Part 1 of this article discussed the various areas that comprise human performance. This part of the article will discuss how to build a workout routine that encompasses each of these areas so that we can get maximum performance out of our bodies.
The first area of human performance is power. Power is a combination of strength of speed. Power is about making yourself stronger. So how do you make yourself stronger? Well, there are a ton of ways. Which brings me to my first point. It is easy to go to a gym and do your stock workout right? I mean Monday is Chest day so I am going to do flat barbell bench, incline dumbbell bench, decline peck fly’s, and end it off with push-ups. Hey, this isn’t to say that this is a bad workout, but doing this type of workout over and over again every Monday is going to severely limit your results. You see, your body adapts to exercises that it routinely does, and after a while your gains will be limited, this is known as the plateau effect. So the first lesson is to mix up your workouts. Mixing up your workouts keeps your body guessing, it keeps you mentally engaged, it works the same muscles in different manners and promotes maximum growth. P90X terms this concept as muscle confusion. A good rule of thumb to keep your muscles guessing is to change up your workout every 3 to 6 weeks.
Let’s go back to our Monday chest day example and pull out a few more lessons. So what sounds like a better exercise to you? Barbell flat bench or doing one arm bench presses with dumbbells while lying on a stability ball. I would pose to you that they both are good exercises, but that I would lean towards doing the one arm bench presses while lying on a stability ball. And here is why. The one arm dumbbell presses on a stability ball engages more of those areas of human performance that we discussed in the last article. Doing a press on a stability ball builds the same muscles that you would develop in doing a flat barbell bench press while also engaging your core muscles and developing your coordination, balance, and stability. To put it simply, you get more bang for your buck out of exercises that engage more of those areas of human performance. These types of exercises are known as compound or complex exercises. Alright, so I am going to play the devil’s advocate on myself here. Well Josh, I think that I can do more weight while doing a flat barbell bench press and therefore I will be gaining more chest strength from that movement. Got it, I agree with this statement. When you isolate a muscle, you can develop more strength within that muscle. This is why I believe that you should include isolation movements in your workouts as well (See Lesson 1 above). It is okay to throw in those BB benches. However, I would pose that the second lesson you should get from this example is that as a general philosophy you should be looking to add complex exercises over isometric exercises. This goes back to my overarching thought that working out should be about maximizing all areas of human performance as opposed to just the strength area.
The next tidbit that we can pull out from our Monday chest workout is bodyweight exercises vs. weight training. Which is better? To be honest and to get to the point, they are both great, but as I learn more and more about fitness I would lean more towards doing bodyweight exercises. The reason for this is two-fold. First, since our ultimate goal is to maximize the performance of our body, I believe that we should seek to incorporate our body into our exercises. Body weight squats, pull-ups, push-ups, and dips are all great examples of body weight exercises. The second reason that I lean towards body weight exercises is because they tend to work more of those areas of human performance. After all, push-ups work your core, shoulders, chest, quads, and triceps. Additionally, they are easy to modify. You can do a push-up on a stability ball, medicine ball, push-up stands, with one leg up in the air, with one arm up in the air, etc. It is very easy to pack variety onto body weight exercises, which goes to the two lessons above. It makes it easier to build muscle confusion and create complex exercises. Another nice thing with body weight exercises is that you can do them anywhere. You don’t necessarily need that gym, you can workout at home or while on vacation. With that said, weight training is a very important tool that should be incorporated into your workout routine.
So to sum up Part 2 of this article. When you building the power portion of your workout routine, you need to make sure that you are mixing up your workouts, incorporating complex exercises, and adding bodyweight exercises along with your weight training. (The next part of this article will discuss endurance)