I love lists – they’re concise and easy to remember. They give you a good grasp of a subject without requiring you to read a book or a boring research paper. More importantly, lists give you a look at the “big picture” of a subject like strength training for instance. Also, lists open doors to new areas of exploration. There might be a numbered item below that piques your interest, and may encourage you to look into something a little more.
Today’s post is one of these lists.
5 Things You Need to do to Stay Strong for Life
1) Stay Healthy
OK, you’re probably thinking I’m a wise guy, which is sometimes true, but I’m being serious right now. I put “stay healthy” at the top position because your strength is completely dependent on your health. If you’re sick frequently, you will never make substantial progress in a strength training program. Your entire foundation of living is based on your health. If you don’t practice and attain good health, you will never be strong. Period.
So, there is a lot that goes into being healthy, and I’ll go over a few things:
- Drinking plenty of clean water.
- Eat whole, nutritious foods that were alive and growing from or on the earth. A good rule of thumb is to shop the perimeter of the grocery store and avoid foods with “marketing” on the boxes trying to convince you that the food is good for you. Usually, the more colorful and eye-appealing the box is, the worse the food is for your health.
- Get fresh air and sunlight daily. If the weather is nice, roll up your sleeves and get some vitamin D.
- Drink alcohol only in moderation, if at all. Binge drinking is out.
- Never smoke – if you’re reading this, and you smoke – stop. I can appreciate the occasional cigar or smoking a pipe (and I stress OCCASIONAL) – but if you smoke regularly, stop. If you smoke cigarettes, stop.
- Avoid contaminants – don’t subject yourself to an unclean environment. This goes from washing your hands before meals, to using better cleaning products. Try switching to all natural products. I like 7th generation cleaning products, myself. A lot of homemade products can be created as well, search for these via google.
2) Protect and care for your joints
I can’t tell you how many people I’ve consulted with who are walking wounded. Everyone seems to have an injury that prevents them from performing at their best. Sometimes, it’s an “old football injury,” and other times it’s just “something I pulled at the gym.”
Regardless of what an injury was from, probably the best thing to do to avoid injury is pre-habilitate your joints through joint mobility exercise. Joint mobility exercises act as a way of restoring nutrition and lubrication to your joints. We don’t normally think of our joints needing lubrication, but it is essential to ensure you stay pain-free for life. The best joint mobility system I have ever used is Scott Sonnon’s Intu-Flow program – which is literally like an encyclopedia for human movement. It teaches you how to recover your full range of motion at EVERY joint in your body so that you can move pain free. You’ll notice some dramatic body awareness improvements too, meaning you will move with more grace and poise, naturally being more coordinated and balanced. You can find Intu-Flow at Sonnon’s website here:
It’s well worth the money.
3) Train all the body all the time
Again, this sounds a little simpleton, but it is imperative to do this. Neglecting an area or movement in your body always means injury, and injury means having less strength for less time. If you want to stay strong for life, you need to train your entire body. Unless you will be stepping on stage for a physique contest, forget body part specific isolation routines. This does more damage than good since it teaches your body to move in parts, instead of as a whole. A better way to think about your muscular system is as one unit. Your body is more like one big muscle that can do a LOT of different things – than it is a bunch of smaller muscle groups that each have their purpose.
Some examples of this in a training program
- Do squat thrusters instead of separating squats and vertical presses
- Do burpees instead of separating squat jumps and pushups
- Do clean and jerks instead of curls and overhead presses
- Pick multi-joint exercises instead of isolation exercises (ie deadlift instead of leg curl, horizontal pulling movement instead of biceps curl, woodchop exercise instead of ab crunches, etc.)
4) Use progressive resistance training
One of the most common gym mistakes I see is jumping into a training program with 110% effort. Too much gusto too early usually means two things: unexpected injury and unexpected plateau. Your best bet is to perform every strength training program with baby steps. Over time, these small improvements will add up to much more than you could have achieved with the all-or-nothing-until-injured mentality.
There are many ways to progress including
- performing an exercise with better technique
- performing an exercise with less discomfort
- increasing your training frequency (how many times during the day/week you train)
- increasing your training volume – total work being done during sessions is more via extra reps, sets, new exercises
- increasing your training effort
- increasing your intensity – the percentage of your maximum load lifted
- increasing the sophistication of the exercises
- increasing the amount of time-under-tension per exercise
- trying a more advanced training tool
Using a combination of the above protocol to progress in your training program will prove to be a lifelong method for achieving your goals safely – going after them one at a time.
5) Enjoy your training
If you’re not having fun, you won’t last long – and you won’t stay strong for life. If you HATE training at the gym, cancel your membership. Buy some equipment for your new home gym. If you don’t like training by yourself, find a workout partner or join a group exercise class (there are fitness bootcamps spreading like wildfire!). If you’re tired of using barbells and dumbbells, try out some bodyweight exercises or buy a pair of kettlebells or clubbells.
There’s no reason you should dread training. You are taking time for YOU, and you should enjoy every minute of it. If you’re not having fun, something needs to change.
Be strong. Be well.
Your Question of the Day is: what other lists would you like to see featured here in the future?
To your health and success,
Fitness Professional and Wellness Warrior