How to use intensity

Do you know someone best described as “intense”?  If so, you know how intensity is a double-edged sword.  This applies to exercise too.  In both cases, it’s best sparingly.  So, whether we’re imagining an all-out interval in the gym or  someone using their outside voice indoors, context means a lot.

At Bang, intensity comes last.  I say that with the full knowledge that I’m going to some ruffle fitness feather.  But, I’m sharing this because it’s important.

We prioritize things in the following order:

  • Movement
  • Awareness
  • Capacity
  • Intensity/depth


This is a big topic.  So, I’ll be breaking it down into chunks over the next few weeks.

Movement First
There is a fair amount of evidence to suggest that the primary role of the brain is to create movement.  Not philosophy.  Not consciousness.  Not even musical theatre.

I think about the brain a lot (which my brain appreciates).  Both your (physical) brain and psychological wellbeing are positively impacted by exercise.  Which is like saying that oceans are impacted by water.

The cognitive side of exercise is infrequently discussed in any detail.  But there’s a lot to know.  For starters, there’s the structural side of brain health.  This includes improved blood flow, nutrient uptake, and connectivity.  Then there’s the mind.  Here, we see how exercise enhances memory, executive function, and mood.  Not to mention how it decreases symptoms of depression or anxiety—certainly in milder forms.

To wit, technology can defeat the world’s best chess players but no robot out can compete with your average kindergartener on a range of activity or nuance of movement.
 

Exercise and the brain are intertwined like nothing else.  Does this prove that the brain was created specifically for movement?  All I know is that if we put aside our theories about why the brain evolved, we are left with dramatic changes that outweigh those from pure cognition or emotion.

So, do I think movement is important?  I think that so much that I used moved my fingers around on my keyboard and typed it.

How we roll
Here, we always begin with movement skill.  The learning curve required to do things right the first time is nothing compared to unlearning janky movement habits.  The difference is exponential.  So, we start people right and we focus on the skills necessary to execute all basic movement patterns.  That means executing them consistently well—and under stress.

By movement patterns, I’m talking about the things that almost all human bodies should be able to do.  Squatting, lunging, brachiating (hanging and swinging), pressing, pulling. Those type of stuff.

By stress, I mean fatigue.  Or distraction.  Or while holding heavy-ass weights.  When you think about maintaining a position (like your posture) under a barbell, kettlebell, etc., you can experience the physical manifestation of mental skill.  You can’t just will the weight up, you have to express that will through your body.  Intention translated into technique and then translated into action.  It’s sorcery!

While we’re busy dousing ourselves in neurotrophic factors, we’re also learning the techniques required to maximize long-term joint health.  So, just getting from Point A to Point B isn’t enough.  We need to have options for doing so.  We want to have a Plan B (and C) when pain or fatigue, or chaos sidelines Plan A.

This isn’t just about minimizing risk, it’s about maximizing options.  Your ability to continually find—and express strength, power, and precision—from all basic positions is freedom.  It’s the opportunity to take part in the widest array of choices possible.  And that kind of physical existence is awfully good for your brain.