With our archives now 3,500+ articles deep, we’ve decided to republish a classic piece each Sunday to help our newer readers discover some of the best, evergreen gems from the past. This article was originally published in January 2016.
To become a defter tennis player you have to practice tennis. To become a better chef, you have to practice cooking. To become a more masterful piano player, you have to practice piano.
And to become an all-around stronger man, you have to practice strength.
You might not have thought of strength as something to be practiced, but you ought to. According to Pavel Tsatsouline, former Soviet special forces instructor and the father of the kettlebell in the West, “Strength is a skill.” And like any skill, it’s one you’ve got to consistently work at.
One of the ways to build the skill of strength is by what Pavel calls “greasing the groove.” What exactly greasing the groove means, and how you can use this exercise method to build strength is what we’ll explain today.
Practice, Skill, and the Muscle-Neuron Connection
When you lift a heavy weight (be it yourself or a barbell), your muscles contract. That contraction begins when your nervous system sends a signal to your muscle fibers. When a movement is performed over and over again, and the muscle fibers repeatedly receive an identical signal, a more efficient neuromuscular motor pattern develops.
The process by which neurons become more efficient is called myelination. Through regular practice of a movement, a fatty white substance forms a sheath around the axons of nerve cells that allows the nerve impulse to move more quickly.
The faster your nerve cells can fire, the faster your muscles can contract, the more ingrained a motor pattern gets in your neurobiology, and the easier and more natural a movement becomes. You don’t have to think about walking because you’ve been practicing it daily for years and years. If you started playing the piano at age 30, at first it would feel very awkward, but it would become more and more instinctive with years of practice.
Efficient neuromuscular motor patterns not only make movements easier to perform, but also lend the movement more potential force. The faster the muscles contract when a signal hits them, the greater the number of muscle fibers that actually contract. Combine faster muscle contraction with more fibers contracting and you’re able to exert more force. Thus, neuromuscular efficiency makes you stronger. Yay science!
Thus, one way to get stronger is by practicing the skill of strength, and you do that by greasing the groove.
How to Practice the Skill of Strength: Greasing the Groove
There are two primary ways to get strong. With the first, you lift progressively heavier weights, which causes micro trauma (tiny tears) in the muscle fiber itself. The muscle fibers recover and then adapt to the load, so that they rebuild stronger than before.
The other way to get stronger is by regularly doing strength exercises with lighter reps and weight, but doing them more often than you would a heavy workout. This teaches your muscles to fire more efficiently, or in other words, “greases the groove.”
“Greasing the groove” (GtG) is a phrase Pavel coined to describe what you’re doing when you consistently practice a specific strength skill. The more you practice, the more of a pathway forms between your muscles and your nervous system. Or in other words, the more you practice, the more you “grease the neurological groove.” By regularly doing strength movements, we help the myelination process along, and increase the efficiency of the neuromuscular connections involved in those exercises. The more efficiently you can perform an exercise, the more reps you can do, and the more reps you can do, the stronger you become.
By regularly doing proper pull-ups, for example, you’re “greasing” the neurological groove that allows you to fire the muscles that are involved with performing pull-ups efficiently and effectively. Likewise, continually greasing the groove will make doing perfect push-ups feel more and more natural and easier, allowing you to gradually do more reps and building your strength in that exercise.
If you want to implement the GtG tool into your strength-building arsenal, here are the basics:
Pick an exercise in
Sunday Firesides. Sometimes the Critic Counts
“It is not the critic who counts.”
If this line from Theodore Roosevelt’s famous “Man in the Arena” speech is taken to mean that the individual who takes action has far greater worth than he who merely casts stones from the sidelines, then it can be adopted as an unassailable truth.
If, however, it’s taken to mean you should never listen to your critics, then it’s a mantra that cannot be universally applied.
T.R., after all, was a critic himself, and when he called individuals “fragrant man swine,” “little emasculated masses of inanity,” and “beings who belong to the cult of non-virility” — you can bet he wanted to be listened to (and probably should have been).
While adopting a blanket “f**k the haters” mindset may anesthetize the pain of receiving negative feedback, it comes at the cost of two key things:
First, you surrender a potentially helpful perspective.
We’d all do well to heed our inner voice and scorecard over that of the crowd. But we can lose track of that voice or allow ego to convince us we’re doing a better job than we are, and it can take an external observer to point that out.
Second, you forfeit — at least if you apply the “never listen to critics” standard with integrity/consistency — the right to be heard yourself.
Because if people shouldn’t listen to anyone else’s opinions, they shouldn’t listen to yours, either.
Little credit belongs to the masses of heckling, grandstand-riding spectators, who nine times out of ten, have nothing valuable to say. But to avoid developing what Teddy called “a mind that functions at six guinea-pig power,” it’s wise to recognize that sometimes the critic can count: when he’s someone you respect; when he’s someone who also has skin in the game; when he’s someone who’s got, well, a point.
The post Sunday Firesides: Sometimes, the Critic Counts appeared first on The Art of Manliness.
How to Diagnose and Treat Heat Stroke & Heat Exhaustion
It’s been freaking hot around the world this summer. Here in Oklahoma we’ve had more than a dozen days in July alone with temperatures over 100 degrees.
The chances of suffering a heat-related illness like heat exhaustion and heat stroke go up during extreme heat. According to the CDC, between 2004 and 2018, an average of 702 people died annually from heat-related causes, and thousands more ended up in the hospital. Small children and adults over 65 are most susceptible to heat-related illness. However, it can hit anyone who works or exercises vigorously in the heat. In fact, heat stroke is one of the three most common killers of soldiers and athletes in training.
Below we share how to recognize heat exhaustion and heat stroke and what to do to treat both conditions.
How to Recognize & Treat Heat Exhaustion
Heat Exhaustion Symptoms
Heat exhaustion occurs when your body can no longer cool itself down through sweating due to a loss of water and electrolytes. Heat exhaustion needs to be treated as soon as you recognize it in yourself or others. Left untreated, it can develop into its more severe sibling: heat stroke.
Symptoms of heat exhaustion include:
Heavy sweatingCold, pale, and clammy skinFast, weak pulseNausea or vomitingMuscle crampsTiredness or weaknessDizzinessHeadacheBrief fainting (passing out)
How to Treat Heat Exhaustion
The goal of treating heat exhaustion is to cool the sufferer down and restore their fluids.
Move to a cool room. If you don’t have access to an air-conditioned room, at least move to a shady spot.Take a cold shower or bath. If that’s not possible, drape (do not tightly wrap — this will trap heat) cool, wet towels/cloths on the body. Turn a fan on these towels if you can. Remove extra clothing.Sip cool fluids, like water and Gatorade.
If heat exhaustion symptoms continue for an hour despite your treatment, seek professional medical assistance.
How to Recognize & Treat Heat Exhaustion
Heat Stroke Symptoms
Heat stroke is the most serious of heat-related illnesses. With heat stroke, the body has lost its ability to cool itself down, resulting in a dangerously high internal body temperature (above 104 degrees Fahrenheit). High internal body temperature is potentially life-threatening as it can cause seizures, organ failure, and rhabdomyolysis. Even if you recover from heat stroke, you can still suffer long-term damage to your heart, brain (creating cognitive deficiencies), kidneys (requiring lifelong dialysis or a transplant), and liver (also requiring a transplant). Heat stroke victims often die months after they’ve “recovered.”
To guide me on the intricacies of identifying and treating heat stroke, I talked to Dr. Sean Langan, a research assistant at the Korey Stringer Institute at the University of Connecticut. The Korey Stringer Institute specializes in research in preventing heat stroke deaths among athletes.
Heat stroke symptoms include:
Central nervous system (CNS) dysfunction:ConfusionAggression/agitation (Dr. Langan says you frequently see heat stroke victims bite and punch people)DizzinessFaintingSeizuresVery high body temperature (104 degrees F or higher)Red, hot, dry skin (no sweating). Sean notes that you rarely see dry skin in people with exertional heat stroke (caused by exercising or working in the heat). Those exerting themselves in the heat may still be sweaty, and you’ll need to be on the lookout for other symptoms, particularly CNS dysfunction.Throbbing headacheNausea/vomitingRapid breathingRapid pulse
According to Dr. Langan, the critical heat stroke symptom to be on the lookout for is CNS dysfunction:
You can have really fit people who have an internal body temperature of 104 degrees Fahrenheit at the end of a marathon who are fine. Their body is adapted to having that high of an internal temp so they don’t have any CNS dysfunction and they cool down quickly after they finish their race.
You can also have someone who has an internal body temperature of 103, but they’re experiencing CNS dysfunction. This person has heat stroke and needs to be treated.
If you see someone who’s been in the heat who’s showing signs of CNS dysfunction, your best bet is to start treating that person for heat stroke. To confirm, take their temperature with a rectal thermometer (it will give you the most accurate reading)
Podcast #678 Physical Benchmarks Every man should meet at every age
As men, we all want to be physically capable. We want to be able to save our own life in two ways: in the more metaphorical sense of wanting to preserve it in healthy, fit form for as long as possible, and in the more literal sense of being able to make it through an emergency unscathed. How do you know if you do possess that kind of lifesaving physical capability?
It’s time to do more than wonder, and really check in with yourself. My guest today has some helpful benchmarks that guys from age 8 to 80 can use to see if they’ve got an operative level of strength, mobility, and conditioning. His name is Dan John, and he’s a strength coach and the author of numerous books and articles on health and fitness. Dan walks us through the fitness standards the average male should be able to meet from childhood to old age, beginning with the assessments he gives to those who are 55 years old and older, which includes carrying their body weight, a long jump, and something called “the toilet test.” We then reach back to childhood, and Dan discusses the physical skills kids should become adept in, which were inspired by a turn-of-the-20th-century physical culturist who thought every individual ought to be able to save his own life, and which can be broken down into the categories of pursuit, escape, and attack. We end our conversation with the physical standards those in the 18-55 range should be able to meet, including how much a man should be able to bench press, squat, and deadlift, and the walking test that’s an excellent assessment of your cardiovascular conditioning.
Resources Related to the Podcast
My first and second interview with Dan“10 Things Every Lifter Should Be Able to Do”AoM Article: Don’t Just Lift Heavy, Carry HeavyAoM Article: Take the Simple Test That Can Predict Your MortalityAoM Article: The 10 Physical Skills Every Man Should MasterAoM Podcast #663: How to Achieve Physical AutonomyAoM Article: The History of Physical FitnessAoM Article: Every Man Should Be Able to Save His Own LifeAoM Article: 12 Balance Exercises You Can Do on a 2×4Shaker PlateAoM Podcast #508: Break Out of Your Cage and Stop Being a Human Zoo Animal
Connect With Dan John
DanJohnUniversity.com Dan on IGDan’s website
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Read the Transcript
Brett McKay: Brett McKay here, and welcome to another edition of The Art of Manliness podcast. As men, we all want to be physically capable. We wanna be able to save our life in two ways. First in the more metaphorical sense of wanting to preserve it in a healthy fit form for as long as possible. And second, in the more literal sense of being able to make it through an emergency unscathed. How do you know if you possess that kind of life-saving physical capability?
Well, it’s time to do more than wonder and really check in with yourself, and my guest today has some helpful benchmarks that guys from ages eight to 80 can use to see if they’ve got an operative level of strength, mobility, and conditioning. His name is Dan John. He’s a strength coach and the author of numerous books and articles on health and fitness.
Today on the show, Dan walks us through the fitness standards the average male should be able to meet
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