The 1% That Actually Matters…

Posted: July 31, 2012 in Uncategorized

Tuesdays are a very special day in gyms across the country.  Heck, it might be a monumental day for every gym in the world.  As we speak, small parties are being thrown in far corners of gyms and there might even be a Native American with a single tear gently rolling down his cheek as he stares off into the distance that is the free weight area of his gym.

What’s the big deal you ask?  The big deal is that in gyms everywhere, bench presses are free to use for the first time since Sunday.  For those not in the know, Mondays are considered National Bench Pressing Day by the BSOTSIWIGUMA (Bro Society of the Screw It Whatever I Gave Up Mid-Acronym).  It’s a hallowed day during which the dudes at your local place of fitness debauchery get to bench press.  Then they’ll hit their pecs from every angle known to man, all in the pursuit of becoming hyooooge, bro.

Ok in all seriousness this holiday does not exist, but go into any run of the mill commercial gym or college fitness center on a Monday and you’ll swear it’s a real thing.  And I’m not here to make fun of anyone bench pressing on Monday, either.  If your program says “Monday: Bench Press” then by all means you better be benching your ass off.  But if you’re just in there benching on Monday because that’s what all the other guys do and you don’t actually have a program, then maybe it’s time to reassess.

What I really wanted to get at here was that first time you put up 135.  In layman’s terms, that means the bar and a 45 lb plate on each side, or the “big wheels.”  For a young lifter it’s almost a sort of right of passage into manhood (Or womanhood.  Seriously, I’d like to see more women throwing up 135lbs on a consistent basis).  Think of it like ancient Sparta where they would send their young warriors out to fend for themselves in the wild once they came of age.  Minus the part about having to depend on any survival skills whatsoever and the fact that it’s you know, not at all related.

Once you get to the coveted 135 lb level, a few things usually happen.  Some people keep going straight through that milestone and go on to heavier lifts and just get plain awesome-er.  Others will try to keep increasing the weight on the bar and have something derail their efforts.  Injuries, technique mishaps, or just random general jackassery can keep a lifter from improving.  Whatever it might be, the lifter usually defaults back to 135 lbs because it’s still viewed as a respectable weight.

Let me be the first to say that there is nothing wrong with this.  It is perfectly okay to keep lifting 135 lbs for the rest of your life.  Shoot, you could even try to do it with your teeth for all I care.  I’m not your mother so I can’t tell you to do anything.  But I will say this, if you’re not pushing yourself from time to time, you’re probably not at the level you should be.  And that could turn into a huge disservice to yourself and even to the people around you.

Okay, at this point you should be thinking, “Wait, hold on.  How is me not being able to bench more than 135 lbs going to affect anyone else around me?”

To be honest, it shouldn’t.  And I hope it never does.  But this is representative of something greater than just trying to put a few more iron plates onto a bar that you press over your chest while lying on a bench in the middle of a mirror clad room.

Okay, now you should be thinking, “Wow, the whole first part of this stupid post was just so this fool could set up a metaphor?”

Yup.  And now that I (hopefully) still have your attention, watch me attempt to finish said metaphor.  That is of course, unless you’d like me to just show screen shots from Magic Mike the rest of the way?

Oh sorry what?  You do?  Well.  Actually, I don’t think I can without you having to show proof of age and other various legal documentation.  Yeah.  I know.  That’s really unfortunate isn’t it?  Moving on.

Think of that 135 lb bench press as some sort of milestone in your life.  It might be graduating college, or getting that first job.  It might be starting a family or it might even be getting to wake up everyday next to Kate Beckinsale.  Wherever you may be on your journey, you’ve had to work a bit to get there.  Some of us had to work harder to get to where we’re at and some of us are where we’re at because we got a little lucky too.

This is just like the bench press.  Some people out there are genetic freaks who just look at the bar and the weight practically lifts itself.  Others are less gifted and have to work a lot harder to get those big wheels on the bar.  Regardless of your circumstance, you always have a choice once you get to 135 lbs.  Most of the genetic freaks will blow through that weight and beyond without even batting an eyelash.

The rest of us are left trying to tinker with slightly heavier weights, all the while wondering how much we can actually do.  Often times we just settle on staying at 135 because… well because we know we can do it.

At this point, what you do from here really is up to you, but I guarantee that trying to do better than 135 lbs is going to benefit you more than not trying.  Unless there’s some reason you shouldn’t have been bench pressing in the first place.  And to be honest, the 135 lb mark is just an arbitrary number.  Think of it more as a plateau that you hit in a certain exercise or a point in your life where you’re not so sure what to do next.  The fact that you hit the plateau or crossroads indicates that you’ve already made it pretty far, and the decision to keep improving may not be an easy one.

So consider this a call to arms of sorts.  While we definitely have the right to be content with where ever we’re at in our lives, we also have a responsibility to keep improving ourselves.  Regardless of how much or little we’ve had to work up to this point, there is still more to be done.  And yes just like the bench press, this will come easier to some than others, but is necessary either way.   It doesn’t have to be a change in job status, or financial status, or anything like that.  It just has to be something that you want to be better at.*

Todd Durkin runs a gym in San Diego and is sought out far and wide as a trainer and a speaker to promote fitness.  I’ve had the pleasure of seeing him in person and let me tell you, he is one intense individual.  But he’s not just an in-your-face military style trainer.  Todd Durkin also desperately wanted us to be 1% better than we were the day before.  He didn’t care exactly how we improved or in what areas, but just that we were constantly looking for ways to better ourselves.

I’ll offer you that same challenge today.  What can you do today to make sure that you’re 1% better tomorrow?  Is it adding 2 ½ lbs to that bench press?  Fantastic!  It may not seem like a lot today, but it will add up.  Is it taking that first step towards grad school?  Great!  Figure out what your required courses are and where to start knocking those off.  Whatever it is, just start today.

Once you’ve strung together a couple of weeks of looking for that 1%, watch what it does to the people around you.  They’ll take notice, and they’ll start looking for that 1% too.  And this is why it is our responsibility.  Not only to ourselves, but to those around us.  If we can all affect just one person by our constant desire to improve, chances are they’ll do the same for someone else.

If this happens enough, who knows, maybe we’ll all swallow that red pill.  And even if we don’t wake up in some post apocalyptic world where the Colonel and a bunch of machines runs everything, we’ll still be better versions of ourselves than we were yesterday.

*Preferably something that benefits society.  Digging potholes in main roads is probably not a skill you should refine.

  1. Sooz says:

    I totally agree. We all have the responsibility to better ourselves in some way!!! Very smart and witty writing. Good job Chris. Now get this blog out there. Maybe google search your own website a million times so it pops up? Lol

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