Here's a fact: Training prepares you for the demands you'll face in the field. Sure, it might feel good to bend your knees an inch or two and call it a squat and curl for days on end, but what benefit are you gaining? You need your workouts to provide results. If you train with your ego, you're probably wondering why you aren't getting the results you require.
Here are a few things to remember that will keep your ego in check and the results rolling in so that your body is ready when you actually need it to perform in a life-or-death scenario.
Training tip #1: Use a full range of motion
Imagine you walk over to the squat rack, load the bar up with two, maybe 300 pounds, and step under it only to find that it's way too heavy for a full rep.
Instead of lightening the load to match your ability, you bend your knees ever so slightly, give a grunt and look around to see if anyone saw that sorry excuse for a squat.
Now, if this describes your typical leg day or any other workout for that matter, stop.
Honestly, if you're grabbing weights that are too heavy to perform a full rep, you're not only kidding yourself but also wasting your time. While doing heavy partial reps might massage your ego, you probably won't find any measurable benefit, and you'll for sure increase your chances of injury.
Using a full range of motion means that you're activating all of the muscle fibers within a particular muscle group to perform the exercise. As a result, those muscle fibers and connected nerves are receiving the signal to grow bigger and stronger.
For most of you, resistance training isn't just to look great. In the field, you need to perform under any circumstance, so your training needs to prep you to deal with the unknown.
What if you really need to be able to carry your 230-pound brother but can't since you trained with two-inch squats? Will that sad example of a squat make you feel better then?
To fully benefit from each rep and training session, use the amount of weight that allows for a full range of motion. Eventually, your strength will improve enough to perform that 300-pound squat with a full range of motion, and you'll be so much stronger as a result.
Training tip #2: Prioritize important exercises
To get straight to the point, which of the following exercises is more likely to benefit you in the field:
Bicep curls or a barbell squat?
I know, biceps are the most important muscle group to many of you, but in reality, training them every day probably won't provide much of a performance benefit. In fact, they may hamper your performance.
The barbell squat not only allows you to use more resistance, but it's also a full-body challenge. Despite being a leg-dominant exercise that works quads, glutes, hamstrings and calves, it also demands that you have a strong upper and lower back and overall core strength.
Not to mention, using higher rep ranges also allows you to challenge your anaerobic capacity. Bicep curls, on the other hand, train your biceps and forearms and not much else.
If you need to improve performance in the field, you should prioritize compound movements that are most likely to improve that performance. If you have extra energy and time, then focus on the less-important exercises.
Training tip #3: Put the phone down
If you head to the gym and spend half of the time scrolling through a feed, you're wasting your time and probably ruining someone else's workout if you're doing it on a popular piece of equipment.
It's clear that most of us feel the pull of social media, even at the worst times.
But the time you spend in the gym is meant to be for work. If you're distracted by your phone and resting for longer than intended, you could be losing out on training improvements.
If you find yourself distracted in the gym, make a conscious decision to hold off until the workout is done, and then get your fix. I promise, your workout will be far more productive.
BONUS tip: The bigger picture...
I've been recording my dreams lately and weird things have been happening as a result. Long story short, I received some great advice from my late grandfather in a recent dream. The gist of our dialogue was this:
"Everything you do in life is either making you a better version of yourself or a worse version."
Obviously this advice can apply to all areas of life but when specifically looking at physical training it can be quite directive. We all have a mission we're working towards accomplishing. Every training session, every exercise, every set, and every rep should be bringing us closer to mission accomplishment. If it's not, fix it.
The Commander's Intent of training, especially for those on Active Duty is: "...in order to become more capable at inflicting positive change on the world." Be that becoming more deadly in combat, or simply having greater work capacity to keep moving forward when others would quit.
It's your choice.