Wednesday, September 19, 2007

What You Like Least, You Need Most

For five weeks I was on an unprecedented roll. Every week for five weeks I added five pounds to my shoulder press. I was going low rep, so it was for 4 rep sets. I've always been disappointed by my shoulder strength, so I was ecstatic. My growth was unstoppable, but I felt a twinge in my shoulder.

I am a lanky person. I don't have a large structure, and I think it contributes to the slow growth of my tendons and support muscles. In the middle of a fantastic run, I had to call it quits, because I really really don't want to tear a rotator cuff. So, even though I hadn't plateaued, I switched to a bodybuilding range of 8 to 10 reps to let my muscle size catch up with my strength. I also worked in a lot of rotator cuff specific exercises, so that when I went back to low rep, I'd be ready for more gains.

I hate higher rep. Most people can move about 75% of what they can do for 1 rep for 10. I can do, at most, 60%. It's very frustrating. But that's the hypertrophy range, so if I want to get big, sometimes I have to suck up my pride, ignore my desire for strength progress and just push through. And I did for 2 months. My strength in the hypertrophy range barely increased on any exercise. I just sat where I had started on almost everything, but I stuck it out.

The day I stepped into the gym ready to go low-rep again, I was excited. But I was also realistic. My body wasn't used to pushing the weight it had been before, and even though I'd gained some muscle, there would be a bit of a catch up period.

But there wasn't.

I jumped in and moved more weight than ever on almost every exercise, and the next week they went up more.

I hate lifting in the 10 rep range, but it's what I needed. So I did it. When you can just do what needs to be done, you'll start to achieve your fitness goals, too. Because most of the time, the exercise you like doing least is the one you need to be doing.

I hated deadlifts when I started them. I'm 6'6” and extremely leggy. Deadlifts were uncomfortable and difficult. But I stuck with them, I've progressed incredibly, and I'm better off for it, having developed real strength. The same goes for chin ups. We usually like the things we're good at, but if you're good at bench and stick to it while avoiding chin ups, you're heading for a shoulder injury. Your lat and posterior delt strength should roughly match your pectoral and anterior delt strength.

Listen to your body and figure out why you don't like something, and ask yourself if you should be doing it anyway. I don't like running because I have arthritic knees and I just can't run for more than 2 weeks. I shouldn't run. I didn't like chin ups because they are as exhausting as a leg exercise and I was bad at them, but now I love them and do them with added weight instead of on an assistance machine.

You probably don't like eating vegetables or going to bed at a decent time either, but we're all adults, and we do what we need to.

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