On bass playing and powerlifting

Hi all! I made a comment on Module 8 Lesson 2 (Higher and Higher by Jackie Wilson) about how my brain very clearly noped out after doing a lot at one sitting, and how there are lots of similarities between learning bass and powerlifting. Josh invited me to comment here. I’m a world champion powerlifter (powerlifting is the squat, bench press, and deadlift) as well as a coach and referee, and the similarities are uncanny. In training for both, it’s clear to me that one can (and perhaps should) only do so much at once- for powerlifting, the body can only handle so much work and exertion at a time (say, an hour’s worth of training), and that’s been the case thus far in my experience with B2B as well, as evidenced by my left pinkie finger going numb and some soreness in my right hand after doing a lot of chugging. While numbness from lifting is less common, soreness is very common. Recovery is critical too- both physically and mentally. After my pinkie went numb, I took a day off from playing and my finger got better- similar to taking a day off from lifting when you’ve had a really heavy squat session and are experiencing a lot of soreness. Josh mentioned carpal tunnel in one of his videos as a possible result of having too much bend in the right wrist- much like some of the tendinopathies that can result when someone lifts with sub-optimal technique. And, as evidenced by my brain simply shutting down yesterday on the Jackie Wilson lesson, there’s clearly a mental aspect to this- the brain can only handle so much at once, and that amount will differ between individuals. It was as if my brain just said “nope, not today- you’ve done enough.” This is absolutely the case with lifting as well- deadlifts are notorious for shredding the central nervous system, and if you do too much, your brain will tell your body to chill out by significantly decreasing your physical performance (typically evidenced by training weights feeling harder than usual or perhaps not even doable). Anyway, lots of interesting parallels. Bodies and brains are cool!


How true that is . . . :slight_smile:


I agree with everything you said.
I also think that it is true for learning anything. If you try to learn “faster” by forcing yourself and force feeding yourself information then it is not going to be as effective as when you learn as much as you can at once and then take a break. As you said also allow yourself recovery time especially after a demanding lesson/workout/practice.



PS- I tackled that lesson like a champ yesterday with a fresh brain!


Really good analogy & I can totally relate to what you describe. I continue to train & coach in two different martial arts, competitive judo & MMA plus I help train our competitors in the gym. This is 5 days a week plus I work full time. There are days when I pick up the bass because I really want to relax & feel creative & just get a different form of accomplishment but my brain and body are just either stuck on idle or they aren’t communicating anymore. Other times my body is telling me to just stop using it for a while especially with effects of all the injuries I’ve sustained over the years.


Thanks for posting @rae_kristine! I’m fascinated as a bass teacher, but also always love learning about strength training.


So glad someone else gets it! @erniehaak


I am (or was, when I was young) more of an endurance guy than a power guy – which makes sense if you ride bicycles for fun. You don’t want to destroy your tendons by solely relying on power – it’s why Eddy Merckx’s and Bernard Hinault’s careers were so short.

But I also think that brain learning switches off the brain for a different reason. I think a lot of learning is done in ‘offline’ mode. I’m fairly convinced that, once you put the bass away, your brain still continues the learning process.
I’ve found on more than one occasion that, on picking it back up the next day, playing that bass line was suddenly a lot easier than it was when you last tried it the day before.


Same for racing bikes (motorised), You only have so many coins in your hand, so you have to know how , when and where you will spend them (Keith Code not my words), an example is target fixation, you’ve set the target and close the gap spend to much too soon the body wants to continue the momentum, the brain is focused on the target and you slow to their pace, without the two in sync you will never pass. Let the body take over and you will end up on the floor.


I’ve been told this before to do some study before sleep because you retain the knowledge better. I think my body has a mercury switch built in. Torso upright awake horizontal the lights go out zzzzzzz. :smile:


As an extremely non-world champion powerlifter and an extremely non-world champion bass player, I completely concur; I hadn’t really thought about the similarities but I absolutely agree that it applies in the same kind of a way.

Obviously there are fewer fine motor skills involved in lifting, very different systems are involved but they both have that (sometimes very intense) combination of the physical and the mental whereby once you get to a certain point it becomes more of a matter of discipline to do nothing at times, to allow yourself that time to recover, build and integrate in between sessions.

You want to go on pushing and just work harder when it starts to fall apart when what you might need to do is be smarter. It’s all about getting to know yourself and how you work best. Thanks for the post @rae_kristine !


Thanks so much for the comments, all. I’m very new here (about 3 weeks) and it’s cool to be interacting with you! And it’s interesting to hear the parallels with endurance sports, and to hear about others’ experiences. @pnblogger I ABSOLUTELY agree about doing nothing requiring discipline. In strength sports, sometimes the smart lifters (or coaches) take days or even weeks off, or they do very little for a couple of weeks- this is called a deload, and it gives your body and brain a chance to recuperate- while we’re resting is when we actually get stronger (the body repairs itself after we’ve trained, not while we’re training). I can see the same being true for bass playing, although I’ll be damned if I’m going to go for more than a day without playing. I wasn’t able to play at all yesterday and I feel like my heart has been ripped from my body. I found my fingers practicing playing scales and Billie Jean with no bass!


That’s an interesting phenomenon and I have noticed it many times myself for strength workouts. Basically I’ll have a lazy week or something where I don’t hit the gym and dread going back out of anticipation of that first workout back just sucking, and then be surprised that I totally kill it.

That said, with the current situation I haven’t hit the gym in literally months, so I know it is gonna be a tough couple weeks on reopen. But it will be worth it :slight_smile:


I find the same thing too. I seem to benefit most activities by having a good bit of time off after some practise. It really seems to “bed in” those new neural pathways, whereas if I try and plow on and do too much at once, it’s like trying to drive a car on a road that hasn’t quite been finished yet :slight_smile: