The New Year’s Fitness Resolution; for most people, it’s nothing more than a sad reminder of how you failed to achieve the six pack, thigh-gap, or massive arms you wanted to achieve last year. Sure, you may have been gung-ho for the first couple weeks, but your enthusiasm quickly trailed off. Most people hit a wall after what I like to call, “fitness binging;” this is when you workout way too much and eat way too little when first starting a new fitness program, then fail, crash, and wait a month or more before trying it again.
There is a common theme in the majority of the fitness resolutions: they are aesthetically based.
Losing fat, building muscle, and “toning up” all deal with the same desire to look more attractive, which people hope will garner them with more confidence, entice the opposite sex, look sexy naked, etc.
There is really nothing wrong with this (in another article I’ll talk about the “function” behind physical aesthetics), however, like most “skin-deep” goals, it’s hard to invest the necessary time and effort into achieving shallow objectives.
Let’s say that your goal in life is to have a high-performance car, would you be satisfied if you painted your 1999 Toyota Corolla red, added a racing spoiler, and applied some shinny hub caps? No! If you’re serious about getting a high performance car, you want it to RUN like a high performance car, not just look like one (and no, you’re Corolla won’t pass for that either). Finally getting what you truly desire is all the sweeter.
Worse yet, you probably won’t achieve your aesthetic-based objective anyways, no matter how shallow it is. The truth is that the visible side of fitness is the LAST thing you will most likely achieve. Most of the other benefits to exercise (like improved strength, endurance, agility, durability, etc.) will be felt much sooner.
The one thing you need to do is both simple and extremely complex at the same time; you need to stop thinking of fitness as something you achieve, and start thinking about it as something you practice. What most people have been doing is what I like to call “Results Based Fitness,” but what most people need to do is “Skill Based Fitness.”
You need to stop thinking of fitness as something you achieve, and start thinking about it as something you practice.
Skill Based Fitness will change your entire mindset about exercise, shifting it from a near-term focus on physical goals into a long term focus on skill development.
Why would you want to look at fitness like this? I call it the “Riding a Bike Physical Degradation Paradigm.” The concept has to do with the rate at which different aspects of your physicality degrade over time.
One of the reasons why it’s hard to stay motivated and progressing over months or years is because there will always be pitfalls. I don’t care if you’re a fitness professional or not, life is rough, and illnesses, family issues, financial situations, and a million other reasons WILL delay or halt your training. If all you have developed is improved strength or conditioning, you will rapidly lose your gains.
In my experience, the physical enhancements gained through exercise degrade in the following order:
The reason why the first two decline is due to the degradation of fast and slow-twitch muscle fibers (to learn more about that, read “How Quickly Do You Lose Gains from Strength Training“). The third, which I call “Skill,” is the last thing you lose.
Just like riding a bike, once you learn, you can pick it up again quickly, even if it’s been months or years. Having a skill in fitness also makes gains more efficient; you get injured less because you know proper form and your body’s limitations based on your past experience, you know exercise progressions and regressions based on the hundreds of exercises you know, and (again, similar to riding a bike), you can basically pick up where you left off (at least in terms of skill). All of these elements make getting back on the horse much easier. Are there methods that lend themselves better to skill development? Of course!
Unconventional Training methods like kettlebells, steel maces, steel clubs, bodyweight training, and others lend themselves extremely well to skill development because of the following reasons:
Each Unconventional Training implement was chosen because of its versatility. There are literally hundreds of exercises (not including compound movements) that can be performed which each implement.
In Unconventional Training, progression means more than bigger muscles, more weight, or faster times, it means improved movement and expertise with the implement itself. You can think of it more like a martial arts instructor rather than a personal trainer.
Unconventional Training implements can be used individually for any program focus (strength, conditioning, agility, etc.) or separately to support other training techniques. This means that no matter what your objective is at any given time, the skills you know with each implement will be applicable.
A lot of credence is given to “functional training,” but few standard training methodologies offer the amount of functional benefits that Unconventional Training methods do. The reason that kettlebells, steel clubs, steel maces, etc. are so beneficial is because each one can be used for a variety of exercises that build your entire body through full body movements. Just a few of those movement types include rotational and ballistic exercises that constantly engage your core, and as any functional trainer will tell you, core strength is the key to functional abilities.