Did you have a favourite number growing up as a kid?
Mine was 11.
I can still remember my first encounter with the number 11. When I was 6 years old my dad bought me a Gilbert Perrault jersey. Gilbert was an NHL hockey player who wore the number 11 on the back of his jersey for most of his career. From that day forward he became my hockey idol and the number 11 served as my number for many sporting teams I played on.
But the real symbolism of the number 11 for me wasn’t evident until I began weight training.
One summer at the age of 18 my good friend Denis and I decided we needed to start weight training to get in better physical shape for sports. Well that was partially true. I think trying look good and impress the girls was the real reason. But nonetheless we started on this crazy training program of intense workouts 7 days a week. They were so intense that I can still recall the insane lower leg calf exercises we did and not being able to touch my heals on the ground. I had to walk around on my tip toes for days after. Thankfully we trained a different body part every day.
But what was truly unique about this weight training program is that you had to take every set to failure – which basically meant we had to do as many repetitions of a certain exercise as possible until our body couldn’t do anymore. As painful as these workouts were the results were incredible and we ended the summer in the best shape of our lives – just in time for hockey season.
So how does this relate to the power of 11?
Well as I continued my weight training I realized that most routines I followed from weight training books and magazines used 10 as the golden number of repetitions to do for most exercises. What I discovered however is that my mind would say stop when I got to 10 whether I was tired or not. I became complacent and 10 became ‘good enough’.
I’m not trying to say that doing sets of 10 repetitions of various weight training exercises doesn’t help you get into shape. I’m merely suggesting that the number 10 has a lot of psychological implications to it – namely being a comfort number. The study of numerology, depending on which source you use, suggests that the number 10 carries psychological significance that indicates the end of an important cycle. What this does however, like all paradigms, is limit the potential for change and growth.
I remember reading this quote from Arnold Schwarzenegger one of the greatest achievers of our time ,
“The last three or four reps is what makes the muscle grow. This area of pain divides the champion from someone else who is not a champion. That’s what most people lack, having the guts to go on and just say they’ll go through the pain no matter what happens.”
I’ve found that not only in weight training but in everything you do in life, pushing yourself to do that one extra thing is what determines whether your successful or not. It shows that you’re willing to sacrifice short term pain for the long term gain and do what others won’t. It as Arnold says, “divides a champion from someone else who is not a champion.”
It’s ok to plan for 10. But always use the power of 11 and do 1 more.