Hindsight is a beautifully cruel perspective, isn’t it?
Everything is so clear now, yet you know, back at the time; you wouldn’t have listened. Even if someone told you exactly what you think is true right now.
Well, maybe I’m just stubborn. If I tell you some things that I wish I had known, back when I started training about a decade ago, hopefully you might be able to take something from it.
Here’s 6 things I wish I had known when I first started training:
1. It doesn’t matter how much weight is on the bar – How much you have on the bar is perhaps strengthening your ego, but not necessarily doing much for your body. See, your muscles do not work in pounds on the bar, they work in force of contraction.
The harder a muscle contracts, the harder it is working, the more it will grow and become stronger. Problem is, when you load up too much weight on the bar, you start using other muscles to assist in lifting it, swinging it with momentum and doing reps as fast as possible. More weight gets lifted, but less tension is applied to the right
You get better results by using less weight, slowing your reps down, having more control and focusing on squeezing the desired muscle as hard as possible, for as long as possible. Leave the ego out of it and you will quickly have a body that shows how strong you are.
2. Consistency wins, always – Over 10 or so years of training I’ve seen many people come and go through the gyms. Often people would get in great shape and get strong much quicker than I would, but then they would burn out and stop training.
They’d come back 6 months later and while I’d been chipping away and surpassed them, they had regressed. Over time I always ended up in better shape and stronger than they did.
I’m at the best I have ever been right now and that is down to consistency. Instead of being frustrated at the slow grind, or jealous of other people who make quicker progress, I should just focus on turning up every day and putting in the work. It pays back in the end.
3. Understanding intensity – For years I use to go to the gym and move weights from A to B. When it got hard, I’d stop the set, rest and go again. I made steady progress, but honestly didn’t look or perform that great.
The thing I was lacking, that the inconsistent people from above often did have – which allowed them to make super quick progress – was intensity.
The ability to work harder. To push the limits and eek out an extra couple of reps. To get in the zone and lift a little bit heavier than you have before. They say the set only starts when it begins to hurt and this definitely rings true in my experience.
You have to dig in and push through the pain. In my early days I was looking for ways to make lifting easier. Now I know to find ways to make it harder, because that is when you are making progress.
4. Genetics matter, but not very much – Some people are natural athletes and they can just look at a weight and their muscles blow up. Unfortunately, that is not most of us, and we shouldn’t compare ourselves to them.
The people who see quick success are often the people drawn to something, because everyone likes stuff they’re good at. You end up surrounded by these guys who are progressing lightning fast and you project that everyone in great shape is like that.
Truth is, the majority of these people won’t stay consistent and the experienced guys are probably like you – having to grind for every small gain. In gym life, the turtle almost always wins the race.
5. I’m a beginner! – When I started out I wanted to do all of these advanced programs and techniques because that’s what the pro’s do and recommend. The more complex, more advanced something is, the better it must work – I thought.
It took a while for me to get my head around the fact that as a beginner, pretty much anything that you do will work. With that said, you should keep it simple and do what brings the most benefit for least complexity.
This phase of everything working won’t last long and you need somewhere to progress to, when it starts to slow down. If you’re already doing all of the advanced techniques you’ve heard about on the internet, what do you do next?
6. Great structures are built on strong foundations – This is such an important thing to learn. You must become strong and proficient in the basics. You must build your foundations. You must focus your effort on the supporting muscles.
Benching big weights and flexing in the mirror might have sex-appeal, but a big bench depends on strong lats and a great physique is built back to front.
If you spend all of your time working on the muscles that you can’t see in the mirror, doing pull ups, rows, deadlifts and glute bridges – you will have a killer physique and be strong as an ox.
If you spend all of your time doing bench and biceps you will have scrawny shoulders, terrible posture and no legs. You’ll be pretty weak and quickly become injured.
Foundations support everything else. Spend more time training your back and legs and you will have a much better physique, while being much stronger and more functional. Win, win, win!
I actually did get things right pretty quickly and that is one of the reasons I have been able to remain consistent for all of these years. Hopefully there’s a point or two here that you can take in to your own training and improve your results.