“Let it be heavy,” and other random things heard in the gym

“Let it be heavy.” I say it all the time in my gym, from a client’s first training session until that moment when it finally gets through.

In the midst of what seems like a barrage of new and foreign commands (keep your shoulders back, breathe, sit up straight, tuck your chin in, breathe, root down in the seat, breathe, breathe, breathe, etc.) beginning weight training sometimes feels a bit like whack-a-mole. So many things to pay attention to all at once.  I give my clients a near constant accounting of what IS happening versus what THEY THINK IS happening, and make them aware of what NEEDS to happen, all in an effort to get them connected to the moving parts involved, and enable them to ultimately take personal responsibility for creating a more intense, change-worthy experience.

It is s a burdensome process initially — for both of us.  But little by little perceptions awaken, pieces begin falling in place, clarity.  You can lead a horse to water, but this, my friend, is how you show him he’s thirsty.

One of those moments of clarity is when “let it be heavy” crashes through the noise and resonates in their little pea brains.  That moment is apparent on their faces.  Eyes widen and narrow as if the green data stream behind the matrix has been revealed.  A placid expression of resolution, of zen acceptance, follows.

Let it be heavy.  So obvious.  Training can have a “freakout factor” (copyright pending).  So often when we lift something heavy, instinct takes over and we end up spending a lot of nervous energy moving or turning in an attempt to thwart or minimize the weight.

Instead, let it be heavy.  Stop fighting the experience and resolve to move the damn weight, with integrity, until muscles are sufficiently weakened and there is simply no further movement available.  Suddenly all those heretofore impossible form cues are not little punishments after all, but simply a way of grounding so that the resistance (heavy weight) can do its job: challenge and ultimately change muscle.

When someone breaks on through to the other side, attains a higher level of the video game as it were, he is capable of dramatic improvements in effort, remaining calmer in the face of ever-deepening exhaustion.  The freakout factor is nearly non-existent.  He no longer holds back or cuts off the exercise before the good stuff.  Instead, it becomes his choice to allow the weight to create an effort sufficient to take his strength, and in turn be the instigator of growth.

I call it sacrificing strength at the alter of change.  (Copyright pending.)

So why is that even necessary?  “Can’t I just do my circuit at the gym and leave?”

If the weight is not sufficiently heavy, if it is not challenging to the targeted muscle, there’s no reason for your body to invest in any change at all. If you go to the gym and engage in a routine that you feel very proud to conquer, guess what: you’re already strong enough to do that. Your body isn’t going to waste one calorie on the huge construction project of creating bigger and/or stronger muscle (from which the bulk of exercise benefits are derived.) There’s no Crisco in that griddle, man, c’mon!

But it’s very simple.  No matter what your training “poison,” the next time you are exercising, allow it to be an effort.  Whether the resistance is provided by body weight, barbells or rubber bands, LET. IT. BE. HEAVY. (Copyright. Pending.)

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