Let's talk muscle building.
In the article 4 Big Reasons Why You're Still Small And Weak I informed readers why their gains suck. Here is a summary:
- Reason 1 - You obsess about your abs to the point where you undereat and restrict progress.
- Reason 2 - You do not squat or deadlift. In and of itself this is not life or death, but it does reveal a tendency to avoid "hard" things in the gym.
- Reason 3 - You train like you are on steroids, using advanced programs that might not be best for your recovery rates and training experience.
- Reason 4 - You don't obsess about progression. Instead, your gym sessions are simply fancy calorie burning workouts.
Today I want to continue this conversation by presenting you with some additional ways to improve your gym results. So without further adieu, here are another 4 reasons why you're still weak and small.
Reason #1 - You Aren't Consistent
And I mean consistent, consistent.
What's the longest period of time you've lifted non-stop while focusing on unrelenting progression of weight? Two Months? 4 months? 6 months? 12 months?
Gains take time. How many of you have remained consistent for 3, 4 or even 5 years? Understand, I am not saying you should never take a week off. This is not the point I am trying to make. Deloads and the occasional week away from training are ok.
What I am talking about here is taking weeks and months away from the gym at a time. This happens more than you think.
I have been around the iron for nearly 28 years now. I see people come, I see people go. But mostly, I see people go. The big "magic" that can be found when analyzing the habits of successful lifters is this: they continue to lift, despite what life deals them.
Even if you aren't using the perfect routine (and I don't believe in perfect routines), you will still experience quality gains over time if consistency and progression are in the mix. While many of you understand the importance of progressive overload, you can't find the motivation to train without missing several workouts per week, or taking the summer off every year.
Commit to training 5 years without an extended layoff. Gains take years, not weeks. Build strength during this time. Then report back with a progress picture.
Reason #2 - You Jump Around From Workout to Workout
I see this all the time. A lifter becomes infatuated with finding a magic workout system. They will try something for a week, not like how it feels, and start poking around the Internet.
It's not long before they find another workout system that tickles their motivation. Soon they rush off to start a new training log, and announce to everyone that they've finally "found something that will work great for me!"
After 2 weeks of journal entries, said lifter goes into hiding. Three weeks later they reappear, detailing all the things that went wrong with the new program, and why they decided to make yet another change.
Here's the thing...you can't expect a workout system - any workout system - to be perfect for you. Instead of program hopping, make small tweaks to the workout. If it calls for 5 rep bench press sets, but they hurt your shoulder, move to a rep range that feels better. If the program lists dumbbell flyes, but you prefer another equal, but no less effective chest isolation exercise, swap it in.
Training evolution is important. It helps you to create your own unique training system, based on your specific needs. Consider workouts a starting point. Instead of hopping to another program when things go wrong, ask yourself what you could change to make the program work.
If you don't learn to evolve your training, you may find yourself caught up in the endless bro cycle: searching for a magic workout one, two and maybe even three years down the road.
Reason #3 - You Bulk, You Cut, You Bulk, You Cut
While related to general undereating, this reason deserves some commentary of its own.
It has become fairly commonplace to see trainees engage upon endless (short) cycles of bulking and cutting. They bulk for 4 weeks, cut for 8 weeks, bulk for 8 weeks, cut for 4 weeks. This is equivalent to trying to go on a long hike, but deciding to go in the opposite direction each time you don't like the way the terrain looks.
Here's a word of advice: if your bulks are so aggressive that you manage to gain 20 pounds in 4 to 8 weeks, you're doing it wrong. Gaining weight this rapidly is foolish.
A natural lifter who is doing it right, and who doesn't start underweight, typically gains 12 to 15 pounds of muscle during their first year. If you are gaining 20 pounds in a month of course you're going to look bloated and fat.
Instead of gaining weight this rapidly, slow down and try to gain 20 pounds during your first year. Be patent. A slow, sustained bulk will result in minimal fat gain. The result? You won't need to jump into cutting diets every 3 to 4 months.
Commit to a 2-3 year bulk, then trim the fat. You will have a ton of muscle, and won't be spinning your wheels.
Reason #4 - You Are the Annoying "Gym Texter"
This might ruffle a few feathers, but it might also help a few of you as well.
If you are sitting on a piece of equipment, texting back and forth to no end...you might the annoying gym guy/girl without even knowing it. While texting in and of itself isn't a crime, lack of focus is. Here is a quote from Dave Tate that you should remember:
If you're capable of sending a legible text message between sets, you probably aren't working hard enough.
Consider this for a moment. Are you focused on adding reps to your next set, or are you focused on your buddy's Facebook comment about Grand Theft Auto V? Focus counts. How you approach your workouts will impact how hard you work.
If you don't take your training seriously, can you really expect quality results?
And going a step further: taking up space, sitting on a piece of equipment while others are trying to focus is disrespectful. Heck, even texting for 20 minutes straight while others are trying to workout is distracting.
If you have no drive and focus, ask yourself why? If texting is a distraction, commit to setting your phone down for 3 to 4 hours a day.
Bottom line...don't let anything get in the way of progress. If you lack focus and discipline, it will catch up to you. It always does.