The Body Beautiful: Part I of II
Human beings are, at least to human eyes and senses, the most beautiful of all creatures. Sure, the other animals and plants are gorgeous too. Heck, even a good rock or cloud formation can be bedazzling. Humans, and the human form, however, are what we are most attracted to. We watch sports and the performing arts in order to humbly appreciate humans in movement, and possibly at their best. Let's face it, we go gaga over the human form. Beauty contests, body-building events, sports of every kind, fashion, art and all forms of visual media focus on it.
Body Sculpting Is Easier Than You Think
Your body is wonderful in its adaptability. It responds wholeheartedly to any and every substance, condition, influence, and force to which it is exposed. Lift heavy weights at near-maximum exertions and develop bigger muscles. Do high repetitions of lower-intensity exertions for relatively long periods of time and develop endurance. Stretch with frequency and you become more flexible. Your body constantly gives you what you ask for; there is no time out.
This is why you will notice that athletes from various fields of endeavor tend to have very specific body types: their bodies have adapted to the use they give them. You can often simply look at a person and guess quite accurately what physical activities they perform. Sprinters are built completely differently from long-distance runners, even though both run as fast as they can. The sprinters, however, rely more upon strength, whereas the harriers focus more upon endurance. Gymnasts tend to be thicker in the upper body compared to skaters and cyclists, who are thicker in the legs. Dancers are light on their feet and graceful. Hockey players lumber from side to side. Tennis players develop unilaterally in the forearms, arms and shoulders. And sumo wrestlers, well ... you know. Not only do the target body parts develop according to the way they are used, but the rest of the body also develops (or atrophies) according to the manner in which it is (or is not) used.
No effort is specifically put in to make the cyclist's thighs hypertrophy — it just happens as a result of cycling. Weight lifters don't have to try to develop bigger biceps — these muscles simply grow in response to the use they get when weightlifting.
You may have your own agenda for the way you would like your body to develop, but you must respect your body's agenda, and intelligently give in to its priorities. By choosing activities that align your body's response agenda with your body-sculpting agenda, you can have your proverbial cake and eat it, too.
So what is the trick to developing the physique of your dreams? Most people are convinced that it takes far more effort than they are willing to exert, so they don't even try. This approach never works. Most people do not know how to get what they want from their body. This is because they do not understand the simplest basics of physical training. Once one learns to utilize just two vital training elements, the "training effect" does all the rest, and rather effortlessly. Here are the two key elements that must be addressed if one wishes to develop the body beautiful: effectiveness and efficiency.
Making Training Efficient
Efficient training gets the job done in the least amount of time. After all, who has excess time on their hands, or even wants to spend more time than necessary in physical pursuits? The first part of training efficiently requires fully determining what you want to train for. The next is to learn to cut the wasted time out of your training regimen. The final part involves eliminating unnecessary aspects of training from your program.
So, what do you want to train for? Do you want broader shoulders or narrower hips? Are you looking for better overall definition or more power? Is flexibility your goal or, are you hoping simply to improve your golf, tennis, or football game? Do you study a specific type of martial art? Are you a runner? Do you desire total and well-rounded fitness? Only you can make these decisions. If you are an Aries, like me, you may want it all.
Reducing the wasted time in your training sessions is usually easy. Many folks find that when they train with partners, they spend more time talking than they do training. While this may satisfy your desire for companionship or connection, it definitely detracts from physical pursuits. You must either learn to train with less talk time, or plan to train on your own. One way to reduce the talk time is to play games rather than simply train. Two folks out for a walk may stop quite often to talk. When they kick a ball around, or play badminton, however, they tend to play a lot more and talk a lot less. Another would be to set goals in advance of each session. For instance, if you decide to walk four miles with a friend, talking won't detract from your success. If you add a time element to the goal, talking may hinder you both from finishing within the limits you have set for yourself. Some people prefer to wear a heart-rate monitor to help them keep from slowing down too much. You can set the monitor so that it alerts you when your heart rate drops below, or exceeds, the parameters that you set for yourself. This is an effective tool to use until you learn to maintain the pace or intensity level that you desire.
Transition is another huge time waster. Moving from apparatus to apparatus, or from one type of exercise to another, usually eats up more time than people think it does. Changing and fooling with your clothes, water-fountain breaks, tying your shoes, adjusting the equipment — these little interruptions cut efficiency. Plan in advance by wearing the appropriate clothing. Use a water bottle you can carry with you. Learn to tie the better bow or use speed clips on your laces, and whatever else you must do so that your equipment doesn't slow you down.
When we are at play, the one thing we do not tolerate well is an interruption. Conversely, most of us will create our own interruptions if we perceive ourselves to be working at something we do not enjoy. Try to approach your fitness goals with a playful attitude and spirit. You will very likely play more intensely and wholeheartedly than you will work out.
Remember that as you make your training sessions more efficient, you are likely to also increase its intensity. Be sure to make the appropriate allowances by either increasing your recovery and sleep time or cutting back on duration or some other aspect of your training to compensate for its increased intensity.
Once you know what you are training for, and you have cut out the wasted time, it is time to drop the unnecessary elements from your training as well.
Making Training Effective
Effective training is the key that allows you to achieve what you are striving for. In much the same way that an effective set of directions makes road travel easy, effective training makes it that much easier to reach your fitness or performance goals.
Let's say that you would like to develop large, muscular arms. This requires a specific type of training regimen, one that focuses effort on using the arms in heavy resistance activities. Running would be an extremely ineffective choice, whereas men's gymnastics would fit the bill beautifully. Similarly, crawl-stroke swimmers, who get more than 90% of their forward propulsion from their arms. would be foolish to devote even 10% of total training into their legs. Bicyclists, on the other hand, rely almost totally upon their legs. Upper-body training for a cyclist should be cut to the barest specific minimum. Push-ups would be an ineffective choice for developing flexibility; juggling would be a good choice in developing hand-to-eye coordination.
Very commonly, people's fitness and body-development goals do not align with their activity choices. Runners looking for muscular development are going to have to spend some time doing heavy resistance activities instead of just running. Many people would love to develop their abdominal musculature to the point that it is noteworthy. Doing so requires two steps: losing excess body fat so that the muscles are visible, and growing the abdominal muscles via high-resistance, low-repetition strength activities. I am amazed at the number of people who hope to develop washboard abs who do tons of abdominal crunches, an endurance activity, rather than a strength activity like prone extensions.
As you home in on your specific body-development goals, and refine your activity choices to meet those goals, you will develop toward the body of your dreams. Become more efficient and effective in your training approach, and your body will hasten in its development of the exact physical features that you desire.
With patience, consistency and persistence, you will soon be proud to show off your newly developed physique....continue reading in Part II