I’m sitting at the airport, waiting for my flight, which inevitably has been delayed. I’ve been in Cleveland for the past week, helping out my former (and current) employer, Paladar. I’ve been helping to train my third replacement. It’s kind of interesting that they’ve gone through two other people in the job that I did for 7 years. I guess that says something about my importance to the company. It actually makes me kind of good.
But this is supposed to be a blog about exercise and fitness, so I digress…
While I’ve been here in Cleveland, I’ve been to the gym each day I was here. I got a pass to the local Lifetime Fitness, which I used to have a membership to, and went every morning before work. It made me miss the gym I’m currently at. The differences are huge. While my current gym is not a mecca of strength like Cressey Performance in Boston, Westside Barbell in Columbus, or IFAST in Indianapolis, it does the trick. It`s a college fitness center, which means that it must appease a vast number of people with different goals. So yes, they are a lot of machines. But there are also four squat racks with attached platforms, and bumper plates. Dropping weights is discouraged (wait, there are platforms and bumpers, but you don’t want us to drop weights. Yeah, they makes a lot of sense. ), but that doesn’t mean that we don’t drop the weights when needed. And yes, there are probably more kids doing a ridiculous number of curls and other arm exercises on a daily basis than there probably should be. But it works.
I’ve become a big fan of what Dan John calls park bench workouts recently. If you don’t know, this is a topic that Dan John covered in his excellent book “Intervention,” and that Tony Gentilcore wrote a fantastic article about recently. You can find Tony’s article here, and you can pick up “Intervention” through Amazon here. These are workouts that don’t have a specific goal or end to them. You go in, get your work done, and get out. The idea is that there are park bench workouts and bus bench workouts. Bus bench workouts are structured. You know exactly what you are going to do every day you are in the gym. You have a set goal for the workout, be it put 10 pounds on your squat or add inches to your arms. Examples would be most book workouts, and many of the workouts that your can find on the interwebs.
Park bench workouts are a little looser. You don’t have a set goal. You may not even know exactly what you are going to do until you get to the gym. They tend to be more movement based, rather than goal based. Coach John says that for the majority of the year, your workouts should be park bench workouts. Then for a small portion of the year, you can get super focused and do your bus bench workouts.
A great example for me would be earlier this year, I completed Dan John’s Mass Made Simple workout. That is a bus bench workout. I knew exactly what I was going to do every time I went into the gym. It was set in stone. There was no deviating. I had a specific goal (gain weight). And it worked. Now, I’m on more of a park bench workout. I have a general outline, but things can change depending on mood and how I am feeling that day. I’ve been using Paul Carter’s Base Building methods for my main movements of the day, usually a squat or deadlift. That’s my strength portion. Then I move into the metabolic portion, where I’ll do a density set of 5 exercises. That takes about 20-25 minutes, depending on set up. Then I finish with a finisher (hence the name) of some sort. If I’m feeling particularly beat up or tired, I’ll skip the density and maybe do a shorter session. Or I’ll skip the main strength move and keep it light, just to get some movement in.
I feel that you have to be either a little smarter about your workouts or more in the advanced or intermediate range to auto regulate like this. There seems to be this hard and fast rule that if you are a beginner, you don’t know your body and can’t auto regulate. I think that’s BS. Everyone is different. I may be considered a beginner (maybe intermediate), but I know my body pretty well. I know when to push it and when to back off. Maybe it has to do with being a little older. Actually, it probably has a lot to do with being a little older. But even when I was younger I had a pretty good idea of what my body was capable of. I think it’s very individualized.
I think whether you’re doing a bus bench or park bench workout; whether it’s structured or you fly by the seat of you pants, the most important thing is to keep moving.