What Makes A Good Work Out?

When I read the kettlebell work out in Aubrey Marcus’ Own The Day I thought that’s a good work out. And then when I did the work out I thought wow, that’s a really good work out.

But how did I know? What did I see when I read a series of movements and times organized in cycles that made it good?

As I see it the work out had two things going for it, Purpose and Novelty. Novelty is that it had moves I’d never done before which is always nice but doesn’t need much more to be said. Purpose I think is the feeling of imagining how rewarding something is going to be.

The work out is divided into sections and cycles. There’s a mobility section where you do 3 moves in a cycle as many times as you can in 8 minutes (so movement A, movement B, movement C, then repeat).

Playing with time also makes a work out good. Just doing reps doesn’t really feel like anything, no matter how near the end you are. But knowing time is running out excites you to keep moving. A timer also allows your thoughts to wander rather than mechanically counting which is pleasant, it makes working out more recreational and less like a chore.

Then in the work out there’s two more sections for power and conditioning. This gives it a sense of progress, like finishing a chapter and going to the next one. You feel like you’ve got one section under your belt and now you’re moving on, causing you to take stock of how you feel and notice you’ve got energy left, you feel good. And the sections are in order for a reason. There’s an Athlean X tricep work out I love that’s 6 movements in groups of 2 based on shortening the moment arm each time. It’s lovely because it’s just so organized.

And good work outs are Simple. The Aubrey work out is 2 kettlebells and some space, the Athlean X is 2 20lb dumbells and a floor. The more complicated a work out the less likely one is to even get started.

Because what a good work out isn’t is outcome focused. Tim Ferris talks about how people would ask him to write out on index cards exactly what they have to do to get abs and they’ll do it.

Success rate zero.

Looking at the outcome and the work out and thinking this is the chore that gets me there will not get you through a work out.

People say nothing tastes as good as skinny feels but you’re not skinny and you don’t feel good so fuck it, you end up eating pizza. And it’s the same with working out: you’ll give up on a hard work out because you’re comparing discomfort in the present to a future feeling you’ve never had.

Once you’ve seen some gains from diet and exercise you’ll be able to get through some pain cave moments knowing that there is a purpose but before that you have to keep the work outs as self-rewarding as possible.

They’ve got to be fun, quick, easy, simple, organized, purposeful, and variable.

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