People ask me what I do all the time. It seems that if you are not doing either a bodybuilding or cross fit type workout people have a hard time understanding what it is you do. When asked “what are you training for?” my answer is “LIFE!”
I tell people that I am training to “live as long as I can as best as I can.” However, I decided to really explore and define what has become my life goal and training philosophy. I call it Muscle Mysticism and I will explain its tenets in the following series of articles.
Mysticism can be defined as a set of practices that seek union with the Divine leading to a “mystical experience”. In Muscle Mysticism we seek the experience of Union with the Divine through exercise and alignment of mind, breathing and movement tied in to being physically and mentally strong. One of the end goals of Muscle Mysticism is to live as long as we can as best as we can, therefore you must have what my friend Peter Ragnar calls an “open-ended longevity” mindset. You must eradicate the idea of decrepitude and the notion that “the best years” of a person’s life are their 20’s and that somehow a person deteriorates afterward. The true end goal of Muscle Mysticism is Life Mastery through Athletic Alchemy.
You must develop a “Prussian” military mindset which was explained to me by an academic as holding on to every bit of land that composes your country, to include newly conquered lands, with the utmost tenacity and to consider the loss of a even a grain of sand as a tragedy and inconceivable in any negotiation.
What this means to the Muscle Mystic is that whatever you achieve – you achieve for life. You must hold fast to the belief that if you can run today, you can run 20, 30, or 40 years from now. If you can deadlift 315lbs today, then you can lift the same weight 20, 30 or 40 years from now. You must re-baseline yourself and hold the line while continuously improving. This also means checking your ego at the door and slowly losing interest in feats that shorten your life or that you do simply to impress others.
Think about it, if all your reps for the rest of your life were perfect and done with perfect breathing, wouldn’t you avoid exercise related injuries for the rest of your life? Would you always improve? My hypothesis, based on my personal experience and those I have trained is a resounding YES!
One of the tenets is to never load a wrong movement pattern, that is adding load in the form of weight to a movement pattern that is not properly performed (squat, pushup, etc). Yes, you can push through it and “get another rep” but experience has taught me that when people do this THAT is the MOMENT when injuries happen and it also SHORTENS YOUR LIFE.
What does this mean in your physical practice? Muscle Mystics exercise only while keeping perfect alignment of their bodies with full awareness of their movement and breath. The minute your structure starts to break due to fatigue or weakness you MUST STOP. I have been paying attention to this and I am starting to notice the EXACT moment that the structure breaks and I STOP. It can be as simple as your shoulders slightly unhinging or flaring out during a pressing movement, whether it be a bodyweight pushup or a bench press, or your lower body breaking alignment and feeling that slight twinge in one of your knees during any type of squat.
Besides total awareness of the moment in what you are doing, one of the best and most practical ways to do this is through resetting the vestibular system. The vestibular system is responsible for movement and develops from birth to about twenty years of age. It ties in the vestibular system in the brain with the eyes (which let you know where you are and where you want to go through visual inputs), the ears (which has the sense of balance and hearing), and the feet (which have the sense of proprioception – where you are in space and time through kinestetics). One of the keys to developing your vestibular system as you grow up is the cross-crawl pattern which is simply contra-lateral limb movement as opposed to unilateral limb movement. It starts crawling on all fours which develops the whole body.
Think about it, when you are a baby the first way of strengthening your upper body is by putting the weight of the body on it when you crawl. When you start to move you start building the neural connections that will determine your level of coordination and athleticism for life. If you have gaps in your vestibular system, as most people do – specially the Internet and X-box generation, loading any movement carries with it the risk of injury and a shortened life span.
One great way to reset your vestibular system is through the resets I learned and teach in my Fountain of Youth DVD. I conducted an experiment on myself to see if all the hype on this vestibular reset was true. I did nothing but ONE EXERCISE for 8 weeks. After that I improved my coordination tremendously, was able to snatch better and had doubled my endurance in the heavy overhead carry, not to mention that it strengthened my obliques, core, and midsection to a new degree.
You can get my DVD/video download where I detail EXACTLY what I did to achieve these results and how you can easily implement this into your life along with some Growth Hormone boosting workouts. This will be available in the second week of October, so be on the lookout for it.
Two great resources that you can get now are the books Smart Moves by Carla Hannaford where she explains the science behind the vestibular reset and how she used it to teach “learning disabled” and ADD children not only to learn but to EXCEL in the academic environment by tying the correct movement patterns to the development of neural pathways. The other resource is the book Original Strength by Tim Anderson and Geoff Neupert which is a very practical book for integrating the resets into your workouts. Hannaford’s book can be considered the “source document” for the vestibular reset and Original Strength an “application document.”
I now personally do some form of vestibular reset everyday, it can be as simple as doing 36 marching cross crawls in the morning, incorporating Bear and Leopard crawls into my warmup or doing 30 minute spiderman circuits as a workout.
My friends, I have not even scratched the surface of Muscle Mysticism. In my next article I will explain the concept Esoteric Experimentation in Muscle Mysticism and relate some of my personal experiments dedicated to this endeavor.