by Charles Poliquin
Take a Break with Mojo TrainingBe honest: When it’s time for your workout, do you always jump in with enthusiasm? If not, don’t feel too bad – you’re not alone. If you’re like most of us, when your workout was new and the changes were fast and furious, you couldn’t wait to pump iron. Now, if your progress has slowed, your motivation may need a jumpstart.
Welcome to the Club
It’s no secret that retention rates at commercial gyms are extremely low – in fact, 50 percent of new signees quit their gym memberships within the first six months, according to a study by the International Health, Racquet and Sports Club Association. Poor retention is the reason club owners can (and do) oversell their memberships. They know that most of their clients will seldom use the facilities, so they can offer great membership rates (look for especially good deals at the beginning of the year).
But it’s not just newcomers who have problems getting involved in pumping iron – it’s also those who have been exceptional athletes or weight trainers in the past.
Think of all the athletes who retire and wind up neglecting all forms of exercise, eventually becoming as puffy as marshmallows! Serious swimmers, gymnasts and figure skaters may find it difficult to return to their sports after they have recovered from injuries. Chronic pain, especially in the low back, is a common explanation (or excuse) for poor exercise adherence – but there’s also mental trauma.
Trainees may have a hard time getting started again if all they can remember is how difficult and painful their workouts were. For them, the bad times outweigh the good times. They may avoid training altogether. Case in point: Olympic swimmers.
Sherm Chavoor, who coached Olympic phenom Mark Spitz, observed that many of his elite athletes would delay getting into the water – they would procrastinate by the edge of the pool before finally jumping in. Chavoor’s workouts were extremely long and rigorous, and the swimmers knew that once they hit the water, the hard work was about to begin. Their problem was not that they were unclear about their goals but that they had developed a negative mindset about the work needed to achieve them. Negativity is a trap for many of us.
Let’s look at a workout approach designed to get it back.
Getting Back in the Saddle
The word intervention in popular culture refers to treating disruptive behaviors, such as drinking, by doing an “intervention” that interrupts the behavior. This could involve family members making sure that one of their own doesn’t drink, or checking the person into a rehab center where the individual’s condition is closely monitored by physicians and mental health care professionals. The point is to break someone of their bad habit. In the case of a procrastinating trainee, the intervention needs to disrupt an unwillingness to work out. What’s needed is a fresh, new start.
Here’s the thing about working through difficulties to get results: Athletes who are willing to pay high-profile personal training and strength coaches do so because they want to achieve exceptional results fast. Very fast. The catch is, anyone expecting great results has to be compliant – especially if the trainer is not always around. And that requires a different mindset – a positive mindset about training.
If you’ve slacked off at the gym and don’t have a high-level trainer whipping you into a training frenzy, ease yourself into a comeback. Try a short intervention program that makes weight training enjoyable again. This program is even good for personal trainers who find it hard to train after working in a gym all day. After a few weeks of these easy workouts, you’ll be bitten by the weightlifting bug and ready to work hard again.
This approach is different from the usual way a beginner or a detrained individual would work out. For rapid results in adding muscle mass and losing bodyfat, it’s best for those trainees to focus on multijoint free weight exercises such as squats, deadlifts, chin-ups and bench presses – their workouts might even include some strongman work. They would use supersets, relatively higher reps and short rest intervals.
To use this program, you’ll do pretty much the opposite of what is normally prescribed for a beginner or detrained individual (you might consider this type of approach the “anti-Poliquin Principles” training protocol). You will perform single-station training, focus on machine exercises, and use light weights and low reps to avoid any sense of a pump or a level of volume that would activate the sweat glands. A higher-rep, isolation exercise to correct a structural balance problem can be thrown in, so if anyone questions what you are doing, you can always say, “Rehab” or “Prehab,” and be left alone. And the training sessions are short, like 25 minutes. Here’s a sample workout designed to be used twice a week:
A. Step-up, Dumbbell, 2-3 x 5, 1020, rest 2-3 minutes
B. Lateral Raise, Machine, 2-3 x 5, 3020, rest 2-3 minutes
C. Close-Grip Lat Pulldown, 2-3 x 5, 3020, rest 2-3 minutes
D. Dumbbell Incline Bench Press, 2-3 x 5, 3020, rest 2-3 minutes
E. External Rotation with Dumbbell, Arm Abducted, 1-2 x 12, 3020, rest 2 minutes
Because the weights are so light, an appropriate warm-up would consist of chalking your hands, and the cooldown would be to wipe that same chalk off your hands. A post-workout shower is probably not necessary (unless you didn’t have time to wash your hair in the morning), but it wouldn’t hurt to splash on a little Aqua Velva (or Chanel No. 5 for women) behind your ears as evidence to your friends that you’ve trained. A post-workout shake? Sure, if you’re thirsty.
If you’re currently pumping out reps with gusto, this wimpy workout is not for you. But if your motivation has stalled and you want to ease back into the gym, give yourself a break. After a few weeks, you’ll find yourself wanting to start training again seriously. This workout is only an intervention, not a lifestyle.