Stimulus And Response

Here’s a big important nugget, so I’m gonna put it in bold.

Your body doesn’t care what it “feels” like.  It simply responds to whatever stimulus you provide it.

Allow me to unpack that a bit.  One of the reasons people fail at their fitness goals is that oftentimes the human body behaves counterintuitively.  There are a myriad examples of this in the world of human movement science.

Doing crunches will not get rid of abdominal fat, even though it feeeeeeels like it will. You’re just training the underlying musculature.  If you want to burn abdominal fat, you have to give the body a stimulus that will provide that response (a caloric deficit, or taking in less calories than you’re burning).

It’s really not doing what you think it is.


Likewise gyms are filled with skinny young men who are so addicted to “pump” training with higher repetitions and lower weight that leave their muscles swollen with blood, that they miss the “big rocks.”  Getting stronger on big full body movements will lead to more muscle gain than doing endless sets of 15 reps with 10 pound dumbbells (or as is more often the case, doing sets of 15 with 35 pound dumbbells and HORRIBLE form).  And even then, if you’re not in a caloric surplus (taking in MORE calories than you’re burning), your body will have no way of creating muscle out of thin air.  And no, the weight gainer protein shake you buy at your gym’s smoothie bar is not going to undo the fact that you’re eating like a bird the rest of the day.

“Well, I’ve been doing 4 sets of 6 different types of bicep curls

to hit all the angles, just like Flex magazine says!”

(Mark takes out a bottle of battery acid and starts to chug it)

Perhaps the most common example is when people equate the feeling of being hit by a mack truck with a good workout.  Now don’t get me wrong; sometimes you have to leave it all on the gym floor.  But for hard training athletes and those seeking muscle and/ or strength gains, driving yourself into the ground every time you go to the gym is NOT going to serve you.  With the exception of the very genetically blessed it’s going to be too hard for you to recover if you never fluctuate your training success. And if you don’t work hard enough to NEED to fluctuate your training success, well… that’s an entirely different conversation.  And to be bluntly honest most of you reading this are in the latter category.  (I’m being honest because I love you.)

Cultivating a healthy and hot body is like gardening.  It doesn’t happen over night. And if you’re buying into poor training philosophies and you have no objective measurement tools (strength increases, waist or hip measurements, etc.), you could very well spin your wheels for a loooooooong time and not even realize it.  Likewise, even if you are using the best practices for training for your body (which are often very individual, throwing yet another wrench into the equation), you have to be consistent enough to see those results.  Once you’ve left the magical world of a rank newbie where everything works, change is often slow and hard fought.

And how do you find out what the best practices are when you are getting so many mixed messages?  Well you basically have two choices.  You can educate yourself and study your face off or you can outsource your program design to a fitness professional.  Is there any realm of life where you get good results just by winging it? So why would fitness be any different?

If you’re interested in self education, you’ve come to the right place.  In a future article I’ll go into detail about how I learn, but for anyone who’s really into training and wants to go the extra mile, I’m happy to recommend resources (websites, books, dvds, etc.) to you.

If you just want to be hot and have a good blood profile, and you’d rather stick a knife in your eye than do a comparative analysis of German Volume Training versus DoggCrapp Training, get some help.  If you live in NY, you could come play with the ninjas and the unicorns at MFF.  And if you don’t live in NYC and you’re not sure what to look for in a trainer, go back a few posts and review the “How to Pick a Trainer” article.

Seriously though, I SWEAR doing weighted ab machine crunches is almost always a terrible idea.  Unless you’re like 8% body fat and really need to grow those muscles to make them “pling” more.  But even in that case, I’d love to convince you there are better options.  However, at the end of the day you have every right to herniate the discs in your low back.   Love yoooooooou!!


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