First Things First

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Training According to the Masked Iron Warrior

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There comes a time in the physical development and training savvy of a dedicated lifter when he or she can enter the gym and proceed unencumbered by routine or forethought. Disciplined and ordered, practiced and attuned, he’s able to move from exercise to exercise and muscle to muscle according to urge, need and desire. What a rewarding and satisfying manner of training!

A limited number of lifters achieve this level of understanding, a handful believe they have, and fewer yet take advantage of the freestyle methodology. It requires daring, trust and willful execution.

It’s no secret that not all who enter the halls of iron and steel are distinguished for their boldness, confidence and security. You might say the development of these qualities is the primary motivator of their faithful training, and self-assurance an eventual byproduct. Training without a systematic program is like groping in the dark, shooting blind, crossing the hemispheres, territories and ranges without a guide, map or compass.

Where have they gone, the pioneers, the cowboys and adventurers?
 
Training without a prescribed plan also means no restrictions, no rules, no laws, no controls, no boundaries, no compulsions and no fixed ideas. Planned workouts can be rigid, constraining, uncreative, burdensome, dreary, monotonous, painful and just plain wrong.

I’d venture to say more than a fistful of bombers are capable and ready for less regimented workouts. They either don’t know it, haven’t considered it, refuse to risk it, don’t trust it or are content and safe with routine.
 
What appears to be a random, loose and casual training style, one that would appeal to the rebel personality often present in an iron warrior, is far more demanding and difficult upon engagement. It depends on awareness, alertness and acuity, a non-intellectual supple mind geared for maneuvering, an unhesitating forward lean in action, a reserve of physical energy and mental stamina and unquestionable motivation superceded by intense passion -- thunder and a bolt of lightening.

Instinctive training -- training according to instinct, internal knowledge -- is hardly random. Muscle groups are not worked nor exercises, sets and reps executed without a click of thought or a snap of judgment. There’s a pauseless moment when assessment and decision are made, and motion is engaged. The action is quick and seamless and the results near flawless -- believe it or not.

As you might have surmised, it’s less likely an avid weightlifter seeking records in the press or deadlift would apply this flowing training technique. It doesn’t translate well in progressive strength development where tangible numbers are sought. But where the fluid body is involved and muscle shape, size and density are the goals, the skills and mind of the artist and composer might best be applied. Less intellect, more intuition. More freedom, less pattern.

The trainer who is prepared to take the great leap of faith from the misty ledges of routine is in for a treat -- airborne freedom, a novel and alluring experience indeed. An intermediate degree in musclebuilding is sufficient. The wonder and eagerness of a child and the backbone and calluses of a rascal are the only additional requirements mandated. No nets allowed.

The most constructive time to introduce a change of routine or training style is when the gym and the weights and the attending mob -- the things and people you love most -- begin to look oddly like an old black and white movie projected in slow motion. The characters are stiff, the background is bleak, the action is cumbersome and the plot dismal.

Lights, camera and action, please, and bring up the color and sound.

Okay, fearless explorer! You’ve just stepped into the gym for your first freefall workout and your feet are stuck to the floor. Now what? This can be an impediment; the feet must move as an adventure is about to begin. Thunder and lightening, please. Either hop on the bike or hit the midsection with your favorite exercise combination. These set activities generally stand apart from the nuanced engagement of instinctive training. Execute them and appreciate their preparative worth. They serve to set your compass and release the brakes.

You’ll think and move better with the body warmed up and the mind invested. Imaginatively shake your body like a big hungry dog that has just awakened and is eyeing the gym floor. Sniff, sniff. Excuse my teaching skills, but the dog thing really works for me. Woof... woof, woof! To the dumbbell rack for a set of presses, followed by sidearm lateral raises. Looks like shoulders are one of the targeted muscles for the day. Growl... Where to next, only the shadows of the body and mind know. My tail is wagging.

I understand your reluctance to toss your body out there and allow the subconscious mind to pick up the pieces, but there’s more substance in that dreamy space than we realize or dare admit. It’s like the secret place behind closed doors where many problems are resolved and plans are devised and readied for action. The obscured room -- AKA the think tank and the halt-fault vault -- is active all day and all night. Trust it. It works. 

We are wise to accept the mystery spot, take advantage of the powers of the unconscious mind, and let ’er rip. Feed the hungry receptacle positive thoughts -- like protein and nutrient-packed carbs for the muscular system -- and watch the momentum build and accomplishments pile high. Many of the greatest thinkers and seekers and achievers, past and present, have depended on this hidden mechanism for their successes. The subconscious mind well nourished is vital to our correct performance.

I practiced this style of training exclusively in the ‘70s, when competitive demands were abandoned, and training for the love of training and being fit and strong and capable and loose were embraced more fully. I was in the gym by 7 AM and out by 8:30 six days a week, and if I missed a workout I didn’t disintegrate. I sort of drifted around the gym from dumbbell to barbell, from cable to bench to rack, throttling any exercise I embraced. The weights were moderate and climbed to near-heavy as spirit and energy moved me. I was always in shape, muscular and 10 pounds lighter than the contest 230. My workouts were a flowing tapestry, full of color and texture.

More recently, with the demands of gym ownership (a mentality-changing experience) and the accumulated injuries and years, I’ve resorted to the certainty of routine. Aging and injury are ongoing discoveries and have a way of limiting one’s wandering from the norm. Choices are limited. Not all the exercises listed on the chalkboard in the training room can be performed, or surely not with heavy weight or full range of motion. Thinking, darn it, becomes essential.

You kids who are yet to enjoy the benefits of injuries and rewards of amassed years must be patient. Your day will come. You can hop into intuitive training without noble constraints. I suggest you do not just stand there like Adonis or Diana... Go!

We’re a wiry and tough mob relying on wind beneath our wings, but we are also a pragmatic crew. Let’s have at least one guideline attached to our balloony fuselage to prevent us from drifting off course. We’ll plunge forward as best we can with unplanned movements in various combinations, but let’s practice each combo for three or more sound sets in some reasonable succession. It’s the only tether we need. Ah, sweet assurances.

Should you chance the freefalling workout for a day, it might lead to another and another, and a rush of fresh air might bring frolic to your flight. Soaring might replace putt-sputtering.

Go high, go swift, go sure... by God.

Dave

BOMB SQUAD FLASH

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Enjoy and trust them.

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