Even though the body and mind are united, they both have a different agenda. The body wants to train in the easiest way; the way that uses the least amount of energy and the least amount of effort. Even though the mind gives the body the order, the body decides in which way to carry out what it has been told to do. For example, when we tell the body to walk, we do not tell each muscle to contract, or tell one leg to move and then the next. We just think “walk” and the body performs the task. Now it was not always this way, when we first started to walk we had to think about each movement. Fortunately we did this at a very young age and were able to learn this movement quickly. Over a period of time this movement became a part of our sub conscious motor loop. This is where our body gets to exercise its discretion and modify our directions to suit our body’s limitations.
Exercise works the same way, if we give the body the direction to do a chest fly, for example, and do not focus on the form, the body will exercise its discretion and adapt its orders and work on the muscles that are easier to use in the present form, regardless of the original results that the mind had intended. This means that the chest will not necessarily be the main muscle that is in use, even though that’s what the mind had wanted when it had chosen that exercise. The body does not want to overtax its muscles, because this means it will micro-tear and then have to be repaired, the body will therefore do whatever it can to avoid this. It will try to avoid that in many ways, like go to fast, adjust the angles or recruit other muscles. So when I say, “Form is the key”, it really is, to achieve the wanted results, we must stay focused on the muscle being used and the form that is recommended.
The body does not want to disappoint the mind; therefore, it will cheat whenever possible to achieve its goal. I like to keep the mind separate from the body, even though I know this is an impossibility. What I am saying is there is a difference between the conscious mind, our actions in the present time, and the sub-conscious mind, the stuff that goes on behind the scenes. Just like the law of inertia, body at rest wants to stay at rest, body in motion wants to stay in motion, our body lives by this same principle.
Look at what happens every New Year’s Eve; millions of people everywhere make the well intention plan of a fitness resolution. Now behind the scenes our body has a totally different agenda, the mind is all ready to start its new healthy lifestyle but the body, unless motivated and continuously disciplined, would much rather stay the way it was, at rest. So when we try to institute our new routine, by riding the bike or eating healthy, the body resists this tooth and nail. This is a prime example of the law of inertia in action. The body having not been previously in motion wants to stay at rest, as it was before, and the new activities that it is being made to do are seen as bad, they are viewed as a change. That is why will power does not work.
Only new patterns, new systems, new attitudes and a total conscious effort to change from our old ways and to do exercises focusing on the right form will achieve the desired lasting results. In addition to the exercises, a new eating plan should be added, focusing on the right foods for a healthy lifestyle. Only by concentration and keeping our ideas focused on the present will our body learn new habits and break old ones. Through work, concentration and practice you will develop more skills and perfect techniques, through time, the importance of form will become clearer and more natural for you. Just like walking.
Have you ever watched someone do a bicep curl? Or a squat? Starting out with perfect form, they ever so slowly execute the exercise. But by the end, as the weights weigh heavy on the muscles, the form becomes very different. The back starts to sway and bend and gyrate, as if the person is dancing. Having no realization of the problems that they had, when they stop they have a look of satisfaction on their face because of a job they thought was well done. How many of the last repetitions of the set do you think actually worked on the muscle it was intended for? They probably intended to do a set number of reps and come hell or high water they were going to achieve it. And the body did just that. But to what end? This is where we lose our focus, and this is where we get hurt. This is also where the body finds the new form easier to do and will revamp its motor loop to include this new way, thus allowing us to lift heavier. Then we think that we are getting stronger and all is good in our world.
Do a push-up in front of a mirror and watch what happens. You start with your arms shoulders width apart, your back nice and straight. You start to execute the push-up, nice and controlled, with your head looking towards the ground. The first five or ten reps are perfect. Chest to the ground, arms straighten to an almost lock-out position, then as the body gets tired what happens? The back starts to bend, the head starts to lower, the chest no longer goes all the way to the ground anymore and now your start to look like a worm. Soon the hips don’t even go up as they should, this is a prime example of our body desperately trying to do what our mind has told it to do, regardless of what form it uses to accomplish the task.
Sometimes it is so disappointing for us to think that our body is under achieving. When we are using the correct form, we will not be able to do as many reps as we previously did. If you are new to focusing on form, you will notice that you may not be able to use as much weight as before, or do as many reps. However, it is the best way to exercise, it brings down the possibility of injury and in the long run it helps us achieve our goals and also expand and surpass our current limits. Just like the old adage, if at first you don’t succeed try, try again, this is how the body grows. The act of repeatedly trying and failing tells our body that we need to be stronger, that we need to adapt, when all its efforts to recruit and change our form falls flat, its last resort is to change and become bigger, or stronger or faster to accommodate.
So the next time you do your exercises and they are so easy for you, that you could do them in your sleep, and you wonder why you are not growing or changing, think about your body and what its agenda is. Then shock it and make it do the exercises right with focus, control and the power of a conscious mind.