Lifting Light Weights Will Get You Only So Far by Richard Saad

 

Let’s get this straight – light weights have one purpose in the weight room: they are the training wheels that a beginner should use to learn proper form before graduating to heavier ones. You’ll likely never see Lance Armstrong riding a bike with training wheels, and once you get to a point in training where you can safely use weight that is heavier than a pebble, you should. There is no increased activation or significant adaptation to be had from a light weight that a heavier weight will not produce substantially more of. The fitness industry has been flooded with muscle activation exercises, which are nothing more than an avoidance of learning to lift properly in the first place. Heavy weight training has always, and will always, work to build strong and healthy bodies. 

Heavy weight is not defined by how much weight is on the bar but rather how much weight you are lifting relative to your current limitations, fitness level and strength. Ten pounds to one person may be too light, while to another it is a mighty feat. It is this relativity, however, that promotes growth and adaptation that will ultimately trigger the transformation and strength you are looking for. 

Building a strong body has very practical carryover to your daily life that jumping on boxes and playing with rubber bands does not. Anyone can benefit from the ability to bend down and pick up a 20- to 40-pound box off the ground without concern for injuring themselves. As we age and the risk for injury in daily living increases dramatically, why not take preventative measures? Lifting weights is not solely for the young; it is for everyone.   

Our bodies respond positively to physical stress by adapting and getting stronger, much like a stream may become a river as the banks undergo stress over time. Our muscles, bones and joints respond very similarly, and if a gradual increase of load is applied to them, these tissues are forced to grow in order to handle more. Lifting heavy weights teaches us to properly brace our core, which helps tremendously to protect the spine; to balance our weight over the center of the body, which makes you less likely to fall; and teaches your muscles to support the joints with integrity, which will prevent many injuries at work, home and in sports. 

The best way to start lifting heavy weights is learning to properly deadlift. The deadlift is one of the most basic and fundamental exercises you can perform in the gym, as it is as basic as picking a weight off the ground. Learning to deadlift with impeccable form will increase the integrity of the muscles in the back and shoulders, which are the two biggest problem areas for most people. The deadlift will increase your balance, flexibility, posture and bodily control all while making you much stronger, and I truly believe that almost anyone can learn to perform this lift safely and properly. 

All in all, the argument for lifting heavy weights is pretty strong (literally). You will look better, be better prepared for life’s daily challenges and be stronger because of it. As an added bonus, lifting heavy weight is just plain cool.

 

Don’t Make a New Year’s Resolution by Mike Campbell

Don’t make a New Year’s resolution! Yes, you heard me right. New Year’s resolutions set up most of us for failure. I’ve made plenty of New Year’s resolutions in my life, and I’ve failed at all of them.

I’d make New Year’s resolutions for all the wrong reasons. I’d do it because it was the New Year and, well, that’s what you do. Peer pressure at work or with friends would cause me to spout out some half-hearted resolution. I’d have put on some holiday weight, so I’d make a resolution on January 1 to lose weight. I was searching for a new beginning with no idea what I really wanted to start. I’d get excited about the idea of making some big change in my life and come out of the gates on fire only to see things fizzle out. The first bump in the road would be the end of my resolution. Sometimes that bump would come on the first day! Yes, I failed in every effort to attempt to complete my New Year’s resolutions.

Does any of this sound like you? Have you failed at your New Year’s resolutions in the past? If you answered yes, you’re not alone. Around 80 percent of people fail in their resolutions by the second week of February. How can we find success in our efforts this year? I’ll tell you what worked for me.

A New Year’s resolution is a promise a person makes for the New Year. We are basing our commitment on a date on the calendar. Let’s ditch that thought and make a New You resolution! This helped me frame things a little differently to gain the success I needed. The good news for me in leading you to success is most resolutions involve exercise, weight loss, or healthy lifestyle choices. That’s my wheelhouse.

Full disclosure from me, none of my most successful resolutions happened In January! My biggest resolution success came on March 2, 2009. You see, making a big change is not about the date, it’s about you. A resolution involves making a firm decision to do something. If you can’t make a firm decision to do something on December 31, what makes you think some sort of magic is going to happen on January 1?

For a successful resolution, you need to understand that to make some significant change you have to do something significant. Here are some significant things you can do that I did nine years ago.

First, I made sure I knew why my resolution was important to me so that I would stay focused.

Second, I started a written log on day one of my weight loss journey and used it for three years. (I still write about my journey today.)

Third, I looked in the mirror every day and took an honest look at what I was doing. I looked at the good and the bad. I decided how to deal with the bad and grow the good. These steps will work for you, too!

What’s the biggest difference between a New Year’s resolution and a New You resolution? That’s easy! A New Year’s resolution is a January 1 thing while a New You resolution involves the date you commit to yourself. It’s the date you develop the belief that you can change your life. If you read this article on January 26 and truly believe you can change something in your life, that’s your New You resolution day.

I want to see you be successful with your resolution, but I don’t believe the calendar date is going to do that for you. You are going to do that for you. Your belief in yourself will do that for you. The importance your resolution has in your heart will do that for you.

My New You resolution date was March 2, 2009; when is yours?

Continue to join me on my journey each issue!

Fatguydiary.com

You can also contact Mike @ 843-637-0723

 

Oblique Featured Fitness Professional

Scott transplanted to the Lowcountry in November 2015 with his wife, Mallory, who is the manager for Exemplar Fitness. He moved from Greenville, North Carolina, where he had been training professionally since 2007. He graduated from East Carolina University in 2009 with a bachelor’s degree in communications, and he currently holds duel certifications as a certified strength and conditioning specialist through the National Strength and Conditioning Association and a level 1 TPI instructor through the

Titleist Performance Institute. Scott strongly believes in a 360-degree approach to training with the core concept that stronger is better. Building a strong mind and spirit along with a strong body will produce true transformation and long-lasting success in one’s goal and life-long journey. Scott is a training team member
of  Compass Fitness, which has four convenient locations throughout the Lowcountry.

If you are interested in his training services, please visit www.compassfitnesscharleston.com.

 

Nick Belcher interview

We would imagine that you were rather active kid growing up. So tell us about your early athletic days?

 

-Early on I played anything I could get my hands on. My mom and dad would literally have to make me come inside and stop playing. [While I was] growing up, my dad was air force, so we moved around a lot, but I always found a way to incorporate sports wherever I was. In junior high, I played football, and I wanted to be a quarterback, but I was the backup so I found another way to be useful and picked up kicking in the eighth grade.

 

What sports did you play in high school?

In high school, I played football, basketball and baseball.

 

Were you recruited for any of these sports out of high school?

 

-I was recruited out of high school for both football and baseball. The plan was to always play both in college. I collectively had about 14 schools recruiting me for baseball and / or football out of high school. My number-one choice was Clemson; however, I ended up going to play JUCO baseball out of high school for a year at Florence Darlington Technical College. I played a year there and coached the kickers at a local high school named Wilson High School. It was there where I decided to pursue football once again. I went on an official visit at the Citadel while South Carolina State was also still interested in me. I ended up choosing to go kick at SCSU.

 

 

So how did this all lead to you playing football at South Carolina State?

 

-When I was playing baseball at Florence Darlington, I was primarily a pitcher and infielder. I also stayed in kicking shape by coaching the specialists at Wilson High School. I’d always dreamed of playing both in college, but I tore my UCL and needed Tommy John surgery, which would have knocked me out for at least a year. This is when I revisited the idea of attending SCSU, who had offered me a full ride out of high school.

 

 

With all of the obstacles that you have encountered, there is no denying that you have a pro leg. Did you ever get in front of pro scouts or have a tryout in the NFL?

 

-Coming out of college, I had the opportunity to play in the College All Star Bowl in 2014. Here, I was interviewed by the Packers, Chiefs and Steelers. At my Pro Day, I was worked out by the Indianapolis Colts on April 2, 2014. From there I have been invited to two CFL Mini camps with Edmonton and Winnipeg. I have also attended a pro free agent specialist specific combine every year since 2015, where scouts are present for the workout, my most recent one being last year in Gilbert, Arizona, at Coach Gary Zauner’s free agent specialist combine. Twenty-six NFL teams and one CFL team were in attendance. In November, I played in the Spring League showcase down in Miami, Florida. I’ve played Arena football the last three years in Iowa (Cedar Rapids Titans) and Florida (Jacksonville Sharks). Next up, I have a workout with the Birmingham Iron from the new start-up league, the American Alliance of Football (AAF).

 

 

You played Arena Football and had much success, but from our discussion, your heart and goal appears to play in the NFL. Are you currently taking steps to make this happen?

 

 

-It’s a daily grind. I train at least five days a week with kicking sessions three days a week. Being a free agent, I have to stay game ready nearly year round. My workouts include everything from strength training [and] plyometrics [to] Pilates and yoga. It’s extremely important for a kicker to be both flexible and powerful at the same time. I also train kickers, which truly helps me focus on the fine tuning [of] my craft.

We would imagine that you were rather active kid growing up. So tell us about your early athletic days?

 

-Early on I played anything I could get my hands on. My mom and dad would literally have to make me come inside and stop playing. [While I was] growing up, my dad was air force, so we moved around a lot, but I always found a way to incorporate sports wherever I was. In junior high, I played football, and I wanted to be a quarterback, but I was the backup so I found another way to be useful and picked up kicking in the eighth grade.

 

What sports did you play in high school?

In high school, I played football, basketball and baseball.

 

Were you recruited for any of these sports out of high school?

 

-I was recruited out of high school for both football and baseball. The plan was to always play both in college. I collectively had about 14 schools recruiting me for baseball and / or football out of high school. My number-one choice was Clemson; however, I ended up going to play JUCO baseball out of high school for a year at Florence Darlington Technical College. I played a year there and coached the kickers at a local high school named Wilson High School. It was there where I decided to pursue football once again. I went on an official visit at the Citadel while South Carolina State was also still interested in me. I ended up choosing to go kick at SCSU.

 

 

So how did this all lead to you playing football at South Carolina State?

 

-When I was playing baseball at Florence Darlington, I was primarily a pitcher and infielder. I also stayed in kicking shape by coaching the specialists at Wilson High School. I’d always dreamed of playing both in college, but I tore my UCL and needed Tommy John surgery, which would have knocked me out for at least a year. This is when I revisited the idea of attending SCSU, who had offered me a full ride out of high school.

 

 

With all of the obstacles that you have encountered, there is no denying that you have a pro leg. Did you ever get in front of pro scouts or have a tryout in the NFL?

 

-Coming out of college, I had the opportunity to play in the College All Star Bowl in 2014. Here, I was interviewed by the Packers, Chiefs and Steelers. At my Pro Day, I was worked out by the Indianapolis Colts on April 2, 2014. From there I have been invited to two CFL Mini camps with Edmonton and Winnipeg. I have also attended a pro free agent specialist specific combine every year since 2015, where scouts are present for the workout, my most recent one being last year in Gilbert, Arizona, at Coach Gary Zauner’s free agent specialist combine. Twenty-six NFL teams and one CFL team were in attendance. In November, I played in the Spring League showcase down in Miami, Florida. I’ve played Arena football the last three years in Iowa (Cedar Rapids Titans) and Florida (Jacksonville Sharks). Next up, I have a workout with the Birmingham Iron from the new start-up league, the American Alliance of Football (AAF).

 

 

You played Arena Football and had much success, but from our discussion, your heart and goal appears to play in the NFL. Are you currently taking steps to make this happen?

 

 

-It’s a daily grind. I train at least five days a week with kicking sessions three days a week. Being a free agent, I have to stay game ready nearly year round. My workouts include everything from strength training [and] plyometrics [to] Pilates and yoga. It’s extremely important for a kicker to be both flexible and powerful at the same time. I also train kickers, which truly helps me focus on the fine tuning [of] my craft.

What Matters in the Gym by Richard Saad

 

What Matters in the Gym by Richard Saad

The gym can be a place full of distractions. Whether your head is spinning from the plethora of diets to follow or which workout routine to choose, your progress will begin to suffer if you can’t buckle down and choose something sooner rather than later. There are a multitude of ways to exercise, but not all of them will help you achieve a strong, healthy and toned body. Most will leave you sweaty, heart pumping and limbs feeling like noodles day after day, but at the end of the year, you will still look and feel the same. That is because exercise needs to be distinguished from training. This concept from strength coach and the founder of the Starting Strength program Mark Rippetoe has changed the way I view fitness, and maybe it will have an impact on the way you do as well.

Training is done for a specific purpose. An athlete trains to get better at their sport and to enhance their performance to achieve specific goals. Exercise, as defined by the American Heart Association, is “anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.” By definition, exercise is getting up out of bed and walking to your mailbox in the morning. It can be as intense as you make it. You could sprint to your mailbox and it will be harder. But the point is that exercise, in this context, is not specific enough to help you achieve your goals. You should be training instead. Training should be measurable and consistent and hold you accountable. It is easy to track your progress in training because rather than putting a new exercise in every workout — as if “confusing your muscles” ever worked — you are measuring your progress with the same exercises over and over. You are mastering the precise technique required to do the proper form of basic exercises. This, like any art form, can take a lifetime before, or if, you ever truly perfect it. Training is something you can do your entire life, which fits perfectly with the concepts I’ve previously discussed – do only the things you can see yourself doing for at least the next decade. That is the true mark of a sustainable, long-term goal.

As you move forward this year and New Year’s resolutions have long since died down, focus on the things that matter in the gym and think about how you can apply them outside of the gym. Here are a few:

 

  1. Yourself. It doesn’t matter who is next to you or what others think about what you’re doing. Be confident in your routine and stick to it. Your exercise selection doesn’t have to be sexy, but it must be effective to work. Simple is usually best. If you need help, ask for it. Those who care about what others are doing will be left in the dust in comparison to the progress you will make.

  1. Tangible progress. It is much easier to notice small increases in strength than small improvements in appearance. Intermediate lifters will only gain between two and five pounds of muscle per year. But the same lifter can potentially increase the weight used on basic exercises by five pounds every one to three weeks. Novice lifters can sometimes add five pounds to their exercises per workout! Focusing on these quantitative gains will help maintain motivation for much longer than searching for your abs in the mirror.

 

  1. Having fun. As clichéd as it sounds, the gym should not be a grind for most people. There are those who want to be the very best at their sport, and for them , the grind is very necessary. But for those who want to be injury free and look better, the gym should be a place that you look forward to being in every workout. Without a fun, competitive element to each workout, the gym will begin to feel like a job, and most people already have one of those. The gym should be your escape from the hectic stressful environment we all live in. A place in which you can challenge yourself, encourage others, and be among friends. A safe haven of sorts.

 

  1. Don’t overthink things. Fitness should be what you make it, not what others tell you it is or what preconceived notions you may have defined it by. It can be done anywhere by anyone and at its core, it is the basis for self-improvement over all else.

The gym can be a place full of distractions. Whether your head is spinning from the plethora of diets to follow or which workout routine to choose, your progress will begin to suffer if you can’t buckle down and choose something sooner rather than later. There are a multitude of ways to exercise, but not all of them will help you achieve a strong, healthy and toned body. Most will leave you sweaty, heart pumping and limbs feeling like noodles day after day, but at the end of the year, you will still look and feel the same. That is because exercise needs to be distinguished from training. This concept from strength coach and the founder of the Starting Strength program Mark Rippetoe has changed the way I view fitness, and maybe it will have an impact on the way you do as well.

Training is done for a specific purpose. An athlete trains to get better at their sport and to enhance their performance to achieve specific goals. Exercise, as defined by the American Heart Association, is “anything that makes you move your body and burn calories.” By definition, exercise is getting up out of bed and walking to your mailbox in the morning. It can be as intense as you make it. You could sprint to your mailbox and it will be harder. But the point is that exercise, in this context, is not specific enough to help you achieve your goals. You should be training instead. Training should be measurable and consistent and hold you accountable. It is easy to track your progress in training because rather than putting a new exercise in every workout — as if “confusing your muscles” ever worked — you are measuring your progress with the same exercises over and over. You are mastering the precise technique required to do the proper form of basic exercises. This, like any art form, can take a lifetime before, or if, you ever truly perfect it. Training is something you can do your entire life, which fits perfectly with the concepts I’ve previously discussed – do only the things you can see yourself doing for at least the next decade. That is the true mark of a sustainable, long-term goal.

As you move forward this year and New Year’s resolutions have long since died down, focus on the things that matter in the gym and think about how you can apply them outside of the gym. Here are a few:

 

  1. Yourself. It doesn’t matter who is next to you or what others think about what you’re doing. Be confident in your routine and stick to it. Your exercise selection doesn’t have to be sexy, but it must be effective to work. Simple is usually best. If you need help, ask for it. Those who care about what others are doing will be left in the dust in comparison to the progress you will make.

  1. Tangible progress. It is much easier to notice small increases in strength than small improvements in appearance. Intermediate lifters will only gain between two and five pounds of muscle per year. But the same lifter can potentially increase the weight used on basic exercises by five pounds every one to three weeks. Novice lifters can sometimes add five pounds to their exercises per workout! Focusing on these quantitative gains will help maintain motivation for much longer than searching for your abs in the mirror.

 

  1. Having fun. As clichéd as it sounds, the gym should not be a grind for most people. There are those who want to be the very best at their sport, and for them , the grind is very necessary. But for those who want to be injury free and look better, the gym should be a place that you look forward to being in every workout. Without a fun, competitive element to each workout, the gym will begin to feel like a job, and most people already have one of those. The gym should be your escape from the hectic stressful environment we all live in. A place in which you can challenge yourself, encourage others, and be among friends. A safe haven of sorts.

 

  1. Don’t overthink things. Fitness should be what you make it, not what others tell you it is or what preconceived notions you may have defined it by. It can be done anywhere by anyone and at its core, it is the basis for self-improvement over all else.

 

A Chat with John Patterson 

-Tell us a little about your football playing days.

I played high school football at High Point Andrews in North Carolina. We had an awesome program back in the 1970s and 1980s. At one time, the whole NC State backfield were graduates of Andrews. I was an undersized offensive guard on some great teams. I was about 5′8″, 170 pounds at the time. I was captain my senior year. Obviously, no one recruited me so I walked on at the closest college to High Point that played football (Guilford College). I was a full Pell Grant kid, had a part-time job, got some academic money, took out some loans and made it work. Guilford was NAIA at the time and had a few scholarships. I eventually was put on a partial scholarship. Over half of my graduating class in football became coaches. Guilford was known as the “cradle of coaches” in NC high school football. After college I played two years of semipro football in NC. I never played in a game weighing over 191 pounds and always played on the offensive line. The game was different then.

 

-You got into coaching, which usually means a lot of moving and bouncing around, so we won’t burden you with a listing all of your stops. With that in mind, what would you consider to be some of the highlights of your coaching career?

After four years of coaching high school football, I had the opportunity to go to East Carolina University as a graduate assistant coach. I worked under Ed Emory and Art Baker (both from SC). I got my master’s degree and returned to Guilford as a full-time coach. I was there three years, then on to Winston-Salem State for two, Elon University for six years. I lived in the same house in High Point and coached at three different colleges over 11 years! I was a head high school coach in Charlotte after that, then got back in to college ball at Lenoir-Rhyne University. After two years, it was on to the Citadel, which is how I got to Charleston. All through college coaching, I was the offensive line coach and strength coach (except [at the] Citadel, we had a full-time strength coach). The guy that hired me at [the] Citadel (John Zernhelt) went to the NFL and the next coach eventually brought in his own staff — that’s college football! My family didn’t want to leave Charleston, so we stayed. I was the HFC [head football coach] of the Charleston Sand Sharks the one year they had a team, then got back in to high school.

 

-You had a very good run as head coach at James Island High School. What led to you leaving that position?

I was the HFC at James Island for four years while my son, Bo was playing. He was a really good player (Shrine Bowl, finalist for Mr. Football SC, etc.). He wanted to play both football and baseball at the best academic school he could go to. As it turned out, the only school that fit was Dartmouth. If I was going to see my son play in college, I couldn’t remain the HFC at James Island. I loved those kids at JI, and they did a great job of getting better every year. As a dad, I didn’t want to have regrets, so I took a job at a high school in Litchfield, NH, as athletic director and got to see all of Bo’s games. It was the right decision and I have no regrets.

 

-Did sports lead to your lifelong fitness lifestyle?

I started lifting weights in high school on a Universal Machine. Lifting for sports was really just getting started back in the mid-’70s. That led to heavy lifting in college to get up to a beefy 190 pounds! I wanted to continuing competing in something so I played semipro football on weekends and started competing in natural powerlifting events my first few years of coaching. I continued to powerlift until I was 33. In 1991, I won the NC Drug Free Championship (198 pounds and under class). I was coaching and teaching at Elon at the time and decided it was time to start getting healthier/leaner. Over the next two years, I slowly changed my body type from a thick-necked, chunky powerlifter into a body builder. I entered my first natural bodybuilding competition at age 35.

 

-So you are still presently competing in bodybuilding?

Twenty-five years later, I am now 60 and still competing. I did two shows in 2017 and two in 2018. I won the 60+ and Open Middleweights at the NPC Beach Body last summer. I also won the 60+ class at the NPC Excalibur and placed second in the Open Middleweights. I qualified for the NPC Nationals in Pittsburgh this year. If I can stay fairly healthy, I plan on doing one or two shows this spring and early summer, then try to hit the Nationals.

 

-You not only are holding your own in a sport with much younger competitors but are still excelling in it. What factors would you say play a role in you still maintaining such an impressive level of fitness?

I have always thought of myself as a guy with average ability at best. However, if you just hang around sometimes you outlast many people that have more ability. I just started good training habits in high school and never stopped. I have seen so many guys with superior ability come in the gym and blow by me quickly, but two years later they are done. There is something to be said for consistency and work ethic over time. I spend two hours a day in the gym five days a week in the off-season now. If I am training for a show, it escalates.  People want the results but they are not prepared to make the sacrifice to get there. Fitness is not a sprint, it is a marathon. The training is really less than half of the equation. Diet is the most important thing for anyone interested in maintaining a high level of fitness.


 

-With so much time dedicated to fitness, are you able to fit other ventures in your life?

Shortly after I returned from my four years in New Hampshire, my older brother (Terry) got sick with cancer. He was a bachelor living alone. I didn’t know how bad it might get so I moved back home to NC to take care of him. I took the HFC job at my alma mater (Andrews) while there. Thank goodness he got well! Upon returning, I decided to try something different for the fourth quarter. A former player from Guilford College, Daniel Cole (College Football’s Strongest Player in the late 1980s), and I bought three Club Pilates franchises in the Greenville, SC, area. We hired Bo to be the general manager and run all daily operations. He is doing a great job. He is smarter, taller and better-looking than me, so I just stay out of his way. I can do most of my owner duties online and on the phone. The first studio opened in March 2018 and the second one will open in January 2019. We haven’t decided about number three yet. I may get back into coaching on a part-time basis. I miss the kids and the competition. I also do fitness consulting and would like to do some motivational speaking as well.  

 

Mikeal Green's 4 Stability, Mobility, and Core Strength Exercises 

The Champion Mindset by Richard Saad  

Listen to any Olympic athlete talk about what makes them a champion, and you’ll find one thing in common — their mind-set.  Sure, their training and diets are dialed in, and they get plenty of sleep every night. But what separates them from the average healthy human is the hunger to win and the discipline to do things the right way, even when nobody's watching. And that last part is really the key.

When I was 18, I became fascinated by the champion mind-set and what it meant to be a man. The “champion mind-set” was a term I started using back then, and while it’s widely used in sports and motivational speeches, it has always meant something more to me than winning a trophy or making money. Those are just more things that get in the way of what actually matters.  

Everyone wants to know what’s in it for them. Would you still workout if it didn’t burn calories? Would you run, sweat, climb, lift or stretch if there was no real benefit outside of the feeling you got during it? If not, then maybe you should find a different hobby. There are plenty of things in the world that you can do for a healthy body, and life is too short to spend it doing things you hate doing just in hopes of some arbitrary end result.  

What sets the champion apart from the guy on the sidelines is the drive to do extremely hard things, even if they don’t pay off in the end. The champion mind-set is about loving the pain of the work. The sweat and tears are rewards in and of themselves. The trophy is just proof that it happened. A champion is not just the winner by chance; he or she ensured victory through blood, sweat and tears. You don’t have to love hard work and sweat the same way the champion does, but the more you can ask yourself, “Can I do more?” rather than “Are we there yet?” the sooner you’ll find the results you’ve been looking for.  

We are often just a few steps away from making our next breakthrough, both in the gym and in life. Just a few more reps, sets or workouts make the difference between a strong body and a weak one. It’s often a choice we make to stop short of hitting our goals. Something in our minds allows us to self-doubt, telling ourselves that we’ll never actually do what we promised we would. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t let that voice in your head come out on top. When you step foot in the weight room, whether it’s your first time or your hundredth, your only job is to put 100 percent effort into every breath, rep, set and exercise that you do. When you leave, only you will know if you did your best. Your effort effects nobody else — only you. And when you cheat in the gym, you are the only one who loses.

Moving forward, strive for the champion mind-set. Strive to be better and do more. Don’t sell yourself short, and don’t make excuses. Even those in the worst situations are often the happiest people among us. Perspective is key. You can always work harder than you did today. And finally, make sure that you can put your name on today.

 

Don't Neglect the Stretch

Picture this: it’s Monday morning and you’re meeting your partner for an epic leg workout that is sure to set fire to your glutes, hamstrings, and quads. As you make your way through this low body gauntlet consisting of back squats, leg press, hack squats, seated leg extensions, lying hamstring curls and front squats, you can feel your legs expand as you drive more blood into your quads with every passing rep. You feel strong and powerful as you crush your final burnout set of front squats, which leaves your legs feeling as if they are about to explode! You partner gives you a fist bump as an affirmation that you’ve both given your absolute best in this grueling Monday morning session.

So, what next? If we are being honest, most of us grab our things and head out to start the day. Though we have been told since our early childhood about the many benefits of improving our mobility (anyone remember the V-sit reach section of the Presidential Fitness Test?), stretching is still the most overlooked component of many people’s fitness programs.

If you aren’t making stretching an emphasis in your training right now, you’ll probably have an injury someday that could have easily been prevented. I know no one likes to hear that. And I’ll bet even the word stretching in the title of this article scared off a few people. That’s too bad for them, because hard-core training needs to incorporate hard-core stretching. I know this because I, too, fell victim to an injury due to poor mobility in my final APF powerlifting meet. In my final deadlift attempt, my hips got too high, causing my back to flatten out leading to posterior herniations at L3, L4, L5 and S1. Trust me, it wasn’t nearly as fun as it sounds. This led me to build a business, and today my team and I work to educate and serve athletes, regular nine-to-fivers and post-surgical rehab patients in pursuit of improving their mobility and getting the most in and out of the gym.

In our experience, people neglect stretching and mobility work for a few reasons.

  1. Time: This is a fact; we make time for the things we really want and find important. If staying healthy and avoiding injury is important to you, then you will find the time. Build it into your program and be diligent.

  2. Lack of knowledge: We are living in a time where information is literally at our fingertips. While you will need to sift through them, there are some great websites, videos and articles that can give you a good foundation to begin learning how to properly stretch.

  3. Physical limitations: In some cases, it is very difficult to stretch yourself due to injury, limitations, etc. There are now studios popping up all over the country that offer a form of assisted stretching. These studios can be very valuable to jump-starting your mobility and eventually get you to the point where you can properly stretch yourself.

 

Believe it or not, there are some true masochists out there who have a specific goal of improving flexibility. I’m not trying to turn a bald and bearded powerlifter into a yoga instructor, but by improving your flexibility, you can greatly improve your performance in the gym and speed recovery out of it.


 

So with all that being said, where should we start? Since almost all movement starts at the hips, we suggest opening the hips, glutes, hip flexors, calves and hamstrings. Compound exercises such as squats and deadlifts require proper range of motion in order to perform them safely and efficiently. Many low back tweaks and injuries can be avoided by putting in the work when it comes to mobility. A bit of advice is to start slow! While stretching can certainly improve range of motion and reduce stiffness, it can also be very damaging if not done correctly. Assisted stretching companies such as Stretch Zone work to relax the body’s stretch reflex in order to improve range of motion, decrease tension and improve joint function. Stretch Zone uses a numbering system to judge how the stretch feels to ensure maximum benefit while minimizing risk of injury. The stretch is based off a scale of 1 to 10 and uses three numbers to judge how the stretch feels. A 3 means the client is just starting to feel the stretch engage, a 5 signals the stretch is mild, and a 7 signals that the stretch is as far as the person can go without feeling pain. This approach to stretching allows the body to increase range of motion without experiencing discomfort or pain. Approaching stretching by relaxing the stretch reflex also allows the stretch to be felt for days rather than just a few hours after the stretch is completed.

If you are serious about staying fit, whether through Crossfit, yoga, Zumba, Jazzercise or Strongman, then adding some type of mobility work into your program will ensure you are able to feel and perform your best. Whether it’s at an assisted stretch studio, in your garage or in your front yard, just get out and stretch!