Anyone’s first time in the gym is both an exciting and daunting prospect… an alien world filled with big machines, big weights and some even bigger egos. Most people will join the gym with every intention of achieving the best version of themselves to either improve fitness, flexibility or rehabilitate a long standing injury.
In my time as a strength and conditioning coach, I have carried out a number of inductions and a common train of thought was to stick to the cardio machines for the first two weeks to regain some level of fitness. A lot of people run on a treadmill for 20 minutes hammering their knees and ankles with unwarranted stress, wondering why their lower back pain is flaring up again. This is a very inefficient method of losing weight. Gaining strength through movement capacity and weight training will be the key component in bulletproofing your body for everyday life and regaining control of your health.
The key principles to achieving long lasting results fall far away from the treadmill. Adding discipline, proficiency and efficiency & effectiveness will provide the basis for a successful fitness journey:
Discipline – this is an absolute necessity that is okay to build up overtime. Moderating your lifestyle in both training and nutrition by eating less sh*t food and exercising more is the golden formula for weight loss! Training 3 – 4 times per week on a basic strength and conditioning programme with a well balanced diet will be the ideal choice for your body and mind. Remember, not all training sessions are going to be perfect but showing up and putting in the work when you have had a difficult day is where you will build resilience and progress one step closer to your goals.
“To keep the body in good health is a duty…otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” Buddha
Proficiency – This is related to movement. The key word in this point is to MOVE, it is what your body is designed to do. Mastery of the six fundamental movement patterns listed above will allow your mind to reconnect with your bodies overall functionality. The majority of people these days spend hours-on-end sat behind a desk. I am stumped for words when I see these desk-bound athletes arrive at the gym to sit down for a further hour and a half to chase a pump on a seated shoulder press machine. Your mind coordinates the way your body moves and performs day-to-day and the only time you will be able to stimulate these movements is in the gym. Learn how to fluidly move your body by strengthening the fundamentals and your mind & body will be forever grateful for increasing movement capacity.
“Stimulate, don’t annihilate” Lee Haney
Efficiency and Effectiveness – This relates to your workouts. Not knowing what to do in the gym can be just as detrimental as a poor diet. Train smarter, not harder. Pain is the most primal signalling pathway telling you that something is defective in your body. To really relieve that low back/shoulder pain you maybe experiencing caused perhaps by years of dysfunctional movement, seeking help from a strength professional will greatly aid in recovery. Strength in all its varying forms is the foundation from which to build upon. This is why selecting the right program and/or trainer for your goals will be vital to your success. If you’re going to part ways with your hard-earned cash, do your research on the trainers. The personal training industry is an image-based business. Just because a PT is in great shape with ‘shredded abs’ does not mean their toolbox will fully align with what you’re trying to achieve. If a potential client asked me to be a bodybuilder, my toolbox of rehabilitation and athletic development would not be matched to his/her journey.
“Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things.” Peter Drucker
To contextualise these points, I want you to visualise a squad soldiers going through basic training. They learn to become disciplined, efficient & effective and proficient out in the field. During training when conducting drills and marches they learn to move as a unit, working in unison with different roles to reach the mission objective. All of this training is done without any load in their weapons to stop any potential danger. The same goes for your body. As soon as your body can move as one synchronised unit, only then can heavy load be applied so you can train safely and not hinder your progress.
Once you master the fundamentals and become autonomous at performing the movements mentioned above, only then can you go from a corporal to a colonel in the weights room. If you neglect this when you start training you are halting your goals as a result of IED’s (individual egotistical demise), which is a sure fire way to get shot down with injury. There is a wide range of progressions and more importantly regressions that will excel your performance in the gym.