It’s 3 o’clock. Work is boring and Gerald is giving you shit because your emails are late. The coffee machine is broken and you’ve got Squats on the mind. You’re a beast that has been chained up by the societal structures that lock you down and enslave you. You’re a snowflake. Special. Unique. You challenge the norm. A contrarian, you lift weights. A superior specimen, a genetic freak the outcome of evolution. Born to kill and to train, to be more than a man. To become a beast…
” Shut-up Gerald” You want to say, but your mind is drifting, you’re thinking of the gym. Of your homeland…
God damn Gerald telling you what to do!
” Listen, you’ve gotta get those emails to HR mate. The lawyers are on my ass like lemon to a meringue. Could you also run those analyst reports on sector 15? Also, I want a regression forecasting model built for our new line of T-REX 717’s. Also don’t forget to initiate matrix initiation protocols on the latest orders put through the system, thanks mate! Get it done by 5!”
The overseer Gerald. A non-lifter, a muggle. Gross. You throw-up in your mouth a little and afford a single tear of sympathy for the lost soul. But he is your boss, damn suits.
5 o’clock. The day’s stresses have gotten to you. You only sent 34 emails instead of the required 45. But you don’t care. Because the office is the realm of the forgotten and you are ascended. Ascended above mortality. It’s 30 minutes till gym time. You open up your program, secretly like a silent assassin checking his blade before a kill. ” Day one, 50% of my Squat max?… What is this shit, a program for ants??! I am important! Does my coach not know who I am!? 5 sets of 10? What.. is this… MADNESS. How dare he. He shall see. I will prove him wrong! TONIGHT. I DINE IN HELL!”
This is you, 100% this is you.
A silent prayer, for the program you are about to murder tonight. A soft echo in the back of your head tarnishes your aspirations, ” Follow the program” your coaches voice in the back of your mind like a forgotten thought withering away in the depths of your cerebrum. He hears you, he knows – But he does not know what you are capable of. He does not know that you are special, unique. A snowflake. Nasa should be studying you. The gym shall burn tonight under your wrath as you train till your heart beats no longer, a Spartan. Ready to die in combat, a glorious death only given to those who are willing to sacrifice all!
5:30 hits, it’s time. You bust your ass into the gym, popping bottles like a G-6, boots with the fur and the apple bottom jeans. Luscious. The cries of the injured yell out to you as you walk through the doors, those who have suffered before you crying out in a feeble attempt to divert your course. Like an all-knowing God, your coach watches from the heavens, an ethereal presence. Watching, listening. What happens next will determine your future. Choose wisely…
Mobility time: 30 minutes, foam roller. Supple. ✅
Dynamic stretching: 10 minutes. Lion-like. ✅
Warm-ups: 10 minutes. Like a well-oiled machine. ✅
60%! ” This pathetic weight is nothing to a special unique snowflake such as myself!”
70%,80%,90% ” STRONG LIKE OX, I AM”!
Operation Squattageddon is in full swing.
105%. A new max. This is it. The time has come. You’ve been training for like 6 months or so, whatever, you know what you’re doing! You are a beast. Your coach is evil. He doesn’t’ know your true power. You’re made out of metal, of adamantine, mithril links enchained together to enhance your strength. Here it comes. The moment you’ve been waiting for. A 102.5kg Squat.
Sweat drips from your forehead and like a sniper lining up his shot your heart rate slows as you engulf your mind with the eternal void. You unrack the bar, a burst of energy fires you up. The pistons are pumping, harder, faster. You lock it in. Here it comes…
You pull the trigger. BOOM! You descend, a roar, beastlike, an image of a panther striking its prey flashes across your eyes. Pretty sure there is also an Eagle flying past your inner soul too. The glutes are firing, the quads are firing. Oh oh, the knees are caving, the hips are shooting up, the back strains, steelish cables of muscle holding precariously the spine as the weight pulls you over. Time is infinite at this moment, you see your life flash before your eyes. You close your physical perception off, time stands still. 1…2…3 seconds go by and as you awake a sudden realization comes over you. You survived! a NEW MAX! 5kg PB! You completed a week or so ago and have now nailed a new max ALREADY. Instagram can NOT see this quick enough.
This is you, every day
You are special. Unique. A Snowflake. The rules don’t apply to you. You upload, strategically forgetting to tag your coach in the video. Here come the likes, the fame, the glory…
But what did it cost??
There are many reasons why someone may not be progressing optimally in the gym.
This whole topic covers multiple aspects of training. Fatigue management, injury management, technique, mental stimulus, lack of effort, there’s a wide variety of avenues in which you may not be progressing forward optimally, so let’s take a look at some of the more common ones I see.
1️⃣ Taking two hours to do a 45-minute workout.
Often there are reasons that exist as to why one person takes longer than others, fitness levels, technical mastery, the phase of training. It is important to distinguish between legitimate reasons and excuses. Excuses such as excessive talking, taking too long on your rest times and just generally treating the gym like a social event instead of a training session.
Destination swole, t-minus 3 and a half hours.
If you do 3 sets in an hour, vs 3 sets in 10 minutes. Who has done more work? Who is more likely to cause enough stimulus to cause your body to recover and adapt? Focus while training is important because it affects how you apply yourself to the session and therefore how much stimulus you are receiving and ultimately how much you’re recovering and adapting.
As Gandalf once said ” Giturdun”
2️⃣ You over-shoot your program.
When you’re a beginner lifter you can get away with this more and the better your technique is the less this will impact you. But as you progress, each time you hit random Instagram lifts you are interrupting your progression. When you pay for a program there is a very real reason why the weights listed on that program are at a specific level. (Hint: It has to do with how strong you are.) Sure, at times there are mistakes made. Everyone is human, including the robot that I hire to do your programs. But when you perceive your training weights to be heavier than what they should be and you adjust your program yourself to be more in synch with where you THINK they should be, you are only tricking yourself and your lower back, who does not appreciate it. This is a great way to stall progress, especially if you make it a habit. Remember, a third party ( Your coach) is less emotionally attached to numbers than you are and is more likely to not make emotive programming decisions. There’s a reason why your weights aren’t always heavy and there’s a reason why the weights are the way they are. Because they account for progression over a longer period of time
Don’t make your coach cry.
The weight you are using this week will go up next week and guess what, the weight will go up the week after too. If you overshoot you end up having to take a step backwards instead of constantly moving forward. Self-awareness and trust in your coach and program are VITAL. Patience is a virtue. Not being patient with training will eventually diminish results.
3️⃣ Bad communication.
What is bad communication?
” Hey Dan this weeks weight was SO easy I could have done triple the reps” – Dan watches the Instagram video of you grinding out your last rep. Next week is appropriately adjusted.
” This week was SO heavy I couldn’t hit it” – Athlete after heavy drinking all weekend, no sleep, nachos superset with coronas. Next week is appropriately adjusted.
” haha so this week was totally easy but also some of it was hard i feel good but not great and also i got a new highscore on candy crush” – I don’t know what that means please send help. After investigating program is updated with varying degrees of uncertainty.
“…” – No communication makes it a lot harder for a coach to determine your next week of training. The program is adjusted based on limited data.
Don’t communicate in hieroglyphics
Don’t be the athlete that cries wolf, because if you lie, you’re only lying to yourself, don’t be the athlete that says nothing, don’t be the athlete that communicates in hieroglyphics. Keep communication brief, succinct, accurate and to the point. Telling your coach how easy squatting 60kg x 10 the week after your comp is not impressing them, or anyone. We know it is easy, not all weeks you should be pushing to 100%. If you follow the progression in a few weeks time it will get a LOT harder.
Trust the process.
Give good, detailed, precise, honest feedback.
4️⃣ Not taking accessories seriously.
Okay so here’s the thing. There are a few ways in which training can be hard. When training smaller exercises, isolation stuff, accessories there should be a conscious effort to push yourself. you’re not lifting maximum weight or intensity, but you’re still putting in 100% effort into executing the movements. If you don’t take the smaller stuff seriously it’s not feeding the big stuff. There’s a reason why there are lots of upper back/shoulder/arm/leg work in programs. Because it makes you bigger and stronger. Take it seriously.
Take accessories seriously. They complete your look.
5️⃣ Sleep and diet.
Two of the biggest factors in recovery. Sure, you can out train a shit diet somewhat and you can get by on less sleep. But you’re making it harder for yourself.
If you are trying to gain muscle and strength, you need a surplus of calories. ➕
If you are trying to lose fat, you need a deficit of calories. ➖
If you’re not doing either of those in relation with your goals. You will NOT move towards them. ❌
If you’re not getting around 7-9 hours of sleep per night you are potentially not recovering optimally, are making it harder to train with proper intensity and therefore are making it harder to progress in the gym.
If you’re not consistent with your diet you won’t be making optimal progress. If you’re eating well for a few days interspersed with Mcdonalds and Pizza, you’re not working towards your goals optimally. Nutritious food somehow magically is better for you.
- 90% of your food should come from nutritionally dense, unprocessed sources of food.
- Eat within your estimated calorie range, ensuring adequate protein intake.
- Consistency is vital. Routine can help. Try and eat the same nutrient dense meals each day.
- Don’t reward yourself with Pizzas and doughnuts after 2 days of clean eating.
- Embrace the suck when cutting, a little bit.
- Focus on calorie dense foods if you find it hard to gain weight.
- Blacked out room.
- No phone before bed.
- Pre-bed routine.
- Go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day.
- Aim for 7-9 hours, if you’re tired throughout the day you probably need more sleep.
6️⃣ You’re not progressively overloading anything.
If you are stimulating the exact same weight sets and reps every week then all you’re doing is getting really good at doing that weight, sets and reps. When talking about training you have to keep in mind what is driving progression.
Stimulus ( Resistance training), Recovery ( Sleep, time and diet) and Adaptation ( Muscles getting bigger and stronger)
So if you’re consistently doing the same stimulus, you will quickly recover and adapt and eventually there will be nothing driving you forward. To put this practically. Let’s say that after a hard day at the office you go to the gym and do:
Bench press 60kg 4 x 10
Incline Dumbbell Press 15kg 4 x 10
Dumbbell Press 12.5kg 4 x 10
Tricep pushdown 4 x 10
If in 6 months time you’re doing the exact same thing and haven’t progressed forward with the stimulus you are not driving the cycle that will elicit progression. You have to account for a slow and steady progressive loading of the muscles.
Hint: Follow your program.
The basis of every good program.
7️⃣ Not paying attention to your technique.
Your technique will always be a limiting factor in the difficulty and progression of a program, the ability to recover well and the ability to progressively overload your training. This ties into the first points, listen to your coach. Again, there is too much in this topic to cover it in this post so let’s summarize quickly.
” If you’re not paying attention to your technique, if you are rushing sets, sacrificing movement quality for more reps and weight, you are severely limiting the amount of stimulus you can apply to your body and substantially increase the chance of injury.” – Sauron, 2018.
Treat all weight with respect, always aim to improve your technique, hire a competent coach to teach you.
8️⃣ BONUS REASON: You don’t train consistently enough.
This one is very simple. You miss too many sessions and therefore consistently remain at the same point and don’t move forward.
Aragorn says it best, ” Work on incorporating training into your routine, don’t overstep your commitment and think about strategies to develop a consistent approach to training throughout the week. Remember, health is wealth!”
Health is wealth – Aragorn
Back to you. You’ve taken our your Gerald-Frustration on the bar, you’ve uploaded your Instagram video, but now you notice a slight ache in your lower back. A shadow creeps into your mind ” Maybe there was a reason why we don’t max out every week and there’s a reason my coach made me pull the weight back up to re-build a solid foundation, built up by volume and quality uninterrupted reps and sets and to help develop my technique so as to develop me as a lifter over the long-term”
You laugh. As if that’s a good idea! You skip your accessories and go home to watch Home and Away.
What’s for dinner? Ibuprofen and disappointment.
Now it’s 1 am and you’re busy busting chops on Netflix. Like a ninja in the night, a lone ranger. Back from battle. You’re five coronas deep and the Pizza boxes lay across your floor empty, like your coaches patience, like your dreams. Wasting away into nothingness. Tomorrow is a new day you tell yourself. A new opportunity. Guilt washes over you. You message your coach and send them the video. Tears fall from your face as you realize the depth of your despair. ” haha so i did a thing today! i know u say to follow the program but i felt good! haha #bestcoach #newpb #pbmethod !”
He’ll understand. Surely…
You say a silent prayer, hoping that you are not lost to the wind as you slowly drift into nightmares…
8 am, up and ready to get to work. No time for breakfast. You lean over and check your phone. Gossip Girl, season 4, episode 8 stares you back in the face as you remember what you were watching as you fell to slumber.
You open up messenger. You click the message you sent to your coach.
” Seen. 7:05am”