The Force of Habit
Doing things the way youve always done them-and not asking questions-will leave you in the lurch
MY LOWER BACK was
severely pissed at me after repping out six sets of squats with 500 pounds*. The throb I felt was of the “someone please remove this goddamn shiv from my lower lumbar region” variety.
Unfortunately, over the past six months, this was a feeling I had grown used to. Im not a masochist-despite all the evidence to the contrary-so why the hell was I continuing to put my body through the ringer?
The answer: habit.
Since I began lifting at the age of 16,1 routinely shuffled through periods of using heavy weight and low reps alternated with higher-volume training. There was no thought involved, just the following of a pattern-even after it was clear that loading 740 pounds1* on a barbell for squats at this point in my life wasnt beneficial.
When I was younger and playing sports competitively, the objective was to be the strongest guy on the field. It made sense to go heavy then, but what purpose does it serve now (when I have to pay for it after every workout)?
I had to do some thinking.
The first goal: lean out to look semi-decent in my birthday suit. The second and more important goal was to regain mobility and feel healthy without sacrificing strength.
I didnt elicit help from a workout guru or pricey personal trainer to do it.
I simply relied on common sense by looking at the movements that I used and then setting out to strengthen the muscles that supported those movements. I spent more time on warmups and post-workout stretches, and I subbed out exercises that produced pain. Instead of pushing myself to PR on weight, I pushed myself to PR for time or reps. And it worked. I can no longer squat 938 pounds* **, but I can train four to five times per week and still get up to pee in the middle of the night without hobbling like a geriatric.
Serious gym rats can be prone to tunnel vision concerning exercises when their bodies are begging for change. So if youve hit a wall, whether its an injury, a sticking point, or mental fatigue, try asking yourself: What are my training goals?” Give it serious thought. Because the wrong answer may leave you staggering toward the finish line, while a smart one may have you sprinting past it.