Do you want the good news or the bad news? Okay, I'll give you the good news first: Repetition in bodybuilding is what makes your muscles grow over time. If you lift for a lot of years, you'll acquire the muscle maturity worthy of only a serious student.
And the bad news? That same repetition can make lifting a little boring over time. Do the same kind of workout year after year, and may find that your mind checks out when you check in at the gym. Instead of raging like a bonfire, your motivation merely flickers, and sometimes threatens to be extinguished.
But that doesn't mean you can't rekindle the flame. What are some easy fixes for when your mind has checked out early? Try any one of these 10 fixes to help you get your mind back into the muscle.
1. Watch A Bodybuilding Or Physique Contest
Whether it's a local amateur show or the giant Arnold Classic, watching others showcase the product of their hard work and discipline can be highly motivating. You can often meet these individuals sitting in the expo area signing photos and meeting fans, too. You can even watch the world's biggest bodybuilding contests online right here on our website live—and free! When you return to your own workouts, you'll have renewed appreciation for what it takes to succeed—and how amazing it feels to be your best self.
2. Train At A Hardcore Gym For A Week
While the facility you train at is likely the most convenient one for you, every city has a gym where the "animals" work out. It may be slightly out of your way, but buy a one-week pass and immerse yourself in the culture of the hardcore. You can even try out new kinds of equipment and feed off the energy of a new environment. When you find yourself training next to someone with an amazing physique, you'll magically find another two or three reps you didn't think were there on that last set.
If you love to travel and ever get the opportunity, grab a day pass at a legendary gym like Gold's in Venice, CA; Armbrust Pro Gym in Denver, CO; the original Metroflex in Arlington, TX; or even CT Fletcher's new Iron Addicts Gym in southern Cali. Your local hardcore gym will definitely give your training a boost, but training at renowned facilities like these whenever you get the chance can really skyrocket your workout motivation.
3. Enter A Transformation Challenge
Unless you compete, it's hard to set a firm deadline to get into your best shape ever and then give it everything you've got. That's why those before-and-after challenges are so successful. Challenges like iSatori's 8-Week Hyper-Growth Challenge and our Bodybuilding.com 90-day challenge are perfect ways to motivate yourself for the ultimate workout each and every day. Every challenge has a winner, so you could go home with the big cash. Committing yourself will encourage you to finally bring it all together: diet, cardio, weights, and lifestyle. A challenge is a self-test to see what you can achieve; be sure to tell your family and friends that you're all in, so they can support you with each and every rep.
4. Start Training With A Partner
Has this ever happened to you: You ask a guy to spot you on a heavy set of squats or dumbbell bench presses, and you manage to bust out 2-3 reps more than you normally could? It's happened to me, plenty of times. Finding the right training partner is hard, but someone who's reliable and motivating can make a big difference in your training. Besides pushing you past limits you wouldn't feel comfortable exceeding on your own, he or she can even help you get your ass to the gym when you're tempted to blow the day off. The right motivation makes it that much easier to reach your goals.
5. Make Significant Changes In Your Workout
Even if you've found a great workout from one of the top online trainers, sooner or later it becomes stale because the body adapts. That's the time to shake up your training. You can do different exercises, change up the sets (workout volume) and reps (relative to weight), try a different workout split, or use different intensity-boosting techniques. Not only will you be better able to conquer plateaus, but your mind will appreciate the different approach as well.
6. Visualize Your Routine Before Hitting The Weights
Strength and size aren't the only two factors that separate you and me from the biggest and strongest people in the world. The most successful individuals in the gym mentally rehearse what they're going to do beforehand rather than mindlessly slinging the weights around. Practice visualization and mental rehearsal beforehand, and your instincts are more likely to take over once you get under the bar.
Sport psychologist Terry Orlick, PhD, has worked with thousands of elite athletes, allowing them to maximize performance by training the mind as well as the body. Orlick presents disciplines such as visualization to prepare the mind to operate at its peak, which over time has a direct correlation on setting personal-best performances. The most successful lifters plot their route through the gym to not only build on what they've done before but what they plan to do next time as well. Greatness doesn't happen by accident.
7. Surround Yourself With People Who Think Like You
Do you work with a group of guys who drink beer after their shift, or do your friends and co-workers hit the gym every day? The whole "birds of a feather" concept has merit. An interesting study published in Preventive Medicine found that social support—from friends and family members—for exercise was positively associated with levels of physical activity in both men and women.1 What are we trying to tell you? Hang around the kinds of people who will positively influence your behavior, rather than the ones who opt for Krispy Kreme donuts and hit the pub after work. Making the right choices—say, when a food craving arises—is easier when you're surrounded by people who put clean eating first. Friends are the family we choose, as they say, so set the bar high for the people you hang out with, and you'll be more motivated to reach your goals.
8. Find The Right Pre-Workout For You
Anyone who has ever shown up at the gym tired, unfocused, or hungry knows that's a recipe for a collapse. Getting your zzz's and ensuring you're well-fed beforehand are no-brainers. Taking a pre-workout formula like iSatori's Pre-Gro is simply smart insurance for a great workout. The unique formula provides a physical and mental boost so you can work out longer and harder, and contains ingredients (yes, it has Bio-Gro in it) that can help with muscle growth. A good pre-workout can really solidify a productive workout. As with any caffeinated pre-workout blend, start with a small dosage, and don't consume it too late in the day.
9. Take A Few Days Off
Chances are that if your motivation is waning, you may be pushing too hard. A few days off from the gym can help heal minor aches and pains and recharge your mental batteries. Many top athletes regularly integrate short-term breaks into their year-long training season. When was the last time you took one?
The principle of periodization allows athletes to plan their periods of intensity levels, and that also includes short stretches of nontraining or active rest. Sports-conditioning programs use the periodization principle to segment programs into offseason, pre-season, in-season, and post-season. Post-season often consists of rest from the gym to allow the body and mind to fully recover and prepare for the next periodization cycle. If you can't remember, or it's been more than six months since your last scheduled break from the gym, you're due. The upside is that you'll come back with more energy and motivation.
10. Hire a Coach/Watch Some Motivation
Granted, you might know more than some of the personal trainers at the health club, but that doesn't mean you couldn't master some new exercises, like the Olympic lifts or powerlifting moves. Some of these very complex exercises are tough to learn and require the keen eye of a coach—and lots of practice. But nail them and you can significantly retool your workouts, boost muscle-building hormonal output, and burn a ton of calories.
If a top coach isn't in your budget but you still could benefit from outside expertise, check out industry motivators like CT Fletcher or Nick Wright on YouTube and Bodybuilding.com. While CT's motivational techniques may be off the beaten path, after watching them I'm pretty sure you'll be ready to hit the gym with maximum intensity!
Nothing can spur your motivation like watching a beast train hard. Here's a look at iSatori's number-one motivator, CT Fletcher. Be warned, it'll take a full gut check before diving into this.
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CT'S Technique Tips
- Overhead Agony Press: "Each rep consists of starting with the bar in front of your head, pressing up and lowering it behind your head. Press upward again and lower it to the front; that counts as one rep," says CT.
- Single-Arm Dumbbell Press: "If you have one shoulder that's stronger than the other, working them individually is your opportunity to work on this imbalance, by performing either more repetitions with the weaker shoulder or pushing slightly more weight," says CT. "I prefer more reps myself. Keep the rest periods short and shut the fuck up with all that crying!"
- Single-Arm Dumbbell Lateral Raise: "I perform them standing, but not straight up," CT says. "I position myself against a wall, leaning against it with the nonworking shoulder, which increases the range of motion when you take it to parallel. If your delts are screamin' and you're feelin' the pain, wipe them tears from yo weepin'-ass eyes."
- Bent-Over Dumbbell Lateral Raise: "Simple right? Well, there's a twist, motherfucka!" warns CT. "Find an incline bench and lay on it so that your arms hang without touching the floor. This takes body English out of the equation; it's pure rear delts! Why do this? Because I fuckin' said so, that's why!"
- Triple Set: "Finish off by using the machines available in your gym," says CT. "Do 2 sets of absolute failure of 12 reps each on the shoulder press, lateral raise, and reverse pec decks. Now I can hear you, 'But CT, my shoulders are fried.' My answer to that is, 'Quit your moaning, you pacifier-suckin' baby, and finish what you started!"'
- Treiber, F. A., Baranowski, T., Braden, D. S., Strong, W. B., Levy, M., & Knox, W. (1991). Social support for exercise: relationship to physical activity in young adults. Preventive Medicine, 20(6), 737-750.