Years ago I would sometimes find myself watching late night infomercials. Although there were plenty outlandish and ridiculous, but always thoroughly entertaining segments, there was one that stood out among the exercise genre. It was by a fellow by the name of Tony Little, a bodybuilder.
Years ago I would sometimes find myself watching late night infomercials. Although there were plenty outlandish and ridiculous, but always thoroughly entertaining segments, there was one that stood out among the exercise genre. It was by a fellow by the name of Tony Little, a bodybuilder. He was probably as well known for his long ponytail as he was for the products he was selling, which were exercise and nutrition advise at the time. In fact, you may have seen his cardio and ab machines that he’s been selling recently.
One phrase which he kept repeating, no in fact screaming, was “TECHNIQUE, TECHNIQUE!!” In fact, this became his catchphrase. As jolting as it was, and the theatrics aside, it really is a true statement. Perhaps his screaming was to drill into people’s minds of how important technique really is. Think about it: Any exercise that you do, and I mean any, isn’t technique always the most important thing?
Proper technique brings all of the correct muscles together to work in unison, ensures that the muscles you don’t want helping in the exercise do not, enforces proper body mechanics and skeletal alignment, allows you to progress much faster in any given exercise, and does not leave you susceptible to injury. So why then do I see some people rushing through certain exercises, doing them sloppy as spaghetti, and then wondering why they’re not progressing fast enough, or even worse getting injured? Let’s think back now to Tony Little’s mantra and go explore some facets to technique.
A study was done in which subjects increased their bicep strength 13 percent in three months by simply visualizing tensing their biceps hard but doing no exercise whatsoever. The only possible explanation for this strength gain is greater tension through increased “nerve force.” As I stated in past articles how the muscle tension that you generate is your secret weapon, that is a case in point.
According to world bench press champion George Halbert, “The most important aspect one can learn to improve strength is to learn proper technique.”
Admiring the performance of “dumb” muscles over focus and honed “nerve force” is just plain dumb. A number of clients of mine have completely turned around their push-up and bench press technique. Yet, when my client told her friend of the proper push-up technique — pushing from your armpit and using your torso muscles rather than from on top of your shoulders — her friend replied something like, “It’s not wrong, it just works different muscles.” OK, not to mention injure different muscles and joints by overloading those different muscles and not having the “other” muscles help back them up. A person who puts technique first is an example of “smart muscle.” This is how a person with an average build squats, dead lifts, or bench presses double or even triple his bodyweight!
Is it all technique? You bet! Does it undermine these gentlemen’s accomplishments? No, it elevates them. Are you more humiliated when a big guy kicks your butt or a small one? Look at the average build of an Olympic weightlifter. Aside from the super heavyweights, they are usually small in stature, but generate an incredible amount of force. In any endeavor, including strength training, mental focus delivers more than physical transformation. Just watch a wiry old karate master chop a pile of bricks in half — a feat that would send a young bodybuilder to the emergency room.
Another source I cite as placing more emphasis on “dumb” muscle than on real world strength is the plethora of bodybuilding magazines available. Take a look at any of the covers and you’ll know exactly what I mean. A guy is flexing on the cover with muscles pumped up beyond belief … what image is this selling? And not to mention the magazine is half-filled with advertisements for supplements to make your muscles even bigger and it’s no wonder people think of bodybuilding as being synonymous with strength training! Nothing could be further from the truth. Back in the days of real strength training, when guys sported those funny curling moustaches and lifted those circus-looking dumbbells, people were unbelievably strong. And their physiques showed too: hard and chiseled — the results of real hard work, not the over-bloated hulks on today’s bodybuilding magazine covers. I urge you all to stop relying on these glamorous magazines and seek out books and periodicals on true exercise and strength training. You know, the ones that emphasize technique and proven methods based on real studies.
So the next time you hear the “this is just technique” bruised ego nonsense, you’ll know that YES, it is technique! As it should be. Tony Little would be proud.
David S. Goldstein is a certified personal trainer. He can be reached at email@example.com.