Put Strength in The Bank: What Gymnasts & Old-Timer Strong Men Can Teach Us About Skill Acquisition
You and I are constantly tripped up by a built-in cognitive weakness…
We’re an impatient generation.
Hell, we’re an impatient species.
And our haste leads to set-backs that cost far more time in the long-run. Meanwhile, the more patient version of us in some parallel universe is taking in slow and steady, hitting our goals with efficiency and fortitude.
Patience, it turns out, is not being passive. It’s not being detached. It’s taking action wisely, methodically, with the big picture in mind.
Connective Tissue & Brick-House Strength
In physical training, the set-backs of impatience take the form of injuries that can put you out of action for months (or for the rest of your career).
Christopher Sommer of Gymnastic Bodies has seen the devastation of impatient training first-hand.
“Slow down. Where’s the fire?” This is Coach’s constant reminder that certain adaptations take weeks or months of consistent stimuli. If you rush, the reward is injuries.
In GST [Gymnastics Strength Training], there are surprising stair steps after long periods of zero progress. Roughly six months into doing his “hamstring series” with minor gains, I [Tim Ferriss] seemingly doubled my max ranges overnight. This was completely unsurprising to Sommer.
– Tools of Titans, page 11 (emphasis mine)
Patience is just as useful when beefing up in prison.
Paul Wade of Convict Conditioning writes about the rock-solid wisdom of the old-timer strong men.
There is a damn good reason why you should proceed slowly and methodically through any training program. The reason has to do with generating training momentum. Basically put, this means that if you build a head of steam by moving forwards more slowly, you’ll actually reach your goals much faster than if you proceeded with haste. This sounds like a paradox, but it’s true.
The old-timers of the iron game understood this principle only too well. They used to talk in terms of “milking” a program, and “putting strength in the bank.” One of the old sayings wise weightlifting coaches used to force down the throats of eager young trainees was the phrase: the heavy weight isn’t going anywhere.
– Convict Conditioning, at 81% on Kindle (emphasis mine)
Wade and Sommer both focus on long-term, functional strength, over short-term “showy” gains.
True strength, after all, involves more than muscle.
I’ve heard of horrific injuries sustained be meat-heads who’s muscles were literally stronger than their ligaments. One massive dude tore his entire quad muscle away from his knee, doing nothing more than a simple squat!
How is that possible? It seems his connective tissue, (which take far longer to adapt to training), was simply too weak for the weight he was lifting.
By training slow, everything in your body has time to catch up to the demands you’re placing on it.
Does this only apply to body-building? What is the “connective tissue” of mental skill?
Making Mastery Inevitable by Giving The Mind’s “Connective Tissue” Time to Adapt
I’m currently spending every morning writing out old sales letters by hand for an hour. It’s slow, it’s gruelling, and it’s a proven path to copywriting mastery.
Our brains have a kind of connective tissue as well — known as neuroglia — cells that support our neurons. Although obviously different to muscular tissues, neuroglia play a huge part in mental strength, and they’re also slower to adapt.
Your neurons keep themselves busy making real-time connections as we navigate the world. Meanwhile, the neuroglia work on strengthening the most important memories and abilities. They need consistent, firm encouragement to invest their resources in any one skill.
That’s why mental skill, like physical strength, takes patience to develop into mastery.
Keep at it.
And don’t burn out. Keep some strength in the bank.
Slow is smooth and smooth is fast.
— Old military saying
Enjoy the journey,
– James (Self-Made Copywriter)