If you’re an internet aficionado like myself, you might remember this video which got spread around a while back. At the time, people generally reacted with stunned incredulity. After all, it seems like such a silly program. At the very best, it could be considered a mild aerobics program with little to no additional benefit, right? But what if I told you that prancercising might be the key to acquiring maximum gains? It would probably blow your mind, I bet.
This is my friend Jessi. She’s pretty cool. She was also named one of the top 30 under 30 in the fitness industry, so you know that she’s pretty important. This is a video of her preparing to lift a heavy weight by doing a dance routine. That could be considered somewhat similar to prancercise, right?
This is internet fitness personality Elliot Hulse. He likes to advocate the use of a system he calls bioenergetics, which largely consists of… well, looking like he’s about to have a seizure. He promotes it as a dynamic warmup system to use before working out. That’s pretty ridiculous too, right?
Here on my blog I’m pretty critical of stretching, chiropractic, massage, and lots of other stuff. Most of these so-called recovery methods have been, when properly accounted for placebo (which, if you think about it, is pretty damn difficult. Who thinks up a convincing placebo for massage? I mean really), revealed to be only barely superior. If a massage is barely better than placebo, what am I shelling out $100/hour for? Yet the fact is that people do continue to shell out that sort of money, and regularly, for treatments of questionable value, and this is largely because they believe in their efficacy - the placebo effect persists.
Psychological factors are often more important than physical ones when it comes to exercise adherence. After all, just because it’s been three days since you’ve done a chest workout and your muscles have fully recovered doesn’t mean that you’re instantly going to want to go back to the gym. Oftentimes other life issues take precedence, and we decide we’d rather cheat on our diet or exercise program. No one ever adheres to a program 100% - and this is okay! - but the goal should always be to improve. That can’t happen if we don’t want to, and so there should be a great care placed into our psychological states, which can mean doing all sorts of goofy things in order to make our diet/exercise/recovery interesting, fun, or otherwise desirable.
This means that individual recovery methods can be highly varied and objective - what relaxes me or pumps me up for a workout could be vastly different from what everyone else enjoys. Introverts will probably find it easier to work out if there’s only a few people in their gym and they can go home and have alone time afterwards. Extroverts might need social interaction in order to maximize their recovery. Some of us might want massage, chiropractic, contrast baths, foam rolling, or one of any of the numerous so-called recovery methods on the market. Many of these, when scientifically measured, have no direct value. They don’t directly improve physical recovery time in any meaningful way. But at the same time, individual preference can mean that people can take meaningful psychological recovery or preparation from virtually anything. Of course there's also people who get swole and strong without doing anything to recover at all - they just don't need it to maintain their resolve. And that's fine too, because everyone has their own style of doing things.
In the end, maximal performance arises from more than just physical factors. This is the reason why world class athletes can still fail to perform at a competition time - put them under a lot of pressure on a performance stage, and if they aren’t psychologically prepared, even if they’re 100% physically prepared, they ain’t gonna perform at their best. Thus, if we were to take away Jessi’s dance routine or Elliot’s… whatever that is, chances are that their performance would suffer even though they would remain exactly the same in terms of physical readiness.
In Verkhoshansky’s Supertraining, which is considered the bible of the modern strength coach, Verkhoshansky relates an anecdote about a colleague who was a physical therapist. This therapist believed that the athlete wasn’t fully recovered (despite the physical injury being completely healed) until s/he believed that the injury was fully recovered. For this reason, he put his athletes with lower body injuries through a simple test: he would have them stand on a chair and then tell them to jump down and land with both feet. If they hesitated even for a second, he would know that they weren’t ready to go back to their full workload.
Personally, I enjoy making good use of foam rolling and yoga as recovery methods, and I absolutely hate massage and chiropractic! But that doesn’t mean that they can’t work for you, and that doesn’t mean that you can’t also make your own methods of recovery. Typically, so long as the activity involves some form of light movement and isn’t so intense that it interferes with your main workout, it will serve as a form of useful active recovery. That means that if you want to prancercise your way to maximum gains - well, you’d damn well better do it!
I think Verkhoshansky says it best:
“Certainly, many of these techniques may work because they are placebos, and because the user believes in them. Yet, this is a very good reason not to dismiss them. If the mind can be focused by an apparently illogical or foolish concept to perform unusual feats of performance or healing, the it is vital that we uncover the underlying physiological principles which make the placebo effect so powerful. Placebos can produce positive and negative effects; it is up to science to sift the useful from the harmful… The therapeutic world is replete with claims and counter-claims about the efficacy of specific remedies, largely because physical and mental healing are inextricably linked. Often, one cannot separate the therapy from the therapist, since the therapy often succeeds because of the rapport between therapist and client.” (Verkhoshansky, 444-445)
Alright, now dust off your shoes and get prancercising. It’ll make you super swole, promise. Now here's a video of a woman attacking the barbell like a cat before deadlifting.