A Merry Rogue

One working Dad's journey to find "healthy".

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Things That Stick With You

The Scene; Any high school weight room in the Mid 90’s.  The Sound Track; AC/DC, Metallica, Slayer, Guns & Roses, grunts & screaming words of encouragement.

Sweat, loud music, grunting, yelling . . . a scene that I’m sure that a lot of us are familiar with, the typical high school weights class.  Filled with everything from a jock to a goth.  A scene that would probably put a scowl and a bad taste in the mouth of most gym goers.  Yet it is where a lot of my experience & knowledge in weight lifting & exercise all began.  To this day, a lot of those lessons still bear weight and have remained with me.  Muscle Soreness ("What's In A Name?" Or "Soreness Abounds!") and Gaining Before Losing (Week 1 - The Beginning . . . well sort of (01/16/2012)) are two that I have mentioned previously that both have their beginning here as well .  Here a few more tips that I haven't mentioned yet but always come into play when I workout.

Power Balance
I’m not 100% sure, but I’m pretty sure that is what my weights teacher called it.  When I started lifting weights in 8th grade, everything in our weight room at the high school was free weights with one multi station cable machine in one corner and a sled in the middle of the room.  

The whole idea behind power balance is that when you are lifting free weights, lets say squat for this scenario, you use “stabilizing” muscles to help balance and hold the weight stable.  When you use a machine, you stop having to use those muscles.  We were always told that those muscles were what helped you prevent injuries and have good balance.

While I have never done any research into this, I find that when I life with free weights that I have better balance.  I must say in the defence of machines that when you use them you can 1)  Lift heavier weights and 2) have less of a chance of injuring yourself during a lift.  I always try to keep a balance between the two for certain lifts.  Mostly those exercises, such as squat, involving my lower back.  I’ll use the free weights for the lighter weights and a machine for the heavier weights.

Now fast forward to the start of my senior year.  The school had purchases a bunch of new equipment for the weight room.  A weight bench, two squat machines, and a press machine.  They were pretty high end machines from what I recall.  Ball joint hinges to allow a little more free movement than a standard machine.  What I remember about this specifically was a discussion that occurred solely based upon the fact that a group of students wanted one of the old squat racks to remain in the room.  Solely based upon what our weights teacher had taught us about those “stabilizing” muscles.

Put it back where it belongs
One thing that was drilled into me was the practice of putting the weights back where they belonged.  Everything in a weight room has a place, whether that is where you got it from or not, that is where you put it when you are done with it.  A clean weight room makes for a safer weight room.  Not to mention a quicker workout.  If there are where they belong, you don’t have to waste time looking for them.

To this day it is one of the biggest things that annoy me when I go to a gym.  Some gyms aren’t so bad.  The last gym I went to for example was nice & tidy.  It was a rare occasion when something was out of place.  The gym I am going to now is always a mess.  The weights are out of order, in the wrong place or still laid out on the floor from the last person who used them.  Usually the person responsible for not putting things back is given hints by their fellow gym goers in typical Minnesota fashion.  With subtle passive-aggressive hints.  However, not only are the gym goers horrible at this, but the staff is the worst at it as well.  When a personal trainer gets done with a client, everything gets left exactly where it is.  In the middle of the floor.

So why do I go to this gym?  Aside from being the closes to my work and to home, it has more of the equipment that I use.  Whereas the other ones within a reasonable driving distance lack what I want.

Muscle Confusion & Tracking Progress
These are both bi-products of the routine that we used in high school and to this day I still use both of them when forming my workout plan.

Tracking Progress:  I still make log sheets to take with me to the gym.  I write down the total reps and weight used for each set of each exercise.  I compare my current weeks results with the last time I did the same workout to make sure that I am progressing towards my goals and improving where I need to improve.  

Muscle Confusion:  Each week is different from the last.  The high school workout plan was the same lifts on the same days for a set time, then you changed them up.  They were still the same exercises, just done on a different day.  Each week differs in the set/rep used.  Week one in high school was 3X3, week two 5X5, week three 5-4-3-2-1, and week four was 10-8-6.  Then you would repeat.

One last random piece that has always stuck with me is that final set.  Did as many reps as you could.  You pushed until failure.  It is easy to say you’re done at the end of an exercise, but are you ever really, truly done?  Push yourself sometime and see how far you can go.  You’ll be amazed at what you can achieve.

PS:  Have a spotter watch you on that last set.
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