The Yoga of Strength Training

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Are you in a rut with your strength training routine? bigstock-Wedding-Workout-2748523

Tired of working your butt off in the gym and not getting the results you deserve?

Is counting to 15 getting you zero results?

Has your workout lost its luster?


What if I told you that you could completely transform your workout and finally get the results you’ve been looking for by simply not counting your reps?

 Well of course it’s not that simple, but counting reps could very well be holding you back in your workouts. Think about it. If every time you do a set of squats you count to 15 repetitions, you are essentially limiting your potential for improvement. The first time you did that exercise 15 times it was probably very challenging. However, after several weeks of doing this the same way and for the same number of reps, it is probably not as challenging. Even if you increase the weight or level of resistance, your body has gotten used to doing 15 reps of that exercise and has adapted in a way that allows you to do the same exercise with less effort.

 As a fitness professional, I know the idea of adaptation is why it’s a good thing to periodically change up the number of reps you perform, the amount resistance you use, the kind of exercises you do, and many other factors. But if you’ve already adjusted all of these factors several times over the course of several weeks, you may find yourself out of options, bored and unmotivated. At a certain point your workout has become just another mundane routine and there you are spinning your wheels with your workouts, exerting the same effort with diminishing results.

 What if instead of counting your reps you put as much as you could into each repetition and just did them one at a time until you couldn’t do the next one without ever counting them at all? You just focus on each repetition being completely and totally present, focusing on your technique and your breathing. You relieve yourself of the monotony because each repetition is a new experience instead of 10 more just like the last one. You also remove the stress and anticipation of getting to a certain number. Another great benefit of this approach is that it will slow down your tempo for each set, resulting in a more complete muscle contraction and better results. Your workouts seem shorter and more satisfying.

 Let’s take this a step further. Have you noticed that some days you feel more motivated than others? Some days you just have more energy, be it physical or mental. Maybe it was the way you slept or what you ate—who knows? The point is some days you just aren’t feeling it and you don’t feel like hitting it hard that day. You know you need to work out, but you end up just going through the motions—doing your exercises with less effort feeling like you are on autopilot. Maybe afterwards you end up judging yourself for doggin it and you feel even more miserable than when you started.   Sometimes this feeling can go on for weeks. Let’s face it, some of us have been doing this for months and years.

 What if instead of characterizing your efforts as “doggin it” you listen to your body and you push that edge just a little that day, being very careful not to overdo it? What if you gave yourself permission that day to take it a little easier and focus more on breathing than on pushing? What if you treated your workout that day as an opportunity to move without stress—to give your body and mind a chance to unwind and refresh? You think you might have more energy and reserve for the remainder of that day and even the next day’s workout?

 What I am really talking about here is working out more consciously. I have talked in the past about “The Yoga of Eating,” which is all about eating more consciously so that you make better choices, maximize digestion, and enjoy your food more. Similarly with “The Yoga of Strength Training,” it’s about giving 100% of your focus to how you are performing the exercise rather than how many reps you can do or how much weight you can push. I am talking about checking in with yourself before your workout, during your workout and after your workout and making yourself as aware as you can possibly be so that you can make the most of this time you have put aside for yourself.

 What many people don’t realize is that willing yourself through something is not always the best course of action. Sometimes it is necessary to get started on a project or to break through plateaus, but sometimes it’s just a way of creating more stress and hurting yourself in the end. In this case it can lead to injury, overtraining and ultimately diminished results.

 What I am talking about is looking at your workout as a ritual rather than a routine. It’s a more conscious and more fulfilling way of exercising. By changing your approach and your perspective in this manner, you will find your workouts more enjoyable and you will get better results—that, I can promise you!

 So how do you implement this? After all, your personal trainer or your group class instructor is telling you to do 15 reps (or whatever number) during your session. You can’t just tune them out and do your own thing. Please understand I am not telling you your instructor is wrong or to ignore them. After all, counting reps is how they keep your session or your class moving along so that everyone finishes the session together in the allotted time. This is fine for the guided or class format. That being said, even in the class format you can perform your exercises more consciously, focusing on your breathing and your technique rather than just getting it over with.

 What you need to do is to try and implement this approach during your own time in the gym. Aside from the tips I gave you above, the most important part of this approach is your breath. Make sure you are breathing during the entire exercise. The breath is the foundation of yoga and you can make it so with strength training. Find a rhythm of breathing so that when you are pushing you are exhaling and when you are pulling you are inhaling.

Begin with same level of resistance or weight you have been using with each exercise, only now you will be performing each repetition on its own without any thought or anticipation of the next one until you have completed this one. Then begin the next repetition the same way until you cannot perform another one with proper form. Refrain from counting. Take a 60-90 second break, refocus, and do the next exercise with the same intention.

 Try and get in one or two workouts like this each week and see how you feel. This is how I did it and now it’s just how I work out every time. I wouldn’t go back for anything.   My workouts are more enjoyable and satisfying. Sure I take the occasional classes, but when I work out on my own, this is how I do it.

 I hope this will do for you what it has done for me. As they say in yoga…..namaste.

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