Physical strength and capacity are the foundations for all other Warrior Skills. One of the best ways to build overall effective strength is through weight training. Over the years I have tried a smattering of different work out plans from cross fit to machine based circuit training, and nothing has been as satisfying or productive as what I like to call the Big Four.
The Big Four are Bench Press, Squats, Overhead Press, and Dead Lift. Focusing on these four lifts ensures things stay simple and manageable. Simplicity is key. Because of our busy everyday lives we do not have the time to invest in learning hundreds of different exercise methods and techniques. The effectiveness of the Big Four is optimized by the simplicity, allowing us to start by focusing on form over speed and intensity and gradual increase capability and capacity to lift more weight.
The simplicity is also important to managing the amount of time we spend training. Complicated workout routines, and “changing things up” all the time wastes a lot of mental energy and time figuring out new techniques and methods. The Big Four is about getting in the gym and getting done so you can get on with your day.
Benefits of Lifting Heavy
Overall effective strength directly supports all other physical activities. Do you want to be a faster runner, better swimmer, or more efficient cyclist? What about that yoga pose you can’t seem to hold long enough? Want to through a baseball further? Everything is a affected by your strength. Your strength doesn’t just effect your aptitude with sports either. Basic human necessities require strength. Carrying the groceries? Mowing the yard? again everything you “do” benefits from higher strength.
Another important benefit of lifting heavy to build strength is increased testosterone. It is no secret that men are facing an epidemic of decreased testosterone levels which is leading to de-motivation and increased cases of depression among other debilitating side effects. Lifting heavy helps raise testosterone levels, alleviating some of these problems. There are also benefits for women from an increase in testosterone levels. Testosterone has recently been toted as the hormone of cooperation (note: cooperation doesn’t necessarily mean “being nice”). The indication is that higher levels of testosterone lead to more effective cooperative efforts among teams in a competitive setting.
One of the more subjective results of lifting heavy is the boost in confidence that can be derived from knowing you can push 250 pounds off your chest, or lift 400 pounds up off the floor. Confidence like that carries through to all other aspects of your life. Another way to look at the growth in confidence is through challenge paradigm. If you do hard things by choice, when faced with a challenge you wont be as likely to cave because you already know you have the ability o succeed… because you do hard things all the time. It may be some mental judo… but it has worked out for me.
The Big Four Training Session
I do the Big Four every Tuesday and Thursday. You can do it more often, but take a day between sessions. I do body weight exercises and cardio on my off days.
Warm up: 2 minute light jog followed by 10 minutes of High Intensity Interval Cardio. Do not slack here. Sprint as hard as I can for 1 minute then walk for 2 minutes repeat until you reach 10 minutes.
Lift: Just follow a couple rules. Pause 1 minute between sets and do 4 sets of 5 reps. You are looking for about 10-20 seconds of effort for 1 minute of rest. Focus on form EVERY TIME. You can mix up the order but alternate upper body and lower body exercises. I prefer to use a Fitness Rack for: Bench Press, Squat, Overhead Press, Dead Lift. Alternating allows you to recover for the next lift.
Cool Down: 10 minutes of yoga focusing on forward and back bends like downward dog and cobra.
Check out the MoS: Warrior board on Pinterest for some additional reading and references.
That’s all there is to it. Go out and lift heavy for a two months, then come back and let me know how it worked out.
Come on over to our closed facebook discussion group to share your insights and progress. Or you can email me directly at Jon@masteryofskill.com. You can also sign up to receive The Friday Huddle, a short weekly email from me that gives you the tips, insights, and musings that have gotten me through the week.