December 2nd marked the release of the new Hamilton Mixtape . If you are a music (and lyrics) fan it represents a unique collaboration of the arts that has been rare since the digitization of the music industry. It is about telling stories, reliving history and representing different cultures and philosophies through various styles of music with different voices telling these stories. It represents creativity, imagination and a passion for sending a message. It represents many of the things we try to express in the world of health, fitness and performance. Ultimately, you can mix ideas and genres and if they fit together with a purpose, the result can be brilliant. The same goes for putting together a proper training session.
When I was in High School and University I was the King of making Mixtapes. I made them for girlfriends, I made them for friends, I made them for my family and of course, I made them for me. They became the soundtrack of my workouts, my days and my life. They were personal, creative, specific, and full of surprises.
In the age before digital files, iTunes and internet radio, a true Mixtape took careful planning, research and ingenuity to hunt down and attain the music you wanted as well as my secret ingredient; the sound bytes, movie quotes and comedy bits that always came between the songs. I couldn’t have dead air.
As technology advanced the art of making a Mixtape became easier, digital files were easy to access and the speed of the process was accelerated. Soon the Playlist was born and the world was cursed with a new element of musical bastardization; Shuffle. This is the kind of Anarchy the Sex Pistols, the Clash and the Ramones applauded but even they would be appalled to know they were being thrown in a Vitamix and randomly blended with Bieber, Nickleback and (insert famous Country Song here) into a musical smoothie recipe that just does not go together.
Please note I am not intending to judge for actual musical taste, I am simply making a point about keeping things in a proper order. I am sure Justin , Chad and Blake would prefer their recipe was more consistent within their own genre of Pop, Rock and Country as well. Perhaps the people of Sesame Street said it best when they posed the philosophical observation that “ One of these things is not like the others,
When it comes to creating training programs the world has devolved in a similar fashion. Where once we had to research, create and design specific details, drills and exercises for each person, the world of the internet has opened a world of opportunities for people to hunt down random drills and challenge themselves beyond their capabilities . Anyone can take a database of exercises put them on shuffle, turn the volume up to 11.
Do they really expect to create a cohesive, productive outcome?
Training involves structure, progression and purpose to produce results. Exercise science has evolved and we know much more about accomplishing a wide range of physiological and biomechanical outcomes but the Human body’s needs, and the pathway to attain them, remain the same:
- Establish foundational strength levels
- Establish foundational conditioning levels
- Develop and progress fundamental movement patterns
- Build mobility and stability
- Progress to more complex functional & specific athletic strength, movement and performance parameters.
The continuum is based on building better, more functional and more athletic humans with programming that focuses on individual athleticism, training experience, goals, needs and issues, not on chronological age or sport specialization
This is Your Jam
Much like a killer Mixtape deserves to be consumed from start to finish so that all of the nuances and details can be taken in together, quality Human Performance is absolutely a result of the sum of its parts. A purposeful training program is not about maximizing metabolic intensity in every training session with a random workout of the day, it is about how these daily training sessions come together over time to develop a body that works well for whatever the individual goals may be.
Too many training classes and program are built around this on-shuffle style of High Intensity Training that basically become random acts of fitness vs. a structured, purposeful, creative training plan. Putting the proper elements in the proper order within a long term, progressive plan and doing so with some flair, creativity and fun is the true combination of art and science that great coaches understand. The result is a purposeful, intentional training program full of unique covers, stellar B-sides, and of course, all the hits, that would make even the best Mixtape connoisseur a little jealous.
Whether you are an elite athlete or a stay at home mom, everyone can benefit from moving better and improving functional and athletic mobility, maximizing joint stability and enhancing the ability to run, jump, skate, ski, hike, garden, and just play with your kids.
As individuals get older, move less, sit more and spend more time ensuring the kids make it to their practices and games than making time for their own strength and conditioning, the ability to move well is inhibited. Injuries and movement dysfunctions begin to settle in and many people put off finding ways to get moving well again. People need to actually move in order to move better.
Movement is simply about taking muscles through a full, functional range of motion and expanding that range of motion. It is about stabilizing the joints to handle deceleration and direction changes without injury. It is about developing explosive muscle firing patterns to accelerate quickly and change gears efficiently. It is about developing a variety of energy systems from short burst anaerobic to long duration endurance. Movement challenges your body to stop and go and challenges your heart and lungs to adapt to a variety of conditioning intervals and intensities.
Movement will help you perform better in sport and in life.
It is exciting to see strength training making a resurgence over the past few years and to see adults and athletes alike get excited about getting stronger. One thing that people must realize when it comes to training strength is that moving load is in itself a movement skill and there are many elements that must come together to execute strength training technique besides moving weight up and down. If you cannot perform a movement properly in the first place and you load it and try to move it when it is heavier, injury is inevitable. Athletes must be able to execute proper movement patterns and muscle firing patterns in order to get stronger. Guys love training the beach muscles (biceps chest) but don’t spend enough time training the stabilizer muscles (Core, Shoulder girdle, hamstrings, Upper back) that support and leverage athletic movement and protect the body from injury. First, learn to move well, and then you can load, lift and challenge the movement.
The question that every athlete must consider when performing any exercise or drill is simple, why? Why; am I choosing this particular exercise? Why am I doing a specific number of sets and repetitions? Why am I changing the tempo and speed of a specific movement?
Every exercise and drill should be considered in the context of either being a smart choice or just a sexy one, thought up by a trainer or coach or downloaded from You Tube for the purpose of maxing intensity without consideration for biomechanical technique, physiological needs, or sport/functional life demands.
Why challenge physical limits of strength, speed and endurance without a proper plan, big picture perspective and clear path to specific personal objectives and goals? Like a Killer Mixtape every training program and every training session should be personal, creative, specific, fun, and full of surprises. Otherwise all you have is a bunch of random exercises and drills on shuffle.