Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Making your bed.

When I was young, my mom remarried. My step-father had been a Marine. By his way of thinking the Marine Corps way was the only way. So when it came time for me to make my bed I was taught this way (yes the guy in the video is Army, but the hospital corners are the same).
Perfectly appropriate for 18-22 year old military recruits. Very clean, very uniform. Not really appropriate for an 8 year old. That process is complex and requires a precision that is outside the abilities of most children that age. Similarly his method of instruction: I demonstrate the skill by doing it, I take it apart, I let you do it. Great way to teach a large number of adults to do something, and a terrible and frustrating way to teach a kid to do something. When I was unable to properly execute the skill, he would pull the sheets and blankets off, show me how to do it AGAIN, pull the sheets and blankets back off, I would try again.. and again.. It turned into a full on fight every morning. Eventually I wouldn't even bother to try to make my bed until he came by. We'd skip the first failure and just fight about why I hadn't made my bed instead. I learned nothing.
In short my step-dad failed, why? Because he never thought about WHY having a kid make his bed is a good thing.
By my estimation:
1) it makes a room look tidier.
2) it is a task a child can accomplish.
3) it has to be done every day (teaches discipline).
My step father was so focused on value #1 that he completely invalidated #2. In so doing he lost all three.

So what does this have to do with training? Several things:
1) don't ask your body to do something for which it isn't properly developed. If you think you're intermediate, you're a beginner. If you think you're advanced, you might be intermediate. Simple training applied with effort will generally yield the best results. Don't jump to try and follow the training principles of this guy or that powerlifter, use their underlying principals, and don't worry about the methods.

2) Ask WHY? What is the purpose. Too many people do too much. Unless you can measure your arm circumference in feet, you don't need more than one curl variation, and even then only if you can do 10 pull-ups. Look at your program with a jaundiced eye look for redundancies. Look for places where you're making excuses to stay where you're already strong.

3) Progress, if you're not seeing any; after months and months; what you're doing DOES NOT WORK. I have seen innumerable people (guys mostly) go in bench/squat/deadlift (mostly bench) work up to the same weight. Go to failure at the same number of reps. Call it a day. Over and over and over. They've completely ignored the principal of progressive overload. They aren't teaching their body anything new. I hear the internet warriors now. What about Westside! You're full of it, those guys max out all the time! Yes, but to quote Sidney Deane "Just because you're listening to him doesn't mean you're hearing him." They work up to a maximal (often supra-maximal) weight every day, but they also push beyond beyond. They are badder assed than you. To quote the man himself:
"That's max effort work. You have a close to PR set, a PR set, a stupid set, and a really fucking stupid set."
Be honest with yourself, are you there? Is that how you need to train? If you're an athlete in a sport that doesn't rhyme with schmower schmlifting the answer is probably not. It's ok to work up to a top set, but unless you're willing to pop a blood vessel in your eye every time out you might want to back off and get a little volume in.

4) "Because I've always done it this way" is the bugaboo of efficiency. If you do things because it's the only way you know how, you don't really know how to do things. Read the work of people you disagree with. Find out everything you can about their methods and why, and keep your yap shut. If you see flaws, make note of them, and don't repeat the mistakes. If you don't maybe you're the one that is wrong.

Sometimes the best learning experiences come from the worst teachers.

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