I recently wrote an article for Breaking Muscle called the SMMF, or Single Movement Mind Fuck.
The full article is listed here. The purpose of the drill was simple – to test the self-imposed mental limits we often put on ourselves, and by pushing those limits open ourselves up to higher levels of performance. The caveat is that the gates to higher performance are opened only through the passage of suffering. True, great suffering is at the heart of all endurance sport. In fact, most endurance communities are built around a communal love of suffering. But the thing people miss is that truly epic suffering, the kind that really stretches those limits, cannot be an every day event.
Having actually put myself through workouts in the past designed solely to see how much muscle soreness I could generate in myself I can tell you now that even the hardest of hardcore trainees will eventually buckle under daily epic suffering. (How sore was I able to make myself? On this particular body building split I came up with I would be sore for the entire week after with those muscle groups only clearing up the day before I was to train them again. Because I was training five days per week this meant that my entire body was crippled with muscle soreness every day all week long, for weeks straight.) At some point they’re going to have to throttle back out of self-preservation, or they’ll quit because, let’s face it, it’s no fun being so sore you can’t walk for weeks straight. So the SMMF was never something I wanted people to try each week as a built-in test. It was a once every now and then kind of thing, like maybe once a year or every six to eight months.
But like with many things people took a good idea too far. I was getting emails off people asking how to progress it and what kind of program they could follow to get better at it. Only one guy expressed relief when I told him not to repeat the workout for the second week in a row and try it again in about six months. For the same reason I wouldn’t tell anyone to run a marathon for two weeks in a row I wouldn’t suggest following the SMMF as set out in that article as is two weeks in a row. The key is not the workout, but the development of toughness. It’s possible to do other sessions that work the same aspect without bashing yourself into the wall that is that particular SMMF.
Workouts like 300FY, for those familiar with Gym Jones, are a good example. As is something like Tabata work on an Airdyne. Or a body weight movement plus a hold such as burpess plus either a push up or squat hold as the “rest”. A few rounds of those will have you cursing me just as much, and doubting your ability to get through it. But it doesn’t really mater what you use as long as it isn’t the same session. Because all you’re trying to do is boost GPP you need to keep the stimulus general – even the one that is not physical but mental. If all you do is the exact same SMMF you’ll get good at that, but if you then have to do something different you’ll just go through the same mental issues as you would the very first time you did SMMF. So don’t keep just your sessions general, but keep your training within them general too. Work mobility, strength, fitness, and work mental toughness.
I’ve got some wicked SMMF variations that we use for soul crushing at Read Performance Training. The kind that take you from a guy who thinks doing a few kettlebell swings is tough to signing up for Spartan Race and doesn’t even blink. Functional strength isn’t just a physical quality but a mental one too. It’s only when pushed well past your point of comfort that you can discover things about yourself and extend your boundaries. While tests like the five minute RKC snatch test are not a bad test, they are only five minutes. What happens at minute six? There’s something to be said for longer, extended mental tests – because ultimately all feats of endurance are mental. That’s why you need SMMF in training, but why you also need to make sure that the tests are both long and short to round out your toughness.