move at the speed of heavy

"When weight training to gain size and strength, it is best to lower the weight slowly. The lowering phase is what tears the muscle fibers, thus stimulating a growth response." 

Does it matter how fast you move during a resistance exercise? Sure. But there's no formula. Slower does not equal better, as the statement implies.

Who are these by-the-book exercise people who actually implement a two second concentric (lifting) phase and a four second eccentric (lowering) phase? I appreciate their understanding of the academics, but moving that slowly looks ridiculous in almost any context.

[Excuse me as I go pick up my 1-year old daughter for 2 seconds, remove her from the bowl of dog food, and relocate her to another section of the living room with 4 second lowering technique.]

"Dad, what the hell?" 

It's true that the eccentric (lowering) phase of resistance exercise is key to muscle growth and, later, strength development. The magic lies in the fact that muscles are literally shredded (and likely quite perplexed) when you ask them to simultaneously generate lots of force and lengthen. Afterwards, you cut the muscle a break, and the repairing process begins.

But the duration of lowering is not the whole story. Guess what else shreds muscle fibers and stimulates the entire body towards growth and various awesomeness?

Loading! Iron! Heav-ey! Every muscle in in every person can move drastically less load with a 2:4- second rep than they can with a more functional and less weird looking pace of say, 1:3.

So the bottom line is that lifting slowly does provide a longer eccentric time under tension (good for stimulating more growth), but also necessitates a lighter load (not as good for stimulating more growth). And now we bring in the big guns to settle the dispute!

[Enter the Central Nervous System, strutting with lats flared.]

CNS is king when it comes to movement. The CNS derives more benefit from non pencil-necked rep speeds, and especially flourishes in the "survive or be crushed" tempo. Handling more weight and accelerating it quickly develops the fastest and largest number of high threshold, powerful, bigsexy motor units. Heavy loading and high speeds streamline neural drive to the muscles in numerous ways. Ways that actually mean something when you're trying to chase down a soccer ball or wide receiver or 90 mph fastball or curious toddler.

So the faster the better then?

Not really. Speed kills...if it means failing to control a massive load in any way, shape, or form.

Instead try this 4-step guideline to YOUR best rep speed*.
  1. Step 1: Load the thing! After you have done time ingraining correct movement patterns. Warm up and then us enough weight that you don't have energy to worry about counting seconds.
  2. Step 2: Lift it. Attack the movement with deliberately furious fury, as if you're going to throw/push/pull the resistance through the roof. In reality, the load moves relatively slowly because, again, the weight is heavy!
  3. Step 3: Put it down. Don't throw down. Don't slam weight plates so everyone in the gym knows what rep you're on. Don't levitate/hover. Don't bounce it off your chest to test the integrity of your sternum. Lower it under control so you don't get injured
  4. Step 4: Repeat
  5. Step 5: Have a MASSIVE bucket of power to draw from, and apply to whatever it is you like to do.
*Results may vary. It will take more than 90 days...sorry P90 [blank] mentality.
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the best time to train [5:38]

I cleared the area of costumes and toys before moving into the first warm-up set. Racking the weight, I glanced at the clock on the basement wall. It was 5:38. Was it a.m. or p.m.? What does it matter? This writing, the one you're reading right now, has everything on  diurnal and circadian rhythms.

It was just last week that I trained at a massive Gold's Gym in Tulsa equipped with every tool that elevates form and function. It was also loaded with cutting edge distraction; chrome, lights, and every contraption that makes you think you're accomplishing something while actually working very little. The approximate usage was 30/70, respectively.

I have nothing against Gold's, but was happy to be back in my basement. The mega-gym concept would be on it's way out if it weren't for the socialization aspect. People are (hopefully) catching on. The largest barriers to health and fitness are NOT:

1. Equipment - You can get what you call "a crazy lot" done with minimal gear. Weight/fat loss and cardiovascular health are easy. For other goals, a decent home gym that allows you to load up on resistance for the purpose of body recomposition including size/strength gain can be had for $1500. (No you won't acquire super human strength and rippedness by pulling on elastic tubing and waving around 3 pound dumbbells.)

2. Exercise and Diet Gnosticism - Yes we need trainers and rehab people who know what they're doing for the purpose of efficiently achieving specific goals while managing injury risk. But generally speaking, there's not a single American in poor shape for lack of some secret fitness knowledge. "Don't eat (much) crap" and "Find some regular physical activity that you enjoy or at least tolerate" will take 99% of us a long way.

3. Comfort - "No pain - no gain" is totally a half-truth. But to expect the numerous physical and mental benefits of exercise without discomfort is like asking for a shower without getting wet. The stress of controlled loading and impact and striving and straining is the real magic behind resilient bodies and minds.

4. The Great Exception - By definition, we cannot all be exceptions to all the basic rules of human physiology and life as we know it. Yes we are unique individuals. But your special metabolism simply can't gain, lose, improve, tolerate? While everyone else is granted 168 weekly hours to find a few hours to train, that's just not enough for you? You have pain or a disability that keeps you from doing everything?

It's possible that any one of those could be true for the rare exceptions. But for you, in the long-term, I doubt it.

The barriers to health and fitness have always been and will always be:

1. Time.
2. Motivation.

We usually have a choice in whether or not a hectic, no-time-for-anything season of life becomes a chronic condition. Write exercise into your schedule as if it's a life giving, brain saving, body conditioning, stress busting, depression dampening, disease fighting miracle. Because it is.

If attaining fitness means waking up early and packing clothes and driving through traffic before a long work day to do a "shoulders and calves" routine, then I have no time for training either. Training the body as a functional unit is efficient and effective. Unless you enjoy spending 6 days per week watching others flex at themselves in the mirror, feel free to let the body part split routine up to the oily tan body builder guy.

Never under estimate the social aspect of getting out of the home environment and into a crew of like-minded people. On the other hand, some would never get around to training if they had to go out. Either way, find accountability and inspiration to get it done. I'm thankful to train mostly at home with friends large and small (my kids).

I've found 5:38 to be the absolute best time to train, especially when busy and drained, stressed and in need of some perspective. Actually, I always train at 5:38.

Haven't changed the batteries in that clock for years.
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Gait training is worth a shot

I'm sitting at Atlanta International Airport waiting for a lift to some foot and ankle education. Passing time is a combination of people watching for entertainment and the typical gait analysis I do at work.

As Yogi Berra said, you can tell a lot by just lookin.'

"Excuse me, I'm a licensed physical therapist. May I offer some suggestions regarding your gait?"

While never going that far, I can't resist analyzing, scrutinizing, and pondering how and why a person moves the way they do. Wonder! I mean, each leg with 29 bones and hundreds of joints, muscles, tendons and ligaments more or less doing their job, and people are walking around like it's no big deal.

How you walk is absolutely who you are. I'm not sure if one can claim that gait dictates personality, but that often seems to be the case. You can see the worry or stuck-upness or peace in the way the heel lifts from the floor.

Or maybe that person just really has to get to the bathroom.

Clients in the clinic often say something like, "My mom walked that way and I've been walking that way for years and that's just how I walk." And they're right.

But they and mom also had prematurly osteoarthritic knees or hips, warn lumbar discs, persistant plantar fasciitis, or metatarsalgia that has not responded to a myriad of treatments. A sincere attempt at rewiring some basic movment patterns in the family system is worth a shot.

Now it may take some serious mental effort and corrective stretching and strengthening. To get the toes pointed somewhat straight ahead via the foot, ankle, knee, and hip. To improve balance or create a little more bend with less rotational torque of the knee. To increase loading of the ball of the big toe, or maybe all of the above. Some issues require a different shoe, shoe modification, or orthotic that encourages rather than hinders a person from climbing out of the old rut.

You don't have to change 100% from the old pattern to some theoretically perfect gait pattern. Even moving, say, 50% differently can have a huge impact. I've seen plenty of instances where a new gait equals a new person.

Gait training won't create a totally new you, of course. But it certainly has the potential to provide you some freedom.

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