Welcome back to my series on Workout Fundamentals, American Partisans! Sorry for the delay – pesky old real life stuff kept me tied up, but I’m back!
This will be the concluding post of my Workout Fundamentals series. My next posts after this one will provide some actual workouts to give examples of how the theory contained in the American Partisan Workout Fundamentals is to be applied to a workout. Again, the entire purpose of this (by now) very lengthy series is to provide American Partisans with the knowledge tools they need to create their own way forward in physical fitness; we want to move past the need for someone else to provide workout ideas for us, and to instead have independence in fitness programming that suits our unique American Partisan Operator (APO) physical fitness needs.
For reference, here is a list of American Partisan Workout Fundamentals we’ve already covered:
- American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, Concept #8: Workout Discipline
Today’s installment will conclude the Workout Fundamentals series by addressing the remaining intangible, yet critical elements of a good workout. As such, American Partisan Workout Fundamentals, Concept #9 will cover several interrelated intangibles:
- The need for workout aggression and determination
- The importance of expanding your pain tolerance threshold
- The vital role of workout motivation/inspiration.
These three workout intangibles are intimately related to each other to form a single Fundamental Concept, and cannot really be separated, as I will detail in the sections below.
AMERICAN PARTISAN WORKOUT FUNDAMENTALS, CONCEPT #9:
**** AGGRESSION/DETERMINATION; PAIN TOLERANCE; AND INSPIRATION ****
Workout Aggression and Determination – VICTORY OR DEATH!
The American Partisan Operator must never forget: true physical fitness is not forged by timidity. PT time is blood n’ guts time!
Generally speaking, other than the Warm-Up phase of a workout and a select few other fitness activities (covered below), exercises done in the name of making yourself ready for battle must be done with all-out intensity (note: “intensity”, as used here, is not meant to be a reference to heavy loading of weights). Of course, the APO must use good exercise form as well; being “aggressive” does not mean that attention to detail on exercise form should be thrown out the window. Workout aggression, in the truest sense, is really a mindset with which the APO performs any exercise – by bringing his best fight to the effort, and then having the determination to work through the difficulty of the exercise by adopting a “not taking ‘no’ for an answer” attitude.
Note the use of the word “determination” above. Aggression without determination is nearly useless; you have to start out with aggression, and then follow through with it. Aggression is easy to furnish up front before the going of the exercise set gets tough, but I’ve seen many an aggressive start to a lifter’s working set in the gym totally fizzle once the REAL duress of the effort takes hold. Therefore, workout (and really, any type of physical engagement) aggression is only as good as it can be sustained, and that requires determination as a starting point. Not surprisingly, determination is a “cousin” of good ol’ discipline, which we discussed at length in my previous post. You have to have determination to have discipline – you have to want it real bad, and be ready to OVERCOME! Only in this way can the APO grit his way through a tough workout aggressively from the first minute to the last, through set after set of demanding, painful exercise.
The way in which the APO employs workout aggression and determination depends on the individual. I’ve seen respectable lifters grunt and growl aggressively before and during a tough working set, and then go on to deliver the goods with a successful lift or working set; I’ve also seen other respectable lifters do great work quietly but effectively – not audibly or visibly aggressive, but 100% heart, for sure. Me personally, I do a good deal of growling and grunting, swaying, scowling, and fist-clenching before my exercise sets, but I am quiet during the set itself in order to maintain my focus. I may just occasionally grunt or groan out of discomfort, but I find personal mid-set displays of aggression to be detrimental to my success; that’s just me.
Your display of aggression can be whatever you want it to be, or whatever works for you. Determination, on the other hand, is a quiet virtue that is shown by perseverance through grueling physical efforts – carrying on with rep after rep in a seemingly impossible way… yet you pull it off; or, attempting a tough-as-can-be repetition with a heavy load – again, seemingly impossible, but you decide that THIS is your day, and so you agonizingly struggle through a stall or sticking point and get that barbell back up. Your heart is about to pop… your breathing is heavy… your chance of success is not guaranteed… but, fuck it! Victory or death! THAT is aggression and determination combined: not taking “no” for an answer, and pressing on with all the ferocity you can muster, despite all involved body systems begging for you to stop.
It is important to note, though, that there are some particular areas of physical fitness that will pretty obviously not benefit from the application of aggression, and will instead require the application of finesse rather than aggression; get to know when aggression and determination are relevant, and when they’re not. For example, Balance Exercise work and Stretching should not be performed aggressively, but rather, with a finer, more mindful approach that rightfully respects the delicate nature of these physical efforts. And again, the Warm-Up phase of your workout should be done with an eye for slow, precise execution in order to get the body into the proper state of readiness for the tough work to come. Finally, Mobilizations (as described in a previous post) – performed to prime the selected joint(s) for action, are by their nature not an aggressive affair either.
Expanding Your Pain Tolerance/Threshold – “Do I really not have another rep in me?”
First off, credit goes to Arnold himself for the quote used in the title above, which was taken from Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Encyclopedia of Modern Bodybuilding. It’s actually a pretty good read, especially for beginners. At the time I read it (in my early 20’s, several decades ago), I found it useful for both exercise ideas and for motivation (more on the importance of workout motivation in the next section); the above quote was definitely one of my favorites from the book, and I don’t think a single workout has gone by for me since then without that line running through my mind. As an aside, I constantly lament what a political turdball Arnold has become (as I’m sure many dudes in the 35+ age category who grew up watching Arnold’s movies would sadly agree), but his contributions to the promotion of manliness and physical fitness in America and around the world are simply indisputable.
Anyway, the internal drive to fight on (i.e., determination) is one of the most important mental/spiritual “tools” the APO can bring to his physical training effort of whatever type. And, one of the most important ways in which to apply that determination is towards your exercise pain tolerance. Unlike other forms of pain generated by injury, such as getting a bad bruise from a hard knocking, or cutting yourself by accident, the pain generated by the proper performance of an exercise is a productive type of pain that the APO must expect… and embrace. Like courage and discipline, pain tolerance can also be developed through deliberate, conscious effort. I say that after over two decades of working with personal training clients and turning many a feeble client into a performing machine! And in this regard, I’m proudest of my work with the senior ladies; I’ve got one 75 year-old woman doing Flat Barbell Bench Press with 55 lbs. for reps; she also went from doing zero Push-Ups of any kind to a solid set of 5 legit, nose-to-the-ground Push-Ups with the body fully extended (not kneeling). It’s quite a spectacle that leaves people gawking in amazement. How was this done? Carefully and safely over a 2.5 year period, and with her willingness to do everything I said to do. And that’s in a mere two 1/2-hour sessions per week! What she brought to the table was… determination, as well as the discipline to not miss any workouts. Sound familiar?
More relevantly, this exemplary female senior client of mine, whose husband is actually in prison (long story there), insists on living independently, and wants to be able to perform all her gardening, home, and yard maintenance by herself – a noble goal. It is her unyielding commitment to her own independence that has given her the steely discipline and determination to suffer through the process of building up her strength WELL beyond what might typically be the endpoint for most other women even half her age, who are very often content with doing some junky kneeling Push-Ups (if that) and working out with 5 lb. or 8 lb. dumbbells (which mostly don’t do nothing for nobody). By the time my 75 year-old senior female client worked her way up to the loads and intensity levels with which she works out today, she had expanded her pain threshold tremendously, one rep and one small load increase at a time.
The point of this background story is to highlight the gradual nature of increasing your pain tolerance. Of course, the effort to expand your pain tolerance is, in great part, a mental and spiritual one – you have to be willing to suffer substantially in order to get measurable results that actually matter. However, the real underlying key to realizing a significant increase in your pain tolerance/threshold is to faithfully stick to Workout Fundamental #6: Progressive Overload. The beautiful thing is, if you are genuinely committed to increasing your reps per set and workout loads over time, then in this fashion, you are automatically increasing your pain tolerance. And so, by me sticking to the Progressive Overload concept, by imposing MY OWN aggression and determination onto the client (that’s what they’re paying me for, pretty much – they aren’t able to sufficiently muster their own aggression and determination), and by me demanding that my clients press on despite their inclination to stop the set… I have successfully transformed mild-mannered lawyers and deconditioned senior ladies into much-improved powerhouses. They’re usually quite proud of themselves, and rightfully so – they’ve earned it!
Now, for the American Partisan Operator, many of us don’t have the money to pay for the luxury of a personal trainer to guide us through a workout – to say nothing of the fact that most personal trainers aren’t worth a damn. But again, American Partisans are a different sort of animal – we do things for ourselves! It’s nice to have a trainer or coach, but that won’t be the case for the majority. That’s ok – we’re fired up and committed to battle readiness, and so we can put forth our own pain tolerance backed by aggression and determination. And for the APO, it shouldn’t be hard to make the leap from pain tolerance in the gym under controlled conditions to real world pain tolerance where, in some mission-critical moment, you’re dealing with a substantial amount of discomfort, but you press on nonetheless because accomplishing your mission demands it – lives are at stake. You’ve trained your pain tolerance, and are ready to deliver at the appointed hour!
In any case, adding reps or load is more specific to the Strength Training portion of a workout, where weights with specific amounts and a specific number of repetitions are used. On the other hand, as far as Conditioning Training goes, an increase in pain tolerance usually translates into being able to spend more time under conditioning duress – for example, adding 5 seconds to the 3 minutes you spend working the heavy bag (for a total of 3 minutes 5 seconds – and then adding another 5 seconds a week or two later, constantly building out your bag Conditioning time), or increasing the duration of a Conditioning Circuit. Panting like crazy with a racing heart just halfway into your Conditioning work? Oh well! Who cares? You’ve committed yourself to a time increase today, and you’re determined to finish it out! This is how pain tolerance is increased – by gutting it out through determination.
*** NOTE CAREFULLY: Please, please AP Brothers, use good judgment and common sense when experiencing workout pain. Yeah, there’s all the sayings like “Pain is weakness leaving the body” (true) and “No pain, no gain” (also true), but don’t be stupid or aggressive in a stupid way. Use good form at all times, and make sure to distinguish between “good pain” and “bad pain”.
Let’s make it real simple:
- Good Pain = a burn and fatigue in the muscle; high heart rate; heavy breathing
- Bad Pain = ANY SHARP PAIN, especially any sharp pains occurring in the joints being used in the exercise (or even joints not directly involved in the exercise); ANY SHARP PAIN or extreme tightness in a muscle or tendon
Don’t allow ego or machismo to make you carry on when experiencing SHARP pain. I’ve done this way too many times in my life, only to go on and injure myself badly enough to have to take time off, which really sucks. And I’ll confess, even at this seasoned point in my exercise career, I still have to wrestle with ego and machismo, since I’m quite obsessed with task completion and displays of grit. Make sure to temper these virtues and traits in yourself with good thinking – REMEMBER: SHARP PAIN BAD!!!! ***
So, to wrap this section up, keep in mind that when a trainee first starts out, there’s nowhere to go but up – he should experience ongoing progress via load and Conditioning time increases over time. However, there will eventually and always come a point of load / intensity / difficulty in which the trainee will simply have to gut his way forward under very uncomfortable conditions in order to progress even just a little. But hey… how badly do you want it? Do you really not have another rep in you? That is the operative question that must always run through your mind.
Workout Motivation / Inspiration
Finally, we’ll conclude the discussion of workout intangibles with the subject of motivation / inspiration. Aggression, discipline, and the determination to power these virtues all fundamentally require inspiration and motivation (these terms will be used interchangeably here). The word “inspiration” is related to the word “spirit”, which is an intangible concept altogether. The APO must always work out with SPIRIT in order to be productive in his physical fitness and become truly battle ready. Spirit is the foundation for true aggression, determination, and discipline.
Without inspiration, you have nothing – especially when it comes to physical fitness! Again, I speak from the point of view of a 2+ decade personal trainer whose clients have run the spectrum from uninspired cardiac patients, dumpy unworked adults, and deconditioned seniors (very common), to super-fired up athletes or clients who want to be at their best (rare). Inspiration makes the difference between merely sliming through a workout as if you’re doing someone an unpaid favor, and bulling through a workout to reach an improved state of fitness. Do you think a deconditioned person who never worked out a day in their lives wants to be in the gym? Probably not, and most don’t even go at all; these types usually don’t (or even can’t) apply themselves to the physical effort in any real way, as such making their workout an uninspired, token affair in the “something is better than nothing” sense. The result of this uninspired “approach” (if you can even call it that) is: NOTHING! No surprise there.
Let’s say for the sake of simplicity that there are two types of inspiration: general inspiration, and immediate-level inspiration (these are my own terms). General inspiration is something we American Partisans are already gifted with, fortunately. What inspires us 24/7/365? The United States of America, the Constitution, Liberty, and defending our families and communities. Yeah baby!!! We are driven to increase our capabilities because we just fucking love our classic American virtues and our kin to death, right? So we don’t really require general inspiration, unlike the reluctant cardiac patient warned by their doctor to work out or face an early death, or the senior who risks a falling injury because of their deconditioned, frail state. For these types, it’s not inspiration that brings them to the gym, but rather, fear of getting worse. Not a good source of inspiration, I’d say. No, we American Partisans are driven to ACTION by our love of our families and communities, and by our love of America and what it stands for (or used to, at least), and we are ready to work for it!
That merely leaves us with the job of generating immediate-level inspiration – that is, getting inspired after already tearing ourselves out of bed at the crack of dawn despite feeling under-rested, or getting inspired after a long workday and taking the time to attend to our duty of physical fitness; we will often be faced with suboptimal conditions during our workouts. Immediate-level inspiration, then, makes the difference between going through the motions with a barely adequate, placeholding performance (i.e., no progress made), and actually prospering despite immediate issues like tiredness (the most common disruptor to workout readiness) or whatever else – the list of potential immediate workout disruptors is endless.
As many readers may already know from their own past experiences, being fired up (i.e., motivated or inspired) can singlehandedly turn a grim situation around altogether! Mel Gibson’s Braveheart (one of my Top 3 Movies of All Time, for sure), based on true events, is a great example – the ragtag Scottish Highlander farmers fighting with righteous, inspired fury to beat back the far superior English Army. For a real life example of my own (if I may), after completing the Brushbeater Scout Course (an exhausting affair of its own) and having to drive 10 hours north back home, I nevertheless hit my workout the next day despite being tired as hell. But that was one of the best workouts I’d had in a long time! Why? Because I kept thinking back to the Scout Course field training exercise in which my team charged up the hill to assault the enemy ambush position, and overcame them. Feeling like a proper warrior, “Charging up the hill!” was my motto on the morning of my workout, and I kicked ass – tired as I was! That’s inspiration for you. I’m sure readers have their own personal examples – inspiration works!
Similar to what I stated in my previous post covering workout discipline (specifically, Workout Discipline Rule #5: Push Past Your Fear and Go Get Some!), an entire book could be dedicated to how to increase your workout inspiration/motivation. What I will do here is offer some of my own experience-based tips (as well as the practices of other successful lifters I’ve known) on how to increase your immediate-level inspiration.
- Music: A primal source of inspiration for many, if not most people. I listen to heavy metal (thrash metal; death metal; Iron Maiden; Judas Priest) and the Conan the Barbarian soundtrack (naturally) when I lift – nice and aggressive.
- Pre-Working Set Rituals: Pacing around; heavy rhythmic breathing; swaying; closing your eyes to visualize success.
- Prayer: I bow my head and pray to the Almighty for success before each and every working set; I’ve also seen genuflection and even kneeling in prayer.
- Objects of Devotion: There’s a huge American Flag hanging in my gym; I’ll occasionally stand before it with my hand on my heart, and then hit the barbell! It helps a lot! Choose whatever object of devotion to keep on hand – a crucifix, an image of something… whatever will get you inspired for the tough work ahead.
- Memories or Upcoming Events of Value: I have to confess, I had a bang-up workout on the morning of the day of a local Trump rally (before the 2016 election, when the rallies actually mattered), despite being tired. Or, my inspiration following my return from any of the awesome Brushbeater courses I took (as described above).
- Anything you can think of – be creative! Whatever works on demand to help you take heart and carry on the fight when you’d otherwise just want to quit!
This finally concludes my series on the American Partisan Workout Fundamentals. I never really envisioned the series being this long, but I also didn’t know what to expect when I started out this work. What you’ve received is pretty much the sum total of my worldview on physical fitness, give or take some details here or there. I really appreciate everyone reading these, and I appreciate the comments as well!
I hope that this guide serves my fellow Partisans well in the coming time! Our enemies never stop with their efforts, and neither should we – physical fitness is a major cornerstone of any resistance to tyranny, since said resistance will always become kinetic and physical at some point down the line. Best be ready! You now know what needs to be done.
As I mentioned in the beginning of this post, I’ll soon be posting some workouts that reflect the theory I’ve posted in the past few weeks. The workouts will cover both gym-based and minimalist workout formats. Please feel free to email me or comment below with any requests you might have that I might specifically address. Chances are that the things you seek will be sought by others too – don’t be shy! Stay tuned, and thanks again for reading!
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