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I’m going to try as hard as I can to not articulate this point like every other cliche article, video, speech about why you need to fail. But if you feel like you already know what’s coming and don’t want to hear my take, feel free to move on.
Whether it’s in the gym or it’s in life, failing is essential to growth. Why?
Because we must be constantly reminded that progress is not linear. That we can’t always succeed and succeed and succeed, and that our goals can always be achieved effortlessly.
In the gym, failing a rep or failing at a PR attempt is a great thing. Because that’s exactly the moment when you grow the strongest. Until you fail at a rep, you never truly know what your threshold is. You may be getting stronger rep by rep, day by day, but you never truly know how much you can go before you can’t go any more. Your mind is never met with true adversity in the gym. While you may struggle at reps, really failing a rep, I mean failing hard, not even able to budge the weight, gives your body and your mind a threshold and challenge.
You’ve suddenly realized there’s something you can’t do.
And you learn from that. You change up your programming, you change up your diet, you change your mindset, you change your behaviors, then get after it to attack the weight the next time to lift that barbell off the ground.
This is important in the gym and in life to fail because not only do we find motivation in that, but it reminds us that success and growth isn’t easy. And it shouldn’t be. If we continue to have everything given to us without the need of hard work, dedication, and intention then we’d go through life living with a dull flame, and excitement, achievement, and self-pride would hardly exist.
We must also keep in mind that rewards from success are not always monetary. Doing a good job at work or hitting a PR in the gym brings increased self-confidence, pride, and allows you to learn the steps that it takes to succeed so that you can apply it to the next goal you have set.
So train to fail. Embrace failure as something to learn from. You will never know your true potential until you reach your maximum threshold. From there, you will be able to recognize just how much it will take to achieve the goals that are important to you, and you’ll be informed and educated from the failures you’ve had to help you succeed in the future. All to help you become the strongest, healthiest, and happiest you can be.
But I often find myself in conversation about dedication and how disciplined I am about lifting weights and going to the gym, and people tend to say:
“Man I wish I could be that good about going to the gym”… or something to that effect.
See the gym is much more to me than something to do to keep myself in shape. That’s actually one of the last reasons why I go so regularly.
The gym for me is an outlet. It’s an escape. One where I can blast music, let my stress go, and listen to – and connect with – my body.
For these reasons (and also that it’s good for me) I keep it close to the top of my priority list.
But what people see on the outside, though, is someone who finds time to go to the gym more times during the week than not, to keep themselves in shape. And this is something that seems to be envied by a lot of people.
But when the gym is more than just something you do to stay in shape, it isn’t always a good thing, or something that should be envied.
Because when I miss a workout, I’m missing much more than just an hour of mindless sweat and fatigue. Missing a workout means missing time that I need with myself, and it can make me stressed, anxious, upset, and angry.
When someone goes to the gym with the sole intention of it being good for you and something you should do on a somewhat frequent basis, it’s easy for those people to skip a workout to do something else, like grab a few drinks with friends instead. It’s easy because there aren’t many other elements tied to the workout, like the therapeutic effect, the self-competitive effect, among others.
See these people have actually subconsciously mastered the idea of moderation and balance. An idea that doesn’t come easy for some, including me.
No matter what your reasons are for going to the gym, it’s important for us to always remember that a life of balance will ultimately give us more joy than one with unequal weights.
Sometimes we must recognize when it’s okay to take a step back and enjoy the things around you and experience all that we can to help us live a stronger, healthier, and happier life.
But priorities are priorities for a reason, so we must help each other understand what’s important to each of us so we don’t feel like balance is a difficult thing.
And if you surround yourself with people who truly care about you, they will understand and work with you to have balanced relationships and friendships that will only grow stronger as time goes on, while also allowing you to attain the personal goals you set out for yourself.
Do you train to strengthen your grip?
If you answered no, it’s time to start.
Grip strength, basically, one’s ability to make a fist and resist force attempting to open it up, has many benefits in the gym and also in every day life.
Here are 3 reasons why you should be training to improve your grip strength:
It allows you to lift heavier in almost any exercise
Because so many exercises involve holding a dumbbell or barbell, improving your grip strength will allow you to focus more on activating the proper muscles instead of focusing on trying to hold the weight in your hands for dear life.
Every day tasks will become easier
Think about how many things you do on a daily basis that require you to use your grip. From opening up a jar to carrying bags of groceries from the car, your grip is crucial for achieving tasks and promoting functional independence as you age.
Promotes healthy joints
Improving your grip strength will have positive effects on the health of your wrists, and more importantly, your elbows. The elbow joint is extremely prone to injury, so training your forearm and grip muscles will strengthen the surrounding musculature and ease up your tendons to keep the pesky elbow pain away.
So how do you increase your grip strength?
Use more Free weights and fewer machines
Using free weights forces you to use your grip more, therefore strengthening it due to repetitive use. Machines make it easy to isolate specific muscles, but often don’t require a strong grip since gravity is not an opposing factor/force, which is the reason why so many free weight exercises with dumbbells and barbells work your grip and other muscles (hence, free). Here are 2 great exercises that build a strong grip:
Deadlifts are a great way to increase your overall strength, and one of the important muscles that the deadlifts train aside from your back are your forearms, i.e. your grip, since you are holding a heavy barbell as you lift it up and down.
2. Farmer’s Carries
A farmer’s carry is executed by holding two dumbbells of medium to heavy weight down at your sides while in a standing position. From there, you should walk around 10-30 yards at a time, depending on weight, while maintaining an upright posture. The main muscles activated are your forearms and traps, but is a great exercise to incorporate into any functional training program.
Even the smallest muscle groups require big attention and your forearms and grip strength are no exception. Being able to hold onto dumbbells and barbells with more weight, longer, will help develop strength and endurance for functional activities leading to a stronger, healthier, and happier life.
The Olympics have been over for about a week, but they’re definitely not out of mind. After spending hours watching different athletes in different sports compete at the highest level, I started to think a little bit about how I could accelerate my progress and how I could advance my level of skill, specifically in powerlifting. And what I learned most was something I think we can all learn from and use to help us all progress and become stronger, healthier, and happier.
There’s a reason why Olympic athletes become Olympic athletes. And while genetic predisposition plays a large part in this, what also makes them Olympians is the amount of time that each competitor spends perfecting their craft and skill.
And while we may not have 3 hours a day to dedicate to lifting weights, running, or any physical activity, what we must make time to craft our skill, to perfect our movements so that we don’t become injured and therefor incapable of performing them in the first place. And a huge part of achieving this this is by the proper use of warmups and stretches.
On and off camera before an Olympic event, athletes are taking their time warming up, stretching, and getting themselves physically and mentally prepared to compete. This may last for an hour leading up to their event. But these routines allow them to run faster and lift more weight than anyone in the world.
Now we all aren’t going to be breaking any world records (or maybe we will), but we can train like Olympians. In order to stay healthy and compete at the highest level, Olympic athletes understand the importance of warming up and cooling down. When we only have maybe an hour a day to exercise, we often skip this step and jump right into exercise to save time and get straight to work.
But why would we do this if we know that the most elite athletes all around the world would never skip their warm up routine because it is so crucial to injury prevention and exercise preparedness?
If this step is crucial to any Olympic athlete who has been able to achieve amazing athletic feats, that must mean that it is even more important to the every day gym goer, since we are far less skilled and practiced as these athletes are.
Olympians train nearly every day in some capacity. And every day they warm up and take care of their bodies so they don’t become injured. For those of us who don’t train every day of our lives, we are even more susceptible to injury because we don’t have the time to perfect our form and to practice tirelessly to perfection. Which is why the warm up is even more important to us regular athletes.
Most of us will never be the fastest runner in the world, or the heaviest lifter, but no matter how fast we can run or how much we can lift, taking the time to warm up and stretch like an Olympian will allow you to continue training and keep yourself injury free so that you will continue to grow stronger, instead of rushing into things, trying to go too hard, and then injuring yourself every 6 months and setting back your progress because you didn’t take your warm up seriously and with the mindset of a world class athlete.
Warm up like an Olympian, because they know the important role it has in keeping them healthy. And if you only have an hour to exercise, prioritize warming up and stretching before you touch a single weight because in the long term, a healthy and more mobile body will get you much farther (literally and metaphorically) than an injured and broken one. This will allow you to live a strong, healthy, and happy life for the longest you possibly can.
The spine: the backbone (literally) of your entire body and being. Sending hundreds of conscious and subconscious nervous impulses every second to every part of your body allowing you to move, breathe, pump blood through your heart, LIVE. It’s no wonder why people care so much about having a healthy spine. Which is why I know that most of us have been told, or have thought for ourselves, that we should sit or stand up straight. But I’m here to tell you today that standing up straight is bad.
Because we shouldn’t be standing up straight, we should be standing up TALL.
Standing up straight typically has the connotation of standing with a neutral spine. Neutral spine means supporting your spine to rest with its natural curvatures (lordotic or convex curve of the cervical spine, kyphotic or concave curve of the thoracic spine, and a lordotic and kyphotic curve of the lumbar and sacral spine respectively).
But this only paints a half, two dimensional picture. So usually when you’re standing, you think to stand up straight by pinching your shoulders back so you’re not hunching. But there’s so much more to posture than that.
Standing up TALL allows you to start your posture from the ground up, in all planes of motion.
Having just neutral spine doesn’t mean from a side angle only. It means from the front, side, back, and every angle in between. And the only way to accomplish this is to stand tall.
Your feet are firmly planted on the ground about hip width apart, toes pointed forward or at an angle no greater than 30 degrees, your knees are slightly bent just so that they aren’t locked, your hips are even and space is created in your lumbar spine with tight glutes and core, your thoracic spine is promoted into a healthy position by a conscious contraction of your posterior chain (behind/back of your body) bringing your shoulders down and back forcing you to puff your chest out, your arms are resting to your side and palms facing inward toward your body, your head is rested directly on top of your body so a straight line can be drawn from the top of your head, through your neck, and down in between your feet.
Now you are standing straight, but you’re not quite there yet.
How to do stand TALL?
Well in this correct postural position, pretend that line running from the top of your head to your feet is actually a string. And imagine that the string is attached to a pulley above you. Now, slowly pretend as if someone is pulling that string, forcing you to be lifted up off of the ground, while remaining in this posture.
Stand up and do this with me right now as you read this.
Do you feel the SPACE that has been created in all of your joints and each and every vertebrae? Do you feel the energy that is harnessed through a firm rooting in the floor? Seriously. Actively do this right now.
But here’s the catch, you’re still not quite standing tall.
Because the final component to good posture and standing tall is the way you will now carry yourself in this position. To truly stand tall each must now feel empowered with this postural vitality to carry on with your life and command your presence wherever you walk or sit.
When you stand up straight, you’re simply straightening your spine.
But posture is power. When you stand TALL you become confident – your character changes. You’re in charge and you are a presence, a force, and someone that people notice as you stand, or walk by.
Good posture allows your nervous system to be more efficient, promotes good health and increased vitality as you age, and can be significant in reducing injury.
Standing TALL allows you to become confident. A force that will drive you through your journey to become the strongest, healthiest, and happiest you can be.