Bearded Beast of Duloc
Base your training program on getting stronger
Let’s take a look at your training journal again. Was there any time throughout the last year that you got “goofy” and tried a “bomb and blitz”, “train for the pump” type of program? Or was it a program based on “positions of flexion?” Maybe you thought you could shock your muscles into new growth by using “instinctive” training where you change your exercises every workout depending on how you feel. You need to drop all this nonsense and make a commitment not to get “sucked into” trying anything that is not based on making you stronger. In order to gain as much muscle tissue as your body will allow you simply need to get progressively stronger. Getting bigger, has nothing to do with “the pump”, “positions of flexion”, or “shocking” the muscles. It has nothing to do with anything outside of simply getting stronger – period!
Get Your Out-of-the-Gym Factors in Order
Your training program simply sets the stage for changes in strength and size to take place. Another way to say this is that you don’t get stronger and bigger in the gym. The changes in your body take place when you’re not in the gym; they take place between workouts! If you want to reap all the benefits from every training session then you must commit to performing all out-of-the-gym responsibilities consistently. When you get these in order, you’ll be shocked at the positive effect they have on your results.
□ Eat right
This is the area where most trainees really drop the ball. It never ceases to amaze me how little a trainee who wants to get “as big as possible” eats. They think the training will do it all by itself and this couldn’t be further from the truth. So, I’m going to mention again – and I truly hope that you’re getting sick of hearing it from me – that you must know what is going on in your diet. And then take action; make the changes that are necessary to get results. Do you really know how many calories you get everyday? Or, are you just guessing. What about protein? Is it where it should be? Or, are you guessing again? These things matter – they matter a lot. If you really want to get big then work on getting up to 5000 calories per day – everyday. Then, I assure you that you will start getting big and strong (as long as your training stimulates gains). Take a few days and write down everything you eat and the time you eat. Then, get a calorie and macronutrient counter and figure out what is really going on. Read How to Eat to Get Big (from my book REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE) to get more detail. Once you determine your current caloric level make the effort to slowly increase it (if your goal is to gain maximum muscle mass)! You should gain a minimum of two pounds per month. When a trainee really wants to gain, he’ll put on one pound per week with no problem. Let me digress for a moment and address “really wants to gain”.
Recently I was consulting with a high school football player who has a desire (and the needed football talent) to play at the University of Michigan. If you are not aware, they are one of the top teams in the country every year. Under my tutelage this trainee has gone from 180 pounds as a high school freshman to his current 245 pounds as he just completed his junior year of football. As we discussed the need to further increase his strength and bodyweight to 270 pounds for his senior season, his father (who was in on the consult) made the comment “at the table he’s just too tired of eating, to eat anymore” – with the son agreeing to the comment. Well, to say the least this irritated me a little. My simple response was “so what – you either want it or you don’t”. “Don’t sit here and waste my time with the lofty goal of playing at Michigan if you don’t really want to do what is necessary to get there”. I could tell this young man got the point; he quit making excuses and started eating as he should.
My point is that if you really want to make this a great training year and really change your body you’ll do what is necessary -- if you won’t then you really don’t want it in the first place – so quit fooling yourself. It’s really beyond the scope of this article to go into great detail about proper nutrition to gain weight so I’ll hit the high points. When you find out that you are not eating enough – don’t try and cram down five or six 1000 calorie “feeds” immediately. All this will do is make you sick and all the calories will go down the toilet one way or another. To increase your caloric intake, first of all make sure that you are “feeding” every three hours. Just get in all your meals. Once you have mastered this then start increasing the size of each “feed”. Make sure that you are consuming good quality protein at every meal. Prepare, prepare, prepare. In order to make this work you must have the proper food available, so make sure you have it, and then prepare it, in advance. Again, for more detail read my article How to Eat to Get Big.
□ Do aerobic work!
I can’t make that sound any more demanding using the written word. Take a look at your training journal. Were you consistent in this area? Why not? Are you just plain lazy or don’t you believe in its benefits? I’m going to cut right to the bottom line on this one. If you truly want to get as big and strong as possible you must recover from your strength training from workout to workout. Aerobics help make this possible. They also aid with inter-set recovery; when you’re resting between sets, so that you’ll recover more completely before you hit the next set allowing you to lift more weight, or to make your target rep goal more easily. Aerobic work combined with some basic stretching is one of the best ways to prevent injury, which in turn will allow you to train consistently. Consistency in training is one of the most essential ingredients to reaching your strength and size potential. Aerobics will aid you in controlling bodyfat gain while on a high calorie eating program and will keep your heart and lungs in good shape which is critical for overall health. Aerobics will help you lose bodyfat if your goal is to reduce your bodyweight. No more excuses. Do your aerobic work this year and reap the benefits!
□ Commit to a stretching program
Did you do this? Did you do it with some effort or was it some heartless pantomime? Do you realize that some of those little aches and pains (and possibly the ones that aren’t so little anymore) would go away? Yes – they would go away. Stretching is simple and doesn’t require a lot of time. You don’t need to be spending more than eight to ten minutes before and after your workouts (both weight training and aerobic) to reap its tremendous benefits. Follow the basic stretching program in Complete Conditioning Part II (from my book REAL STRENGTH REAL MUSCLE). Take your stretching seriously. If you are just 'shooting the bull' during this time then you are wasting time. You need to concentrate on the muscles that you are trying to stretch, and this will really help you to focus on the muscles that you are trying to work when you get to the lifting. If you haven’t been doing this, or haven’t been doing it properly, write it down and make it a priority.
□ Keep your motivation for training at a peak
You’ve got to have a definitive picture of what you want to accomplish this year. These goals must be clear, realistic, and most importantly they must be in front of your face (and hence your mind) as much as possible. If you skip this part of the checklist your achievements at the end of the year will be sub-par. You’ve probably heard of the road map analogy; you need a distinct destination and then you can choose the proper map and course to get you there. I can take this further by adding that you need to keep the destination in mind at all times, and have faith that you can get there. You need to utilize various “tools” that will not only remind you of what you’re trying to accomplish, but that will give you faith that it can be done. Yet, most trainees don’t do this, and that is one reason they end up off-course, and end up wasting time.
Decide what you want to accomplish right now, and here comes the most important part – write it down. When you write something down it becomes more “real” – you can see it – it materializes.
Make your goals precise; to simply write down that you want to get bigger and stronger doesn’t give you a specific destination. That’s like saying you want to get to the mid-west, when you really want to get to Indianapolis. If you currently weigh 150 pounds then write down “I will weigh 180 pounds”. Then get specific and write down actual girth goals of each muscle group if one of your goals is to increase specific muscle size. Write down “Legs – 25 inches”, “Arms – 16 inches” etc. Write down what you should be able to realistically achieve. Write down your strength goals in all the exercises that you’ll be performing. Make a list. “Squat 350 lbs for 5 reps; Bench 250lbs for one rep”. Do this for all exercises – not just the “big ones”. You need to paint a specific picture of what it is that you are working towards. Don’t look at this as some kind of chore. It should be fun. Dream a little -- just keep the dream realistic. If you really want to make this effective then write down your goals out to three years and five years.
To keep you on track of making these goals come true there are specific actions that you’ll need to take. Identify the areas that you need work on. You need to be honest with yourself – and if you keep a detailed training journal – it will show you where you need work. Go back through the checklist that I have presented in this article and then create your own checklist of specific actions that you need to take, and write it on note cards. You will make multiple copies of the “checklist” and put them up everywhere. Where is everywhere? You need a copy right beside your bed so that you can see it first thing in the morning and before you retire at night. You need a copy placed on your mirror in the bathroom so you can see it when you are brushing your teeth or shaving. You need one in your car. And you should have one at work. If you train in your own home gym make sure a copy is up there. This will keep you on track. I know you’re thinking that you don’t need to write anything down, that you’ll remember them anyway. If “remembering” what you need to do has done such a great job then how come you haven’t done your aerobic work consistently, how come you’ve jumped around from program to program, how come your diet stinks, and most of all how come you aren’t much different this year than last?
Here’s how to put together your “action list”. First, at the top of a card, write down your specific goals – your action list will follow. Let’s say that during last year you did a poor job on getting an ample supply of protein everyday. You would do a good job during the week and then the weekend would hit, and your diet would get lousy. It would take you till Tuesday or Wednesday to get it right again. This just won’t do – and you know it! So write down on your action list: Eat protein everyday! Remember you will not come through on this unless it is in front of your face everyday – throughout the day. That’s why you need to put your action list up in places that you’ll see throughout the day. Here’s another example.
Let’s say that last year you had a good streak of four months in which your training was progressing steadily. You added 20 pounds to your five rep set of benches training it once a week (shoulder pressing the other workout). “Good progress” you thought but just too slow. Then you read an article by a drug-using bench champion about a program that guaranteed a 50 pound gain on your bench in the next three months. So you went off and started following the guaranteed “big bench” program. It had you training you bench three times a week with many auxiliary exercises. To make a long story short you lasted about four weeks on the program till the tendonitis in your shoulder and elbows made you stop the program. It took you another four weeks of no upper body work and plenty of icing till you could start benching again. Three months later your bench was back up to where it was before you started the “druggies” program. In essence you wasted five months of training and came to realize that you weren’t just making “good progress” before but were making “great progress.” You also kick yourself in the butt knowing that in those five months your bench would have been up another 20 pounds. So, you get pissed off at yourself and swear that you’ll never do that again. Well, to make sure that you don’t do it again – write it down! Write: Don’t do stupid programs that sound too good to be true.
Here’s another example. Last year you did a good job packing on the weight. You gained 30 pounds but felt that too much was fat; you gained four inches at your waist. You also get “winded” walking the flight of stairs to your office. You know you didn’t put in the aerobic work that you should have. You’d do well for a week or two then would “blow it off again” for a couple of weeks. I can assure you that if you gained four inches on your waist with very inconsistent aerobic work you would have cut that to an inch or two with consistent aerobic training, and you sure as heck wouldn’t get “winded” climbing a set of stairs! Okay, write it down: Do your aerobic work Whale-boy! Notice how I worded that. Don’t just write down: Do aerobic work – it has no “punch” to it. Be outrageous. Make sure your goal sinks in. When you have had five or six months of great training, update the goals. You may simply want to add Training great – keep at it! Or maybe you’re still not eating consistently enough so add: Prepare more food “stick man”!
These examples give you an idea of how to set specific goals and to help you to hold yourself accountable. Once again, you must write it down. Do it!
I’ve covered a lot of material in this article. Outside of the specifics that I’ve covered, there are four main areas that I want you to work on.
1. Determine specifically what you are going to achieve.
2. Stay focused on this goal.
3. Find the areas in your training as well as your conditioning and recovery processes that need work.
4. Find ways to hold yourself accountable.
When you accomplish these things, I’m confident your training this year will be the best it’s ever been. Train hard and train smart. Good luck.
Destroy That Which Destroys You
"Let bravery be thy choice, but not bravado."