Friday, 25 January 2013

The Importance of One Direction

OK, so this blog has nothing to do with the band “One Direction” – it was a tenuous link and possibly a way to get teenage pop fans clicking on something new and learning a thing or two instead of dribbling over Harry Styles... the handsome rogue!

Anyway... Recently, I’ve found a recurring theme among gym users that aren’t making the progress they feel their efforts warrant.

They made it to the gym, check! They have their kit on, check! They’ve spent at least an hour in the gym, check! They’re at the gym at least 3 times EVERY week? Check! They’ve even started being more considerate with what their eating each day. So what’s the issue?

The answer? A lack of direction.

Before even entering a gym, you need to find out WHAT you want to achieve and HOW you’re going to achieve it. It sounds very simple right? Not always. Often a lack of direction can leave gym users going through the motions and repeating the same gym session over and over again – soon enough results stop coming and so does the gym user. It’s essential to make sure that your exercise regime and goals are aligned in “One Direction” (there’s the link).

So here’s a few things that you need to make sure you remember when looking for YOUR direction (remember, it’s YOUR direction. “A good program” isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution).

This issue is probably applicable for most people that are stuck in a gym rut. They use the same equipment each time and have, with practice, become pretty proficient at them. The issue is, that’s exactly what they’re good at – that one exercise and that one exercise alone. This is particularly an issue when using resistance machines. The movements within these machines are so limited and predetermined that your skill becomes VERY specific. So much so that if for instance, you become good at a shoulder press machine, if you visit another gym and they have a slightly different machine (narrower seat, fatter grips, wider hand position) you’ll find that you are no longer as good at this exercise. The truth is, you’re not “good at overhead pressing”. You’re “good” at the machine in your gym. For this reason (among others), the majority of the time it’s always advisable to work with free weights.

So, I’ve just said “don’t do the same thing all of the time”. Now I’m going to say “do the same thing regularly”. This is relevant to anything that is more technical, uses multiple joints and relies heavily upon timing and coordination. For example, deadlifts, squats or cleans. You may make adjustments week on week such as tempo, weight, repetitions etc but these are skills that, if you want to do them proficiently, you need to practice regularly. Remember your first driving lesson? After that hour were you good to go your own way on the open roads? Same idea. If you want to get better at squatting then squat. if you want a stronger lower body and better shaped legs then feel free to squat, lunge, leg press etc.

I mentioned it briefly above but it’s important that, even if you don’t change your specific exercises often, that you DO change other variables. If you’ve ever said “I use ‘X’kg for that exercise” then this is for you. You shouldn’t really know what weight you use for any exercise as this depend on the number or reps, sets, tempo and intensity that you’re working to. If you always use the same weight and work witin the same parameters it’s no wonder that results are limited.

I couldn’t think of a decent cliché or example headline... sorry. What I mean is ask yourself, are your actions a direct reflection of your goals and aims. The vast majority of everyday gym goers are looking to lose some weight and gain a more athletic physique. You will NOT achieve this focusing the majority of your time on steady-stae, long-duration cardio work before doing arms and sit ups before you head home. If you want to look athletic you must train athletic (to some degree). It’s important for all people, male or female, young and old, to do some form of resistance work throughout the week. Not only will it help with gaining strength and stability for your everyday life and improve injury avoidance but it will also offer you the more athletic and... no I’m not saying THAT word (“toned”) physique that you’re after.  Despite what you may have yourself believing, the body that you desire has more muscle and less fat than your current structure. You DO want more muscle.

When it comes to exercise, no one has done everything! There’s always someone better than you at EVERYTHING and on the other hand, everyone did everything for the first time at some point. SO... you’re not the best (yet), but probably not the worst at anything. If you don’t feel confident in trying something (a new piece of equipment, a new exercise etc) then ask a professional and get professional guidance. Don’t look at this as expensive; instead consider it an investment in your health and physical development. Many of the lessons you learn with a trainer are not time-sensitive and will not go out of fashion, need changing or stop working. For instance, if your trainer is able to teach you to squat effectively, maintain a good posture while exercising and perform strong hinge movements like a kettlebell swing or deadlift, then these are lessons that you can take and use for the rest of your life. Remember, it’s much easier to learn a skill than it is to re-learn a skill. Don’t go and groove ineffective movement patterns on your own only to re-address them at a later date once progress comes to a halt or injuries appear.

If you’re going to make the effort to get to the gym instead of staying indoors eating biscuits then it’s important to make effective use of your time. Three elements you need are consistency, persistence and structure – get that and you’re a shoe in for continued results. Lack any one of these three and results will vary or become non-existant.

Thanks for reading.

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AND, if you came upon this page hoping for some music, here you go One Direction fans - what a banger!

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