back squats: life's answer to most of your problems
Wednesday, September 3, 2014 at 16:28
Eric in fitness

If you know me personally and have talked to me for more than thirty seconds the subject of back squats probably came up. 

Indeed it was one of the saddest parts of leaving the United States for me two years ago: saying good bye to Olympic training equipment, a coffee can of chalk, and power cages. Gyms in Mexico generally look like something time warped out of the 1980's: strength training has not caught on there and most folks are varying forms of Cardio Princesses (and Princes), spending countless hours on ellipticals and treadmills wondering when they'll look like the airbrushed model on the front cover of whatever magazine lied to them.

A few days ago I finally pushed myself a bit too hard. Although I've been slowly ramping back up, the cocktail of adrenaline and creatine in my blood stream pushed me over my limits and I wobbled away with stressed knees. My glutes were so banged up I could relate to beta male prison inmates.

Tuesday I had the day off lifting, but walking back and forth to work (roughly one mile and change each way) had my legs feeling banged up in the non-good way.

I entered the squat rack today with some hesitation. Actually I first stared at it in dismay because some clown had slid the flat bench in there and was doing 1/4 ROM bench presses.

So after that interesting fellow got out of there I racked some lighter weights, and gave it a go.

I've heard people say that "my church is the gym" and although that sounds ridiculous, I would say that for me the power cage is a pretty miraculous place.

You need to focus when you're doing this stuff. You have a lot to worry about, and it all comes down to your ability to control your mind and body. Especially when you start getting near your upper limits, you are in 100% concentration mode with neurons firing all over the place taking care of pain tolerance, muscle activation, balance, and coordination. 

At heavier loads, your body is quite literally about to be crushed under hundreds of pounds. It's akin to having a refrigerator on your shoulders: screwing around time is over, now it's time to focus if you want to get out of this one alive. You need to be in an extremely narrow zone of concentration and in a really scientific way much of your power comes from your mind's ability to physically generate electrical impulses. The raw volume of electricity your mind can send into your body is an extremely large component of your strength. Weight lifting truly makes your central nervous system (a.k.a. your brain) better.

Adaptive changes can occur in the nervous system in response to training. Electromyography studies have indicated adaptation mechanisms that may contribute to an increased efferent neuronal outflow with training, including increases in maximal firing frequency, increased excitability and decreased presynaptic inhibition of spinal motor neurons, and downregulation of inhibitory pathways.

So not only do my knees and glutes feel better after some nice moderate back squats, but my mind does as well. It's not just about endorphins: peer reviewed research studies at this point have piles of evidence showing that resistance training can be just as effective as psychotherapy

If you're feeling blue, get in that cage with your shoes off and an empty bar. Slowly pack on the plates until you reach that zen'd out moment. It's cheaper than church, and everyone's invited.

Article originally appeared on Rebel Heart (http://www.therebelheart.com/).
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