To celebrate 25 years of helping highly motivated people realize impressive physical goals, we’ve put together a list of popular assumptions that can hold anyone back from attaining True Strength. Getting to that level will also require some new thinking along with serious motivation, which is why another list is filled with a variety of physical challenges. Both lists are designed to help you bring up weak spots and develop strengths you might not have known you possessed. That’s what True Strength is all about.
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12 ½ True Strength Challenges
1. Repetition Training. No, this has nothing to do with weight room reps and sets. Repetition training is the most demanding form of marathon/triathlon training, used by elite endurance athletes maybe once a week to improve running speed and economy. Run or bike 60 to 90 seconds all out, so your pace exceeds your VO2max (maximal oxygen uptake). Then jog for about 5 minutes to rest before repeating the cycle. VO2max is largely determined by genetics, but untrained individuals can improve this threshold by about 20%.
2. Drop Sets. Find the heaviest dumbbell you can curl for 8 reps and set it on the floor. Next to it place a dumbbell that’s 5 pounds lighter, then another one that’s 5 pounds lighter than that. Ready to undertake 3 demanding sets to failure? Start with the heaviest dumbbell and do as many reps as you can while still maintaining form. Without resting, grab the next lightest one and do as many reps as you can. Repeat with the lightest dumbbell. You just ‘ran the rack’.
3. Rock Wall Climbing. Some of the fancy gyms have these composite walls and getting up one is a whole body workout. It’s best to bring a spotter to hold the rope your harness is attached to, but some places have an automatic belay system that can be used on indoor and outdoor climbing walls. Hope your grip strength is up to the challenge!
4. Sandbag Training. It’s the medicine ball that doesn’t hold its shape. Carrying, pushing, pulling and throwing the sack over and under various obstacles will work every muscle in your body. You can make one of these versatile workout tools easy enough with material from any hardware store. While you’re there, get a rope and durable plastic hook so you can drag the sandbag during wind sprints.
5. Olympic Lifts. During the 1950s and 1960s, it wasn’t about how much you could bench. The true measure of strength was how much weight you could put over your head from a standing position. Get some instruction on the proper technique before trying to hoist those plates.
6. Stadium Stairs. Take them one at a time, then two at a time to engage more leg muscles. Make sure you pick a day when the steps are free of moisture and ice!
7. Kettlebell Swings. This is another training tool that requires instruction on form and technique, but once you get into the ‘swing’ of using these old school Russian hand weights you’ll find that resistance and cardio get worked in just one session – simultaneously!
8. Power Circuit Training. Choose 8 to 10 exercises and get whatever gear you need lined up and ready to use. There won’t be any rest between sets of exercises. Set the weight at about 50% to 65% of your one rep max. Take a break at the end if you plan on doing more than one circuit.
9. Triathlon. Depending on your level of skill and fitness, you might be able to train for a sprint distance triathlon in 6 to 8 weeks. It’s 750 meters of swimming, 60 km cycling and 5 km running as compared to a standard triathlon’s 1.5 km swim, 40 km cycling and 10 km footrace.
10. Hill Climbing. Take your cycling to another level by finding a 2 or 3 mile stretch of steady to steep ascent and time-trial your way to the top. It doesn’t have to be the Alps to make for a very worthy True Strength challenge.
11. Obstacle Course. On a beach, a field or school playground, recruit some friends to set up an obstacle course. Use the existing playground equipment and bring along sawhorse barriers, empty trash cans, whatever you need to create a series of objects that you’ll have to go up, under or around. Who finished fastest?
12. Individual Medley. Drawing on your best freestyle, backstroke, breaststroke and butterfly form, practice your flip turns doing 50 meters of each stroke before graduating to the full 200 meter x 4 race. Like doing supersets in the pool!
1. Go Heavy Or Go Home. In the weight room, the emphasis is always on more. Especially when it comes to weight. We don’t have to tell you there’s a limit to how many plates you can manage, and always trying to lift more isn’t necessarily the best way to up your bench, or the amount of weight you can hoist in any given exercise. In fact, doing more reps with less weight might force your muscles to adapt to a change in your heavy lifting program, and that can result in greater strength. Try it for a couple months!
2. Carbohydrates Are Fattening. The fact is, any nutrient can be fattening if you consume too much of it. Your body requires a certain amount of proteins, carbohydrates and fats to survive. For the typical athlete, these macronutrients should be portioned out roughly 35% protein, 45% carbs and 20% fat.
3. Distance Running Builds Stamina. While this is true for recreational joggers, those training to compete in a marathon or triathlon might be hurting their chances if they rely exclusively on slow, steady-paced distance running. Varying training intensity – with fartlek, repetition and interval sessions – can result in an ideal combination of stamina, energy production and speed.
4. Eating Right Eliminates The Need For Multivitamins. This might be true for the average person who commits to consuming 5 varied servings of fruits and vegetables, 3 servings of whole grains along with the recommended dairy and lean meats. But most people have a hard time getting all those nutrients every day. Also, active people who train or play sports with intensity have greater nutrient needs than the average person. A deficiency in just a few key vitamins and minerals can negatively impact your physical performance. Multivitamins can provide valuable nutritional insurance.
5. Breaking A Sweat = Great Workout. Maybe. Maybe not. Since each individual is physiologically unique, one person’s sweaty workout might not accomplish as much as another person’s sweat-free session. Men tend to sweat more than women as a general rule. The best way to judge if you got a good workout is to use a heart rate monitor. Or use the talk test. If you can carry on a normal conversation, you aren’t exercising with intensity.
6. All Fats Are Bad. There are dieters who read the facts panels on every food they consume to make sure not one gram of fat is included. That’s a mistake. Your body needs a certain amount of fats for a wide range of functions including skin, fingernail and hair health. Avoid saturated fats from dairy and red meats and stick with unsaturated (mono- and poly-) fats from olive oil, flax, nuts and cold water fish.
7. Sit Ups Build 6-Pack Abs. The look that everyone wants is well-defined abdominals. Attaining it requires more attention to diet than exercise. You see, everyone has abs buried under belly fat. Showing them off is a matter of shedding fat which is best accomplished through diet. You’ll have to exercise too, of course. The next myth is also focused on unfounded eating assumptions.
8. Train Harder And Don’t Worry About What You Eat. While this approach to diet can keep the flab off during your younger years, taking in unnecessary amounts of refined sugar and saturated fat won’t optimally fuel your physical performance. Besides, getting used to eating a healthy, balanced diet early on in life will make it that much easier to stick with later on, when keeping your weight in check might be more of a challenge.
9. No Pain, No Gain. Resistance training doesn’t have to hurt before you begin seeing results.While the strain of lifting weights can be closely associated with general discomfort, if you’re feeling actual pain during a lift it’s time to put down the barbell and call it a day. Remember to give your muscles at least 48 hours to recover with amino acids from protein before working the same group again.
10. Dieting’s All About Calorie Restriction & Cardio. Only to a point. If you cut way back on calories, your metabolism will go into survival mode and slow down to preserve body fat. Cardio conditioning does burn calories, but not exclusively from body fat. In the absence of carbohydrates, your metabolism will convert muscle tissue amino acids to energy. A better approach might be carb cycling and trading some of your cardio sessions for resistance training.
11. Cardio Is Boring. Sure, if you never get off the treadmill or stationary bike. Make your cardio sessions more interesting with lap swimming, jumping rope and plyometrics. Old school calisthenics offer an element of endurance training if you arrange them into a fast-paced circuit.
12. My Weight Lifting Program Is Perfect. That might be true for the first 6 to 8 weeks. Then your muscles get used to the stress you put on them every Monday, Wednesday and Friday morning beginning at 8AM. Changing the days or times you train won’t make much difference, but altering the order of exercises, adding reps and sets, increasing resistance, and incorporating techniques like drop sets and supersets will. You’ve got to keep your muscles guessing if you want to see them continue to grow.
12.5 Free Weights Are Better Than Machines. Yes and no. Free weights make you work harder to stabilize your body while managing a dumbbell or barbell. But machine exercises offer unique isolation movements that can be difficult to accomplish with free weights. Machines can also stand in for a spotting partner when you don’t have a human available to help.
On the 25th of each month during 2011, ON will be running contests and giving away prizes on Twitter and Facebook, so be sure to Follow and Friend us to get in on the fun. It’s going to be an exciting year for Optimum Nutrition with groundbreaking new products and great new flavors of existing products. Keep up with all the Breaking News by checking our news web site Monday through Friday. The latest development?