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felixtkatt

Specialize or Generalize?

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In the spirit of physical fitness, is it of greater benefit to improve in the areas one is weakest or to utilize natural abilities to their greatest potential?

 

Personal example:

 

STRENGTHS

Larger than the average bear

Squat / Deadlift 100% body weight [245#] for 5 reps fairly easily

Sprints aren't too shabby

 

WEAKNESSES

Cardio endurance is poo

Shake like a leaf during static exercises (anything slow-twitch)

Can't touch my toes (never could, even as a child)

 

 

I've found that I really enjoy doing the SL 5x5 program, mostly because it's quick but also because the instant gratification of achieving a lift weight occurs almost every session. If I want to improve my deficient areas, I fear it will require a more significant time investment and take longer to realize improvement. After all, it's not endurance if you're not doing it for a long time -- right? I've thought previously that HIIT might be a better solution for me, but most of the workouts I've found (Neila Rey FTW) simply kick my stones.

 

What, if any, is the consensus among the rebels? Do you start with the class that best matches your race, do you cross-class with hopes of greater gains, or do you just do whatever you'll do - damn The Man and his labels.

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What, if any, is the consensus among the rebels? Do you start with the class that best matches your race, do you cross-class with hopes of greater gains, or do you just do whatever you'll do - damn The Man and his labels.

 

Primarily the bold.

 

Disclaimer:  The monks are fairly cross-class inclined.  Most of us incorporate multiple things into our programs.

 

It depends on you. Starting ALL THE THINGS at once can be daunting so starting with one is a good idea.   Once settled, try branching out if you want.  Lifting works for you.  Awesome.  Keep that as your primary.  You have trouble with flexibility?  Try stretching for 5 min every night.  It isn't much time but the improvements come.  Or try adding a short run once a week and work on your endurance.  Or a 5 min HIIT finisher after you finish your SL workouts.  Or a Neila Rey workout once a week. You can add things on to your program and progress in multiple ways.  Maybe don't try adding all of them at once though.

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It depends on how you define fitness, which would determine what your goals are. What do YOU want to be? Do you want to be strong like bull, wiht lower bodyfat, and not care about being able to run a mile? Lifting while watching your calories is for you. Do you want to work toward being fit like an NFL linebacker, being strong as hell, but able to run around in quick bursts for an hour at a time? Well then, a workout plan including weight training for explosiveness with olympic lifts, powerlifting for pure strength, and some HIIT might be the course.

 

The other thing to consider is what you're going to stick with. If you put running a mile a day into your workout plan and hate doing it, you're not going to do it forever. We're trying to build something that you will do forever, that becomes part of your daily routine.

 

For me, I want that linebacker sort of thing. I want to be strong and muscular, look good naked, and be able to run around with energy and play recreational team sports. I don't have any interest in running anything more than a 5k once or twice a year (did 10 miles once, it was terrible).

 

How do I plan to get there? Well, I can't run at my current weight because I get stress fractures, so I need to lose weight first before adding a little running in. I don't want to lose too much weight, because I am addicted to all this strength I've developed through lifting. So, what I have planned, is to get to a certain point with my lifting gains and get strong (almost there), then lose the weight while maintaining that strength as best I can (this is the current point I'm at, started it early), then once the weight is gone, mix some HIIT (sprints, crossfit type lifting) into my training while ramping weights up again to add some endurance work in, but still get stronger.

 

You can see from the above, I identified where I wanted to be, then identified my weaknesses (which has been the hardest part honestly), and figured out a way to work around and through them to get where I want to go. You have to sort of go through the same thing. The specialize/generalize thing comes down more to your goals than anything else.

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Right. Think about what exactly you want to be. (See above) A lot of people would rather be great at a few things than mediocre at everything. (Except by-the-book CrossFitters.)

 

Me, personally, I'm really indecisive. So I tried them all (see below) before I went Monk, which is the direction everyone was expecting me to go to begin with. Very inefficient, but a good experience all in all.

 

Multiclassing.jpg

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Thank you all for your replies. They've helped me quite a lot to shape my thoughts and goals. Also, they've helped to bring me to the following realization:

 

Up to this point, I've enjoyed doing what I'm good at -- lifting weights -- which shouldn't be much of a surprise since it's my path of least resistance. However, looking at where that path leads, I don't believe it ends at a goal I wish to achieve. It's not that I think the destination is poor or anything, it's just not what I want or think I need.

 

After some internal debate, I've decided what I want is to improve my deficiencies. However, I've grown to loathe the trodden paths that lead to those goals. Now, whether or not that's because I suck at them in the first place is a matter of academic debate. The reality is that I will be less likely to stick to a program that I don't enjoy.

 

So, what's a fledgling rebel to do? Have any of you dealt with cognitive dissonance like this? Is this a case of "Do what you suck at a little each day until you don't suck at it anymore"? Would not sucking at it make me like it more and thus ease the mental conflict, or is it an exercise in futility?

 

Or, is there's a way to use what I'm good at to work on the things I'm not good at? I know weight lifting can certainly be used to build endurance (HIIT or XFit, as examples) - but is there a way to use weight lifting to increase flexibility as well? Other than being folded in half by the weights, I mean :playful:.

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Thank you all for your replies. They've helped me quite a lot to shape my thoughts and goals. Also, they've helped to bring me to the following realization:

Up to this point, I've enjoyed doing what I'm good at -- lifting weights -- which shouldn't be much of a surprise since it's my path of least resistance. However, looking at where that path leads, I don't believe it ends at a goal I wish to achieve. It's not that I think the destination is poor or anything, it's just not what I want or think I need.

After some internal debate, I've decided what I want is to improve my deficiencies. However, I've grown to loathe the trodden paths that lead to those goals. Now, whether or not that's because I suck at them in the first place is a matter of academic debate. The reality is that I will be less likely to stick to a program that I don't enjoy.

So, what's a fledgling rebel to do? Have any of you dealt with cognitive dissonance like this? Is this a case of "Do what you suck at a little each day until you don't suck at it anymore"? Would not sucking at it make me like it more and thus ease the mental conflict, or is it an exercise in futility?

Or, is there's a way to use what I'm good at to work on the things I'm not good at? I know weight lifting can certainly be used to build endurance (HIIT or XFit, as examples) - but is there a way to use weight lifting to increase flexibility as well? Other than being folded in half by the weights, I mean :playful:.

I hate running. I'm not built for it, and people just naturally outrun me. But after targeting it for a while, I have grown to hate it a lot less. It could probably be just a habit I grew into, or because I suck less at it now. Though I'm not anywhere near the fast people, I'm no longer the slowest runner in the group. It's a lot less disheartening. Life's greatest comfort is being able to look over your shoulder and see people worse off, waiting in line behind you. (Palahniuk) Getting there though, I trained specifically, mostly alone. A lot easier to avoid the ego telling you to run faster to catch up to the next guy, even if your plan necessitates that you constantly stay under 150 bpm to improve cardiac output. You burn yourself out early. Workout ruined. Thanks, ego.

treadmill-racing.png

On the other hand, champions are the ones who found what they are innately good at (either accidentally or on purpose), and took the time to cultivate that talent specifically instead of wasting time on other endeavors that may not pay off.

i-17c88e35d55c9abddf91dbac0e136357-0314_

Weightlifting involves a lot of flexibility, though maybe it is being folded in half by the weights. Kind of.

1673-281x300.jpg

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The best form of exercise is the one that you will actually do. So if you've found something you really like, great, make that a focus. But I don't think you should ignore your weak areas, because that just means they'll get weaker.

All that being said, different forms of exercise do have different benefits. It's good to do something every now and then that pushes your strength, speed, endurance, power, or flexibility. I do think it's good to do some variety of things. I am never going to be terribly good at any one sport, even if I dedicated myself to it fully. And even if you are trying to be competitive in a sport, most elite athletes cross train (though I will confess to not knowing much about the training schedule of an elite olympic lifter). One thing a lot of people will do is shift their focus over the year. For example, I intend to focus on strength more over the winter and put running on the back burner (but still do a bit of it!), as it's not so nice weather for it, while when the weather is nice I like being outside. Or it might not be seasonal, so much as training for a particular event.

For me, that means training for moderate distance running races (5-10km), doing strength work a few times per week, I somewhat regularly go to yoga (I go once most weeks), and I sometimes do things like ride my bike to work. And in the summer I play a team sport (Ultimate Frisbee).

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This will depend on your preferred fitness activity, but I find that having a very specific goal means a little bit of generalizing anyway.  Even top-level runners like Mo Farah and Nick Symmonds lift weights, do yoga, cycle etc.

 

I think the best advice is to pick a goal and do what it takes to get there properly.  Odds are, it'll involve at least a little bit of generalization.

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If you want to be more flexible, you want to make sure you spend significant time stretching on top of doing your regular workouts.  Lifting, unless you're moving your body in ways that you don't generally move, will not make you more flexible.  So for instance, if you want to touch your toes, after you're done lifting for the day, spend 10 minutes really working on that, doing deep stretches, etc.  It's not your full workout, but it helps you get to your other goals while you still get to do what you like!

 

(YMMV, but I've found that lifting can actually have adverse effects on my flexibility unless I'm really taking the time to stretch out after lifting sessions.)

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"The combination of resistance training and stretching appears to be the most effective method to improve flexibility with increasing muscle mass." - National Strength and Conditioning Association, Essentials of Strength Training and Conditioning

 

Professional athletes don't necessarily cross-train (though they may do so for recreation). Most periodize their training in blocks to accommodate the seasonal schedule of their respective sports, targeting different areas of fitness that build upon one another. Here is an example of the OPT Model by the NASM:
 

opt-steps.jpg?sfvrsn=4

 

Others use an undulating model where it is all done on a smaller scale, and different areas of fitness are addressed almost simultaneously.

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@starsapart: You had me right up to "significant time".  ;)  One of the great things about SL 5x5 is the fact that it's a quick workout.  In-and-out of the gym in 30 to 40 minutes. Any workouts longer than an hour start to interrupt my regularly scheduled program.  That being said - I understand where you're coming from.  I should probably look at doing a "replacement day" once every couple weeks with lots of stretches and mid-weight/high-rep sets with little down time.

 

 

@Machete:  Thanks for the resources! I'll check them out.

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If you want to be more flexible, you want to make sure you spend significant time stretching on top of doing your regular workouts.  Lifting, unless you're moving your body in ways that you don't generally move, will not make you more flexible.

 

Not so true. Flexibility is only half the story, stability is the other half. There are videos of people under anesthesia with physios bending joints in all kinds of ways with no resistance, but come back to concisouness and the person can't get close. This is the CNS protecting the body from going into ranges that it isn't stable in, contracting the muscles to prevent it. If you lift in a fashion that brings you near the end range of motion that your body allows, you are going to gain more stability at that point and around that point. As this happens, your CNS will then stop tightening up there and allow you to go into a further range of motion. We see it all the time with people not being able to barbell squat to depth. Keep them squatting, spending time near that bottom end range of motion and building strength/stability there, and they'll naturally get deeper and deeper over time. I used to barely break parallel without rounding. Now I can put my knees almost in my armpits, and I've barely ever stretched outside of having a barbell on my back.

 

Stretching and yoga and such probably works through the same mechanism, forcing you to spend time near the end range of motion under a slight load and gaining stability in and around that portion.

 

edit:

(YMMV, but I've found that lifting can actually have adverse effects on my flexibility unless I'm really taking the time to stretch out after lifting sessions.)

 

Yes, locally, due to soreness and fatigue, and hence lack of stability and your body protecting you from going into a range of motion your muscles aren't strong in until they recover a bit.

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Not so true. Flexibility is only half the story, stability is the other half. There are videos of people under anesthesia with physios bending joints in all kidns of ways with no resistance, but come back to concisouness and the person can't get close. This is the CNS protecting the body from going into ranges that it isn't stable in, contracting the muscles prevent it. If you lift in a fashion that brings you near the end range of motion that your body allows, you are going to gain more stability at that point and around that point. As this happens, your CNS will then stop tightening up there and allow you to go into a further range of motion. We see it all the time with people not being able to barbell squat to depth. Keep them squatting, spending time near that bottom end range of motion and building strength/stability there, and they'll naturally get deeper and deeper over time. I used to barely break parallel without rounding. Now I can put my knees almost in my armpits, and I've barely ever stretched outside of having a barbell on my back.

 

Stretching and yoga and such probably works through the same mechanism, forcing you to spend time near the end range of motion under a slight load and gaining stability in and around that portion.

 

edit:

 

Yes, locally, due to soreness and fatigue, and hence lack of stability and your body protecting you from going into a range of motion your msucles aren't strong in until they recover a bit.

 

Oh, for sure, you can get additional squat depth from squatting!  Never ever denied that.  That's why I said "moving your body in ways you generally don't move."  If you're not spending time near the edge of range of motion (just as you describe) then the flexibility will not improve... so your squat will get deeper, sure, but when it comes to motions that you are not practicing while lifting (let's say, a side bend, or a leg raise, etc), you're not going to improve them from lifting. ^_^

 

I speak here mostly as a novice lifter at best but as someone with what most would consider an extreme level of flexibility.  I know a lot about stretching and how to contort myself into unlikely positions, but I've definitely got tons to learn about lifting!

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@starsapart: You had me right up to "significant time".  ;)  One of the great things about SL 5x5 is the fact that it's a quick workout.  In-and-out of the gym in 30 to 40 minutes. Any workouts longer than an hour start to interrupt my regularly scheduled program.  That being said - I understand where you're coming from.  I should probably look at doing a "replacement day" once every couple weeks with lots of stretches and mid-weight/high-rep sets with little down time.

 

 

@Machete:  Thanks for the resources! I'll check them out.

 

As always...... unfortunately, to get better at something, you have to invest time!  I've yet to find a shortcut.

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Not so true. Flexibility is only half the story, stability is the other half. There are videos of people under anesthesia with physios bending joints in all kinds of ways with no resistance, but come back to concisouness and the person can't get close. This is the CNS protecting the body from going into ranges that it isn't stable in, contracting the muscles to prevent it. If you lift in a fashion that brings you near the end range of motion that your body allows, you are going to gain more stability at that point and around that point. As this happens, your CNS will then stop tightening up there and allow you to go into a further range of motion. We see it all the time with people not being able to barbell squat to depth. Keep them squatting, spending time near that bottom end range of motion and building strength/stability there, and they'll naturally get deeper and deeper over time. I used to barely break parallel without rounding. Now I can put my knees almost in my armpits, and I've barely ever stretched outside of having a barbell on my back.

 

Stretching and yoga and such probably works through the same mechanism, forcing you to spend time near the end range of motion under a slight load and gaining stability in and around that portion.

 

edit:

 

Yes, locally, due to soreness and fatigue, and hence lack of stability and your body protecting you from going into a range of motion your muscles aren't strong in until they recover a bit.

 

This

 

This times ten, took me a long time to realise it

 

Then I had to swallow my pride and lower my weight so I could work up to a full range of movement with form but after doing it for a little while now my body feels a lot more centred and able than before, from reaching for stuff, to bending over to pick up a pen, to reaching behind me for something

 

Yoga probably would have gotten me there to, but I like weights, so this was a more enjoyable method for me

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As for your original question dude, I'm not sure what your end goal is? Are you wanting to work on your weaknesses for the sake of improving them or because you want to ultimately do lots of cardio stuff?

 

From the info I've read I would suggest trying something like I'm trying right now which is combining the stuff I like with the stuff I don't like

 

My end goal is linebacker style fitness, so I want to be strong and lift weights - which I enjoy and weights can have a positive impact on cardio, see squats and running

 

But I also want to be able to run enough to be able to hold my own at any sport instead of passing out on the floor, which means cardio - which I hate. I've scaled the cardio into HITT so I can get it over and done with as quick as possible and then next day get back to weights

 

I find combining what I enjoy with something I don't enjoy keeps me motivated enough

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@ItsDaniel, et al.:

 

To continue with the US Football analogies, I think I'd like less of a linebacker build and more of a tight end. (HEYO!) Have the explosiveness to punch through a goal line defense, or the agility to vault it. Be fast enough run a quick out from the slot but then have the endurance to get YAC, breaking tackles along the way.

 

So would it be safe to say "Rangers, get my bow ready?"  ;-)

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@ItsDaniel, et al.:

 

To continue with the US Football analogies, I think I'd like less of a linebacker build and more of a tight end. (HEYO!) Have the explosiveness to punch through a goal line defense, or the agility to vault it. Be fast enough run a quick out from the slot but then have the endurance to get YAC, breaking tackles along the way.

 

So would it be safe to say "Rangers, get my bow ready?"  ;-)

 

Yeah, think so.

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You can always start with the Rangers and see how it goes. Assassins might be a good place to look at too...and you can always cross train in any guild each challenge to focus on one area vs another for a short time, to try something new, whatever.

Yoga can help with the flexibility, and being naturally strong will enable to you to progress farther in yoga than you would otherwise without that natural strength...although every style of yoga is different and not all of them push you to your edge and keep you there as a method of making gains, but Ashtanga does and is flow oriented, so that means you don't stop moving, thereby increasing cardio function if you arent in good enough shape to flow quickly...but its also hard as hell! LOL! I am very flexible, but have piss poor lung function, and Ashtanga is too hard for me, at the moment...but it is my end goal, to finish the Primary Series...which means I need to get thinner and stronger and much more bendier...LOL! 

There are other hybrid strength/mobility programs like TacFit that use functional fitness and specific weights that act like extensions of your body to help you increase your ROM and flexibility while gaining strength as well...but they wont really do shit for cardio...

just my 2 cents. There is a LOT of trial and error involved for most of us until we find our sweet spot. I LOVE lifting, but I am not a warrior as a whole, but I will eventually have strength gains as part of my challenge goals.

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So a lot of people are saying "pick your goals" and work towards them. That's great advice, and specialisation will certainly yield good results! But I want to come in and offer the other side of the coin, as a habitual "do all the things" person. 

 

A quick disclaimer - having fun is my primary goal. I know I'll never be an elite level athlete and i'm not trying to be. Training is something I do to de-stress, hang out with friends, explore the world and feel better about myself in general. If you want to be top level, this advice isn't for you.

 

Training begets training! This is kind of obvious, but I guess most people never really follow it up. Whenever I've been doing any form of training, I've met new people who train other things too. Example! My first step into training anything was running, and from that I started running with my friend who was big into rock climbing. So then rock climbing became a thing (I was literally running to and from my house to the climbing gym at one point). After talking about climbing on facebook for a while, another friend asked if i wanted to join him for a climb sometime, and he also trained parkour. So parkour happened. At parkour, people were lazing around trying to do a move called a macaco, which is from capoeira. So then capoeira happened. At capoeira, I met a lot of people who did various other martial arts, including muay thai, wing chun, karate, and kickboxing, as well as people who do yoga, break-dancing, and circus.

 

Now I've done all these things at one point or another, and this is just a linear list that doesn't include all the other random shit I've thrown into my life. I still run, I still climb, I still regularly train parkour and capoeira, and now I'm doing a lot more flexibility and mobility work, as well as learning to breakdance and having a laugh with various yoga and circus classes.

 

Essentially, being athletic and training with people with different interests opened up a whole bunch of doors for me, and I was able to explore a wide range of different styles and enjoy training in them. Back when I was proper fat and unable to run down my street I had very limited options, but now I can go down to a pole dancing class on a whim and pick up the basics in an hour. 

 

So yeh, work to your strengths to begin with. But don't be afraid to try new things and take a shot at something you might not be best suited to. A healthy and fit body is a great thing, so go have fun with it :)

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36270112.jpg

 

 

I jest, I jest.  

 

But seriously, there's some fantastic advice in this thread.  Everyone here has some great ideas.  Just need to pick the ones that are right for you and stick to it.  

 

So yeh, work to your strengths to begin with. But don't be afraid to try new things and take a shot at something you might not be best suited to. A healthy and fit body is a great thing, so go have fun with it :)

 

Absolutely!  Being able to say "yes" to something without worrying if your body can handle it is a great thing.  

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I seem to have started quite the conversation with this topic ...
 
I love it!
 
So here's my decided outcome for anyone reading this thread for the first time:

 

It depends on how you define fitness, which would determine what your goals are. What do YOU want to be?

 

My main quest, as stated in my current challenge, is to have less than 20% body fat. Since this is, predominantly, a weight-loss goal, I should be more focused on developing beneficial dietary habits than form/method/mode/means of exercise. After all, you can't outrun your fork, amiright? As such, what I do for exercise is microcosmic in comparison to just doing something. ANYTHING.

 

Once I reach (approach) my current quest goal, or if I reach a plateau where diet alone is no longer advancing me towards my goal, then I can re-evaluate what I want and adjust my activities accordingly. I'm sure I'll always enjoy lifting so that'll remain a constant in my program. However, I'll keep an open mind, and open eye, towards any other activities that pique my interest, even if ... no, ESPECIALLY IF they seem impossible.

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