New training discoveries eliminate the need to search for more pain in order to grow. So often we injure connective tissue, ligaments and joints with that kind of constant abuse. And yet, there’s an important lesson to be learned from that kind of training’if we apply it selectively and change our programs often to stay out of the residual fatigue area.
Hidden within many exercises is an area that could appropriately be called the Pain Zone. It’s the zone of the movement that seems to ignite the individual muscle fibers and open the floodgates for blood to surge into the tissue. That small arc of the movement is so excruciating, it makes us hurry through it to the more comfortable part.
Dr. Michael Stone suggests, ‘This small portion of an exercise can give many times the benefit of the entire remainder of the exercise if the time spent within this zone is extended. In fact, the benefit is often a power of 10 times as great.’
The Smith-machine bench press is a perfect example. Let’s focus on the portion of the movement where you lower the bar right down on your neck while holding your elbows high’at least up to or even above your shoulders. That’s the portion that’s just a little frightening.
It isn’t that we’re afraid the bar will fall on our neck. We’re afraid of the pain. It’s during that 10 percent of the exercise where the bar barely moves. A quarter of an inch, then another, slowly, so horribly slowly, the bar moves up, and all the time the pain is building.
Your brain screams, ‘Do something! You aren’t going to make it! Shift your elbows down to find greater leverage. Do anything, but get rid of this pain.’
Ignore the pain. The bar will go up. It may actually stop, but don’t drop those elbows. Keep them locked in that high, clavicular position and keep pressing. Don't let those clavicular pectorals off the hook. Force them to do the work. Sure, the heavy sternal pectorals can do the job, but don’t let them. Stay locked in the groove, which demands those beautiful but elusive clavicular pectorals perform at greater levels.
Another fantastic example of the zone attack can be found on the lowest part of the preacher curl. I like to call it the Scott curl bench because, frankly, if you try to do it on most preacher benches, you’ll either get hurt or it just won’t work. The face of the bench has to be convex, not flat. The zone you want to concentrate on is right down at the bottom, when the arm is fully extended, your armpits are down on the bench and your wrist just starts to curl the bar up. The bar will barely move. The pain is so wonderful, it makes your mouth water.
Again you’re afraid that if you don't give the bar some extra momentum, you’ll have to move too slowly through the agony. Don't do it. Force that lower biceps to come out of hiding. It will perform. It’s slow to respond. It’s accustomed to waiting for its big brother, the belly of the biceps, to fight its battles. Don't let it get away with that one more day. It's time for the lower biceps to blossom into the incredibly beautiful thing it is. Like an ugly duckling transformed into a beautiful swan, it sweeps down the length of the upper arm, glides across the elbow and tucks itself under the radius of the forearm.
Pain zones, found in many different exercises, hold the key to revealing the stunning beauty of the human body developed to its perfection. Look for them. When you find them, don't forget that you must flirt with them. IM
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