Strong enough, Hard work mentality, 5 min flow, Strength vs. athleticism, Adaptability Quotient, and more.
Max likes to experiment and explore the human condition. Fitness is his primary method of developing life-altering skills. In addition, he has picked up guitar, piano, and drums as an adult.
In this episode, Max shares with us why he is focused on athleticism rather than strength, what it means to be strong enough, why we all need to work more easily, how 5 min a day of practice can make a huge long-lasting impact, and much more.
What does it mean to be strong enough? When will you consider yourself strong enough? Making a marginal increase on your squat, clean or snatch, is not exactly congruent with what you or most people really want. Training should help you get more athletic, make your life easier, more rewarding and more fun.
Half the problem of why people are focused on the wrong strength goals stems from comparing themselves to everybody else. There are so many rewarding things you can pursue besides training. Give yourself an honest overview of your whole life and consider how much time you spend training.
This bad pattern also happens outside training, people also do it in learning and business. They act like martyrs. They want to go through the pain. The way society is structured now, hustling and grinding makes people look good on the outside. But it’s destructive, life is not about hustling and grinding.
Max Shank loves being strong as it definitely makes his life easier. But he doesn’t always need to be pressing 100 lb. kettlebells overhead, he can get a great workout with a 8 lb. kettlebell.
What’s also cool is that you can get stronger by diversifying your training, rather than add a few more lb. to your squat or deadlift. John Wolf (episode 11), Chief Fitness Officer at Onnit, was amazed at how he was able to pull a 600 lb. deadlift after playing with clubs and maces for a year, and barely doing any powerlifting.
“I think people who are constantly chasing strength, are the ones that are mostly injured and fairly one dimensional. And I think they would actually be a lot happier if they expanded their horizons a little bit. When I say I’m strong enough, I can easily carry 250 lb. sandbag fairly far. I can pull a deadlift of 550 lb. My point is why would I keep beating my head against the wall trying to get tiny little margins on the movements? You are better off working on balance and rhythm.” — Max Shank
Hard work mentality
For years, Max wanted people to think he’s a hard worker. Mike was also in same boat, he tried to be a hard worker because of his dad, who said: “work hard.” Mike had the idea that if he wanted his dad to love him, he needed to work hard.
Mike, and a lot of other men, grow up thinking: “If you don’t work hard, you are not valuable.” Which also sets the stage for those men to think that other people who don’t work hard, are not valuable. But it’s not true, life is about working smarter, not harder.
Honestly ask yourself: “Are you are having a good time during, before, and after training?” If your answer is no, then reevaluate your training routine. Iy your answer is yes, just know that you might be fooling yourself. Mike used to think he was having fun at the gym, but in hindsight, he now knows he didn’t know what fun was. Only a few years ago, a friend of Mike taught him how to actually have a good time.
“I was so in love with hard work that it was my whole life. Hard work was actually part of my identity.” — Mike Bledsoe
Redeveloping curiosity for learning
Max used to hate school with a passion. Everything about school didn’t suit him. He hated sitting for hours at a tiny desk with bad posture, learning things he didn’t care about, from people he didn’t like. Although, as soon as he got into fitness, it reinvigorated his desire to learn, which opened up the gate to learning many more things!
“Using a metronome while I moved weights and move myself has changed the way I move in a very profound way. Because when you move slowly, you have the opportunity to pay attention to more detail. When you move more quickly, you don’t have the opportunity to pay attention as much to detail. Neither of those is right or better. It’s just that most people usually pick one side of the spectrum only… On hand one, you have people doing really heavy deadlift, and on the other hand, you have sprinting. Deadlift is going to be a lot slower, sprinting is going to be a lot faster… I think it’s really important to own the full spectrum of speeds at least, and I would never learn that unless I developed an appreciation and learned about music, and just became really curious about not only the patterns, but how people learn, like the art of learning in general… You really solidify by trying to learn new things.” — Max Shank
One Max’s favorite books that has really influenced him is Leonardo da Vinci by Walter Isaacson.
Training for longevity
When the average consumer thinks about being fit, he thinks of the steroid shredded, monster on the cover of fitness magazines as having the ideal body. But that’s a huge misperception caused by fitness magazines, as taking steroids doesn’t make a long-lasting impact.
Fitness is about educating people on how they need to organize their body, so they can make solid muscular tension connections. Fortunately for us, media and technology will solve this misinterpretation over time. We will be able to look back at people’s progression over time, and see how they did after specific training and nutrition programs.
A great example of applying longevity for fitness was done by Barbell Shrugged co-host, Adam Von Rothfelder (Barbell Shrugged episode #305) on the TV show “Strong”, where people with no athletic background got paired up with top notch trainers to compete in various fitness challenges. Adam’s match was the only person who kept improving her athleticism after the show.
“It’s about how well you can send out and absorb force in an integrated fashion, across as many joints as possible.” — Max Shank
Strength vs. athleticism
A lot of people don’t have a goal to be athletic, else to be strong. What they don’t get, is that becoming more athletic gives you more options. If you have a good athletic base, everything is an option: Tennis, snowboarding, wakeboarding, juggling, etc.
If you do a lot of deadlifts, squats, bench presses, pull-ups, etc. You might become a big muscular, monster, but your training capacity won’t transfer to many sports. You will miss one-sided movements, twisting, transverse work, and more movements that are used in various sports.
If you want to expand your training beyond the above mentioned, Max recommends you incorporate these movements:
- Cable half-kneeling presses — Half-kneeling cable flies will get your pecs, core and hips working.
- Balance on a balance beam — Walk on a balance beam, or just balance in place on the balls of your feet, with your heels hanging off. To make it spicier, you can juggle balls, clubs, batons, etc. while you are balancing.
Pro tip: You don’t always need equipment to train balance or whatever. When you travel, you can get creative by walking on a curb or even throwing a towel on the floor to act as a balance beam.
5 min flow
You can make significant improvements on many skills with just 5 min a day! It’s really important you go outside of fitness to see what it can give you just to make yourself more whole.
Check out Max’s 5 min flow, it will not only make you feel better, but you also won’t have to warm up as much when you train. The 5 min flow takes your body into full range of motion and circular range of motion:
“That’s the secret: You need to anchor movement to something you will definitely do everyday. If you do it first thing in the morning, you’ve done it, you won, you have this sense of victory. Every step you take after a 5 min flow is rehab. Every step you take without 5 min of flow is probably reinforcing whatever posture you slept in, which may not be very good. Every step you take can be far superior if you do just a little bit of mobility and water in the morning.” — Max Shank
Ultimate Athleticism — Easy training
Ultimate Athleticism is a method that Max developed, which simplifies training, and help organize things to develop skills that stay with you. Max teaches clients the method in person, but also wrote a book about it.
Max takes pride in his clients, who are not the typical hardworking athletes. He taught female school teachers how to achieved L-sit to handstand by training only 2–3 days a week, over a few years of easy training.
“You can’t learn skills if you are going hard. The only way you can learn a skill is by slowing down.” — Max Shank
Adaptability Quotient (AQ)
You have heard about IQ, perhaps about EQ (Emotional Quotient), but you may not have heard of the key of the future of work, which is AQ — Adaptability Quotient.
Mike has learned how to get more done by working less than ever. When he does work now, he thinks about the result he is looking for, as well as the highest leverage activity he should take. Turns out, most of the time, all he needs to do to get work ahead is to have a conversation with someone. When it comes to fitness, a lot of times it means not working out, else staying home to roll on the coregeous ball or walking on a slack line.
“If it’s hard it can never be effective.” — Mike Bledsoe
You are not going to get a six pack by taking another 2,000 steps everyday or by changing your macros by 5%. A healthy, good life is a result of sustainable habits.
A few things you can apply immediately is to start avoiding sitting. You can eat some of your meals on the floor, use a standing desk for work, and watching TV while mobilizing.
Mobility specifically is very rewarding because it involves deep emotional work, since trauma gets stored in tissues in the body. When you release your physical body, you release your soul, and you will even notice improved relationships with people who are close to you.
Another thing you can immediately apply is portion control. It’s great if you already eat clean, but are you eating too much? When you eat, focus on your meal, by ditching your phone, computer, Netflix, etc. Just be with your food and enjoy it.
Pro tip: When it comes to indulging bread, both Max and Mike choose Sourdough over other breads as it is easier on digestion.