now devote all available time, energies and resources towards attaining that goal.
Nutrition plays a critical role in outside the box thinking as it pertains to resistance training. Good nutrition amplifies and accelerates weight training results. Bad nutrition sabotages our training efforts. Nutrition plays an even bigger role for those weight trainers seeking to maximize muscularity. To shed body fat, nutrition is paramount.
Cardiovascular training: one thing that makes you a better cardio athlete is to become stronger. Those aerobic athletes that strength train seriously reduce their susceptibility to injury and are able to apply more power to their cardio efforts when needed. Another way in which to improve aerobic performance is to improve your power-to-weight ratio. Become leaner and become stronger: combining precision eating with consistent cardio to reduce body fat. Every pound of body fat lost geometrically improves performance. The leaner the athlete the less payload to haul around during whatever aerobic exercise that is selected. The cross-trained athlete mixes and melds exercise and eating to elicit specific results. Optimally, two exercise formats are practiced in coordinated conjunction with disciplined eating. This troika: lifting, aerobics and eating with a purpose, are the core transformative disciplines. Brain-train powers the process: we plot out all our moves ahead of time, like a well-thought-out military campaign.
Nutrition: first off, clean up the food selections. Don’t tiptoe around, if a nutrient is not protein, dietary fat or a fiber carbohydrate, it is undigested sugar. No matter what you are looking at, or contemplating eating or drinking, if it is not one of the three nutrients it is a sugar. Insulin secretions need to be minimalized; body fat cannot be burned in the presence of insulin. The trainee steps outside the nutritional box by adding intense exercise to any and all dietary efforts. All dietary efforts are improved when the dieter engages in intense exercise. Nothing makes a diet plan more effective than hooking it up with serious two-pronged exercise effort of lifting and cardio. Intense exercise jacks up the metabolism and improves organ efficiency. Look at nutrition with fresh eyes. Make the nutritional approach selected maximally effective by cleaning up the food and drink selections and applying maximal effort in the weight room and all aerobic activity.
About the Author
As an athlete Marty Gallagher is a national and world champion in Olympic lifting and powerlifting. He was a world champion team coach in 1991 and coached Black's Gym to five national team titles. He's also coached some of the strongest men on the planet including Kirk Karwoski when he completed his world record 1,003 lb. squat. Today he teaches the US Secret Service and Tier 1 Spec Ops on how to maximize their strength in minimal time. As a writer since 1978 he’s written for Powerlifting USA, Milo, Flex Magazine, Muscle & Fitness, Prime Fitness, Washington Post, Dragon Door and now IRON COMPANY. He’s also the author of numerous books including Purposeful Primitive, Strong Medicine, Ed Coan’s book “Coan, The Man, the Myth, the Method" and numerous others. Read the Marty Gallagher biography here.