Training Wisdom: Let Athletics Drive Athletics

Best way to tone your tush.  6 hours to bigger biceps.  No-effort, no-result strategies to save calories.

These are the headlines on the magazines we’re reading.  Okay, not really; I completely made up the last one, but it could be on something out there.  Most of the marketing we’re seeing is driven at quick, physique based goals, rather than long term health and performance.

Let’s face the reality that most folks are a bit more keen on 6 weeks to shredded abs, and not 6 months or 6 years to a double bodyweight deadlift, or long-term lower back health.  Our culture just isn’t programmed that way.  I’m not saying that aesthetic goals are bad, we all have them, but it’s important to not get carried away with them.  If there’s one general rule for getting short term and long term results, it’s this:

Let athletics drive aesthetics.

That is, train to move well and perform better, and the physique transformations that you desire will be part of the process.  I get it, we’ve grown up looking at Hollywood, Broadway, and magazine covers everywhere showing toned tushes, tight abs, and well airbrushed biceps.  It’s as if chucking up the duce while galavanting down the beach on a photoshoot is the key to happiness.


There has to be more to life than this.  Even if your only goal is to spend your days with the warm waters of the Caribbean ticking your toes, the time you spend doing that is far and few between.  There are more physical and mental adventures to have in life, and our body should never stand in the way of our ability to adventure.

By turning the focus from a toned tush to strength with hip thrusts, or sleek arms to less-meek pull-ups, we can work towards our goals whilst filling in the bigger picture of living a more examined life.

Developing performance, be it performing your first chin-up or squatting your partner’s bodyweight a few times, doesn’t have many limits.  The variables to play with are nearly limitless.  Aesthetic goals, on the other hand, are pretty concrete.  You either see your abs, or you don’t.  Sure, there are appreciable differences among biceps, but I don’t think that you’re going to find the answers to life in there.  Try reading a book instead.


A focus on compound exercise performance can make a huge difference between how you approach your workout, and how you track your training.  Starting your training session with the undistinguished goal of feeling your arms work, or the vague idea of feeling a pump in your legs, makes it harder to feel successful in the moment of exercise, and can prevent you from reaping the greater rewards from exercise.

Your body is supposed to perform.  Let it.

Allowing yourself to nail a workout that includes pull-ups, squats, and kettlebell swings is going to look and feel more accomplished than a few sets of pulldowns, leg presses, leg extensions, the thigh innie-outie machine, and awkward leg wiggles to make your butt work.  Seriously ask: Who feels like a bad ass doing these:


Setting a personal record (PR) on the reg can help make success a daily habit, but also prevent the common disappoint when some aesthetic goals aren’t met.  They may still be a part of the process, but they’re not the entire focus.  Remember, there’s more out there.

Since we like to focus on getting stronger over here, I’ll over that you’re going to be getting pretty damn close to your aesthetic goals by progressively building stronger squats, bench presses, deadlifts, overhead presses, and pull-ups is a great way to allow for regular, repeatable success.

If those exercises are new; learn them.  If your technique feels good, focus on becoming comfortable using your bodyweight for sets of 5.  As that feels more comfortable, dabble with shorter sets, say 3 reps at a time, and slowly add weight.  There isn’t a specific formula for strength; that’s where personalized programming comes in.

There is, however, the indisputable fact that we’re either getting stronger or we’re not.  Perhaps you’re writing things down, or using an app like Fitocracy to track progress.  However you like to record it, start taking notes.  If you see your numbers in the gym increasing, you’re on your way to the body of your dreams, rather that focusing on the one you see on your screens.



One Reply to “Training Wisdom: Let Athletics Drive Athletics”

  1. I whole-heartedly agree. It seems that now-a-days people are so focused on aesthetics they are willing to deteriorate their health in order to achieve some vain goal.

    While I do not agree with everything concerning CrossFit, I have to say that they are trying to teach people the right mindset – functionality is key, look follow.

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