America has become a nation of fickle people, neurotically obsessed that they are missing out on something. We gnaw our nails over the possibility that whatever we have isn't good enough. Madison Avenue takes full advantage of this, constantly coming out with 'new and improved' versions of everything from laundry detergent to deodorant. And don't get me started on razor blades.
Every year we are treated to the latest groundbreaking advance in shaving technology - which always seems to be nothing more than the addition of one more blade. Our poor forefathers had to suffer the clumsy indignities of the barbaric straight razor, which we are led to believe was just as likely to decapitate you as shave your stubble.
Now, we have the Ultra Mach V Sensorblade System, with six space-age miniature blades plus a seventh that actually travels back in time eight hours to seek and destroy hair follicles before they even have a chance to grow. I am pretty sure next year's version will have thousands of tiny hair-seeking missiles that will really give you a clean shave.
This nagging suspicion that we have somehow settled for less than what we deserve is probably part of the reason the USA has such a horrific divorce rate. It doesn't matter how attractive, compassionate, sweet and devoted our spouse may be - because you can't be too sure there isn't someone out there even better, now can you?
Heck, you can put your profile on Match.com and MySpace (using deceivingly complimentary photos and exaggerating your income by about 300 percent), and you are sure to have a few dozen potential dates lined up lickety-split. You just need to know that they are all just like you - meaning nobody is ever going to be good enough for them, you included.
Click To Enlarge.
Don't Get Me Started On Razor Blades. Every Year We Are Treated To The Latest Groundbreaking Advance In Shaving Technology - Which Always Seems To Be Nothing More Than The Addition Of One More Blade.
The Great Training Debate
Would you believe this attitude even leaks over into our little bodybuilding world? Randy and I were discussing it at the juice bar last week. Randy was sipping away at one of their overpriced concoctions with some silly name like Mass Blast, while I had my own post-workout mix of whey protein, waxy maize and Gatorade, five grams of creatine monohydrate, and ten grams of the good old L-Glutamine.
Technically, outside food or drink was not allowed within the confines of the gym, as it would cut down on juice bar sales. Just to keep them off my back, I would drop a dollar into the tip jar every now and then. Randy was doing better since the last time we spoke.
His mom was responding well to chemotherapy, and his brother was out of rehab and staying clean - for now. Just to be cautious, their dad had purchased a safe for their bedroom where all jewelry and cash were stowed, in case junior decided to go on another at-home crime spree to raise cash for more Oxycontin. And Randy had a padlock on his door now, too.
I was now able to train with Randy a lot more often because he was temporarily collecting unemployment while preparing to get certified as a personal trainer. Our gym did have a handful of trainers, but they were all older women.
I knew that as soon as Randy started passing out his business card to the desperate housewives in the gym, they would soon be knocking down his door for the privilege of paying him to guide them through workouts. After all, he is a young, good-looking guy with muscles, well-groomed and clean, so why not capitalize on it? It was either that or Chippendales, and Randy couldn't dance to save his life. Plus he was afraid to wax his @ss hair.
Randy had always read the magazines and spent time online gathering information on the various theories about training and nutrition, but now that he was on the verge of training clients for a living, he had practically absorbed himself in research. Rather than being enlightened by what he read, he was overwhelmed and confused.
"There are so many different training styles that all claim to be the best," he said, and proceeded to rattle off a list. "Volume training, Heavy Duty, X-Reps, Doggcrapp (an actual method involving low volume and high-intensity, based on rest-pause sets that I have da success with), so many.
Then you hear three sets is best for an exercise, or four, and some insist one set is all you need and anything else is overtraining," he continued, getting flustered. "Just do basic exercises, make sure you include isolation movements, high reps, low reps, fast reps, slow reps, full-range, partial range - yaaargh!"
This last strangled cry of frustration drew a concerned look from the front desk girl, who also made the shakes at the juice bar.
"Is it okay?" she asked. "I put a couple extra scoops of whey protein in there."
"It's fine," he assured her, then turned to me. "That's why I don't need to bring my own shakes, 'cuz I got it like that."
"Yeah, well with my luck, she'd give me four scoops of sawdust and a few dust bunnies. Maybe a few grams of toenail clippings, if she was feeling generous. That would be sure to kick-start the recovery process." Randy held out his own shake, looked at it, and frowned.
"Seriously Ron, there are so many different ways to train, how can you know which one is right?"
"Easy," I said. "They all are."
Train Hard, That's It
"What?" we had finally finished our shakes and now we were heading out to the parking lot. He gave me an odd look. "You sure you didn't have grain alcohol or liquid morphine in your shake, Ron?" Our cars were parked side by side and we leaned against them. It was one of the first really nice days this spring and we were both glad to feel the warm sun at last.
"I have known hundreds of bodybuilders over the years, and they all had their own ways of training. A lot of those methods were almost directly opposite to the others. Yet they all had great physiques. How is that possible? For example, how can both low volume and high volume work and produce results?"
Randy pondered this. "Gifted genetics and tons of drugs?" I resisted the urge to smack the young upstart for his stock reply.
"No! A lot of these guys I am talking about were natural bodybuilders, so rule that crap out right now. And if they all had gifted genetics, it still doesn't make sense why one method never stood out as the One True Way. That one best way to train would have produced much better results than anything else, and we would all be doing it now. The only one true way, the only way to put muscle on, is to train hard."
Randy looked quite disappointed, as if I had copped out of what should have been a brilliant observation with something far too simplistic.
"Train hard, that's it? That's all you came up with?" He was clearly dumbfounded and felt I was holding out on him.
"All you have to do is go to any crowded gym and look around to see that this is true. You will invariably see a lot of regular people with very regular bodies, nothing special at all. You might be able to tell that they work out in some cases, but it's doubtful. They aren't usually totally out of shape, most of them, but neither are they the types of bodies the gym would want on their billboards, if you catch my drift.
There are also usually a few really well-built men and women, maybe three or four out of a gym floor with fifty to a hundred people on it. What sets them apart from the rest? They train a lot harder. That's it!
Of course, you can also assume they are a lot more consistent with their training, and they feed their bodies with tons of good food and quality supplements to support recovery and growth, but watch them train as opposed to what the others are doing. They put out more effort. They challenge themselves.
They don't quit a set until the weight won't move anymore. They try to use more weight, or try to get more reps and go for a deeper burn, and they aim for the most extreme muscle pump possible. They don't shy away from free weights and tough basic exercises like squats, deadlifts, bench presses, military presses, barbell rows, and dips.
The rest of the schmucks in the gym just go through the motions, using weights that are comfortable, often use mostly machines, and generally put out just enough effort to be able to say that yes, they do 'work out.' Haven't you seen plenty of this?"
"Yeah," Randy considered. "I mean, when we grunt doing heavy squats or our faces get red grinding out another rep of presses, people look at us like we're out of our minds. They shake their heads like they don't approve."
"Meanwhile, what do we look like compared to them, and what's the main reason why? We train hard, and they don't. Like Lee Haney used to say, intensity builds immensity. It's that simple. So stop worrying about the perfect way to train.
Click To Enlarge.
There Are Also Usually A Few Really Well-Built Men And Women, Maybe Three Or Four Out Of A Gym Floor With Fifty To A Hundred People On It. What Sets Them Apart From The Rest? They Train A Lot Harder.
The Bigger Picture
As long as the training is hard and you pay attention to recovery with enough sleep, plenty of good food, and basic supplements, you'll grow. Simple as that. Hey, before I forget, how was that date with Britney, the hip-hop cardio instructor?"
Randy smiled and I was expecting an X-rated account of the date, or at least PG-13 with strong sexual suggestions. "We went clubbing and she had the hottest outfit on. She's awesome, so cool to talk to and a body that doesn't quit. We really hit it off."
"So when are you seeing her again?"
"Oh, well... I'm holding off on that for now, because I met another girl while I was waiting for Britney outside the ladies room and got her number. I'm supposed to hook up with her this weekend." I shook my head. This next generation was going to have a rough time of it, seeing that nothing was ever going to be good enough for them. But that's okay.
Eventually they will figure out that the grass on that other side isn't really greener, it just looks that way until you get closer. And when it comes to training, you can't be constantly worrying that you aren't following the absolute best methods. If you do, you lose faith in what you are doing, and you lose sight of what's really important for getting big - busting your @ss in the gym with loads of heavy iron, and then feeding your body with loads of good food.
It may not be too enticing to those that need a steady fix of 'new and improved' things to feel good about their lives, but it's the real secret to building muscle.
About the Author:
Ron Harris is the author of "Real Bodybuilding: Muscle Truth from 25 Years in the Trenches," available at www.ronharrismuscle.com "
|Share This Article: