1. You have to take responsibility for your training.
When it comes down to it, no one really cares about your training but you. And it doesn’t matter how many Instagram “likes” you get; you need to train for you.
I encourage you to find a coach who can properly teach you how to lift and can answer your questions, of which you should have thousands. Don’t rely on the goddam internet to coach you, you’ll end up attempting 1 Rep Max sumo deadlifts after 6 months of training, ugh.
Even if you have a coach, just showing up to the gym isn’t enough. Be ready to work and keep a log to monitor your progress. Logs are a great tool to use to watch for trends and are great to look back on year after year especially after you’ve made it to 500lb Squat Land. The longer you lift, the more you learn about how you respond to training. Tracking your data and training feels can help you be a more productive lifter.
2. You have to make sacrifices.
Before every PR attempt, you’ll need to sacrifice a virgin. Good luck finding one of those nowadays.
Progress in training is an adaptation. This happens when enough stress has been applied and an adequate amount of recovery has occurred. For a novice, this cycle takes about 24-72 hours, the more advanced a lifter gets the longer the cycle takes, ranging from weeks to months.
Applying the stress (lifting the weights) has its own difficulties, but for many reasons, the recovery aspect can be a lot more challenging. Basically you work for 1.5-2.5 hours training and then you have up to 72 hours of opportunities to screw yourself over.
Recovering from lifting makes you stronger. To recover you need to eat, sleep and do the best you can manage stress.
Stress management does NOT involve getting shit-housed and crushing pussy every other night. Pussy-crushing aside, limiting booze intake gets to be pretty important and is one of the toughest things a new lifter has to learn. I train a lot of 20-30 year old men and women with no kids in a city where a lot of socializing occurs in bars and around booze.
I know which clients choke down another chicken breast and get 8 hours of sleep and which ones choke down Jameson. You’ll decide what’s important to you and it’ll show in how long you are able to keep adding weight to the bar.
Not ready to give it up? Here’s a dose of cold, hard science on “Booze and Barbells” from Jordan Feigenbaum.
Now, with that said, you don’t have to quit having a social life, like we need to make dating more disappointing, or avoid family gatherings. Finding a balance is possible as your priorities shift through the year and through your training.
3. You’re going to have to fix your shit.
Especially if you train on your own, picking up bad habits and form creep happens.
A good rule, if not THE rule, for getting stronger is to lift using the most amount of muscle possible over the most effective range of motion with the most weight possible. When your form breaks down, you are likely sacrificing one of these criteria. Obvious examples are range of motion shortcuts, such as a “high” squat, when you stand up before your hip crease passes below the top of your knee cap, or you bench press without touching the bar to your chest or you pull sumo.
While shortcuts may get an extra rep or a few more pounds on the bar, you’ve robbed yourself of the training effect that “the rule” provides and it’s going to hold you back in the long run.
Fixing shit can be hard and takes a lot of focus. For longer than I’d like to admit, during a heavy squat or during my last rep of a set when I was tired I would raise my chest and let my knees cave in. This would kill my hip drive, which means I wasn’t able to use the most amount of muscle possible. My squat was stuck for MONTHS. The cue that works for me is so simple,”DON’T RAISE YOUR g*****m CHEST you m**********r” (the expletives tend to vary) but it takes a lot of focus to execute that. For every inch on the way up, I have to recommit to staying in my hips.
When addressing form creep, you may need to take some weight off the bar and you’re going to have to focus on keeping that creepy form out of your reps. During these “fixing shit” reps, when it gets a difficult, you HAVE TO DO IT RIGHT. Yes, it’s going to be harder than what you were used to and yes, it may slow you down a bit but you’re setting yourself up to be capable of more, which is what training is about.
4. You’re going to deal with an injury.
Training occasionally involves pushing beyond limits. While you do your best to keep your back tight, drive your knees out and protect your shoulders, you’re probably going to fail at some point and you may get hurt.
There’s an unfortunate stigma that lifting weights is dangerous. There are many circumstances that can make this stigma true, such as poor form, improper loading and training in unsafe environments with faulty equipment, but the sport itself is relatively very safe. More of my clients get injured from running, sitting or sleeping than lifting.
While an injury or bout of tendonitis may be a set-back, it is certainly not a good enough reason to skip the gym and give up on being strong. Even if you only train the Big 5 lifts, get creative with them when the situation calls for it.
Focus on what you CAN do. Change the positions (switch to a box squat), equipment (use dumbbells), range of motion (do a rack pull), number of reps, etc. There are tons of ways to augment your training. You’re not dead yet, so stay positive and get your butt to the gym.
5. You’re going to miss reps.
Progress isn’t always linear; it won’t always be a pretty, sunny, straight line up to 500lb Squat Land.
You’re not a complete and total failure when you miss a rep, unless maybe you are because you didn’t take point #2 seriously.
Question what happened. It may be time to make changes to your training program or recovery habits. Maybe you came out of position and couldn’t overcome the forces at play. And sometimes it’s just as simple as “not being there today”.
Since missing reps will happen, be sure to lift in a safe space equipped with safety pins and/or good spotters, not to be confused with a sheltered and delusional “safe space“.
Learn how to miss safely so you don’t die, shake it off and keep training.