There has always been a lot of confusion about exercise, fitness, and health in general. Many people don’t do it because they don’t understand it and who can blame them? There is so much information out there, people don’t know who to listen to or where to turn to. There is so much information about exercises to do, diet, etc. but almost nobody talks about the most important aspect. WHY ARE YOU DOING IT? Very few people can answer that question and really know what’s behind it. Losing weight, upcoming wedding, vacation, pain relief. These are all valid reasons, but the underlying reason behind it is to feel better. That sounds so simple, but it’s more complicated that that. People have a deep down desire to feel better, but often even in doing so they’re not able to do it the way they really want to. The exercise and diet information they’re given is good, but they’re not getting the whole picture and this is the reason why so many people have trouble sticking to a workout routine.
The problem is that we live in a society where we’ve been conditioned since the minute we were born. We are led to believe that we have to act a certain way, talk a certain way, dress a certain way, etc. Any deviation from that is frowned upon even if it’s in your heart and soul to do so. And in order to fit in, we comply even if we really don’t want to. That little voice in your head telling you to do something else is your true self, constantly being suppressed. Now I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing. I mean we can’t exactly have people running around naked doing anything they please. We have to have law and order. BUT, what if we can let out your true self at certain times of your choosing without fear of consequences? That’s where the fun begins.
Fitness in my way of thinking is all about knowing and learning about yourself. YOU are the one doing the work and YOU are the one reaping the benefits. You may have a trainer, teacher, coach, or whatever. He is there to guide and teach you proper movements, diet, etc, but he can’t teach you what’s in your heart. Only you can do that. It’s not about learning, but rather unlearning a lifetime of conditioning and letting out that inner self. With proper guidance, over time when you exercise you will feel yourself become a different person. Your health will improve, your patience and stress levels will improve, little things that used to bother you will seem silly, and more positive changes will happen. What’s really happening is you are REDISCOVERING YOURSELF! When you were a child you ran, jumped, and played without a care in the world. It is that same innocence that we as adults must strive to get back. Some people call it enlightenment. Whatever you choose to call it, it all comes down to knowing yourself. Whenever you exercise, you are taken to a special place that only you have the key to. This is the feeling to strive for and this is the underlying motivation behind it all. From there, that’s when the benefits really start to kick in. Everything starts with the mind. When you understand this basic philosophy, your journey of health and fitness will finally make sense and your motivation and enthusiasm will be at an all time high. It’s so crucial to understand this, because once you do everything will be crystal clear.
THE TAO OF PERSONAL TRAINING
DID YOU KNOW THAT:
ONLY 25% OF PEOPLE GOING TO THE GYM ARE GETTING RESULTS.
AND 90% OF THOSE PEOPLE ARE WORKING WITH A TRAINER.
It’s sad but true. I’ve been in this game for a long time and I’ve seen all the patterns. People start with the best intentions but ultimately have trouble balancing the schedule. They will also start their diets with the best intentions but end up going back to their old ways. There is just too much they’re being deprived of. Then there are the people who will do the same routine day in, day out and never making any progress. It might feel good to go the gym and it’s certainly better than just sitting on your butt. But if you’re not improving, what’s the point? Not to mention the sheer boredom of doing the same thing every time you workout. These are some of the reasons why people hire trainers. There are many more of course, and any half decent trainer will always find out the goals of the individual. The thing about personal training is that it’s obviously PERSONAL. That may sound silly, but there are many people and trainers who don’t understand this concept. People are often surprised that I don’t have a standard protocol or workout for my clients. I design programs on the spot and in the moment. HOW ELSE COULD I POSSIBLY DO IT? I don’t know beforehand if it’s a man who wants to lose weight under doctor’s orders, a woman getting ready for a wedding, a skinny teenager wanting to build more muscle for football, someone recovering from an injury, etc. How could I possibly have one workout for all those things? Only after a consultation can I design a workout and meal plan for the individual. I also realize that people are human beings and the last thing I want to do is deprive them of the things they love. You can have your treats and it’s no sin. You just have to understand a few guidelines first.
Working out and getting fit should be an enjoyable journey. It should not be drudgery, but that’s exactly what so many people have made it to be. Unfortunately the media often associates pain with fitness. It drives me absolutely crazy when people say “No pain, no gain”. I always turn around and say “No brain, no gain”. That’s not to say that getting fit is easy. Make no mistake; IT’S HARD WORK! But it should never feel like work. It should be fun.
PHYSICAL CULTURE, A FORGOTTEN ART
I consider myself a physical culturist. Many people nowadays don’t even know what that really means. It was a popular term from the late 19th and early 20th century which encompasses all physical activities which will “cultivate” the body. People now tend to be very specialized. Bodybuilders, weightlifters, gymnasts, runners, swimmers, etc. There was a time when someone could be all of these things and have well rounded balanced health. In addition, physical culturist of old were not fanatics about diet and over-supplementation. It was intended to be a lifelong pursuit. Not something you do for a few months, drive yourself insane with food deprivation, only to snap and go back to your old ways.
I’ve been involved in health and fitness for the past 25 years. I’ve seen lots of people come and go, but I’m still here. The reason is that I’ve learned how to make physical culture work for me. I’m not a slave to it. I’ve literally known people who wouldn’t eat a blueberry if it wasn’t on their carefully constructed diet plan that told them exactly how much their food should weigh and exactly what time of day to eat it. No wonder so many people quit! How long do you really think you can last living like that? Or are you never going to have pizza and birthday cake at your kid’s party ever again? The key is to be well rounded in all areas of your life. The concept of physical culture is not just about the physical, but the psychological, social, and spiritual as well. In the martial art of Ving Tsun, the concept of the centerline is the most important idea of the entire system. You always must stay on center. I’ve taken this to heart in many aspects of my life. Never go too far to the left or right, up or down. Stay on center and you’ll be okay. Remember that it is possible to enjoy ALL aspects of physical culture. You don’t need to make yourself into a monster bodybuilder to the point where you can’t walk properly. And you also don’t need to make yourself into a cardiac muscle with legs by running endless miles every day. STAY ON CENTER! Make health and fitness part of your life. Don’t let it rule your life.
TOO MUCH INFORMATION!
It really is true. There’s so much information out there, it’s very hard to know what’s true and what isn’t. If you ask 10 trainers how to train their legs, it’s very likely you’ll get 10 different answers. Even if you’re not looking for it, the internet is full of health and fitness information shoved right in your face. I started training many years gao before the internet existed. There was a lot less information, but then again there was less chance to get confused. Through my training in the martial arts, I try to find the UNIVERSAL TRUTH. We don’t have three arms, four legs, two livers, etc. There are only so many ways our bodies can move and there are only so many ways we can exercise and get results. One universal truth about exercise is that we are meant to use as much of our bodies in a single movement as possible. These are also referred to as multi-joint or compound exercises. Another truth is that you should train your entire body in one workout or at the very least, split the muscles over no more than two days. Nowadays it seems that everyone thinks you can’t train more than one or two muscles per day. Then they go into the gym five or six days per week. A typical split might look like this:
Day 1 : Chest, Triceps
Day 2 : Back Biceps
Day 3 : Shoulders, Abs
Day 4 : Legs, Calves
With a workout like this you end up hitting each muscle roughly once a week. They try to tell you that the muscles need the recovery time. Here’s the problem. There is some truth in what they’re saying, but it’s not the whole picture. Your muscles do need the recovery time IF you’re blitzing them the way they recommend with 12-15 sets per muscle group. Once people are convinced that they have to split up their muscles that way, they’ll have to find exercises to fill the time. I mean you’re not going to just train 4 or 5 sets of each muscle and then go home. That would probably take only about 20 minutes or even less. So to fill in the gaps, people will do all sorts of redundant exercises just for the sake of it. Here’s a typical bicep workout that you might see:
Barbell Curl: 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Dumbbell Curl: 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Cable Curl: 3-4 sets of 10-12 reps
Concentration Curl: 3-4 sets of 15 reps
That’s quite a bit of work for such a small muscle and they’re all pretty much doing the exact same function. Now let’s change our way of thinking. Let’s go on the premise that you do NOT have to only hit each muscle once a week. In fact, let’s say we’ll train the entire body three times per week. I can already hear people screaming about overtraining, but it simply isn’t true. Let’s look at functional strength and athleticism. When was the last time you did something athletic without using your entire body? I don’t just mean sitting on a weight machine, but something dynamic like a jump squat, a good run, a game of soccer, hockey, etc. We are meant to use our entire body and we’re meant to do it often. A chief from the Tarahumara Indian tribes of South America, legendary for their running prowess, was still running regularly well into his eighties. An American runner and writer was shocked that he could do it. When he asked him how he was able to do it with no pain or health issues, he simply answered “No one ever told me I can’t do these things. This concept doesn’t exist in our culture. This is what we do. Men, women, children, seniors, everyone”.
Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s get back to the original point. If we accept that we will train the entire body 3 times a week, how will it differ from the more common split routines? First of all, you won’t need to do all these different exercises for the muscle. You’ll only need 1 or at the most 2 per muscle per workout. The next workout might be different, but in each workout we’re looking at only 1 or 2 exercises per muscle. Those exercises would obviously have to be very functional or multi-joint. If you’ve only got 1 or 2 exercises, you certainly don’t want to be wasting time on fluff. So by choosing these functional exercises and doing them more often, you’re training your body to work as a whole unit. And in doing so, everything will improve including your ability to perform better at other sports. Something that most people don’t realize is that entire body workouts was the norm for the majority of athletes even into the 1980s. The fact is that anabolic steroids allowed people to train in this blitzing manner and still recover. If a non drug-using person tries these routines, it will spell certain doom, which is why the majority of people in the gyms are just spinning their wheels. And the ones who are making progress training in this insane manner are using “gear”. Trust me. I’ve been in this game for a long time and I can tell you that it’s rampant. There’s almost no one who’s truly natural anymore. Even if they’re not using full-blown steroids, there are many questionable supplements on the market that as far as I’m concerned, aren’t much better.
If you don’t want to do full body workouts, try this split:
MONDAY: CHEST, BACK, SHOULDERS
TUESDAY: ARMS, LEGS, ABS
THURSDAY: REPEAT MONDAY
FRIDAY: REPEAT TUESDAY
I have personally used this split with good results as have many others. As I said earlier, I try to find the universal truth. I think it’s safe to say that a dynamic movement using the entire body and working out in a way that gets blood pumping throughout your entire body is better than just training one or two muscles per day. Never mind what you read or hear and I’m not saying that I have all the answers. Just think about it yourself with no outside influences and then see what you come up with. I can only speak for myself and my clients, but total body workouts or two day splits bring results. I see people in the gym all the time doing the blitzing workouts and are just spinning their wheels. They may make some progress, but nowhere near as fast. But once again, this is just my opinion or my universal truth.
At the end of the day, health and longevity along with psychological and spiritual well-being is the name of the game. The crazy dietary practices that people follow are just as insane as the training. And the sad part about it is that there’s nothing new. It’s all been done before. It just gets re-packaged and re-named, but it’s the exact same thing over and over again. The low carb diet, the high carb diet, the high fat diet, the low fat diet, etc. have all been kicking around since the 19th century. I’m a collector of vintage muscle magazines and my oldest issue is “Your Physique” from 1946. In that magazine, they were referencing a diet from the 1860s where people would eat tons of meat, some vegetables, and zero grains and fruit. Does that sound familiar? It seems the low carb diet has been around a lot longer than the Atkins diet. The bottom line is that any diet that has a start and an end to it will ultimately fail. The only way to make this work is to find a way of eating and training that’s REALISTIC. Something that you can see yourself doing the rest of your life which includes cheating here and there. It’s perfectly alright to have some pizza, a cheeseburger, a couple of beers, etc. Just not all the time. And when you’re eating clean, it need not be ridiculous. There’s no need to live on alfalfa sprouts and skim yogurt. This has to be something you can follow not for weeks or months, but for years and decades. By living the healthy lifestyle for many years, your life will change in every way for the better. Bruce Lee once said that it’s not about learning new things. It’s about chipping away all the crap, conditioning, and BS that we’ve collected until we find the source of our ignorance. When you do that, you’ll find your true self. Learning about working out, martial arts, meditation, everything is all about finding your true enlightened self free of the conditioning from society and other nonsense. I guarantee you’ll never read about that in any of the magazines or mainstream fitness websites. But that, my friend, is the true reason for doing all of this.