Wednesday, June 16, 2021

The Significance of Failure

50 repetitions will usually get one to muscle failure — which is obviously what most people don’t do because they spend nearly all their time “working out” just resting between sets — instead of actually performing any exercises, and particularly when it gets hard (fatigued), and so the body doesn’t have to adapt to do what is easy to do.

That’s why Eugen Sandow was able to build a legendary physique — using light weights for 50 reps. When you take a light weight and articulate the fullest range of motion, that fullest of contractions — requires all the muscles of your body to be contracted because it is not possible for only one muscle to be contracted in isolation to all the others — because one of the major functions of any muscle, is to recruit as many of the other (larger) muscles to assist it.
One of the primary objectives of exercise, is to increase the range of movement — particularly in the direction of the contraction, while most people using heavier weights, do so at the expense of shortening their range of motion to compensate for the added resistance. In that manner, even their full contraction, is actually a resting point — rather than a maximum contraction that extends beyond that.
Most people will experience that range of motion as a muscle cramp — because the contraction is so severe — and can be achieved in the first 10 repetitions before fatigue sets in (lactic acid buildup), and by the 50th repetition, it takes every muscle in their body just to complete that repetition in the worst possible form — but it is everything one has at that moment.
That is “momentary failure” — and what the body now has to adapt to — in the next few days, so those high intensity sessions should be brief and infrequent — most often, once a week, while continuing to do your daily routine of stretching and flexing to prevent the onset of paralyzing muscle soreness (DOMS) from setting in — while the muscles are recovering and growing.
In this manner, it is possible to continue muscle growth even after most people think they can no longer achieve it anymore — because they don’t understand the relationship between the stimulus and the recovery ability — and do a lot of low-intensity exercise thinking that is enough to stimulate muscle growth. It is a brief amount of high-intensity with sufficient recovery time, and daily light stretching and flexing, that makes it possible, and not any amount of low-intensity exercise.

So the body is not responding to amount of exercise -- as it is to the quality of that exercise -- which means expanding the range of that expression. That is true of every activity -- that those most valued, are because they do whatever they do, with greater articulation, or expression -- rather than simply doing very little -- a lot. No amount of doing something badly, will accomplish doing something very well -- once. All human performance is set up with this appreciation uppermost -- but not everyone can appreciate it equally -- and so hopefully, we have "judges" who can distinguish those differences. But long before the public performance, each practitioner hones their skill -- because they must know the difference, and not simply hope to fool the judges, or the media covering them.

Eventually that happens when one breaks not only the records for previous achievements -- but breaks from the conventions one has come to expect in that activity -- and reinvents that sport henceforth. That is the root meaning of sport: an individual exhibiting a sudden deviation from type beyond the normal limits of individual variation usually as a result of mutation especially of somatic tissue.  

On such occasions, there is tremendous uproar and confusion, as the new supplants the old -- in this cataclysmic way.  There is no other defense against the new and unpredictable.  And while this inevitably happens in sports and athletics -- it is also the feature of individual lives that continue to evolve -- and not just by calling the old, "new and improved."  It will be something entirely different.  

Those are the leaps that a few individuals actually cultivate -- to get where they haven't gone before.   Otherwise, one could only repeat the past -- endlessly, and never grow beyond it.  But as tirelessly and repetitively as one practices, it is always with such an intention that one hopes for a breakthrough -- often, just because one is at the right place, at the right time, doing the right thing, with the right people.  Conversely, bad things are likely to happen being at the wrong place, at the wrong time, doing the wrong thing, with all the wrong people.  As such, outcomes will not be the same -- no matter how much one thinks it should be so.

Unless one acknowledges these critical differences and failures, one will be lost in a sea of worthless opinions -- allowing them to proceed on the road to folly, and never knowing the difference -- until their predictable, premature demise.  Long before that untimely end, one hopes to have learned from all their failures -- and become better for it.  That entails actually doing something -- and not just thinking about it -- as though that were the same, and equally productive.  In a world of virtual reality, quite a few have difficulty maintaining those distinctions, and boundaries  -- and think the rules should not apply to them -- because they are entitled to favorable outcomes above all the others.

Even the King of the Beasts eventually have to learn that lesson the hard way -- along the road to getting there, and eventually on the road back.  No one is "entitled" to getting there, nor staying there forever.  All one can do is make the best of whatever circumstances have presented to them -- and not waste them all, assured that there will be many more.  When it ends, it ends -- just like that.

In the meantime, one hopes to have cultivated many other skills and attributes -- that provide them with a few other opportunities, when their primary avenue is cut off.  That is having a backup plan -- and building increasing reserves for the bad times -- and if they do not manifest, so much the better -- as their capital builds.  And if disaster strikes, it was all part of the plan they were preparing for.  They had a sufficient margin for error -- that they could be wrong.

That is what a wise few are preparing for -- the best of times, as well as the worst of times -- and in that way, make the best of times at every time of their lives.   That is just not the young years, or the middle and prime, but until the very end -- and going out on top, whenever that is.

One begins near -- to go far.


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