Martial art has its history in combat, so as a company founded by three martial artists, Rule #1 (Don't Die) is fundamental to GMB.
If you die, you don't get to do anything else. It's over. That's the end.
It might sound dramatic but self-preservation is key to making any kind of progress. While this seems like a fairly basic and obvious fact, it is one that often falls to the wayside when we start taking on new challenges.
In this episode, we talk about how everything comes with a trade-off and how to assess your training in order to not make irreversible decisions.
’Don’t Die’ is a Metaphor
Ryan : [00:00:00] Hey everybody, welcome to the Autonomy Podcast. I'm Ryan here with Andy. And as some of you might know, Andy, Jarlo and I come from a martial art background. And today's theme, we're going to be talking about self-preservation and not dying.
Don't worry. It's not going to be all about martial arts. We're going to give you some examples related to pushups, squats, tie it all together. And I think you're really going to enjoy this episode. Let's get into it.
Andy: [00:00:24] Rule number one, don't die. It sounds simple. It is simple, but that's probably why it's one of the easiest rules to forget. Obviously nobody wants to die. They don't want to do things that are going to make them die, but when we're doing physical training, when we're talking about doing things that are physically strenuous, each activity that we do comes with a bit of trade-off, it comes with an inherent risk.
It comes with the chance of overdoing it or doing it incorrectly or doing it in a way that might interest. And so it's important to understand what those risks are and to balance them and keep in mind that if you die it's game over. Now, of course, we're not talking about actually dying most of the time.
I have never heard of anyone who died from pushups. Have you, Ryan?
Ryan : [00:01:18] Not yet. I don't think we should make that a challenge either. I don't think that's a very good challenge.
Andy: [00:01:24] I don't want someone to email us an example of a person who died from pushups because it will make me very sad.
Ryan : [00:01:30] Yeah.
Andy: [00:01:32] But this is somewhat figurative. It's metaphorical. If you mess up your shoulder very badly from pushups though, and you can't use your shoulder and can't use your arm, then this is a life altering thing that is problematic, right?
So "don't die" is rule one, but it's a metaphor. It also just means don't do anything that has lasting or permanent negative implications. And this is important in training because we see a lot of things that look fancy, that look cool that have " Oh, there's research on this." Or some authority says this is a great thing.
And we see all these brilliant things we want to try, but that doesn't necessarily mean that those are the right things for us at any specific time. So rather than putting our focus on chasing after these really fancy, brilliant, wonderful things. We should probably put a little bit more focus on unfortunately, basic boring unsexy things that prevent us from dying. Okay. So avoid stupidity. Excellent.
What to Do Instead - Reassess
Andy: [00:02:40] So Ryan, I'm working on the one-arm chin up and my elbow hurts. What exercises can I add to my routine?
Ryan : [00:02:49] Just keep pushing through with it. You just got to work on the pain and of course I'm joking. If there is pain and this is the big thing that we're talking about, right? If you have pain, then. You need to step away, you shouldn't be adding anything. Or as Andy said before, you should be adding a break, a long break and not breaking your arm and just taking time off and making sure that you're giving your body the time to heal.
While you're doing that is just take a step back and reevaluate how you're working out and gotta be honest, is this goal something that's very good for you right now or not? And if you're having pain in your elbow yeah. There could be different things, the way you're doing it and things like that. But it might just come down to the fact that maybe you're just not ready for it.
And it's not something good for you. And this is a hard thing for a lot of people to really take stock of because they want that skill. They want that planche, they want that one-arm chin up. They want that double body weight barbell squat, whatever it is. Is that really good for you? For the majority of people, going to be honest, it's probably not.
And this is something that a lot of people don't want to hear. And so taking that step back to really evaluate one, why are you doing this? Is this really going to be good for you? And maybe if it is, figure out a better way to, and I think that's especially important because the way that you're currently doing it, if your elbow is messed up and in pain, then you're doing it incorrectly.
That's simply what it is.
Andy: [00:04:23] By matter of definition.
Ryan : [00:04:25] Yes.
Andy: [00:04:26] Yeah, and we don't mean doing it incorrectly necessarily like your form is off. And if you learn a different variation, you can keep going. We mean that something in just the choice of exercise or choice of goal or the lack of preparation, or there might be some other thing, you might have really long bones and too much body fat for you to be contemplating doing this exercise without a lot more specific preparation. It doesn't mean that you should stop training altogether, but you definitely need to stop doing the things that exacerbate that injury or potential injury.
Ryan : [00:05:02] Exactly. Yeah, your body actually might also not be capable of doing it. And Andy mentioned a couple of examples, but I'm saying literally one of our very good friends when he was quite young, I believe it was elementary school, not quite junior high, broke his arm and broke his elbow.
And ever since then, he hasn't been able to really straighten out his arm. He just knows that he's not going to be able to do a one-arm chin up on that arm and that's perfectly fine. And the thing is, he's smart about it. He's realistic. And he understands that just is not going to happen.
There might be somebody out there said, "Oh, I'm sure he probably could." My question is why? And that's what we're getting at here.
Andy: [00:05:43] This is a thing that comes up. Fitness training in general is a negotiation with limits. That's smart shit. You should write that down on a fortune cookie. I just came up with it.
Ryan : [00:05:56] New T-shirt.
Andy: [00:05:56] This is important to understand that training is a negotiation with limits. Always. You're always trying to push and test and move your current limits.
But there are also real limits that are either impossible or improbable for you to move without significant trade-offs in other areas. And this is the thing. If you are, if you have a situation that you are very very, very, very unlikely to ever do a one-arm chin up. Now it's possible maybe still.
Someone might say, "Oh, well, if you dedicate your life to one arm, tune-ups one day you might be able to get it." Why the hell would you dedicate your life to one-arm chin-ups?
Ryan : [00:06:44] But man, in the movie Cliffhanger, he really needed that one-arm chin up to be able to pull that lady up. Sorry. I had to, I had to throw that out there.
Andy: [00:06:53] Yeah. And this comes up with other things too.
Ryan : [00:06:55] Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Andy: [00:06:56] So, we have a video on our YouTube channel about pushup form. And Ryan is very specific and says, you should not flare your elbows in your pushups because it's bad for your elbows and for your shoulders. And Ryan, you have a little bit of bad shoulder experience.
Ryan : [00:07:15] Yes. Yes, I do. Blew out my shoulder during judo, had reconstructive surgery on it. And so I really had to relearn the way that I basically did everything when it comes to my pushing and I will say pressing as well, because that is a huge part of why I have people keep their elbows in. We are martial artists, Andy and I, and I'll bring Jarlo into the mix too, because when we started GMB, that's our background.
We come from a martial art background. Now, even just looking at it that way. When you're performing martial arts, typically you don't want your arms flared. You don't want to have your elbows flare. You want to keep your arms into your side. Why? This is a better position for you, for the things that you're doing. It keeps you safe for the things that you're doing.
And this is a huge reason why I'm bringing this up in terms of pushups as well, because by keeping our elbows in, it does keep us safe. It keeps us from dying if you will, and blowing out the shoulder and having an incorrect position. When we get tired, start shrugging the shoulders, start letting those arms flare start putting us into compromising positions and then continuing to do pushups in that compromised position leads towards injury.
It's just how it goes. And as we progress maybe look at other variations of these movements by keeping the arms in, it's helping us to build a better foundation that will help us to be able to preserve that integrity of our body, to allow us to perform those other variations, whether it be push-ups, whether it be working towards inverted presses, where we're now moving towards being upside down.
Obviously what inverted means, but the thing is by practicing these basics with this form, making sure that we are safe, we're practicing good habits. That's going to lead towards not only letting us be able to do other variations, but also allow us to continue to do what we're doing without that fear. And without hopefully injuring ourself, when shit goes bad.
Andy: [00:09:21] Right. And so you mentioned martial arts and that's really where this idea comes from for us and why it's so fundamental to GMB because we're martial artists. And this is very true for us. Martial art has its history in combat.
And the idea is that, yes, if you die, well, you don't get to do anything else. It's over. That's the end. And even for those of us who do more sports style training or even a point fighting if you give up a point, if the other person wins, you don't get to keep competing anymore. That's the end for you. So. You can say "don't die" and that seems dramatic, but you have to understand that a lot of what we're doing is very metaphorical.
Martial art is metaphorical to life or death, even if it is somewhat gamified. But what we're doing though it, it seems a little bit metaphorical, but the idea is that it's just being aware of the permanent consequences, right? If you lose a point and you're out of the tournament, you don't get to play anymore.
If you get hit in the face and your nose is broken, you can't breathe. You're not going to be able to defend yourself very well. Right? If you die, it's over. If you mess up your shoulder, so you can't use your arm, it's over for that arm, for at least a while. You might think, "Oh, well, I can heal. I can come back better."
Why are you going to willingly give up months of healthy function and living a normal life for something that could be preventable? And we're not saying that accidents don't happen if you're careful. Accidents happen. But what we're saying is to be aware of preventable injuries. And so this is the thing with push-ups because on that pushup video, there's like a hundred comments saying, "Yeah. But man, how are you going to hit your chest?"
I mean first, please don't hit yourself. That's just, that's not a very good thing to do. Anyway. I respect you more than that. I would not hit you. I hope you don't hit yourself. That's one thing. Two, if you really need to build your chest, I'll give you, I'll tell you a secret. Actually doing regular push-ups builds your chest too.
Ryan : [00:11:32] No, come on, man. You crazy?
Andy: [00:11:34] Also. Also now here's another mindblower for you. There are other exercises that exist.
Ryan : [00:11:40] What?
Andy: [00:11:41] I know.
Ryan : [00:11:41] Ones I don't need to flare my elbows. That's crazy. Wow. I would never have thought of that.
Andy: [00:11:46] And so here's the thing is yes. Doing a flared elbow push-up does put more attention on your pec. Okay, great. But at what risk?
Ryan : [00:11:56] Yeah.
Andy: [00:11:57] Granted, there are many people that have done these pushups, built their chest and never had any problems.
Maybe they have prepared in different ways maybe, or they have better anatomy for those things. Maybe they're doing other exercises you don't know about as well that are protecting their shoulders.
But if you were just doing push-ups to build your chest and you are doing something that you know risks your joint health long-term for the short term idea of building your chest, then you're doing it wrong.
You are unnecessarily putting yourself at risk for the promise of something that may or may not actually happen. So you're seeking brilliance instead of avoiding stupidity. And that is a fatal error. That is the kind of avoidable error that you should avoid.
Ryan : [00:12:49] Yeah. Self-preservation is important. Yeah.
Andy: [00:12:53] Yeah. Yeah. Self preservation, first don't die. Right.
Challenge Doesn’t = Pain
Andy: [00:12:57] So along these lines, a few weeks ago, we posted on our Instagram something similar to this, and it was really interesting. So here's what the post said, "Doing workouts that hurt your body just to look better with your shirt off is dumb and you should stop now." Now this to me seems like it's a pretty unambiguous and I don't know, I don't see why it should be controversial. In fact, many people agreed with this and thought it was, we got a lot of comments, like, "This is exactly why I love GMB."
Or, and a lot of people that said "I've learned this one the hard way." Right? Which is how we've learned most of the things that we harp on about. But then there were a few people, and this was the thing that's mind blowing, is that there were a number of comments from people that were looking for the loophole.
You can post something that says, literally don't hurt yourself. And people are trying to find the exception like, "Oh but if you don't hurt yourself, then you never get jacked" or, "Oh, you're just trying to avoid doing hard work."
Well, okay. So this gets into another situation where we have in the world of fitness that we understand that you need to challenge yourself. Most of what we do is not just fun and pleasurable.
Ryan : [00:14:13] Right, right, right.
Andy: [00:14:14] Actually, it's difficult, but we know that we have. That we do these things for the purpose of getting stronger, right? So we have the no pain, no gain kind of mentality, which is, unfortunately we tend to conflate challenge. We tend to conflate pushing ourselves to do more with actually being in pain. And this is where the problems start because they're completely different things.
Ryan : [00:14:39] Yeah. No, absolutely. And so this is where for some reason it's just become so distorted and thinking that you literally have to be in pain in order to make gains. And the thing is it just doesn't work that way.
And if you really look at it, you've got to push yourself a little bit, but you've also got to make sure that you're not pushing yourself to the point where you can't recover in a way and in a timeframe that's going to allow you to continue to the next session or whatever it is that you're performing the next time.
And so by actually hurting yourself, you're keeping yourself from actually making improvements because it's going to take longer to heal. You're going to be out from whatever sport activity that you're doing.
And by the time that you get back to it, it's almost like you're going to have to, what's going to feel like, you're starting over again. And by actually not working to pain. And pain and discomfort is just so different. Working to the point where it's difficult, it feels challenging to you, but you understand that there's no literal pain.
You're not going to blow your knee out. You're not working to the point where, "Oh, I think if I do a few more reps that I might hurt myself." That's not a good place to be. And so we want to make sure that we're not working to that so that we can continue to improve, go back, do the session at a later date, but continue to be able to make progress.
Yeah, I just, this just blows me away. It's always blown me away that people work towards pain.
Andy: [00:16:06] And we need to point out that muscle soreness is a thing that most people will experience and it's not pleasant and it is technically a kind of pain, but it is not an injury.
And we've done a couple of episodes DOMS before. So the important thing is though there are also degrees there too. If you get such intense muscle soreness that you literally cannot walk without pain the next day, that's a problem.
Ryan : [00:16:36] Yeah. Yep.
Andy: [00:16:37] I'm not trying to weasel out of, I'm not trying to give people an excuse to not work hard here, but I will say that if you were so sore that you can not bend down and pick up your kid. You're so sore that you can't step out of your car to get into the office.
You are so sore that can't get up off the toilet. Actually getting up off the toilet isn't all that bad because you only have to do it once and then you're done with it. But some of these, but what I'm getting at is it is a trade off.
The level of soreness that's okay is going to be different. And if it is so intense for you, that it impacts your ability to live your life. Well then you need to do a little bit less than that next time.
Ryan : [00:17:16] That's right. And I think it's safe to say that the majority of the people that are listening to us talk are not in the category of becoming enormous bodybuilders in which that's part of the game really, for those types of people. We want to be able to do the other things in our life and the sessions and workouts that we're doing should supplement that.
And so what we're saying is that by actually moving towards that level of DOMS, you're keeping yourself from actually doing the things in your life that you want to do. And so trying to stay away from that, that's another example of self preservation, so that you're able to continue to do the other stuff that you want to do.
Andy: [00:17:53] Right. And so I think that, like you said, everyone listening to this probably has a little bit of personal experience where they understand that some challenge is necessary, but I think many people have probably hurt themselves a little bit or had some some negative experiences too.
And again, not all of these are avoidable. Accidents do happen, but at the risk of seeming like we're creating a straw man here, I don't want to say that we're only talking about working out so hard that you literally break your arm doing a bench press or something.
I have friends, I have multiple friends that have torn their pecs benching and healed and still been strong. But again, that was like, six months to a year of their lives that they weren't able to, one guy couldn't hold a pencil in his dominant hand for, like more than six months. That sucks. It's not good. But there are a lot of things.
Most of us are not doing that level of intensity in our training. Right? So let's look at some of the things that are more common, because this is what's going to make a difference for people actually listening to this. The people that really believe no pain, no gain are probably not listening.
Examples of Avoidable Mistakes + Two Tips for Any Movement
Andy: [00:19:00] So let's look at some examples of things that are a little more common where there's avoidable mistakes that come in a form of pain where people wonder, should I be doing more? Should I be doing less? Should I be doing something different? How much is okay? And how much is not?
Ryan : [00:19:18] Absolutely.
So first off the bat, I think one thing that we do see a lot is when people actually first start programs or first start a particular skill, they're very excited to do something and they actually do too much of it without realizing it. And I'm not even talking over training, I'm talking more along the lines of jumping into it too quickly.
So a couple ways to look at this. One way is actually trying to jump to the next progression before you're actually ready. And this is tough. This is a difficult one to understand.
When are you ready? I'm going to try and make it very easy for you though. When you're focusing on, let's say, one movement, it doesn't really matter what that movement is. You get to the point where that movement really does, and I want to say it is easy for you. That's just what it is.
And we talk about ease of movement, but just think of it as, "Oh, wow. This is really easy for me." What does that mean? You could probably just have a conversation while you're doing it. Just think about it that way. Just keep it super easy.
Now, the way to check and see if you're really ready for that next progression is to just try it, but don't go full throttle on that particular movement. And so what that means is when you try out that movement, you're doing it and you're just checking: okay, am I basically bracing to the point where this is scaring me? And this is a good judge of where, okay, you're not really ready for the thing, and this can be very tough when it's just you doing it.
So there's two things that I like to have people do when they're doing this. First off, do take a video because later when you do watch the video, you will see certain things that you did not feel when you're doing that new movement.
And the other thing is that notice, are you holding your breath? And this basically means you're going to be bracing and there is going to be a certain part of that where you probably will hold your breath. But to what degree?
When you finish doing that movement, when you actually take a breath, do you feel like you're going to pass out? If so then you're probably not quite ready for that movement just yet. And this is tough, but the thing is just thinking about it that way.
One, take a video. Cause then you can review it later and you can really see what's going on. But the other thing is take note of the breath, while you're doing the movement and then right after that movement.
Typically if you are bracing down so heavy and holding your breath afterwards, when you take that breath, you almost feel like you're going to pass out. Probably not ready for that movement just yet. The cool thing is though, if you just take a step back and continue working on that previous movement, you're going to be getting better at that next progression.
So then you will be able to go back and assess that movement again to see if you are ready. Might sound silly, but you could pretty much do this with anything. And it doesn't even matter. Like the GMB movements, it's any movement out there.
Anytime people really learn a new movement though, do understand that you typically are going to hold your breath. And so there's going to be a little bit of that. What I'm talking about is really bracing to the point again, where after you take that first breath after the movement, feel like you're going to pass out, that's not good.
Andy: [00:22:29] So yeah, being able to check with your breath and to understand if you're bracing is actually super underrated. It's very generally applicable to almost any kind of skill or movement you could be doing. And really just being able to tell, is this something that is, like Ryan said easy for you, challenging for you or too challenging for you. Even just breaking it down to those levels is enough.
And if you find that something is too challenging for you, it doesn't mean that you need to stop. It doesn't mean that you can't do anything. It's like a degree.
Like you said, the jumps are a good example. We have jumps in a couple of our programs and some people say, "Oh, I can't do the jumps. It hurts my knee." Okay. That's one good thing to stop. Good thing to stop and say that notice that the pain is not a quality signal that you're receiving, that's telling you that you should change something.
Now it doesn't mean that you shouldn't do any jumps. It means that the way you're jumping and the amount of power that you're putting into it or are not right for you.
It could mean that you shouldn't be doing any jumps. It could mean that you may be just need to be doing a little bit softer jumps and really focusing on your takeoff and your landing without trying to go as hard as you can.
It could mean that maybe you're not ready to do the full jump, lift off and explosion. And you just need to work on setting on the setup and prepping for the takeoff a little bit. And that's where having a coach can help you with stuff. But what I'm getting at here is that we're not saying that it means that you should stop all activity.
There's other exercises, but also you can experiment with degree, with range of motion. We get this with squat. A lot of people say, "I can't squat down that low." Most people can't. Most people can't, most people can not squat down as low as like Ryan can or Jarlo can, or even me or any of our trainers. We've spent a lot of time in this position and we happen to have excellent mobility. That's why we're qualified to teach it.
Ryan : [00:24:30] Yeah, and this is great. This is fabulous you brought up to up because again, I think that's where a lot of people are thinking that we, were just saying, okay, stop, walk away, go have a beer. No, no, no, no, no, no, no. We're not. I mean, have a beer later, but the thing--
Andy: [00:24:42] We are definitely pro beer in terms of, if that helps you feel good about life and be happy. Sure.
Ryan : [00:24:49] But if we're looking at specific movements, I think that the monkey is about great example that we have in our program Elements where a lot of people are saying, "Well I can't squat down like the person in the video, therefore, should I even be doing it?" The answer is typically yes, because you can adjust the way that you do that.
You don't have to go all the way down. If your heels come up off the ground, it's perfectly fine. And as long as there's no pain and that's really the big thing that we're after, is it comfortable and comfort again, doesn't necessarily mean that it's in this case super easy. It's still challenging, but you're not working to a point where there is pain.
And so by slowing down things is the other thing that we talked about, slowing it down. You mentioned power in the jumping. I know people expecting to jump that you're just going to jump as high as you possibly can, or as far as you possibly can. Well, hey, if that's hurting your knee, then how about you just don't jump as high land softly, like you said, don't jump as far.
Just focus on the entry, the exit of whatever that skill you're doing, you're still working on it in a way that's going to be helpful so that you can eventually work towards that full version of the movement at full power if you will.
Andy: [00:26:00] And the reason we're saying this is because again, Rule One. We have clients that violate this. We have clients that will force themselves or try to force themselves into positions that are not accessible to them because they want to look like the guy on the video. We have had multiple clients that come back to us and say, " I've had knee pain all my life. And I still forced myself to do the shrimp squats in IS for six weeks. And my knee hurts even worse now."
Well, yes, of course it does because you have violated Rule One and continue to do something that you know hurts you and you're continuing to do it, and yes, that's bad for you. That is inappropriate. And we would tell you to stop that if you asked us.
Ryan : [00:26:52] Reminds me of somebody who's just coming into Brazilian jujitsu and they happened to be rolling with somebody and decide that they're not going to tap because there's no way. "I'm not going to give up. There's no way I want to lose to this other person."
Well great. Maybe this guy breaks your arm. Okay. How is that helping you? It's not. Okay. So self preservation is very important.
Don’t Make Irreversible Decisions
Andy: [00:27:13] Right. Just to bring it back full circle again, with the martial arts example. It's true though. Most anyone who's done BJJ and I've done very, very, very, very, very little of it years ago. Wasn't a good match for me, but I still respect it. I think anyone who's gotten to any level at it is pretty easy to tap, because most people have learned or seen people that have learned the hard way that if you don't, injuries can happen.
Of course, there's times where you want to practice holding off and find ways to get out of things and stuff like that. But if you're in a disadvantaged position you gain nothing by getting injured. So you don't tap.
And I think that's a great thing that you learned from BJJ specifically, and a lot of martial arts, you learn very similar lessons, but this is the key: don't die. Don't go through that trap door that you can't go back the other direction.
Irreversible decisions. And we don't think of our training decisions as being irreversible. Most of them aren't. But when pain is involved, that's a signal that this decision you're specifically making right now in your training might have consequences beyond what are clearly visible to you.
And that should be a signal for you to evaluate, like Ryan said early on. Reassess, and really consider if this is the right thing, do you need to prepare better for this? Do you need to maybe just choose a different goal?
And there's nothing wrong with those things. We're not saying you shouldn't challenge yourself. But you should be aware of the indicators that you are going in the wrong direction.
Ryan : [00:28:50] Hmm, good. Yeah, that's good. Yeah.
Andy: [00:28:53] All right. So that's, it. Don't die.
Ryan : [00:28:56] Don't die, please. Don't die. Please. Not die. Not today, at least. Yeah.
Andy: [00:29:02] We are all going to die, but don't die from squats.
Ryan : [00:29:08] Or pushups.