A few days ago I witnessed a slightly goofy, albeit amusing, scene at the gym where I work out. It was a group of about six guys in their early to mid twenties that were having a pull-up competition. They took turns hanging from the stainless steel bar and cranking out high repetitions (anywhere from 15 to 30) of the perennially popular pull-up exercise. They were attempting to find out who among them could perform the highest consecutive reps. One guy got 30 reps, more than anyone else, and appeared to earn the envy and admiration of his peers.
This wouldn’t have seemed amusing if the same group of guys hadn’t been competing for a max bench press the day before. I thought to myself, ‘let me get this straight; when they’re pushing weight off their chests – then the heaviest weight for one repetition is what matters. When they’re pulling with their lats – then getting a high number of reps with a relatively light weight is what matters. Why the polarity between what’s important for each of these respective muscle groups?’
Before you accuse me of being overly critical of what was obviously nothing more than a testosterone-driven mini tournament among young guys, let’s consider something. Their two activities having contrasting objectives might be equally reflective of the prevalence of lack of clarity in physique improvement goals. One activity – the bench press for a max rep – is definitely a power lifting movement that is utilized for competition in that realm. The other exercise – bodyweight pull-ups – was being done with high repetitions that would be more akin to training the body for endurance than to get either bodybuilding or power lifting results. Based on conversation I’d overheard, all six of these guys seemed to be in want of better physiques, yet neither of their competitive activities would be conducive to that end.
In fitness and in life, nothing is more important in achieving your goals than knowing exactly what they are and employing an effective strategy for their realization. Many people who begin a workout program attempt to do so with only a fuzzy idea of some ambiguous desired improvements. Then they drift aimlessly through the gym – doing thirty pull-ups here and a one rep max bench over there. They wonder why their enthusiasm wanes after only a few weeks. But without a clear and compelling goal and a strategy that’s proven to get you there, motivation will eventually just wither on the vine.
Don’t let that happen to you – in fitness, career, spirituality, or relationships.