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Old 11-21-2008
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Default "Raising the Bar, It's All Relative" by Matt "Wiggy" Wiggins

[size=14pt]Raising the Bar, It's All Relative
- by Matt "Wiggy" Wiggins


That's a word that's used a lot of different ways. Einstein had a theory of relativity. We all have several relatives - i.e. family members. Relative can also infer comparison. How relative one thing is to another can mean to compare them in some way. This is what I want to talk about.

When we train, whether we realize it or not, we are comparing what we're doing to what we've done. This is what determines "heavy" and "light," "easy" and "hard."

I've said this before - your body has no idea how much weight is on the bar. It only knows how hard it has to work. The harder something is to do, the harder is has to work. I know this sounds pretty simplistic, and it is, but it's worth saying. It's basically your body's feedback mechanism to you. Your body doesn't know if you're lifting a barbell or a sandbag, running on a treadmill or on a track. All it knows is that it has to exert certain amounts of force in certain ways, for certain amounts of time.

It is because of this idea (that your body only recognizes how hard it has to work) that you might be able to deadlift 400 pounds with a barbell, but still have a hard time picking up a 200-pound sandbag. The sandbag should be easier, right? It weighs half what the barbell does. Guess what, though - it's not. Why? Because the sandbag is a much tougher object to lift, hold, and manipulate than a barbell is.

This is also the reason why you can hit the gym some days and feel unstoppable. The weights feel light, or your just seem to glide around the track, or (if you're sparring) your opponent just seems to leave everything open to you. You feel like you could just wreck the world.

On the other hand, though, other days you hit the gym, only to have it hit you right back. You're slow, sluggish, heavy, weak... you just feel like crap and everything that is normally easy is just kicking your ass.

Now, this can be for a lot of different reasons, but that's not what we're here to talk about today. The point I want to get across is that the exact same exercise, at the exact same resistance or speed, for the exact same sets/reps or time, can feel TWO totally different ways, should you be having an ultra-good, or an ultra-bad, day.

This is what we want to harness.

Again, remember that I said the body has no idea how much weight you're using, how fast you're trying to run, etc.; it just knows how hard it has to work. Now, let's mix this with the fact that your body's feedback mechanism to you is basically how hard it feels to do something.

Ever hear the saying, "It's mind over matter; if you don't mind, it don't matter"? Well, we're going to sort of "trick" your mind into making it not matter.

I want you to pick a workout that is a real tough one for you. Get a real ass-kicker. Now, figure out a way to make the workout insanely harder. This can be done however you like. Some examples might be:

-If you're scheduled to do 4 exercises, 5 sets of 5 reps each, do those same 4 exercises, but do 8-10 sets of 5 reps each (with the same weight). If you can't complete all the reps after, let's say set 6, drop the weight just enough so that you can get all 5 reps, and keep doing your sets.

-If you're scheduled to do complex training, 5 exercises per round for 4 rounds, do 4 rounds of 8-10 exercises. Or, do the 5 exercises per round, but do 10-12 rounds. Or, keep the sets/reps the same, but increase the weight by 20 percent. Or, cut the rest time in half.

-If you're scheduled to do "tabata" style sprints (8 rounds of 20 seconds on, 10 seconds off), don't do just 8 rounds - do 30. Or, instead of 20 seconds on, 10 off, do 45 seconds on, 15 off.

-If you're scheduled to do some density-style training, doing as many sandbag shoulders as you can in 20 minutes, increase it to 40 minutes. Or, pick a crazy number of reps (say you usually get 45 reps in 20 minutes, pick 65-70 reps) and just keep at it as long as it takes to get it done.

-If you're scheduled to spar for (3) 5-minute rounds, spar for ( 8 ) 5-minute rounds.

You get the idea - just go nuts.

IMPORTANT NOTE - Don't do anything stupid. I want you to have a really hard workout, but don't do anything outside the realm of your capabilities. This is getting the job done at all costs, but not if those costs mean poor exercise form, using more weight than you can really handle, or anything else that might get you hurt/injured. I want you to go to the absolute edge of your capabilities, not careen toward the edge recklessly at 150 mph with no brakes, the doors locked, and your eyes closed!

Now, why would you do this? Because of relativity.

When you're working hard, you've got a certain level of hard work that you're always (whether you realize it or not) mentally comparing it to. To give a simple example, if you know your max bench press is 300 pounds, you know how heavy that feels in your hands. And in comparison, you know how heavy 100 pounds feels, 200 pounds feels, 245 pounds feels, 280 pounds feels, etc.

What a workout like this does is "raise the bar" (to coin a phrase) in terms of what you now compare your future workouts to. The next time you go back to the workout in it's "stock" fashion, I guarantee what you're doing will seem easier. And that will make it easier for you to work harder, which will make it easier to progress.

Don't believe me? Try this simple test. Go to the gym and do a few pushups. Maybe a light set of benches - just a very basic warm-up. Now load your max bench press on the bar (do this inside a power rack for safety). Unrack it and hold. Don't actually bench it - just hold it. Now, add about 20% or so to the bar (this is why you're in the power rack). Unrack again and hold the bar. Again, don't bench it - just hold it. Now, strip back down to your max bench again and unrack it. Does your max still feel so heavy? Sure, it's going to feel heavy - it's your max. But I guarantee that the second time you unrack, it will feel MUCH lighter than the first time. (And this is your absolute maximum we're talking about!) Why? Because you've got that max+20% you just did to compare it to.

Apply that same principle to an entire workout, and you get an idea of what I mean.

Naturally, you can't do something like this all the time - especially if you're doing a lot of MMA training. It will just burn you out too quick. But, doing one of these super-crazy workouts once per month should be okay. Just be sure that you take the next few days off to let your body completely recover, heal, and rebuild after such hard work. Workouts like this are good right before you go on a vacation, or before a time you know you won't be able to get any training in for a few days. Go balls out, then have some time off to heal up - you just earned it.

Trust me - after one of these workouts, what you thought was hard won't seem so hard anymore...

Train Hard, Rest Hard, Play Hard.[/size]
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