I wouldn’t say I’m a trendsetter, but I do hate to just do what everyone else is doing for the sake of fitting in. Therefore, I refuse to make this a “Top 5…” or “Top 10…” style post, because a) I assume I’m not the only person on the planet spending less time on Facebook because every damn post seems to be one of those lists, and b) I don’t know how many items would make this list anyway. This is going to be relatively stream-of-consciousness, and I don’t intend to edit. WATCH OUT, HIDE THE CHILDREN.
With that being said, let’s talk about the most common things I see that stall progress.
Assuming that rest is for other people
You (yes, you. I mean it. Really. You) need rest in order to grow, and through intense cuts you need rest to maintain. This does not, necessarily, mean taking days off. If you train a body part split you can often train 7 days a week and be just fine. People worry about overtraining, but even on a strenuous day (legs), half your body is still effectively getting a rest. Total body metabolic lifts might be a different story, but for a “bodybuilding” split, I challenge you to overtrain yourself. If you succeed, it means you’re doing something right.
No, I mean sleep. Often time we wake up early to get to the gym or do some cardio before starting the day, then at night we’re too busy catching up to knock off at a reasonable hour. If you find yourself routinely getting 5-6 hours of sleep, move heaven and earth to try and change that to 6-7 hours. If you feel you function ok on little sleep, you might be right – but we’re not shooting for ‘ok’, we’re aiming for ‘optimal’.
Being unable to switch off your OCD counting obsession
Everyone counts their reps when they lift. Your workout plan says 10 reps of a move, you do 10. That’s the wrong approach. To build muscle, we’re trying to overload it – that means asking it to do more than it’s willing (or able) to do. If your workout plan calls for 10 reps of something, your approach should be to let that number guide your weight selection, then hit as many reps as you possible can without altering your form. DO NOT leave reps on the table. If you think you pick an appropriate weight for 10 reps and then manage to grind out 14, congratulations. That’s the point. Next time, bump the weight up a tiny increment and see if you get closer to 10. Don’t treat those numerical targets as absolutes, they are nothing more than guides.
It’s simple: when it comes to aesthetics, it’s not about strength. It’s about the appearance of strength. Lifting for hypertrophy and lifting for strength are very different things. If you try to do both at the same time, the most common outcome is injury. Hypertrophy lifting means going slow (as opposed to explosive) and focusing on the greatest possible connection between brain and target muscle. Squeeze hard and make every rep an EVENT that has a potential to leave a mark on your body.
Not treating your diet as the foundation of your body
This is the one item that everyone knows, and yet invariably the one thing that holds more people back than anyone. It doesn’t have to be rocket science, though it certainly can almost get to that level for some people. Make good choices, avoid stuff that makes you feel like ass, get enough protein, fiber, and fats, skip the alcohol, and watch your body change.
Not having a way to measure your success
Most people don’t stick with a diet or training program long enough to let it work due to exercise-related ADD. I’m often guilty of this myself when it comes to my own training, so I get it. When you are using your own eyes and the mirror to track your progress, you are relying on 2 things that lie to you or at least that are difficult to trust. Having an objective visual impression of yourself is a skill that needs to be developed, it’s not an inherent trait. As a coach, this is one of my more useful functions – being able to point out areas in which someone has progressed that they can’t see for themselves without help.
And please, we need to stop with body fat percentages. A nice idea, but not accurate enough to use when assessing progress. The next time I see someone say that they are 8.43% when they are closer to 15% visually, I’m going to sit down and write a blog post about the statistical difference between accuracy and precision, and also share how those numbers are derived (hint: it’s not very helpful). I’m sure everyone is super excited to see a blog post with a bunch of algebraic expressions!
There you go! Something tells me there may certainly be a “part 2” of this article in the future!