Mindset and How to Train the Paragon Way

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Paragon Training Methods are programs that are built around sustainability, longevity, training/life balance, and most importantly, looking damn good. A fair bit of our members come from a CrossFit background. So it’s very important to understand some differences in mindset and training approach when embarking on this style of programming.

We don’t always have to lift to failure or “leave it all out there”.

Please read that again. When pursuing aesthetics, volume is a GREAT way to compensate for intensity. It’s hard to train when we’re mentally or physically exhausted, so an awesome hack is to lift at lower weights for more sets. This will provide the stimulus we NEED to activate hypertrophy, with the added benefit of not taxing our CNS as heavily.

If  we opt to take one of these lower intensity days, strive for the highest quality movement possible. Moving poorly in order to lift a heavier weight may mean we’re not recruiting the muscles we are intended to recruit. Don’t be afraid to chuck ego to the door and take pride in how we move and and perform movements. The kicker is it will indirectly come around and lead to heavier weights since we’re grooving good movement patterns.

Think about training in 6-8 week blocks.

Accumulation Phase – All sets and general “effort” level is around an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) of a 7 or 8 out of 10. We should leave 3-4 reps “in the tank” on everything. This is where we focus on gradually increasing output level. The accumulation phase is a great time to really focus on QUALITY movement and using this time to perfect errors in our movement patterns.

Intensification Phase – Now we are starting to ramp up effort level. Pushing slightly harder on the conditioning portions, and taking your working sets to about 1-2 reps shy of failure. It will feel good to lift a bit heavier and our body will feel stronger since we embarked on a nice slow 2-3 week lower intensity preparation.

Peaking Phase – Sets should not be pushed to failure until this phase. In fact, it’s best to avoid failure completely until the actuall “testing” day. Generally volume will be a bit lower in this phase and intensity will be higher. Think of a CF day where you’re doing 1-RM CJ, 1-RM Snatch and a gnarly Open WOD repeat. That’s the type of intensity you bring to this phase. But it’s only for 2-3 weeks!

And guess what happens after you fail and put your CNS in the dumps? That’s right, you go back to accumulation phase. Just saying, be nice to your bodies! If you take this all the way through, you will feel stronger during the intensification and peaking phases than if you trained at the same super high effort level all the time.

So what does this all mean? Why do we need to train like this if we’re not repeating the same movements week to week and tracking specific metrics throughout a cycle? The answer is “systematic fatigue,” which is different than local fatigue. When you get sore in your biceps, that’s local fatigue. Systematic fatigue occurs when you lift and perform at too high of an output level for too long without allowing downtime to recover and rebuild.

The chronic accumulation of systematic fatigue is what eventually results in adrenal issues, CNS depletion, and hormone imbalance. When Systematic Fatigue begins to take hold, you must be a smart athlete and reduce the intensity of your training to ensure sustainability for a lifetime and optimal performance output.

If you are entering PPT already in a state of systematic fatigue, it would do wonders for you to spend 1-3 months in the accumulation phase. Don’t stress or worry that you’re not working hard enough. If you implement the protocols discussed in this article, your body will respond extremely well and you will notice significant positive adaptations in your appearance (and you’ll start feeling a ton better, too!).

Learn to feel the proper muscles doing the work.

We use tempos in our programming to aid the process of making the “Mind-Muscle-Connection,” as well as to create strength from varying positions of movement. Many movements are best performed from a dead stop position. This forces entire body to learn what needs to happen to create momentum optimally, which will inevitably lead to stronger lifts without a pause.

This is where tempos, such as 21X1, are great!
Two seconds to descend
One-sec pause at bottom
Explode up
One-sec pause at top

When you do the tempo work with a dead stop involved, think about what muscles are firing to get us going again. Studies have shown that just THINKING about them can actually increase muscle activation.

We probably won’t have as difficult of a time thinking about our muscles on this one, because we’ll feel them! A lot of the programming will be with a 20X0 tempo to represent no pause at top or bottom. Especially for hypertrophy work, this stuff is golden. Keep constant tension on the muscle and never let them rest. Rid them of oxygen, lactic acid accumulates, and we’re well on our way to hypertrophy gains.

The Mind-Muscle connection is extremely relevant for aesthetics, but also for performance. Let’s use the Bench Press as an example: We’ve all performed a set where the weight is so heavy that we are doing everything possible to get the weight from the chest to lockout. Sometimes it involves twisting and contorting our bodies, letting the butt rise off the bench, or utilizing an ineffective bar path. What if we drop the weight (or keep the same weight) but strive to actually feel the chest muscles contract? Maybe we focus more on the leg drive through the ground, squeezing our glutes and bracing against the bench. When we Bench Press properly, we can actually create a connection with the muscles and start to work on components of timing, change of direction, bar path, and other elements of movement quality.

Use bar-speed as a way to quantify progress.

All tempos we write involve an “X” as the “concentric or lifting” portion of the movement. We should always EXPLODE up, engaging the fast twitch muscle fibers, whether it’s a pull-up or squat or press. Lift the weight slowly and you’ll be a slow athlete. ALWAYS control the descent of body and bar. The negative or LOWERING portion of the movement is actually where a large percentage of muscle damage occurs. Muscle damage is a good thing as it stimulates hypertrophy as long as we rest and recover properly. If we don’t, it’s difficult for the muscle to adapt.

In CrossFit the “Sport,” we need to train while sore and fatigued. It’s part of the game.

In the aesthetic world, this is not a typical practice. As soon as we feel tired and sore, it’s a sign our CNS is struggling, and we can’t build muscle in a CNS-fatigued state. It’s time to rest and recover so the body can repair and come back stronger.

Using BAR SPEED to quantify progress is one of our favorite approaches to lifting, and probably the least used and understood in relation to QUALITY movement.

During the accumulation phase and into the early intensification phase, bar speed is a fantastic indicator of when to end a set. Instead of pushing ourselves to the point where the bar feels like it’s stuck and we need to use everything we have just to complete the rep, we would end our set as soon as bar speed decreases significantly.

This is a bit of a subjective measure, but we’ll become more proficient at implementation over time. Think about the speed of the bar maintaining 75-80% of the same speed as Rep number 1, and end the set when that slows down. This isn’t easy, because we are literally putting a massive effort into every rep. No, we aren’t going to failure, but we are failing to achieve a goal we had, which was keep the bar moving quickly! This will create some awesome muscle stimulation.

The Mindset and Impact on Central Nervous System (CNS).

We lift weights and work hard in the gym each week to improve our lives. We strive to find the optimal dose of training to elicit the maximum response without overtraining. Why?

If we do “too much” in the gym, we begin to compromise the BENEFITS of the gym. We become lethargic, unmotivated, lack desire to train, and begin to dread our gym time.

How does stress in daily life impact you? If things are rough at work, or if we are having a difficult time with an interpersonal relationship, how do we feel? I don’t know about you, but I can literally FEEL the cortisol rising in my body. My thoughts get clouded, my focus and mental clarity decrease, and I enter a state of introspection. While introspection is an important piece of personal growth, it can often be draining when it results from a negative interaction. Sleep suffers, mood suffers, and general quality of life decreases.

The concept of “mindset” and its impact on our CNS doesn’t get enough coverage in the fitness industry. People are all about discussing how overtraining impacts our CNS, but that is strictly a consequence of physical stress. We firmly believe that emotional stress has the same impact on our sense of well-being.

Do not turn the gym into a place of stress. Strive to make the gym a reprieve from the stresses of daily life.

Lifting heavy weight, and striving for improvement week to week can create feelings of elation. But when we assess our personal value on our ability to achieve, or fail to achieve – these predetermined metrics, we are definitely doing more harm than good.

Hopefully we can shift our mindset and implement a few of the elements from this article. We want you to feel great in your body, live a life full of vitality, and enjoy training. Make sure we are giving our body the proper rest and recovery so that we can thrive in life outside the gym.