The Daily Practice

One of my all-time favorite books is Squat Every Day by Matt Perryman. 

In his book, Matt talks about a squatting program that includes squatting every day (obviously) and he does a great job of digging up examples of where the "squat every day" training philosophy originated (Russian Weightlifting Programs during the '70s and '80s) and where it still thrives today (Bro’s Gym in Las Vegas). 

This book entirely shifted my perspective on training. 

Prior to reading this book, I thought that your ability to perform a movement was mainly influenced by the amount of muscle you had to back up that movement. For example, your ability to squat a lot of weight depended on the strength and size of your quads and glutes. Or your ability to do a pull-up depended only on how big and strong your lats and biceps are. But what the book proved is that while having bulging muscles is somewhat important, it certainly isn’t everything. In fact, there are many great examples of weightlifters in the lightest weight classes that lift some astronomical weights that disproves that size is needed to be incredibly strong.

For example, Chen Yanqing, a female weightlifter for China, snatched over 111 kg (244 lb) and clean and jerked over 138 kg (338 lb) at 127 lb bodyweight to win gold in the 2008 Summer Olympics. Or consider Naim Suleymanoglu, a Turkish weightlifter nicknamed “Pocket Hercules”, with three Olympic gold medals to his name, who snatched over 150 kg (330 lb) and clean and jerked 190 kg (418 lb) at 132 lb!!!  

If muscle size isn’t the only element, what else is?

The only way to explain a 132 lb person putting 400 lb overhead is they have maximized not only the output of every muscle fiber, but also leveraged every ounce of doing the movement to the highest degree of perfection to include demonstrating competency in terms of coordination, balance, accuracy, and agility. In CrossFit’s “10 Components of Fitness”, these four items are defined as neurological adaptations that are made through repetition. Meaning, repetition of movements performed over and over and over, will change the chemistry of the brain, and allow these movements to become easier and more proficient. However, there is a catch (or two).

Only perfect practice makes perfect.

Vince Lombardi, the greatest football coach of all time, is attributed to saying that “only perfect practice makes perfect” and it is to mean that you will get out exactly what you put in. If you put good repetitions in, you will get good repetitions out. If you put bad repetitions in, you will get bad repetitions out. Think of your brain and body like a big memory bank that is constantly trying to remember movement patterns so that when the movements are repeated, they can be done with less energy and thought. Your body remembers every repetition, whether it is a good one or bad one. So, it pays to ensure you are doing good repetitions and practicing the way you want to perform - that is the first catch. The second catch is that it is not easy to practice perfectly. It is difficult to slow things down.

Practicing perfect repetitions often requires slowing down. As such, you don’t get the immediate feedback of being forced to fall to the ground in exhaustion from having given it your all. Perfect practice is slow, requires reflection, and often requires adjusting things further back than you like. It is humbling and it burns. Repetitions done perfectly concentrate focus into the areas where you are weakest, which are often neglected stabilizer muscles in your core, low back, shoulders, forearms, etc. The muscles in these areas will feel like they are on fire after only a few concentrated reps. But I can promise it works. Perfect practice does produce results. 

I have seen it for myself and in hundreds of clients that have invested the time. Whether it is 15-20 minutes spent after a group class or coming in during open gym to work on your skills, I have yet to see someone invest the time and come up empty handed. It doesn’t have to be literally every day. It is fine to take rest days. But, to progress forward towards a goal, it must be a nearly daily investment towards that goal to see results. The progress will come and when it does, you will need to be ready for it. Your body will respond by making a set that used to be challenging just a little easier. There will be less burning in the muscles and it will be noticeable. That is the moment that you will put on a little more weight, use a little less band, or challenge yourself to one more rep.

The daily practice is about consistency.

Consistency always has been and forever will be the difference maker in pretty much every endeavor you take on. You are what you eat. You are who you hang out with. Your actions resemble your thoughts. It is all the same – you are what you do consistently, not what you do every once and awhile. Back to the "squat every day" program; Matt found that what these lifters were doing was working up to a 1-rep max every day. Every. Single. Day. Sometimes for months and years at a time with no rest days. This may not be obvious, but to anyone that’s done heavy back squats, you can imagine how difficult this could be physically. Well, what he found is that the lifters would have 2-3 weeks that would be very challenging. But, after punching through the first few weeks, adaptations would begin to happen – both physically and mentally. And, by 6-8 weeks, athletes were often challenging personal bests with ease. 

Moral of the story? If it’s important, do it daily. 

P.S. - If you need some guidance on what practice you can be putting in to up your muscle up game, download a free copy of the 4-week strict muscle up program. Do it as prescribed or break it into segments however you like. The point is to just do it.