It's 3:30 a.m. I am up eating my Greek yogurt with whey protein, per usual and that will be followed by 2 cups of delicious coffee, Campanioglo toast with peanut butter and honey. Today, I do not have a client at 5 a.m., but I will still be at Reliquum at 4:45 a.m. to do my leg workout, my second for the week. Today I am moving into a new home. I currently live on the third floor of a condo building and will be moving to a 2 story home, talk about a lot of stairs on leg day! Why do I do this you might ask? It’s just what I do, it is part of my life now, it makes me feel good and I truly love it. This week is my 1107th consecutive week of at least one workout for both the Squat and Deadlift taking it all the way back to August, 1995. I don’t think about it much, until I run into the old pictures as I pack. This particular morning I did. I look back at how not only my fitness enthusiasm got started but how my professional career got shaped by 20 years of lessons. Which brings me to the personal lessons I have learned over the 20 years. Here are my top 3:
Role models are good, but your best bet is to try to be YOUR very best
I began a form of strength training 24 years ago in 1992, I was 16. I say “a form” because I did not understand the proper way to structure a program of any kind, one that fit me, my friends and our goals, but, then, I thought I did! The school field day as well as the county athletic field day was coming up and we were looking for an edge. As a true fan of Conan the Barbarian, and The Terminator both played by Arnold Schwarzenegger I thought what better way to run the 100, 200, 400, 1500, the 5 mile run, all the relays, throw the shot put, hammer and javelin than to just train like Arnold. After all, it only made sense to train like the strongest man in the world. Well we all trained like Arnold, girls and boys, and the truth is we did very good, we won most of our events. Chances are that we had an edge, and we were better on competition day than everyone else who was not doing any form of strength training. Chances are also that at the very end we were partially, if not highly over trained, thus, we could have done better than we did.
But, the fact is that we were just lucky. We were not doing any Strength Training before that, so any program would have provided an improvement. Following a program simply because a famous person uses it, is not a valid enough reason. Immediate results are often the rule of measurement of an exercise program, but, immediate results are nothing more than a basic initial physiological adaptation. To be your very best, follow a program just like a tailored suit, perfectly fitted to you. Your current Strength Training program should be designed to meet your age, body type, goals, medical conditions, injuries, training history and current level of fitness.
Basic Multi Joint Movements are the best place to start
I read in depth about Arnolds beginnings and I noticed that he did not start as bodybuilder, but both as a powerlifter and a weightlifter. I also watched his bodybuilding movie “Pumping Iron”, which if you get past his big persona and the fascinating array of huge personalities, you notice one big thing about Arnold. Even though he was no longer powerlifting, his workouts were built around the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. So, I picked up powerlifting and since that moment every week has been structured around the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. My competing career ended in 2006, and indeed my workouts have more mobility and flexibility movements and less powerlifting auxiliary exercises, but, the basic structure is built around the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift or the movements they represent. I found this approach efficient not only for myself as an athlete but efficient for my clients as well. Basic movements always have a place in a training program. Because of their basic nature and functionality, they can be used to improve the motor skills of a stroke recovery patient as well as one of the main components of a world class athlete. We often use common names like Squat, Bench Press, Deadlifts, Barbell Row, etc., but it is in fact the movements, such as hip flexion, hip extension, pull, row, press, etc., what matters the most. A training program should be designed with movements in mind, to identify and maximize dominant areas, identify and improved weaker areas and ultimately achieve total balance and peak efficiency.
Structure, Consistency and Discipline = Progress/Results
I picked up powerlifting in 1995. For the next 12 years of competitions, and every weekly workout structure was based around the Squat, Bench Press and Deadlift. In my first competition at the Collegiate Nationals, competing in the 165-pound category, I finished with a 462-pound Squat, a then record 330-pound Bench Press and a 451-pound Deadlift, all for a total of 1243 pounds which was good enough for 2nd place. That grew over the years to a few records, nationals and world titles. My best numbers at the 165-bodyweight pound class with full supported equipment improved to a 550-pound Squat, a record 402.5-pound Bench Press, a 565-pound Deadlift, and my best total was 1500 pounds. While my best numbers at the same weight class but with no supportive equipment grew to records at the time; they were a 480-pound Squat, a 400-pound Bench press, a 600-pound deadlift, and a 1480 total.
Systems are in place to give an objective frame of reference. For example, we have hours, days, weeks and such. The are very helpful, it gives us a sense of time and measurement. The progress that I achieved during my competition years, and all the benefits that I enjoy to this day, after 24 years of exercising, I attribute 100% as the result of following a structured and consistent program. Yes, I am very disciplined, but, that is all I had to do, be disciplined, and the compounding power of that good discipline gave me results. The structure of the program provided a basis to always refer to when an adjustment was necessary or desired, the consistency provided a reliable point to measure progress against. In the introduction of this article, I mentioned that this is my 1107th consecutive week doing both a Squat and Deadlift workout at least once, why do I do it?! Well, it has compounded positively, and over the years it has enriched my life and it has allowed me to help others, why would I ever stop something so good? If you really want results, start today, and repeat tomorrow……
Luis “Omar” Bermudez