Getting a pump in the muscle group you’re working is probably the most important criterion for the performance of each set of an exercise. My experience has taught me that a rhythmic movement is essential for that to occur. Rhythm can be defined as periodic movement in time to a beat. Other factors are important, too, such as speed, proper range of motion and keeping the weight in the right groove of the exercise. But nothing is more important than rhythm. Jerky repetitions just don’t do it.
A few months ago I was doing hanging kneeups while listening to one of my favorite Led Zeppelin tunes, ‘Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp.’ Normally I do sets of 30 reps, but I found myself pulling my knees up in synch with the beat, catchy tune that it was, only to discover that by the end of the set I’d done 70 reps without even realizing it. It didn’t seem any more difficult either. The beat of the music assisted in the exercise so much that it was one of the best sets of abdominal exercise I’d ever done. My abs thanked me.
Rhythm is all about entrainment, a physical phenomenon nature uses to conserve effort. You can see it in flocks of birds flying long distances. Each bird locks on to the wing-flapping rate of the lead bird, and in effect the flock goes on automatic pilot, flying longer with less effort. Fish swim in schools. Crickets chirp in unison. Fireflies blink on and off at the same time. Why? Because it’s easier. Your workout will be, too, if you follow the principles of rhythm.
How can you get that rhythm? Many find it easier to work out when they listen to music. It’s not unusual to see trainees in gyms wearing a Walkman and headset. I feel more energized whenever I work out to music’heavy metal when I want to lift heavier weights, classical when I just want to feel a sense of relaxed alertness during my weight session. In my private gym I often just listen to ocean waves. That puts me in touch with the earth’s own rhythm.
Many readers know that I play blues harp (the cool name for harmonica) in a band called InZane. Since the members live in different parts of the country, we don’t have the opportunity for frequent practice sessions, so the best we can do is practice on our own. We call ourselves a ‘Priority Mail Band’ since we’re always sending recordings to each other in the mail. We add tracks and have produced several songs on our CDs that way. And we always record live performances, our latest one being ‘Live and INZANE at the Arnold Classic 2003.’ So I’m always experimenting with ways to enhance our sound. Lately I’ve found something that makes my playing better and my aerobics sessions more productive.
The way band members communicate is through a common beat, which is why a drummer and bass player are so important. When you stay in time and on the beat, you hit all the notes at the right time. That’s what rhythm is all about, and it gave me the idea of listening to a metronome to make my treadmill walk at the end of my workout less boring. I set it to 128 beats per minute, which is the beat frequency of a lot of songs, and I take each step in time to the beat. I’ve found that walking at 3.5 miles per hour enables me to step in perfect tempo. I’ve also noticed that as I continue to walk, the beat seems to be slower, probably because I’m getting warmed up. As that happens, the walking gets easier, so I tend to walk faster and get ahead of the beat. At that point I slow down and stay on tempo.
Rhythm practice has also helped me be better in time with my music. Staying on the beat makes my treadmill sessions go by more quickly, and my rhythmic workouts help my music. Get rhythm and you’ll have better workouts.
Editor’s note: Frank Zane has been playing blues harp with InZane, an eclectic blues/rock band, for the past six years. The group includes Dave Bott of Columbus, Ohio, on keyboards and Les Borhi of Tampa, Florida, on guitar and bass. They’ve recorded CDs from live performances, including ‘Live and INZANE at Arnold Classic 2003,’ ‘Columbus 2002’ and ‘Roanoke Blues.’ Their latest studio recording, ‘Jamicide,’ has just been released. Zane, Bott and Borhi are vocalists as well, and their performances feature original numbers written by Zane, which are affirmations for building the body: ‘Days of Arnold Schwarzenegger,’ ‘Fast Life Fast Foods,’ ‘Bodybuilding Blues,’ ‘I’m in a Hurry to Relax’ and ‘My Dog Helped Me Get in Shape.’ InZane performs at the Arnold Classic each year to enthusiastic audiences and is available for bookings at your next fitness event, gym grand opening, health convention or bodybuilding competition banquet. Call 800-323-7537 for more information. IM