I stole this phrase, like I steal most everything I write about here. if you want to know who I steal from all you have to do is ask. I stole this from a strength coach named Dan John, whom I steal from quite a bit, and for good reason, he’s right most of the time.
The body is one piece
So what exactly does this mean and why is it important?
Your body is a complex piece of machinery that acts as a unit. The whole is often more than the sum of the parts. This is why the effectiveness of a compound exercise like a squat or a deadlift goes beyond describing the muscles involved in the lift. These lifts work pretty much every muscle in the body. However, and here is the important part, they use them together as a unit.
This is why you see lot’s of skinny dudes in the gym who exclusively work each muscle individually, yet never see any increases in size despite their work ethic. They haven’t spent enough time strengthening the whole to have earned the right to focus on the parts.
This principle goes beyond what happens in the gym and this is the real significance of the subject.
What happens outside of the gym affects what goes on inside the gym and vice versa. Anything that happens to your body will have some influence on your body’s ability to perform other tasks. Sleep quality, work stress, nutrition,mental preoccupations etc. Everything has an effect on everything else, for greater or for worse. Some things will obviously have a more dramatic effect. Having some slight irritation in my elbow won’t have as big of an impact on my training/life as would being knocked on my ass by the flu.
I can’t remember where I heard this first, but everything we do in the fitness realm can be described as fitting into a cup. Now, getting stronger certainly increases the size of the cup, but it still has it’s limits. And anything you add to the cup will interact with everything else in the cup.
The point is that things tend to go smoother when the things you put in the cup complement each other rather than compete. If my training leaves me so exhausted I have no energy to socialize with my friends or go on that hike I was excited about, my training isn’t complementing the rest of my life, it’s competing with it. If I’m exercising so much that I’m not allowing proper recovery, my training is at odds with itself. The principle here is the same in both situations and I could list a bunch more, but I feel you get the point.