The vast majority of my clientele are regular folks. They want to feel better, move better, and look better. I have a handful of athletes, but for the most part the people I work with take a casual approach to fitness. I am assuming the same is true about people who read this blog. Which is why I want to ask you, humble reader, the same question I have asked a few of my clients. Why do you think this exists? Why would someone wear a mouthguard to lift heavy things? Because some people get strong enough to break their own teeth. Because their knob goes to 11.
Whatever you want to call it (bar fear, bell fear, etc.), there is a deep desire in our subconscious to not do things that we think might kill us, even when we consciously know it won’t. You have to teach yourself intensity. You have to teach yourself tension. With beginners, it’s more about letting off the brakes than slamming down the throttle. Most people know they need to learn a movement pattern before adding weight or speed. But just how do you learn to turn the dial up to 11?
Deeper and Wider
Fear is the mind killer. When humans are afraid we instinctively breathe into our chest. Doing this makes us look bigger to predators, but does nothing to help us lift heavy things. You have to learn to breath with your diaphragm to activate the deep muscles of your core and protect your spine. Put your a hand on your chest and a hand on your stomach. Take a deep breath in through your nose and by pushing out your tummy for a 4 count. Do not let your hand on your chest move. Hold the breath for a 2 count. Now open your mouth and let the breath out slowly for a 6 count. This is the very foundation of strength. This is the knob itself.
Learn to Plank
When most people get into a plank, they think that the goal is to stay there a long time. That’s certainly true in the very beginning of training because if you can’t hold a plank for two minutes you have little business holding much of anything heavy. But after people are able to plank for 121 seconds, most stop or foolishly try to get the number higher. But if you want to learn full body tension, the very foundation of strength, you should try to get that number lower. The plank is the perfect place to learn how to contract your muscles. So get into a plank, take that deep breath into your tummy, and squeeze every muscle in your body as hard as you can until you can’t. If you see stars and get light headed, you’re on the right track. You’re learning that you have a knob that can be dialed up and down.
Position before Transition
Movements are just two positions that you transition between. The hinge movement is the transition between full hip flexion and minimal knee flexion to neutral (a standing plank). The squat is full hip and knee flexion, then back to neutral. If you want to learn the movement, spend time in each position with weight. Sit in a goblet squat. Hold a Romanian Deadlift. If you are learning the kettlebell snatch, do lots of waiter walks. Worried about your mobility not being up to snuff? Well, mobility is just the ability to get into and hold a position. I can’t think of a better way to get over the subconscious fear of moving into a position than getting into it and staying there with a little weight. Think of it as learning about new hash marks on the knob.
Action before Reaction
A teacher doesn’t teach you a book by reading it to you. He shows you where the library is, how to use the card catalog, assigns you a book, and asks the right questions when you’re finished reading it. Dan John coaches that way. He told me “Heels to China, hinge your hamstrings until they scream, jump, then get the hell under the weight.” That’s the action of the olympic lifts. He taught me that in 3 minutes. If anyone watches me clean they will pick apart my form, but most of the form of an olympic lift is unconscious. As Dan says all the time, "you can't think through a ballistic movement." The form is a reaction to the action of hinging, jumping, and getting the hell under all that weight. I haven't learned the reactions yet because I'm still learning to do the action with the proper intensity. The reactions (like full hip extension) will take care of themselves as my confidence in the movement increases. Your intensity, and therefore the weight will increase as your confidence increases. This is teaching yourself to dial the knob up to new levels. You just ahve to have the courage to push up the volume and the patience to not push it too hard. Eventually when the action is intense enough and the reactions start falling into place, you’ll learn where 11 is.