What do you want?
Strength? Aesthetics? More athletic ability?
It’s important to know because the goal you choose will determine the steps you take take, as well as the precautions you may have to consider.
A few weeks ago I got the email every coach hates to get.
It read something like the following:
“JC, Really Bad news.. We had an Alumni Rugby game this Saturday, and I went up for a kickoff and got hit wrong, landed on the ball and broke two ribs.. I can’t workout or run or anything for 4-6 weeks. What am I supposed to do now?”
This is the worst. Here we have someone who started off so well, only to be derailed by an injury.
While most people won’t find themselves breaking ribs too often, injuries incurred from physical activity are bound to happen the longer you’re pushing your limits.
Something I always discourage clients from is activity that interferes with their primary goal, as well as those that come with high risk and little reward.
This is why I highly discourage my otherwise inexperienced clients (those who have no previous athletic experience) from sprinting, or even going for long jogs as a part of their cardio plan.
Intervals? Sometimes, but only as long as the impact is low, and controlled.
Now my client’s primary goal was AOE (aesthetics over everything). The ultimate goal to drop body fat and simply look like he lifts, while slowly getting stronger, more mobile and more athletic in the process.
Training for pure aesthetics and training for raw strength and/or athletics can be as similar or as polarizing as you’d like. You can choose to train like an Olympic athlete, or a bodybuilder and still get more aesthetic. However, the level of risk between properly executing a heavy snatch, and a high-rep leg press should be evident.
When I program for aesthetics I view everything from the objective of keeping the client as far away from injury as possible by choosing movements, rep ranges and cadences that pose the least amount of risk.
To give you an example, for quad development I’d pick leg presses, squat machines, and leg extensions over heavy barbell back squats.
For pec development, I’d choose dumbbell presses, cable flyes and push-ups over heavy barbell bench presses.
For raw strength and athletics, it only makes sense to choose the movements that will drive the individual toward their goal of choice.
Need a big squat, deadlift and bench for an upcoming meet? Better get to doing all three, a lot, in order to get good at them. Does it come as a high risk for injury? Sure, but if you’re into powerlifting, you should know what you’re getting yourself into.
Are you an athlete looking to increase your forty time, vertical jump, or explosiveness off the line? Power cleans, sprints, and box jumps are probably your best bet, but realize the level of risk before you begin.
Understanding Your Goal To Understand Your Personal Needs
Too many men and women get caught up in what seems to be a convoluted mess of movements and strategies when it should really be much simpler.
If your goal is purely aesthetics, we need to analyze our priorities, and plan accordingly. For my clients who are strictly aesthetic-focused, I will highly discourage activities that pose as those I deem high-risk.
So if someone with such a goal asks if it’s cool to play pick up basketball on the weekends, or to participate in rugby matches, my advice is always “I would highly advise against it.”
All it takes is one mishap to take you out of the iron game for months.
We’re not talking about the occasional tweaked hip, or slightly strained muscle that will occur from time to time.
We’re talking about the sprains, breaks, and pulls that will take you completely out of regular movement for many months, and then sometimes followed by a slow rehab.
Imagine spending an entire year completely changing your physique for the better – losing fat, gaining muscle, and finally being happy with your body.
Then you go and do it. And you do it BIG.
You decide to play that backyard game of football with your long lost frat brothers and after a few downs, you find yourself on the ground with a severe sprain, pull, or even a broken collar bone.
All your hard work seemingly washes down the drain for what, three seconds of glory as you dove to catch a pass in the imaginary end zone?
Sounds pretty lame to me, but for many, this never crosses their mind.
Today that needs to change.
Building your body is not something that happens overnight. It takes a lot of time, effort, sweat, and consistency.
If you’re on this website, I am confident you understand the level of dedication it takes.
Why would you take the chance of risking something that’s taken months and years to build over a pick-up game of backyard football?
If you breathe oxygen, I imagine you will see my point in this.
Am I saying to completely abstain from all physical activity that poses even the slightest risk and have no fun?
Not at all, but it’s important to understand which activities pose more risk than others, and what chances you’re willing to take.
Do you want a badass physique, or a few minutes of fame in a half-court basketball game?
You only live once (YOLO BRO), so you can’t lock yourself in a room for fear of the world, but priorities are important and should be kept.
If staying injury-free and building your body in the long term ranks high on your priority list, listen up.
Discipline will take you far, and you’ll be more proud of yourself in the end for creating restraints that serve your longer term goals. Resist the urge for instant gratification, even if that means missing a chance to do that victory dance in the park for a quarterback sack no one saw anyway.
For those who are very active, have built up their conditioning and capacity for performing sprints, or intervals on a high level, you know this doesn’t wholly apply to you.
If you have a history of athletics, and stay active within those sports, you’re in a much better position than the occasional weekend warrior.
But for those reading who are strictly into training and fitness for aesthetic purposes, I can assure you that Cr*ssfit, and other such programs pose way more risk than reward, especially if you couldn’t care less about raw strength, or being functional, whatever that means.
With a proper aesthetic-based program you’ll slowly get stronger, more mobile, and in the end, more athletic as a result of the well-rounded programming.
Will you be the strongest, or the fastest? No.
Will you be a forging elitist? I sure hope not.
Will you move better, look great and feel incredible? You bet your granny’s panties you will.
Looking better naked is about making choices with your programming that make sense from a longevity standpoint. You’re in this for the long haul, so act like it.
Treat this endeavor as a holy matter, and make your body your temple — your fortress you long to build up slowly and preserve forever.
You don’t build more muscle from forcing that heavy triple which leaves you crippled for 3 days afterward.
You don’t get brownie points for going to failure on every single set.
It’s not legendary to participate in the full-court hustle once per year at the holiday hangout.
It’s more admirable to respect your body’s limits, and pay great attention to your goals, even if it means abstaining from something that may seem like fun for a few moments that could leave you injured and immobile.