Use it or lose it?

‘Use it or lose it’ is an age old phrase – usually associated with sex. If you’re not using it, you’ll lose it. That’s it. Done. No more sex for you. Even though this isn’t a sex themed post (sorry), I’ll announce I certainly subscribe to that theory; the more you do something, the more proficient you become. The reverse is also true. If you don’t do something, why would your body – the efficient maestro that it is – see any value in retaining that skill or ability.

So guys, have sex!

And as we know, it isn’t just your sexual capacity that this immortal phrase has been associated with; it’s muscles too. Heck, not even just muscles, flexibility, strength, and skill ability too.

Is this innate fear of regression really justified?

You get people taking the fear of regression to the extremes of not wanting to take rest days. “Nah man, I’ve gotta keep my biceps pumped at all times!” We also get the ‘cardio slaves’ fearing fat gain if they don’t get their daily dose.

I’ve been a victim of this too, in many departments. The most recent of which was when I got my first muscle up. I was so scared that I’d never do it again, I tried to do it all the time. Ironically, it was that that distracted me from trying to perfect my pistol squat. I could pistol squat quite well on my right leg (my dominant one), but my left was hopeless.

I used to practice assisted pistol squats on that left leg all the time, but I still had trouble holding the bottom position and smoothly pushing up off the floor. Whilst ‘practising’ the muscle up, I shamefully neglected my pistol squat work for quite some weeks – and guess what happened when I randomly tried again with that stubborn left leg?

I could pistol squat totally unassisted for reps! 

The same thing happened with the muscle up, as I’ve already written, when I started doing muscle ups, they were DISGUSTING; heavy kipping, one arm going up before the other, only just locking my arms out, you name it. It was only when I played hard to get by backing away, that the muscle up yielded to me and I was able to execute them with much better technique when we were reunited.

This just illustrates the value of time away from something. You allow your body to prepare itself better for ’round 2′. Our bodies aren’t as degenerative as we’re sometimes led to believe.

Admittedly, some circumstances will lead to loss of your precious gains; but they’re only extremes – severe illness, starvation, prolonged periods of sedentary behaviour (months upon months) and sometimes even lost passion. Thankfully, I’ve not found myself drained of passion and for that I really am thankful. I know of a fair few people who’ve gone through a ‘dry spell’ in regards to exercise and exercise enthusiasm. But hey, I guess it stands to reason if you’re on the road long enough. There’s calm water and treacherous seas. Sometimes you need to be separated from something in order to find out if you truly love it. But if you do, you’ll come back and many times that love will be stronger.

Absence is healthy.

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9 Comments Add yours

  1. Great post. 🙂 I’ve also found this when I train to often, I overthink my workouts and they don’t come as natural. 🙂 If I take a break, I come back more focused and natural. 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

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    1. You’re more than welcome 🙂 Time away always makes us better. I’ve never found otherwise, despite how much I hate down-time, haha.

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  2. James says:

    I’m down to lifting two days a week because, being over 60, it takes my body longer to recover. I have been doing cardio four days a week, but this morning, I decided to take a break from that too. Looking forward to back squats and overhead presses tomorrow, but making gains isn’t really done in the gym, it’s what happens when you recover from what you’ve done in the gym.

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    1. Spot on. It’s all about being content with being away from the gym though, that’s the magic ingredient 🙂

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      1. James says:

        Oh there are days when I’m doing cardio and I notice that the weight room is completely empty that just about kill me. But I’ve learned the hard way that I can’t train like I’m a kid anymore.

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      2. Youth really is wasted on the young, isn’t it?

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      3. James says:

        Yeah. If I could have the body I had, even ten years ago, with what I know now…

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  3. I sometimes neglect this lesson too, but it’s an important one. Your body breaks down during hard workouts, and gets stronger when you rest.

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    1. Definitely Emma. Rest takes as much discipline as the workouts sometimes!

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