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September 2007

"Left-Handed Compliment"

101 Health Secrets Revealed!

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The Illusion Of Variety

Istock_000001519109smallOften, it's more important to create the illusion of variety in your training, as opposed to actual variety.

Actual variety helps to keep things fresh and interesting, and therefore improves compliance, which is a good thing. But it's a false compliance, because you're always doing something different.

On the other hand, the illusion of variety promotes actual compliance.

Let's assume that lunges are very beneficial for you, for whatever reason (there are many reasons why lunging is great for most people by the way, but that's the subject of another post). If you lunge for 3 weeks, followed by 3 weeks of squats, followed by 3 weeks of RDL's, and then come back to lunges, you've created a lot of variety for yourself. The only problem is, even if you managed 100% compliance, you only did lunges for 33% of your program. Which equals the same amount of lunges you'd perform on a program that never varied, where you managed 33% compliance.

Still following me so far?

A better solution is a program where you always lunge, but in constantly varied ways. The variety can be implemented by making adjustments to the lunge itself, by modifying the implements and/or environment, and/or by constantly manipulating loading parameters.

Here are 16 lunge variations, all very different, but all lunges nonetheless. If you apply 2 different loading parameters to these lunges (for example, 6x3 and 2x12), you've just doubled your options.

1) Overhead Squat Lunge

2) Walking Lunge

3) Contralateral Overhead Dumbbell Squat/Lunge

4) Jump Lunge

5) Lunge/DB Press

6) Long, Alternating Step Lunge

7) Short Stationary Lunge

8) Side Lunge

9) Multi-Directional Lunge

10) Lunge/Cable Press

11) Kettlebell Lunge Clean & Lunge Press

12) Lunge Side Walking

13) Giant Lunge

14) Suspended Lunge

15) Heavy Barbell Lunge

16) Single-Arm Press Lunge

The concept I've outlined above is predicated on appropriate exercise selection: It's not amenable to single-joint, open chain, and/or machine-based exercises. Select exercises based on fundamental movement patterns: pressing, squatting, lunging, twisting, pulling, and so forth. Choose one exercise for each category, create an endless supply of variations for each, and watch your progress accelerate as you consistently perform (and ultimately master) the movements that matter most. By striking a balance between consistency and variety, your training program becomes a powerful tool for perpetual progress

A Cross Between Kendo And Pole Vaulting

I think of the two weightlifting events (the snatch, and clean & jerk) as a cross between Kendo and pole vaulting.

Like Kendo, weightlifting has an austerity to it that many sports do not. Kendoists spend their lifetimes trying to perfect a few (seemingly) simple movements. This lack of variety stands in stark contrast to events like the decathalon or strongman competitions. You won't find any high level weightlifters or Kendo-ka with ADD.

And like the pole vault, weightlifting can result in serious injury— this is what separates weightlifters from "guys who lift weights." It's not just a matter of pulling as hard as you can— in addition to harnessing very high levels of effort, weightlifters must also ensure a very high level of precision— failure to do so puts them at a very real risk of debilitating injury.

Get A Cue!

Coaching cues are an important ally not only to coaches, but also for self-coached athletes and recreational lifters. I think of cues as very quick mantras that improve performance when used correctly.

Over the years, I've given a lot of thought to the best use of these cues, and I thought I'd share my perspective on the subject with you in this post.

Internal VS External Cues

An "external" cue is one provided by a coach, training partner, spectator, or anyone else trying to help you out. An "internal" cue comes from you, generally in the absence of external cues from someone else, or (sometimes) in addition to them. Internal cues are in essence a form of "self-talk" that you use to coax a better performance from yourself.

Energy Cues And Technical Cues

Energy cues are used for the purpose of increasing your energy and/or elevating your mood. Common examples are all too familiar:

"C'mon, it's all you!"

"Easy weight bro, easy weight!"

"Tight and fast!"

Examples of energy cues are endless, but they all share one thing: a lack of technical instruction or direction.

That's what technical cues are for. Examples include:

"Chest up!" (Commonly used for squats or pulls)

"Tight lats, loose hands" (Often used for cleans)

"Pull those shoulder blades down and back" (For rows)

Positive And Negative

It's important to note that good cues accomplish two important things:

1) They help you to focus on what's most important at the moment.

2) They help you zone out distractions- things that tend to creep into your mind when you don't want them to. For example, your cue of "crush that bar into a pulp" might help to keep your nagging self-doubt at bay, and it might take your mind off the fact that you have a stressful meeting to deal with later that afternoon.

Your Cues Portfolio

The use of cues can be frustrating at times- one day a certain cue works like magic; the next time, it doesn't work at all. Why is this?

My belief is that a cue works only when it addresses and improves a significant bottleneck in either your energy or performance. By definition, if the cue works, the problem it was addressing is no longer your most significant limitation, so now you need a new cue to address and solve your current most significant bottleneck. And this is why you need a portfolio of cues.

With a cues portfolio, you can rotate cues as needed, depending on your situation. You can write them on wall (or in my case, on the squat rack, as shown in the photo here) or in your training journal.

Please Share Your Thoughts

If you have thoughts about cueing that I haven't touched on here, please hare your thoughts by leaving a comment!