Stop Branding MovementFeb 07, 2020
The human mind works in interesting ways. We love to categorise things. It allows for easy recognition and reduced cognitive load – to stereotype frees up mental bandwidth. This is obviously helpful in many situations, but it can also breed blind spots in how we think. It can create borders that restrict creative thought. It can eliminate shades of grey, leaving only black and white.
This is clearly demonstrated in the fitness world. People associate “strength training” with “powerlifting” – as if squat, bench and deadlift are the gold standard of expressing strength. There’s a very good reason to have standardised lifts in strength sports, but there’s a weird obsession with SBD that need not exist for non-competitive lifters. I’ve come across many a fitness enthusiast, including myself, who continues to run headlong into an unwavering brick wall because they’re convinced that this time they’ll make it through without a banged up shoulder, aching lower back or pinching hips.
There’s no shame in replacing a conventional barbell deadlift with a trap bar variation. Lying on your back and pushing a bar is hardly representative of peak athleticism. Making progress in the gym is contingent on being able to train, which is not always possible when you’re injured. Who’d have thought choosing movements more suited to your individual biomechanics was such a revelation?
Let’s look at this from another angle. For those who are obsessed with packing on muscle, strict exercise selection is also a plague. The goal is to put enough tension across muscle fibres to force them to grow, and while we can get into the weeds with strength curves and range of motion, the library of classic bodybuilding exercises is also limited.
I’ll give you a personal example – I’ve started doing much more calisthenic work for my upper body over the last few months. While some exercises aren’t conducive to high force output because of the stability requirements, you can still grow plenty of muscle with your own bodyweight, a chin-up bar and some rings – all you need to do is put adequate tension across muscle fibres.
I love this concept of removing the “branding” from movement because it allows freedom. It gives you a license to experiment, to be creative, to have fun, and above all to express physical characteristics without arbitrary rules.
Yoga is fundamentally just stretching. Strength is not just SBD. You can be a bodybuilder and a strength athlete at the same time. You can go for a jog AND work on sleeve-busting biceps.
Let’s start to expand our physical vocabulary by getting rid of movement branding.
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