Goldilocks and the Three (Chicago) Bears

A fitness fairy tale about finding just the right resistance.

Once upon a time, there was a teenaged Chicago Bears fan named Goldilocks. Goldilocks, despite her short life experience, was no fair-weather fan. She pined for the Monsters of the Midway; the glory days of old about which her daddy would wax nostalgic. In her own lifetime, she’d witnessed a lot less Singletary and Payton, and a whole lot of “did we have enough men on the field?” Still, her passion for her team was limitless.

As the summer reprieve came from school and NFL workouts began, she was determined to get a glimpse of her cherished Bears. She had a plan. Mother and father would drop her off at the Lake Forest Academy tennis camp, which was less than a mile from Halas Hall, where the Bears trained. That would be her chance.

As planned, that next Monday morning, Goldilocks waved goodbye to her father as he dropped her off, but then she took a hard left. She skipped with glee as she approached the wonders of Halas Hall. She was so excited when she got there that she hardly noticed how empty the parking lot appeared. Her euphoria melted into anger upon entering the empty weight room. Not a Bear was to be found, anywhere.

The Three Squat Racks

What now? This place was cool and all, but she’d come to see some Bears. There was only one thing left to do, and that was try to salvage the day by smashing an awesome workout in this Taj Mahal of strength facilities.

Goldilocks knew her way around a weight room, having grown up with a father who was a professional strength coach. She was well-versed in the fundamental movement patterns, and deeply resented the term “girl push ups”. She knocked out a 5-minute flow and got ready to work. Front squats. Heavy. How else do you blow off steam?

She approached the squat racks and noticed three of the bars had been left with weight on them. Her anger turned disgust. “What type of athlete leaves their weight on the bar? Only an amateurish, entitled child would do such a thing. No wonder the Bears aren’t winning.”

She looked at the three racks, and decided to go with the heaviest bar. If their weight room etiquette was any indication, she’d have no trouble keeping up. She nuzzled her shoulders tight to the bar and drove through the floor. Nothing. It was as if she’d run into a wall. Humbling. “Maybe, I’m not giving these professional athletes enough credit,” she said to herself.

“I think I’ll skip to the lightest bar,” said Goldilocks. She walked over, set up, and pressed with such might that the bar nearly popped off her shoulders. Confused, she did a rep and racked the bar. “Pathetic,” she thought. “Was somebody curling in the squat rack? Must have been a kicker working out.”

Finally, she settled on the third bar, which was loaded up with 185lb. She popped out a solid set of 4 and thought to herself, “ah, just right.”

The Three Pull Up Bars

Next, it was time for pull ups. She walked over to the rig and found three pull up bars. The first one was empty, and she hopped up and strained to get three reps. She knew she’d get greater benefit from more strict, quality reps, so she moved to the next bar.

The second bar had a thick, red band for assistance. She jumped onto the band and was virtually slingshot through the ceiling. “Well that’s fun,” she thought, “but there is no way for me to realize progressive overload from such an easy rep. I get more work opening the fridge.”

Goldilocks finally settled on the third bar, which had a medium, green band for assistance. “Ah, just right!” she exclaimed. She was able to execute three sets of eight reps at a controlled (1-1-3) tempo. 

The Bears Return

About that time, the adrenaline of the day’s emotion finally started to wear off. Knowing she should listen to her body, she autoregulated and headed to a matted area to do some recovery breathing. Again, three mats were laid out. The first was far too soft, as was the second. “Who are these wimps?” she thought. She skipped the third mat altogether and settled on the floor. It was there that she fell asleep, a most necessary recovery practice. 

As Goldilocks slept, three Bears athletes returned to the weight room. One Bear was a linebacker, another was the kicker, and the third one was a safety. They had been in the middle of their workout that morning, but had to leave the weight room in a rush when their head coach called them all back to his office for some chalk talk.

Goldilocks awoke from her slumber and was thrilled to meet the three Bears. For their part, they were a bit startled to see a high school girl in their weight room, but let her stay through the end of their workout. This turned out to be a great thing for the kicker, who had been trying to do too much weight. He needed Goldilocks’ skilled eye to help him find the resistance that was just right: the one that he would be able to execute in three distinct phases, with consistent concentric rep speed.

Goldilocks returned home that day stronger than the day before, because of her mature approach to finding appropriate levels of resistance. Her focus on quality of movement, rather than feeding her ego or avoiding challenge, allowed her to get the best out of her admittedly unplanned workout. It was this approach of quality over quantity that brought her great success, and allowed her to live happily ever after.