Change one letter in that title and it reads life instead of lift, which is equally true. The right tension in your life is key. We’ll come back to that. Let’s start with tension in the gym. The gym isn’t exactly a walk in the park. For many of us, just the thought of going stresses us out.
That’s not the kind of tension we’re talking about. It’s hard to imagine that something so stressful could really benefit from more tension, but it can. In fact, it’s not just a nice-to-have. It’s a must-have if you want to continue this lifestyle, but please don’t stress emotionally.
The value for creating proper tension in your lifts goes beyond your fears of doing things the right way. Let’s not get all hung up in right way versus wrong way. It’s more about creating tension in a way that’s effective, for getting stronger, but also for preventing injuries.
Let’s first split hairs, separating stress from tension, since contextually they can mean the same thing. In the gym, they are not.
The stress that is often associated with the gym is emotional. It exists as a symptom of anxiety. With technique, there isn’t much about anxiety that will help you get over plateaus. If anything, anxiety will distract your focus, potentially jeopardizing your safety.
Tension, in this case, is the tension you create in your body. It is the platform from which you move weight through the air. It is the way you anchor yourself to the ground. It is everything to your lift.
Some examples of effective tension include screwing your feet or hands into the ground; what venerable coaches call “bending the bar.”
In any given lift, no muscle should be loose. Outside of relaxing, muscles do one of three things: lengthen, shorten or flex isometrically. They should all be doing one of those three. A good coach can teach you how to best create tension for your body.
A lifter who can create effective tension will lift more weight than one who cannot.
You may not be lifting to win a strongman competition, but you should always be competing against yourself, even if it’s against those voices in your head that say, “you can’t.”
Pushing your strength is the essential core of weightlifting. We overload a system, push it beyond normal circumstances with the intentions of increasing strength.
So, whether you think of yourself as a powerlifter or not, you are strength training. The goal is to get stronger. The right way to strength train with weights is through tension.
Because, prevent death sounded too dramatic.
It should go without saying that an adult who is strong is less likely to injure herself. To illustrate this point, imagine one who is very feeble versus one who is healthy and strong. Now put them both in a 7.0 earthquake. Who hits the ground first?
It’s easy to imagine that strength allows us to fight the forces of gravity. It is Earth’s pulling us to its center that causes most injuries in life.
In fact, as we age, falls can become deadly. A simple misstep can lead to a broken hip, which can be the first domino in series of events leading to an eventuality.
Getting strong through creating tension isn’t a matter of vanity. It’s a matter of corporal integrity. It’s independence. It’s life.
See how that connects?
What you put into the gym is a microcosm of how you live your life. If you are strong in the gym, stable because you create tension, then in your life you’ll be stable as well.
By this logic, tension is as much about your workouts as it is about your life.