Working out is a great way to relieve stress, and on your worst days, pumping iron can be a potent conduit to channel your anger and frustration into a productive, healthy activity. Having a physical outlet for your feelings can be absolutely essential—but if you’re going to use your toughest days for training fuel, it’s imperative that you don’t let your emotions take over and foul up your form.
In other words, if you’re going to hit the gym mad, you have to make sure you do so under control.
Take Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson, for example. The actor just shared a workout video to his Instagram account, complete with a caption in which he admitted his training was fueled by his frustrations. “Had to get a workout #2 in last night since I was pissed about something that happened at work and needed to blow off steam,” he wrote. “I know ALL of you know that feeling.”
While Johnson described the universality of his experience, you’d never guess from the footage that he was working through his feelings. He reps through a controlled set of lat pulldowns, showing off a super-effective technique that helps to maximize his effort. He pauses at the bottom of each rep, holding deliberately—and that’s for more than just channeling his pissed off mood.
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“He’s essentially doing a tempo drop set, starting with a series of reps where he pauses at peak contraction, then following with less demanding regular-paced reps,” says Men’s Health fitness director Ebenezer Samuel, C.S.C.S.
“The beauty of this is how the paused reps feed the standard reps that follow. First off, the pauses allow The Rock to pile up time-under-tension at peak contraction, fatiguing his lats (and biceps and forearms). Additionally, he’s able to build mind-muscle connection with his lats, really feeling the muscles he’s activating on each rep. This is especially effective on back exercises letting you ensure that your biceps aren’t driving your pulling motion but your bigger, stronger lats are.”
Once Johnson is through with the pause reps, Samuel notes that “he’s still able to chase that same deep squeeze in his lats.”
Next time you get mad and just want to toss some weights around, think about the example Johnson set here. You can use your mood to fuel your efforts with a rare focus, or just can go in out of control and put yourself at risk of an injury. One outcome is definitely better than the other.
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