From time to time, I'll scan the message boards on this and other sites in our industry. In addition to people squabbling about the Flex Wheeler and Dorian Yates match-up at the 1993 Olympia and which whey protein is best, training issues seem to be very popular topics.
Many people aren't satisfied with several aspects of their workouts. Either they are not strong enough, they may run out of energy or they just don't get a good pump. The bottom line is that they believe they are not growing fast enough and want the progress to speed up. It seems a little foreign to me because I normally have a great workout.
It's really been a long time since I've had a "bad" workout and I started to wonder why that is. I decided to write out my game plan and to map out my strategy for a good or great workout every time I hit the gym.
I start to prepare for a workout the night before. I train at 5:30 a.m., so before I go to bed I fill my shaker with protein and dextrose and pack it in my gym bag along with all my other stuff. I get my clothes for the gym ready too.
If I'm expecting a particularly hard or heavy workout, I'll make sure I eat a large bowl of oatmeal and a protein drink about an hour before bed. Right before I hit the sack, I'll down my Aminovol, T3, ZMA or other night-time supplements.
Immediately after crawling out of bed at 4:45 a.m., I take more Aminovol, CEE and then get dressed and do some light grooming.
After a few minutes, I'll either eat a light, high-carb snack and take some Redline or mix up a double serving of Labrada's SuperCharge. (Note: Redline requires a non-empty stomach. SuperCharge is okay on an empty stomach.) By 5:20-5:30 a.m., I'm out the door.
Arnold Schwarzenegger imagined his biceps as mountains and filling the entire room as he trained. Frank Zane had very intense mental concentration when he trained as well. There was a series of photos in Muscle & Fitness back in the early 80s that showed a powerlifter tearing a bicep during a deadlift.
The muscle had rolled up like a window shade by his shoulder. That lifter's concentration was so focused that he didn't acknowledge the pain until he had completed the lift. Dorian Yates explained in his book, "A Warrior's Story," how he mentally prepared for a workout.
He took more time preparing himself before the workout than he spent doing the workout itself. Although I don't spend an hour or more psyching myself up, I will go through my workout in my head on the drive to the gym and determine what I want to accomplish for my workout.
It might be a certain number of reps on the bench press or completing the entire workout in less than an hour. Whatever the case may be, I am in "the zone" by the time I reach the gym.
One summer when I was a teenager I witnessed a good example of making realistic expectations for a workout. Summer was a time for the college football players at our gym to lift like animals so they'd be ready for the season in the fall. They were always fun to watch with their screaming and yelling and various rituals they would go through.
Two of the guys, Danny and Ken, would train the whole summer to get ready for the one day that they would max out on the bench press. This would be the week before college started.
As I remember, Danny was much stronger than Ken, even though Danny was shorter and weighed less. Ken would do sets of about five or six reps with around 250-260 pounds. Danny could do around 300 for four or five reps.
The big day came. It was time for them to max out on the bench. They did some warm-ups and then were trying to psyche each other up for the tremendous poundage they were about to hoist. About that time, Gordo comes strolling into the gym. Gordo was an ex-college ball player and was about 5-or-6 years older than these guys. Danny and Ken tried to ignore Gordo so he wouldn't blow their psyche or concentration. Gordo was VERY good at that.
Ken was up first to see what he could lift for a one-rep max. He started with 350. Danny ends up giving him a forced-rep while he's screaming and yelling that it's all Ken pressing the weight up.
|1 RM CALCULATOR|
Enter the amount of weight you can lift (in pounds) and the number of reps you can lift it for.
Danny decides to put 405 on the bar and they ask me and Gordo to help spot on the ends. About the time Danny is lying back on the bench and getting in position, Gordo said,
Lifting on the moon?"
It blew Danny's concentration. He basically lowered it to his chest while the three of us pulled the barbell off of him. Danny and Ken blamed their failed attempts at Gordo's remark. They said it blew their psyche.
Although the remark wasn't well-timed, it was really funny to me, but I kept the laughing inside so Danny and Ken wouldn't kill me later. Gordo was realistic, though. Ken wasn't going to lift 350 that day no matter how psyched he was. He was only working out with 250-260 and an extra hundred pounds is a lot of weight, even for one rep.
Danny, although strong, was not capable of a 405 bench press. He might have gotten 350, maybe.
Setting Realistic Goals:
The point of this little story is to go to the gym with a realistic goal. If you want to max out on the bench press and you normally workout with five or six reps with 200 pounds, do not put on 315 and expect to lift it. I don't care if you did take NO-Xplode before you left the house. 315 will still be too heavy. Try and push up 250. That's realistic.
Set a realistic goal before you arrive at the gym. Add five pounds to the bar. Do an extra rep or two. Do five sets instead of four. Achieving little goals continually will make larger goals much more attainable. If your goals are too lofty, disappointment will be a normal part of your workouts.
One last suggestion: do not compare yourself to the pros. Steroids aside; the pros have been training for at least 10 years. The pros in the magazines didn't get that way following a 12-week shape-up program. Give yourself 10 years of hard, consistent training and then see how you look. You'll be amazed.
Be consistent. If it's easier on your schedule to train three or four days a week, follow a routine that allows a few days off per week. Don't try and follow a six-day-per-week routine and only show up three days. That will leave you frustrated.
If you want to see if higher reps work for you, do higher reps for a couple months. Don't do high reps for a week and make a judgment if they work or not. Give your body time to respond. On average, most people respond well to 10-12 sets per body part and six to eight reps per exercise. Train as heavy as you can and be patient. You'll grow.
You have to rest to grow. Period. Get eight hours of sleep each night. If I have been up until 1:30 a.m. working on a project and I've only gotten three hours of sleep, my workout will suffer. I'm not nearly as strong as when I get a sufficient amount of sleep.
Rest isn't just sleep either. I remember reading something years ago that has stuck with me.
Don't sit when you can lie down."
That doesn't mean you should be a sluggard, but don't play basketball for two hours after your arm workout and complain that your arms don't grow.
If you want big arms, cut back on cardio. Don't eliminate it, but you can't burn the candle at both ends and expect to make big gains in muscle size. Trust me. I played basketball in high school and I didn't make increases in arm size during the season.
Diet & Supplements
In 26 years I have not come upon a nutritional supplement that has offered "steroid-like" results. Like many of you out there, I used to think they existed too. But they don't. Many supplements produced today, however, do help in assisting muscle growth.
The key word is "assist." Creatine has worked very well for me. So has glutamine, multi-vitamins and whey protein. Energy supplements work well but they don't replace good ol' carbs. The trick is to eat well first and take nutritional supplements to, well, supplement your diet with a little more nutrition.
Most importantly, teach yourself to eat six high-protein meals a day and cut out the junk food. If you want to pack on muscle, you can't avoid this important aspect. Food is your fuel for workouts and it supplies the building blocks necessary for growth and repair.
If your diet is not up to par, your workouts will suffer. I've eaten six to seven meals per day for many years and I can tell you that when I slack off from eating like that, my workouts suffer. Protein, carbs and fats are your friends.
Get into the habit of preparing many meals ahead of time. Grill up some chicken and steak. Cut into bite-sized pieces. Cook up a lot of rice or pasta and divide it up into several resealable containers. Add a few ounces of meat into each container.
Throw some frozen veggies on top and store them in the fridge or freezer. You'll have a fantastic meal ready whenever you need it, which is probably three times per day because you need to eat every three hours.
Each and every aspect of bodybuilding that has been discussed in this article is very important. They work together synergistically. You can't just train and take supplements and not watch your diet. You'll be missing out on a lot of progress if do.
Take the time to establish some good habits right now. Don't wait until Monday; start now. Do something. Go boil some eggs or grill up a few chicken breasts. Pack your gym bag for tomorrow's workout and be sure to put your shaker bottle with pre-measured whey protein, dextrose and creatine in it.
Start preparing for tomorrow's workout today. Do these rituals enough times in a row and they'll become habits. Soon it'll seem strange if you don't do them. Give these tips a try and you'll be on your way to some HUGE gains!