Gym Smarts

To become gym smart, we must work smarter rather than longer while getting better results.  Stated differently, we should work half as much but get twice the size of muscles and twice the benefit in heart health.  That’s the formula we should seek in every aspect of life—work half as long with twice the results.

I went swimming in another city today after a long hiatus as the local city water supply is low, and the pools have been closed.  But despite not swimming for a bit, I demonstrated my best form by far with the front crawl and backstroke today.  What explained this sudden change?  Working smarter!  But what made it smarter exactly?

What I did, and we all can do, is watch YouTube video shorts on the YouTube phone app, scroll through them at hyper-speed, and only like the swim videos so more of them appear in the feed.  I’ve been scrolling through YouTube swim shorts for 10 to 15 minutes at least once daily for about two weeks.  And now that I’m finally in the pool again, I swim significantly better than a few weeks ago.  Today, my true love and I were the best swimmers in the pool; a year ago, we were the worst.

Another strategy for working smarter, not longer, is to visualize the proper swim form we saw in the YouTube video shorts, mentally replacing the video swimmers with us.  We can do this before falling asleep to cement it in our psyche.  In the visualization, we can look down at ourselves swimming like an ethereal watcher or be inside our imagined swimmer’s body.  From my experience, it’s best to visualize ourselves inside the swimmer’s body.

The most significant benefit of gym smarts, where we work half as long but get twice the gains, occurs in weightlifting.  If the goal is to gain strength and muscle mass, then weight lift not by “lifting” but by “holding” and slowly lowering.  You can hold more weight than you can lift and can lower more weight than you can hold.  So, the weight you can maximize is by holding for four seconds and slowly lowering, not by merely lifting, especially not by swinging the arms wildly.  Arm swinging activates gravity and momentum in propelling our weightlifting, but not intensity.  However, the goal for gaining strength and muscle mass is to go slower and increase intensity.

In sum, we exert the most intensity by holding the weights at the peak of contraction and slowly lowering them.  That means, instead of weight training six days a week, we can train three days a week for only one set per exercise instead of three sets and fewer reps, yet we get more strength and muscle mass results.  So, we get more strength and mass by focusing on the intensity and spending three, not six, days a week in the gym.

That’s because rest helps the body recover and get stronger.  By taking a rest day from weightlifting every second day, using the intensity method above, we can get more results than Arnold Schwarzenegger did by working six days a week (assuming we start with the same genetic potential as Arnold, of course).  A bodybuilding champion, Mike Mentzer, is a physical example of how high-intensity-focused training three days a week gives massive results.

Additionally, the people on the stationary cycles that go slow for half an hour get less heart benefit and less body sculpting than people who sprint on the cycle super fast for thirty seconds and then slow for thirty seconds in intervals for 10 minutes.  Again, it’s working smarter, not longer.  And to my surprise, the sprinting intervals on the cycle feel incredible once we get the rhythm.

And lest we forget, get a coach at or near the Olympic level to work us smarter and to herald the success we all deserve!  After all, we are all built with gym-smarts!