I’ve been feeling sorry lately. I really do. I feel terribly sorry. Not sorry in the normal context, like being sorry for a mistake or something, but for my people…My beloved people of the iron…
I have been attending to a local gym the last several months to train and work, far away from the very controlled and elite athletic environments where I’ve been working out since I was in high school. I mean, I’ve been to a million public gyms, but not as a regular. I’ve found it very interesting to see the different styles and methods of exercise now that I am in a new setting. I look around and see people genuinely giving up significant time and effort up in the gym.
I see their minds engaged in a battle against itself. What should I do next? Can I go up in weight? How can I get the most out of this workout? How do I look? Am I losing weight? Am I getting stronger?
I love it, because I’m right there with them now. No longer am I training for professional baseball. I am training to feel good, look good, and because I truly love it. And I get it…not everyone loves it…that’s ok…to me it’s even more admirable to see those people consistently showing up because simply put, getting shape is hard work. So if you don’t enjoy it, but do it consistently anyways?…Well I salute the hell out of you.
What do I feel sorry about then? I feel sorry when I see people waste their time in the gym and beyond it’s walls at home. I feel sorry for the guy or girl who is truly pushing themselves, but frustratingly has the same mediocre body as they did a year ago. It’s not their fault. They have solved half the puzzle by showing up on a consistent basis with high level effort. Most people simply aren’t willing to do that in the first place.
I wanted to write this for those people who are in the same battle I am in. The ones who show up even when they don’t want to. Those of you who feel like you are putting in the hours in the gym, in the kitchen, I want to offer a few suggestions to maximize your admirable work.
…Here are 3 BIG reasons your effort isn’t pumping out progress, and several ways to start seeing results…
1.) You aren’t learning how to do compound movements properly –
I am a firm believer that everything has a place. I don’t look at people anymore and hate on exercises they might be doing. I used to do that shit. Of course I have my own training philosophies, but the human body is amazing, and it can adapt and grow from all kinds of different stresses. The biggest one’s though, the mulit-joint moves like the squat, deadlift, pushes, pulls, and swings, are performed rather ineffectively as a whole, in the general population as far as I’m concerned. If I were a beginner lifter, I would learn and master optimal form on these big lifts. The book “Starting Strength” by Mark Rippetoe is a tremendous resource as it applies to barbell training. I’d highly recommend it regardless of your goals as a lifter. In summary, here are three things to learn which will go a long way…attached are links to help.
2.) You’re spending too much time in the gym, and as a result, you start losing muscle –
This is a big one for the skinny-fat guys. I know because I’ve been there, done that…And it sucks because you can feel it happening. You had a something light to eat before your workout, you dabble in a little caffeine, hit the weights hard, feel like doing more, maybe get caught up helping someone else out or talking. Before you know it, you’ve spent 3 hours without eating, and you’ve burned through enough calories for everyone in the gym. It’s not ideal if you are looking to really make gains. Instead, make your workouts hard, heavy, and super efficient. Don’t fuck around. Put your head down and goto work. Here are a couple other suggestions.
– Supplement with plain BCAA’s or even a protein/carb mix during your workout.
-I recommend Biotest’s Surge for those looking to add mass, and True Athlete’s BCAA’s for those looking to maintain size, but get stronger, and definitely avoid loss of muscle. Drink a serving during your workout to help avoid throwing away gains.
– Stick to simple, but challenging programming. I am currently 6 weeks into 5,3,1 by Jim Wendler, and I love it. I’m in and out of the gym in around and hour to an hour and a half, and I leave feeling spent but strong. From a strength standpoint, I’m as strong as I’ve ever been. Lean & Lovely is also a highly recommended resource for the ladies. It was written by a very trustworthy strength coach, Neghar Fonooni. Bottom line here…The more optimally your time is spent exercising, the better your results will be.
-More warmup sets and more progressive overload –
One of the cool things I’ve learned running 5,3,1 is how working on bar speed and form during a solid amount of warmup sets can benefit even an advanced lifter. I used to only do a couple warmup sets on my compound lifts, but now I’m always starting light, and fast, working to heavy and obviously less fast. I’ve noticed myself feeling good no matter how I begin when walking into the gym. Moving fast fires up the nervous system, opens up your mobility, and gives you more confidence with your form when you do 5 or so warmup sets before the working sets. Again, don’t fuck around. Bust through those sets, then get to work.
When it comes to overloading, always…always track your sessions. You must make sure you are constantly in a struggle against the weights to make significant progress. It’s easy to convince yourself that a working set was tough, but the more you keep track and see the raw numbers in front of you, the more your competitive self will shine though. You’ll push yourself more by seeing what kind of weight you’ve done in previous sessions. You’ll also get a better feel and waste less time guessing when warming up and loading up the weight.
3.) You’re nutrition and recovery just aren’t matching your training or goals
I saved this one for last because it has applied to me big time recently. I’ll put it out there bluntly and say while yes I want to be strong as hell, which I think is my asset, I also want to look like a fucking predator. I want it to be obvious that I work my ass off in the gym. I certainly have the training aspect taken care of, but it wasn’t until a discussion came up with a friend about my eating, that it became obvious I wasn’t eating for the way I wanted to look. I may have been eating healthy, but it didn’t match up to my goals. There is no true right or wrong method of eating. It’s more complicated than that, and I will save those posts for Mr. Andrew Ferreira. In the mean time follow these simple rules.
– When trying to shed only a couple of pounds of fat off an already in-shape (10%ish body-fat) physique, limit majority of carbs to post training. On days you don’t train, stick to meat and veggies. Read here for a more in depth look at what we mean.
– Get 6-8 hours of deep sleep. If it takes you awhile to fall asleep, plan for that, and get to bed earlier. Deep sleep is the most overlooked part of body-composition transformation.
– When trying to put on lean mass, read this post about re-structuring your breakfast, and load up on good food after training and at night. Stick to the highly digestible carbs with your meal like sweet potatoes, jasmine or white rice, quinoa, or regular potatoes. Introduce muscle building smoothies after training and before bed as well.
Closing up here, it’s clear there are a ton of you, including us, who really enjoy seeing incredible results from our labor in the gym. The last thing we want is to feel lost or confused as to why we aren’t making progress. These tips aren’t the be all end all, but they are a start, and hopefully you can take one or two of my suggestions and implement them right away.
Also, Andrew & I have been working hard with our online coaching program, and have spots opening up soon. Contact us on the page below if you are interesting in learning more about how we can help change your life for the better.