By: Schuyler Schmidt
Summer break means more time to play around with my workouts. In April, I devised a new workout strategy that would allow me to stay in shape while also becoming more technically sound in my lifts, learn new stuff, and enjoy the wonderful heat and humidity of a Pennsylvania summer.
Listening to a podcast while driving to work recently, I discovered that Gray Cook already had this exact same idea, which he calls, “Practice Days, Training Days, and Fun Days.” Here is my take on this training routine…
Remember your high school athletic days when practice meant endless drills to hone your sport specific skills? The idea of repetitiously practicing a set of skills applies to lifting, too. Instead of taking a hundred slap shots, though, you practice your movement by scaling back your weight and perfecting every detail of the lift, so that when you train at 90% of your max, your brain and body will act in concert to perform a good, safe lift.
It’s not as easy as it sounds—working on something you aren’t good at is really tough, mentally and physically. In my own experience, adding a practice day has helped me learn some of the exercises I’ve wanted to try but didn’t want to “waste time” on. I’ve become proficient enough at some of them to add them to my training days.
My practice days normally coincide with my conditioning days, meaning that I warm up, do a few practice sets of a new exercise, and then condition. Ideally, I would dedicate one full workout day to practice, in order to see faster improvement. One last tip… An extra set of eyes, such as a trainer or a friend who actually knows their stuff, will ensure that your form is indeed perfect…
Perfect practice makes perfect.
These are the days when you load up the bar and work on preserving the movement you perfected on your practice days under greater stress. Most people’s workouts fall into this category—a bench day, a squat day, a deadlift day, etc., all focusing on getting stronger.
I don’t recommend working out like this every day. Yes, you will get stronger, but falling into a routine of lifting heavy every day that you repeat week after week leads to boredom and plateaus in your gains. I was definitely guilty of this, but after following Kory Allen’s program (which calls for 3 days of training), I am seeing improvement. My form is better and the extra rest I am giving my body enables me to go harder on my training days.
Squatting 500 lbs is fun, but so is seeing how your work in the gym carries over to your everyday life. Go for a hike and see if you can further or climb hills without getting winded or have your legs quaking. Play basketball and see if you can jump higher or box out better. Try a new sport, go horseback riding, climb a jungle gym, go dancing…
Do something, anything, that allows your body to move.
My fun days include tennis (I just learned to play this summer), canoeing, hiking, and swimming. One place that I notice the positive effects of my training is at work. My work at the vineyard involved lots of squatting. My hip mobility work allows me to reach a deep squat instead of bending over, a position that is much more low back friendly.
In essence, fun days are active rest days, so put down the weights and do something that you love to do.
Incorporating all of this into your workout routine, especially when you can barely squeek in exercising and want to spend all of your time training, is a difficult proposition. Making a conscientious effort to try this routine, even if it means including the three types of days once in a two week span, will make your lifts more effective and your life a little more fun.
My name is Schuyler Schmidt, and I am a third year honours Kinesiology student at Waterloo. I love everything that involves movement and look forward to learning more through my classes, training the varsity athletes, seminars, and the Strength & Conditioning Club. Having dabbled in everything from distance running to powerlifting, I have a broad view of fitness and believe that “one workout doesn’t fit all.” Outside of academics, I enjoy hiking, canoeing, jewelry making, gardening, and working at a vineyard/winery in my hometown.