When it comes to developing the kind of go-all-day endurance that I am usually after, you begin to realize one thing – it’s all in your head. The magnitude of suffering that is overcome on the way to the finish line is directly proportional to the amount of joy experienced. The most amount of satisfaction an athlete can have at the finish of an event is when he or she has overcome as much as could possibly be endured. Hardship equals satisfaction.
But how on Earth do you come up with something in training that teaches you to suffer, to persevere no matter how hard?
Enter the SMMF – the Single Movement Mind Fuck.
SMMF is a Gym Jones specialty – the use of a single movement to challenge mental strength. Think about this from a study: A team of rugby players was asked to cycle at maximum intensity for a period of 5 seconds, averaging 1,075 watts. Next, they were required to pedal at a fixed rate until exhaustion. The average for this was 242 watts for 12 minutes. But then, as soon as they had quit they were asked to repeat the same 5-second test they had originally done.
What was the average power output after exhaustion?
That’s right. Despite being “exhausted” and unable to continue at a lower pace they were somehow capable of immediately hitting 75% of their previous best. Clearly they weren’t exhausted, but more likely mentally fatigued or maybe even just plain bored.
Mental strength is often what separates winners from losers in endurance events, as well as fights. Those who just seem to want it more will usually prevail in instances where skill and fitness are close. We all know someone who is so doggedly determined that they break competitors before the match has even begun.
I have a friend like this who has become one of the best volleyball coaches in the world. When he first started playing I told him one simple thing to focus on – don’t let the ball hit the floor. Little did I understand just how far he would take this concept or how ruthless he would become to prevent that happening. Without lying even a little, I can say that he can beat world-ranked pairs playing on his own; such is his desperation to keep the ball off the ground. Not many people are willing to push themselves into the dark places he goes when he plays as they’re scared of how much it hurts. Their brain just shuts them down.
How can we develop that attitude of his? Recently I was subjected to some absolutely awful ways to use this concept in training thanks to my friends at Gym Jones. Perhaps the most awful I had to endure was the following:
10 minutes without putting the bar down, doing 5 front squat-push presses (thrusters) every 30 seconds. For those who can’t count, that’s 100 reps unbroken.
Here’s the video of me trying desperately not to cry on camera, and keep the bar from falling on my head:
At the start of the video everything is easy, and I even get rest periods where I held the bar in the rack. But as time progresses and I needed more time to get each rep done I pretty much just had to continuously work. The goal is easy – don’t put the bar down. Even if you can’t get any more reps, you need to stay there with the bar off the ground for the ten minutes.
The weight I used was 30kg (65lbs). It makes me wince when I say that because it sounds so light, but as you can see from the video I definitely don’t need any more weight. I missed a few reps on the way and ended up with a total of 94 reps. (There was another, worse, challenge that dealt with my missed reps as punishment.)
So much like Project Mayhem where I asked you guys to sign on for something that scared the crap out of you – I’m going to ask you to do this workout and post your results below. Let’s go with 30kg (65lbs) for men and 20kg (45lbs) for women. Who’s up for it?
Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.