All too often we train like robots, with little or no awareness of what our training is actually doing to our bodies. We work out as if the body were some kind of railroad car flanged to tracks and to deviate from those tracks would invite chaos. So we plug away, day after day and week after week, soulless and grim’and making little or no progress to speak of.
When you think about it, the idea of spending hours and hours a day absorbed in your body is utterly absurd, and the really good bodybuilders know that instinctively. They train hard as hell but are the first to laugh at themselves for being so serious. Thus, they maintain the detachment necessary to ride the welcome ups and the inevitable downs. Lesson 1 is to learn to laugh. Learn to smile a bit as you grunt and groan at the squat rack or incline bench, and watch the gains come a-runnin’. Learn, in other words, to chill out just a wee bit.
And while you’re chillin’, learn to listen. Pay close attention to your body. That’s the only training principle that matters. What works well for Peter may not work for Paul. Find a routine that will give you the results you desire. That takes experimentation and keen awareness.
Don’t ever do a set of curls without being intimately aware of how those curls affect your biceps and forearms. Don’t ever do a set of heavy benches without being aware of the effects of the movement on your pecs, delts and triceps. Ask yourself constantly, How do I feel? It does you no good to go through training being blind and deaf to your body, so wake up and evaluate continuously what’s going on with each and every muscle.
Arnold once said that the better he got as a bodybuilder, the less weight he needed to use because his concentration improved to the point where he got great results with lots of sets and reps with moderate poundages. His awareness of his body increased, and so he was able to feel and grow with every workout.
Ditto for Ed Corney, an old master who goes way back. When he trained, it was Zen in action’his mind was deep down inside his muscles, and when he squatted or curled or pressed, all he was doing was squats or curls or presses. He was not worrying about bills, girls, cars, clothes, taxes or anything else. As a result he was a fantastic bodybuilder and the best poser this sport will ever see.
So learn to listen to your body. Develop your concentration so that nothing enters your mind except the rhythm of your breathing, the contraction of muscle and the strain of tissue as you raise and lower the weight. That is the key element of physical culture and one that all of us can work on all our lives, as long as we struggle against lifeless iron. Learn to use breathing like a yoga master to dial yourself deep down into the very fibers of the muscles as you train, and watch the gains multiply. IM