Performance or Physique? How About…Both
Explaining our training philosophy can be a bit challenging, even a bit contradictory at times. One on hand, our name sums up exactly what we hope to achieve: three hundred and sixty degrees of human performance without specialization. Our daily aim is to provide benefit for your strength, physique, and conditioning level in every class without relying on isolation to do so. We’re pretty successful at it.
On the other hand, within that framework we often do offer isolation. We do offer you the choice to target certain things above others. You can apply a bias towards performance, towards strength, towards muscle, making our training for you a bit like painting by numbers. The end result is going to take you to the same place (stronger, fitter), but how you get there and what it ultimately looks like will be a little unique to each person.
Regardless of how your individual goals might skew, more physique or more performance, the critical reality is that those two goals do not need to conflict with one another. In fact, they are more complimentary of each other than you might think and once you begin view them as advocates, not adversaries, your results tend to take off.
Here are all the ways performance and physique are more alike than you might believe.
1. Lifting Heavy Gets You Strong AND Builds Lean, Athletic Muscle
Heavy is always a relative term. For some it’s six hundred pounds, others it’s twenty five. But it’s important to understand that without making “heavy” training a part of your fitness routine on some level, you will not develop muscle. And muscle doesn’t “tone”, it grows. Training at heavy loads carries the obvious benefit of making us stronger people, but it’s also a vital component to the development of the lean, athletic muscle that many of us seek.
Take this from our article Why the 5-Rep Works:
There are two kinds of hypothesized forms of muscle growth. The first is with traditional bodybuilding, in the muscle sarcoplasm. This is hypertrophy where the cross-sectional area of the muscle increases but with no increase in muscle fiber density, and less increase in strength associated with it (other things not responsible for muscle contraction are increasing, like plasma). These are longer, more high-rep strenuous bouts of resistance training, like in a bodybuilding environment.
The second is in strength training, in the muscle sarcomere. This is hypertrophy that does increase the density of muscle fibers and correlates to increase in strength and athletic performance, without a major increase in the cross-sectional area of the muscle. This is the 5R lift [on a barbell, heavier KB swings, explosive box jumps, etc]. Stronger, and more dense muscle. So while it will not add the same kind of size as higher-rep, bodybuilding ranges (which targets the sarcoplasm), it will create dense, performance-enhancing muscle.
The bottom line is that when you care about your performance even a little, you lift heavier loads, you get stronger, and you improve your lean, athletic muscle. If you want your physique to change at all, you must be at least a little performance focused.
2. Getting Stronger Improves Your Ability to “Have a Good Workout”
Let’s pretend for a second you are adamantly opposed to training with anything that resembles a heavy weight. Let’s say that you only want to “get a good workout.” How exactly do you plan to do that if you don’t ever focus on improving your performance output? What does “get a good workout” even mean within that context? After all, if you lack strength how are you supposed to accumulate any volume of repetitions? How are you supposed to move weight challenging enough to drive adaptation?
We don’t raise these questions to be combative, we raise them to hopefully open up your understanding of just how closely related physique and performance are, and the better your performance, the better your physique. There is no such thing as “having a good workout” if you are not strong enough to do what is asked of you in said workout. But…when you get stronger then you can complete more volume, do more complex movements, more more challenging weight, run faster, not fatigue so much on the bike, etc. THEN you start to have “good workouts.”
And, stronger people burn more calories.
Obviously, we can focus on lifting a little more on our barbells for performance, but that’s only a slice of the pie. Focus on these tips for a subtle yet incredibly effective way to begin building your performance.
3. Training Power is Training Physique
When many of us think of power, we think of football linebackers or those hitting enormous one rep maxes. Yes, those are high end, specific applications of power in sport, but they are not conclusive of power application in fitness and we often sleep on performance power’s effect on our physique. The reality is that power is not simply about performing an explosive clean at 100% output, it’s more about kinetic awareness, symmetry and controlling powerful, dynamic output at near maximal contractions. These opportunities include but are not limited to:
-box and broad jumps
-med ball slams
First, it helps to understand that training power is training our phosphocreatine energy pathway, otherwise known as ATP-PCr. This is our fuel system that is used tof very high end output, but it doesn’t last long before we exit out of it and transition into another pathway. This is why your 100m sprint quick fades into a slow jog, your one rep max is not your ten rep max, and why you can’t repeat your highest box jumps for fifty reps in a workout. It’s strictly responsible for developing our type-II, fast twitch muscle fibers.
By prioritizing power in the ATP-PCr pathway, you will accomplish the following.
- A power influenced circuit significantly increase your Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC)”. During a power/strength included circuit your body uses a lot of oxygen both during and following the workout. EPOC is your body’s attempt to return to its normal state by increasing the rate of oxygen intake and along with other metabolic factors, our rate of burning fat increases for 24 – 48 hours.
- Training power increases anabolic hormones that both genders need to support muscle and burn fat. Without those hormones spiked in workouts there is no changing the human body. Further, by only training in longer duration pathways like pure cardio, you begin to produce more catabolic hormones that work against muscle development.
So, think explosive when it comes to jumping, throwing and running and you’ll start to skew a little more performance.
In our humble opinion, the best way to have your cake (physique) and to eat it too (performance) is to keep your physical abilities at the forefront of all that you do in the gym. It doesn’t need to be your obsession, but it should be a primary indicator of your productivity. Remember, it’s not performance or physique. It’s all tied together. Three hundred and sixty degrees.