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As some of you may know I didn’t start training here in our beloved USA. My journey began in a more third world type country. One distinction between gyms here and over there is that there were absolutely no chains or large commercial gyms, every single gym with few exceptions was founded by either a famed bodybuilder or had one managing it. Gyms were basements of dumbbells, barbells and racks, not a woman in sight and shirts were discouraged. Yeah sounds pretty homoerotic so far, but the point I’m driving at is that everyone and I do mean everyone, without exception followed the same routine:
I never knew anyone who deviated from this program but I saw drastically different results so obviously a routine by itself doesn’t tell us much on how effective training is. I want to go a bit beyond that and try to get at what DOES make a program work.
A friend of mine recently told me “there are no shortcuts”. It’s such a cliché thing to say but it struck me differently. I thought how all of us are trying to get results while trying our damn hardest to avoid the obvious. Want to lose weight? Take a thermogenic! Want to gain some size? Take your weightgainer. People justifying binge eating by ‘being on a bulk’. You know what a good workout looks like, you know how to lose weight and how to get stronger and bigger but hell that shit is hard, instead you want to mix your creatin-bcaa-gummiworm-betaalanine blend and hope that shit works.
Everyone starts their training with their favorite exercise, usually that’s bench. They go in, do a single warm-up set, then hit their 3 ‘heavy’ sets, wondering why they felt so weak and why their shoulder hurts so fucking much. I know it’s annoying, I know it takes a bit of time, I know you are afraid it will soak up your energy but your muscles won’t work if they aren’t getting a decent blood flow and your CNS won’t work if you don’t wake it the fuck up with a proper warm up. Do some steady state cardio on a bike or whatever for 5-10 minutes, get your heart rate up a bit, do some bodyweight squats if you want then start loading up the weight. Make sure to get ‘heavy’ warm-ups versus just going in with the bar then immediately loading up to 85% 1RM. A proper warm-up prepares the muscles and joints but doesn’t take a toll on your energy or strength. Make sure you do not do any kind of static stretching as that will weaken your muscles, instead you can do dynamic stretches.
This varies based on many factors but sweat is evidence that your muscles are working hard and your body needs to cool down. Breaking a sweat in an intense workout is a sure sign that you are working hard. If you aren’t, vary your workout up a bit, lower rest on some sets and do more volume, while other sets increase rest and do more weight. Not sweating also means you do far too many isolation movements which recruit a tiny amount of muscle. Add in some compound exercises to ensure a proper session. Now I’m not talking about ‘feel the burn’ or some shit but just pushing 5 x 5 on bench with some heavy weights should make you at least break a sweat.
You lift heavy? Add in some volume. Doing volume? Lift heavier. Isolation add Compound and vice versa. Easiest way to fix your program is to do something you aren’t doing at the moment. But my program is the best! Well then you shouldn’t be reading this article. CNS fatigue can happen when you aren’t varying up your training or when you aren’t resting enough among other reasons. While at the same time sometimes you may not see results because you aren’t training enough or hard enough. Now you CAN figure out what you’re doing wrong but in the mean time do something different and it’s guaranteed to improve SOMETHING.
Trying to gain weight? Use a tape measure. Trying to lose weight? Use a tape measure. You see, folks, all too often we step one morning on the scale, the thing hasn’t budged, and we feel tears streaming down our cheeks all day. Hell, all week, even. Now why do we hinge all that on the scale? I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: don’t believe that lying, cheatin scale. Use the tape measure. Why? Because bodyweight is composed of many parts from water, to the food you are digesting, to muscles and fat. So a 10lb loss isn’t really significant if it just means you have no food in you and lost some water weight. Couple of lbs of fat make a big difference in how you look, measure your waist/stomach/thighs/chest/arms.
When measuring for muscle growth make sure you are being consistent. Use references where you measure whether it’s the peak of the bicep or the quad at its thickest point. Take into account how you are flexing which is how all muscles should be measured. Don’t just measure once a month instead, measure weekly and look for the trend. Remember muscle size can be dependent on how hydrated the muscle is, how much glycogen it has, and how much blood is going through it. After training the muscle will be pumped and bigger so take that into account.
Remember when you first started training and you envisioned next week you will start getting Dorian’s back, Ronnie’s arms and Dexter’s waist only to be disappointed that you just looked almost the same. Obviously you’ve calmed down since, you lowered your expectation but weight training really can be likened to a marathon, it takes a long. Fucking. Time. On the other hand it takes less than what you think, let me run you some math here. Lets say you are now 195lbs @ 5’11 14% bodyfat. Pretty much average in all respects, now you trained for a couple of years lets imagine you really put things into overdrive and on average started gaining 1lbs of muscle a week. Within a year if you didn’t lose or gain fat, you would weigh 243 @ 5’11 and 11% bodyfat, now that’s MASSIVE. Obviously you aren’t going to consistently gain a pound of muscle each week but if you are trying your hardest day to day, week to week, even though you aren’t turning into a monster overnight, you will turn into one in months.
Same goes for dieting, put together a goal weight you want to reach, see how much weight you need to lose each week -realistically 2 or 3 lbs MAX- and start working towards it. The longer you give yourself time to reach that goal the better you look when you get there. This means don’t do a crash diet, since that most likely will crash your muscles in the process and get you nowhere. Plan a reasonable training regime so that by the time Sue gets married in three months, you look swole, not like a ragged over-trained stagnating lump of blubber on an endless rebound.
HTFU isn’t about acquiring an IQ of a pre-historic troglodyte and going in trying to test what is stronger, your tendons or the ever increasing weight on the barbell. It’s about reaching your potential and training within your limits. It’s about slowly pushing yourself and improving more and more everyday so that one day you do become a human forklift with a shredded 8 pack.
In the end you change your habits and get a chance to test yourself. Does the new change bring about good results? Do you need to re-consider your methods? Sometimes we get too attached to our routines and refuse to re-think them, even if we’ve been stagnant for the last 8 months. So take a break and put a twist on your training. Get swolin!