I don’t believe in magic training systems.
Some workouts are better than others. There is no doubt about that. But for every lifter that is successfully using a reputable program, there are many, many more that fail.
It goes without saying that success is not dictated by the quality of workout you choose. If it was, everyone that used Starting Strength or Wendler’s 531 would see results. Life doesn’t work that way.
Ever notice that when someone isn’t seeing results, the conversation usually turns towards either:
- Changing a workout plan
- Changing the sets and reps involved with an exercise(s)
The real questions that should be asked are:
- Are you missing workouts?
- What is your progression approach?
- What are your assistance exercises?
- What does your eating plan look like?
- How much progress have you made in the last 3 months? 6 months?
- If your eating plan based on needs or a calculator?
- Are you adapting your workouts based on body feedback?
These are the Massive Iron 6 Pillars of Success. To recap, they are:
- Pillar 1 – You must remain consistent.
- Pillar 2 – You must get stronger.
- Pillar 3 – You must use the best tools.
- Pillar 4 – You must eat according to your goals.
- Pillar 5 – You must be patient.
- Pillar 6 – You must evolve your training and diet based on (your) needs.
Let’s take a look at each of these pillars, and how they help to build muscle and strength.
Pillar #1 – You Must Remain Consistent
It goes without saying that if you are missing workouts, it doesn’t matter which training system you are using. Despite this obvious reality, fellow lifters often assume that when someone isn’t seeing results that they are hitting the gym as scheduled.
If you aren’t making progress then this should be the first area you look at. If you are missing workouts then something must be done. You can’t expect consistent progress with inconsistent gym attendance.
If you are hitting the gym as scheduled, then it’s time to see if you are following the other pillars.
Pillar #2 – You Must Get Stronger
There are no weak bodybuilders. Period, end of story.
If you aren’t going to the gym dead set on progressive resistance in some form or fashion then you are simply working out. Working out doesn’t necessarily build muscle. It burns calories.
You can have an intense, sweat-soaked workout that leaves you feeling completely destroyed, and still not build muscle. Why? You’re not focused on getting stronger.
What sense does it make to believe that the body will have incentive to carry around muscle mass if it is weak? I’ve never met a 135 pound bench presser with big pecs, and I never will.
Most lifters experience poor results because they have very low strength expectations. Sure, they are a little stronger when they entered the gym, but most workouts aren’t focused on maximizing progressive overload – or the strength building process.
Pillar #3 – You Must Use The Best Tools
To perform a job efficiently you want to use the best tools.
While it is possible to build a good physique without using the best tools, or exercises, it certainly is beneficial to analyze your program as a whole to find weak spots.
I have seen plenty of lifters make progress using programs stuffed with poor exercise choices. The reason is simple: the program was also stuffed with enough quality compound movements to allow for gains.
On the other hand, if you are avoiding all the major compound movements while living on isolation lifts then gains will come slow. When you seek out the most challenging movements you will amplify your body’s response to training.
Pillar #4 – You Must Eat According To Your Goals
This pillar plays a major role in the success or failure of a lifter.
If you have unrealistic muscle building goals, and bulk to gain 75 pounds in a year, you’re going to get fat. If you fear fat so much that you don’t allow for any weight gain, then you are probably not going to gain much in the way of muscle mass.
If you’re goal is to gain 10 pounds of lean muscle mass in the coming year, there must be some form or dietary analysis and adjustment taking place. This seems like an obvious point, yet you generally find that lifters base calorie intake needs off of BMR calculators rather than what is taking place on the scale.
If a calculator tell you that you need to eat 2,500 calories per day to gain weight, but you are not gaining weight, then you need to eat more. It’s as simple as that.
Stop guessing at what you’re eating each day and start making necessary adjustments. You can’t expect precision results while playing a guessing game.
Pillar #5 – You Must Be Patient
Most of you will be tempted to skim this section. Don’t. It’s more important than you might think.
Day in and day out I listen to lifters tell me about their muscle and strength building plateaus. I usually follow these request for help with a few questions:
- How much have you added to your bench press in the last 4 months? Check your log and let me know.
- How much has your arm sized changed over the last 6 months? Check your logged measurements and let me know.
You know what happens next? If the lifter has actually taken time to log progress, which most have, they find out that they haven’t plateaued at all. The problem has to do with a lack of patience.
Gains come fast and furious as a beginner. After that point they slow. This is normal and doesn’t mean you are doing anything wrong.
Be patient. If progress is coming – and it most likely is – stay the course. Trust the process.
Pillar #6 – Evolve Your Training And Diet Based On Needs
I touched upon this point briefly when talking about diet. When your eating plan isn’t working as designed, you need to make small but calculated steps to get it back on track.
The same goes for training. Remember, there are no magic cookie cutter systems.
If you feel beat up doing Stronglifts and squatting 3x a week, but feel 10x better squatting only 2x a week – and are making progress – then by all means squat only 2x a week. If progress is coming, that is more important than sticking to a program as written.
If 3 sets of dumbbell rows are killing your elbows, try 2 instead. If that works, stick with it. If not, try a different row variation.
When something is broken, make small adjustments and monitor these small tweaks. Be scientific.
Don’t be one of the program jumpers who, when they find that a program isn’t working perfectly as written, takes a deload week and jumps to a vastly different program the following week.
Successful lifters adapt programs to their specific needs. You must be able to do this yourself.
We will explore these pillars in greater detail in future articles. If you have questions about any of the points made in this article, please leave them below.