Thursday, October 2, 2014

The things that are going to hold you back in training

Information overload - The internet can be a wonderful thing.  We have all of the information in the world readily available to us at our finger tips.

The problem is, how do you decipher what information to retain, and what information to let go of?

I can't give an absolute solution to this problem because it takes a certain amount of experience to know when someone is telling you it's raining yet they are pissing down your back.

This is a big reason why so many experienced guys often preach the "basics" so much.  My pet peeve is that I've read many times from inexperienced guys on the net "yeah there's nothing new here."

Is that what you want?  Something new?  Do you really believe there is some magical book out there that has been kept from you that details all the REAL secrets of training, diet, and supplementation?

I've read where guys were put off by "another article that just says "squat, press, pull, eat a lot blah blah blah."  Nothing new here."

You're right.  It's not new.  But it is what works, and so far it's been the best thing we've known about the barbell since it was invented.  So why are you in search for something more complicated when the answer is right in front of you?

Training?  Lift three to four times a week.  Base your training around the big lifts.  Squat, press, deadlift, row, chin, dip, do some arm work.  Sets of 3-5 work really well for strength development.  Sets of 10+ seem to be more efficient for hypertrophy.

Diet?  Get 1 gram of protein per pound of bodyweight.  After that, manipulate your carbs and fat up or down depending on if you need to gain muscle, or lose fat.

If you want to lose fat, bodyweight x 10 for total calories a day is a decent baseline to start at.  So if you're 250 pounds, then 2500 calories a day is about where you need to be.  This is a fairly aggressive model, but so what?  If that scares you, start at bodyweight x 12 for total calories per day.

If you want to gain mass, it's about 18-20 x bodyweight.  So if you're 200 pounds, then it's about 3,600 to 4,000 calories a day.  Yes, it's a rough guideline and someone will want to debate all the "in betweens" and that's part of the fucking problem.

Debating every little nuance of training and nutrition does nothing but cause paralysis by analysis.

Supplementation?  Stop spending so much money at GNC and spend that money on food.  Get a quality protein powder, a quality vitamin/mineral to cover your bases, some creatine, and that's about it.  

Conflicting goals - This applies to probably more than 90% of the recreational lifters I talk to.  They want to keep their abs, but also want to get as big as possible.  They want to run a 5K, look like Phil Heath, dunk like Michael Jordan, bike like Lance Armstrong, bench a thousand pounds, swim underwater for 15 minutes with a single breath, climb buildings like Spiderman, fly, survive in outerspace without a suit, flame surf on the sun, control tornadoes with mind power, and understand women.....all at the same time.

The best way to see a goal come to fruition is to decide on a singular goal, and put all of your energy into attaining that singular goal.  Period.

If you want to gain mass?  Focus on that.  Not "I want to gain mass....and put 30 pounds on my bench...and increase my vertical.....and...."

This applies across the board.  Pick a goal.  Smash it.  Rinse and repeat.

Inability to embrace discomfort - When I was 280+ pounds I can tell you that life was not a good time.  Oh it was a good time when I was eating what I wanted.  But tying shoes was not a good time.  Walking across a parking lot was not a good time.  Now I'm sitting at 265 leaner than I was last year at 265.

It sucked to feel like that.  It was something I said several times I would never do again (gain that kind of weight).  However after reassessing my goals, I knew I needed to be bigger if I wanted to see some strength goals get accomplished.

I had to embrace something I wasn't really comfortable doing in order to get to where I needed to be.
And THAT is what lifting and life is going to be about sometimes.  I could machine gun off a million cliche's about that right now but I will spare you.  The point is, nothing that is worth attaining will come easy.  If it does, good for you.  However 99.99% of the time getting to a place you desire to be will mean spending a lot of time embracing discomfort.

If you're not willing to do that, then it's likely you won't ever see the things you desire come to pass.  Ask any bodybuilder how much it sucks to diet for 12+ weeks to get into stage condition.  Ask a football player who is trying to make an NFL roster how fucking hard he has to work in order to leave enough of an impression on the coaches to make that happen.

Great things generally just don't fall on our doorstep via UPS.  If you want to find your own personal greatness, then get comfortable with being uncomfortable.  The amount of discomfort you are willing to submit yourself to is generally in parallel with the amount of greatness you're trying to attain.

Success - That's right.  Success.  Success can often be the biggest roadblock in attaining more success.  Because success is often the thing that causes so many people to rest on their laurels.

Anytime I've done a seminar I will always ask "who here has accomplished a significant goal in the last year?"  I will follow that question up with "and who here hasn't accomplished a new significant goal since that goal was attained?"

Every single time there are people who, once they hit that big goal they had been striving for, never pushed forwards past that point.  They cling to their success and proudly boast of it like the trophy they got from the pinewood derby race they won back in 88.

Attaining goals is awesome.  Sitting on top of them is not.

When people get motivated to accomplish a task and see it through, some of them have trouble refocusing on that next step.  That next step being another 5 pounds on the bar, or 5 less pounds showing up on the scale.

This behavior can be seen in people who will tell you "I've lost 50 pounds in the last two years" but still clearly have a ways to go in terms of fat loss.  Or the guy that proudly boasts of finally squatting 405, but hasn't squatted it since then, and isn't capable of doing so now.

Being proud of your accomplishments is a great thing.  Just don't let that pride get in the way of getting even better.  Write down goals in stages.  Literally.  So once something is accomplished put a slash mark through it, and write the following goal next to it.

And just an FYI, don't tell anyone your goals.  It's been proven that talking about your goals tends to make you realize them less.  Keep them to yourself as much as possible.  After you've accomplished it, then brag like a son of a bitch.  Then start your march towards the next one.

Confidence - Actually this should be "lack of confidence".  Confidence is such a driving force in our lives that it is often the biggest factor in success or failure.  When we are confident about something we literally stand differently.  Our posture is taller.  Our chin is up.  Our demeanor is completely reflective of the fact that we feel assured, strong, and vibrant.

When confidence is lacking it is apparent as well.  Our chest is sunken and our head is down.  Our eyes and demeanor tell the story of uncertainty.

Often times we are fully capable of something either physically or mentally, but can't see it through because of self doubt.  Grabbing momentum can be difficult at times.  Especially when we have had a string of poor execution or performance.  Those times will make us question ourselves and our methods.  It can cause one to overhaul everything they have been doing with the hopes that change will bring forth more success.

Sometimes that is what is needed.  And other times, it was simply a matter of our own disbelief.

Enduring to persevere through the lulls in training is an absolute requirement if you want to find success, find confidence, and develop the ability to weather setbacks, lows, and misfortunes.

If you train long enough you'll hit a plateau.  If you train long enough you will get injured.  If you train long enough you're going to have a string of training sessions where everything sucks, and seemingly nothing goes your way.

Finding confidence again during those times can feel like a monumental task.  After all, when life is raining shit on you it's hard to smile about the sunshine.

Remember that the lows in training are teaching you an awful lot.  Also keep in mind that in training, just like in life, that the present is never permanent.  The only constant is change.  If you keep plugging away progress will eventually be forthcoming again, and you will find momentum again.

You also need to remind yourself that confidence, like self esteem, is really a state of mind.  It is up to you to make a choice to decide how you feel.  I think sometimes it's hard for people to get their head around the fact that they can empower themselves that much.  If you don't feel confident, it is likely because you are dwelling on the wrong things, and for the most part just need to change your state of mind.

For example, a bad training session is really no big deal.  You get a chance to make up for it later.

A week, or even a few weeks of bad training isn't a big deal either.  You might just need a break for a while, then you can reload and have another run at things.

If you haven't made any progress in months and months, then perhaps some reflection on your training, eating, sleeping, and life stress levels need to be evaluated.

Remember that you're not alone in your stagnation.  Everyone has been there.  And everyone that hung tough in the fight eventually found their way through it.  So either you're going to see this through, and you WILL get better....or you'll quit, and become another guy that "used to bench 700."

State of mind.  Your choice.

Inconsistency - There's nothing worse than reading or hearing from someone that they did a program for a few weeks but "didn't make many gains off it."

Any program that you intend to follow deserves a fair shake.  That means, in my opinion, at least 6 weeks of really pouring your energy into it.  If you can't stay on a program for 6 weeks and follow it to the letter then the issue isn't with the program.  It's with your inability to be disciplined about follow through.

You cannot comment on the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of a training program if you don't stick with it long enough to allow the process to unfold.  Hypertrophy doesn't happen overnight.  Strength peaking doesn't happen in 3 days.  If you are program hopping for 6 months trying to find that "perfect routine" then that's 6 months that went by that you could have made progress just being consistent with one program.  That's time lost that you can never get back, and progress that was delayed from your training ADD.

To add to this, if you do decide to run a program, RUN IT AS WRITTEN THE FIRST TIME.  It's maddening to have someone tell me "I ran this program....but I changed this and did this other thing with it instead.  And oh yeah I changed out this part for this other thing too."

What's so hard about running a program in the manner it's presented to you?  Is that really so hard?

Find something - stick to it for an extended period - don't change anything about the original version.

Listening to the wrong people - If you've been training for a few years, then the guy offering you advice that has been training for a few years sounds a whole lot like the "blind leading the blind" to me.

The circle jerk of weak and small guys I see going on on the net now is fascinating to me.  They constantly criticize people who are strong, who are big, who have knowledge, and then proceed to break their recommendations down all the while being able to bench 225 and squat 315.  The guy next to them affirms their criticisms, and then offers up his advice on how he got his bench to 245, and his squat to 335.

It's like the Jiu Jitsu white belt sitting around with his fellow sparring partners watching UFC going on and on about what dog shit fighters those guys are.  Then commenting on how they would have reversed this, and choked a bitch out in no time flat.

Just stop.

I've read where guys have scorned, mocked, and belittled guys whose sandwich they can't carry, all the while giving bro fist bumps to some guy that benched 185 for 5 hard reps.  It's astonishing.

Now let me say that just because a guy is insanely strong doesn't mean he's knowledgeable either.  I have talked to a lot of very big and strong guys that really do not know a lot about training.  Ronnie Coleman, in his prime, could walk past the barbells in Dick's sporting goods and gain a kilo of lean mass.  If you're a guy that has to fight and claw his way to gaining a pound of lean mass every six months, he may not have a lot to offer you in the way of advice.

Thus, my point here still stands.  You'd still be listening to the wrong people.

Understanding a guys experience, his education, his accomplishments, and his degree of knowledge isn't that hard to find out in this day and age.  There are plenty of guys who talk the talk AND walk the walk now.  Do your research and find out who is an expert in their field.  Find out who they have worked with and who they have trained.  Do they have a track record of making people better, and being sought out as "knowing their shit"?  

It doesn't matter if you don't agree with everything they write, or espouse.  The whole body of work is what's important.

Over time you'll learn what to apply and what to discard.  Until that time it's probably best not to run around discrediting people who have a million times more knowledge an experience than you are currently in possession of.

Life - As the saying goes, "life gets in the way sometimes."  There will be times when training just has to go on the back burner because at the end of the day, it's a hobby for most people.  Now when I write "backburner", my definition of that is probably different than some others.  I would never flat out "quit" training.  Just that training or the goals associated with training aren't as big of a priority anymore.

Training can be a very valuable tool in terms of stress relief and escape when life does get "in the way".  Even in the most difficult of circumstances I can't see a reason why one couldn't find a way to train twice a week.  I also completely believe that dumping training all together would be a very poor choice even in the most stressful of times.  Training releases endorphins.  Now you're going to drop something that actually makes you feel good in a time when you are stressed and feel like shit?

Doesn't seem like a great idea.

If you're physically unable to train for a while, then that is a different story.  But dropping training because life is stressful doesn't make a whole lot of sense to me.  Find escape in training during that time.  You don't have to load up the bar and go for back breaking PR's.  Use that time to make training fun.  Get a pump.  Train arms all week.  Do whatever gives you that break from the things that are detracting from your personal happiness.

If you make training a part of your "life" that can be a good thing.  Just use it properly and at the proper times.  I wrote about balance a while back and the thing to remember is, balance is something that is achieved over a length of time.  At times, training can be a priority.  And at other times, it might not be.  Balance means understanding when something should and shouldn't be prioritized to make your life fulfilling.  If life sucks, it's very possible you're prioritizing the wrong things.

Follow LRB on Facebook -
Get Base Building on Amazon -


1 comment:

  1. "Or that guy that proudly boasts of finally squatting 405, but hasn't squatted it since then, and isn't capable of doing so now."

    I'm not sure truer words could be spoken. Never having any natural proclivity to lifting, I ran Smolov last year and took my squat from an ugly 365lbs. belted, good-morning to a clean un-belted 385lbs. (during the base phase). Not having any further success with the switching and/or intense phase, I was determined to finally squat 405lbs. and decided to run the base phase again a week after having completed the initial cycle.

    The second cycle netted an additional 10lbs P.R. (385lbs > 395lbs) and led me to run it one more time after an additional week off.

    It was this third cycle of Smolov that finally netted the coveted 405lbs. squat I was searching for.

    So where am I now, though? The answer to that question is what has me seeking advice. I've been running a Bulgarian-inspired approach and, after having run it for the better part of the last six months, have not moved.

    My question than is where do I go from here? How do I get back to a more sustainable program (preferably something like Base Building) that will get me out of this rut, get my lifts moving again, and allow me to continue to make progress? Respecting your knowledge, Paul, is this a subject that would lead you to recommend my hiring you for coaching? Perhaps additional reading you might recommend that would lead me in the right direction?

    Thanks as always, Paul,