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Why Women Should Lift Weights

From the title, you can infer what I will discuss in this article but what you may not realize is that this may very well turn out to be one of the most important articles I ever write on this site. I get asked all the time what is my favorite team to work with. Most assume its football with me being a former football player and the reputation for football player’s love of the weight room. Although my answer can vary depending on the time of year, and personality of the teams, most are shocked when I tell them how much I enjoy the girl teams. As a strength and conditioning coach that works with every sport at one of the biggest high schools in the state and also a personal trainer and online coach, I have the opportunity to work with literally hundreds of females. Women, no matter whether they are training for sport or just to be fit, are a lot of fun to work with. A big reason I love working with females is that whether it’s a shy high school sophomore who has little to no confidence in the weight room or a mom working out for the first time in years, the look on their face when they achieve something they might not be naturally comfortable doing is priceless.

The Misconception

Working with women often comes with obstacles that are not present with men. Of course, this is not true for all women but in my experiences it is a topic that needs to be addressed. A big part of the population has a misconception about weight lifting and its effect on women. Again, not all women but a large number are afraid that lifting weights will make them bulky and masculine looking. I get told “I don’t want to look like you” or “I don’t want to look like a guy” more frequently than I would like to recount. In my experience, most women view cardio or aerobic type classes as the type of training they need to achieve their ideal physique. They split it right down the middle, if you’re a male, you lift weights and if you’re a female you do cardio. In fact, a study in 2014 showed that of the millions of women that belonged to commercial gyms less than one-third picked up a dumbbell. I attribute this to both a lack of readily available information and misinformation thanks to social media and the internet.

Go Hard. It’s Okay. I Promise

Another misconception that I battle on a weekly basis is that resistance training is actually okay for women as long as it is light and low intensity. I can only assume this is why there are classes for women that include dancing with five and three pound dumbbells. Luckily, I did my homework and found another study that was done with college aged females. The study proved over a significant time period that a high resistance weight training program increased lean body mass, decreased fat percentages, and showed no change in body weight. It literally says at the end of the study that the results showed no masculinizing effects meaning they did not start looking like dudes.

We Aren’t the Same

Life isn’t always fair. Not everyone is created with the same genetics, skills, etc. In this case, for women who are afraid of bulking up with resistance training this is a good thing! Because women literally cannot gain muscle the same way a male can. I have told this to some women and it’s like they don’t hear me. It is a scientific fact that women cannot gain muscle like men can because women have significantly lower natural testosterone and significantly higher levels of estrogen. “But, you see those women on line that look like dudes, I don’t want to gain muscle like that.” Notice I said natural testosterone. Those women with insane amounts of muscle mass are not natural. Period.

To Get HOOGE You Have to Eat

“But I don’t want to get muscular, I just want to get tone.” Just slap me please. When someone says they want to tone up what they are really saying is that they want to gain muscle and lose fat. Also, gaining the amount of muscle mass some women are afraid of gaining does not happen overnight or even within a few months. It not only takes a lot of time and hard work to gain a significant amount of muscle but also a surplus in calories. If you aren’t eating more calories than you are expending you will not gain muscle. So for women who resistance train a few days a week and eat healthy but not in excess, you have nothing to worry about in terms of too much muscle mass. It happens all the time, someone will ask me details about my training, they comment on how much time and work I put into the gym, food, etc. to gain the amount of muscle I have, then turn around and are afraid they will gain too much muscle in a week lifting for thirty minutes. I don’t let it upset me too much because one of my favorite lines is “They don’t know what they don’t know.”

More Serious Matter

Although, I have discussed the importance of weight training for helping women achieve their ideal physique, there is a far more beneficial reason women should resistance train especially for the long term. Resistance training strengthens bone. It strengthens the bone density which in turn can fight off osteoporosis which is a medical condition in which the bones become brittle and fragile from loss of tissue. Although both men and women are vulnerable to osteoporosis women are more prone to suffer from it especially postmenopausal. Age-related sarcopenia or muscle loss is also a concern for women. A significant loss of muscle mass as a woman ages can make everyday activities more difficult and can eventually lead to falls, which brings us back to the dangers of osteoporosis and broken bones.
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References:
http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10671315.1974.10615291
http://jandonline.org/article/s0002-8223(98)00094-7/abstract
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/33/3/190.short
http://www.acsm.org/public-information/articles/2016/10/07/strength-training-for-women
https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-s/strenght-training-builds-more-than-muscles
https://www/nwacc.edu/c/document_library/get_file?uuid+1269b4e5-c398-4e1e-a07e-6700bbceb9a9&groupd=216833&filename=4%20Advantages%200f%20weight%20training%20for%20women%20by%20julie%20%20gabbard-1.pdf

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Say No to the Scale

I named my business “Training With a Why” because I wanted to help people develop a different way of thinking about their fitness and really their life. If you take a moment to think about, it it’s amazing how many things we do daily in our lives without thinking or asking ourselves why. We become so accustomed to thinking or doing things a certain way that it becomes automatic.

As a trainer, I am constantly challenging my clients to find the why. I find that this not only gives them a better understanding of what it is that we are trying to accomplish but is also a great source of motivation. It is harder to give up when the reason you started in the first place is in the forefront of your mind. Reading this without context I can see how some people may have a hard time understanding how someone can forget why they are doing what they are doing. However, it is fairly common for me to see people lose track of their why.

A perfect example of this is the weight scale. P.S., if I don’t go on a ten-page rant about the weight scale I’ll consider that a win and be very proud of myself if not downright surprised. This is by far my biggest complaint as a trainer. My issue is not with the scale itself, it has done nothing wrong to me, my problem is with the people that give it too much power. The scale is a single tool that can be used as a guide. Notice the phrase, “a single tool” as it is just one of many tools that can be used to track progress and in my opinion it is the least important tool as well. It can be helpful to use every once in awhile to reaffirm we are on the correct path. However, for someone who loses track of their “Why” the scale can be their number one enemy.

When someone loses track of their “Why” and begins treating the scale as the single most important thing, my headaches as a trainer begin. I can go on and on about why giving the scale too much power is a bad thing. However, I have found that the problems begin before the workouts and diet plans even take form. People get their “Why” all screwed up. What is just as bad as not having a “Why” is having a poor understanding of what the why actually is. The following is an example of a conversation I’ve had at least a few hundred times with clients over the years helping them gain full understanding of their “Why.”

Client: “I want to start working out and eating healthier.”

Me: “Okay and why is this important to you?”

Client: “I would like to lose some weight.”

Me: “Okay and what is your goal weight”

Client: “I would like to weigh (Enter very specific number here)”

Me: “And why is this important to you?”

Client: “I got on the scale last week and couldn’t believe how much I weighed.  I used to weight x amount at (enter period of time here).”

Me: “Okay and why do you believe you have to weigh X amount?”

Client: “So I can look and feel better in my clothes, bathing suit, etc. etc.”

Me: “Ding, Ding, Ding!!! And there is the winner. That is your why! Not the specific number on the scale.”

I can see why asking “why” over and over again to my clients can become annoying, but what I am actually doing is getting to the very roots of their dreams and desires. The number on the scale is not the why. It is simply a tool in tracking the progress of the true why. It is my job to help people find and understand their true “Why” and then keep it in the forefront.

It is getting harder and harder to do this with all these 10-minute ab workouts and fad diets placing too much emphasis and power on what the scale says. I’ve had clients with goals of becoming stronger, or more lean, or healthier, or a big one is to look better in their clothes. So, we train and train and they continually improve their diet and sure enough they are getting stronger every day and their clothes are visibly fitting them better. They are feeling really good about themselves and then they step on the scale and are heartbroken that they have only lost 7 pounds. Are you freaking kidding me!

This is when I have to remind them of their “Why” and how they are achieving that why. It’s like the saying I have heard many times growing up about money. Find a job that you love and the money will come. In fitness, in regards to the number on the scale, keep inching closer to the true why and the weight will come. To close this article out, I have listed a few reasons below about why you should not give the scale too much power. I hope that this will entice you to possibly change about how you view fitness and your own goals and your why behind them.

Why The Weight Scale is Not the Answer
  • Everyone holds weight differently and you should not base your weight goals off of someone else.
  • Improvement can be made before change is visible on the scale.
  • Body weight fluctuates more than you realize.
  • It is not always a reliable tool for your state of “health”.
  • Muscle weighs more than fat.
  • The mirror is a much more reliable tool.
  • It can cause you to lose track of your why.

 

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Why My High School Athletes Don’t Do Olympic Lifts

In my three years as a high school strength and conditioning coach the hundreds to thousands of athletes that have gone through my program have done exactly zero Olympic lifts. That’s right, zero power cleans, zero jerks, and zero snatches. I know this will be shocking to most strength coaches but I simply don’t see the need for them at this level. Before I go any further, let me make sure it is well known, I do not hate the Olympic lifts nor do I deny their effectiveness at building explosive strength, in fact, the opposite is true. I am simply stating that I do not see the need for the Olympic lifts in my program at the high school level. Your athletes and setting might be different and Olympic lifts might be beneficial. I can only speak about my setting and here are a few reasons my athletes do not do the Olympic lifts.

Time (I Get the Most Bang for My Buck)

Time, or the lack thereof, is always a factor in everything you choose to do at the high school level. I have written articles, such as Three Things College Didn’t Teach Me on how high school athletes juggle multiple sports, jobs, school work, and extra-curricular activities all on top of weight training. This leads to inconsistency and a crunch on time. That makes it near impossible to teach the technique dominated movements of the Olympic lifts to a group of 20-30 athletes. Instead, I choose to run my high school program similar to that of a university setting. The sessions are fifty minutes long with one team after another. I guarantee that my athletes get more done in fifty minutes than 90% of the high school programs get done in two hours. How is that possible? Because I make sure that we are getting the most bang for our buck. I cover the absolute necessities. These necessities will be covered in the following sections. It is also no coincidence that these necessities should also be the building blocks of anyone wanting to be strong in the Olympic lifts. So no, I do not deem the time it takes to teach, become proficient, and then strong in the Olympic lifts more important than what the next two sections will cover. You have to remember that when you say yes to something you are saying no to something else.

Movement (Can You Tie Your Shoes First?)

This heading was only meant to be half-way funny. The other half is a serious question. If an athlete cannot move his or her own body effectively and efficiently they will not only suffer in the weight room, but they will certainly suffer in their sport. My job is to help them be as effective at their sport as possible, not be weight room heroes. When you see the word movement I know most of you will immediately associate it with technique. Proper technique is obviously important in the weight room and it does involve movement. However, I am not just discussing technique alone, I am also talking about learning to move the human body efficiently and effectively with and without the stress of a load. Can you tie your shoes first is a legitimate question. If an athlete cannot reach the ground or even their toes from a standing position how do you expect them to safely pick weight up off the ground? If they tip over doing body weight squats how can you possibly ask them to put weight on their back? These are just a couple common examples associated with two of the “big” lifts (i.e. deadlifts and squats). There are many other examples, some that have nothing to do with a big compound lift in the weight room but rather a natural human movement that should be fairly easy to execute but so often my athletes find very difficult, at least at first. Learning to move efficiently and effectively will not only improve athletic performance but will do so while also decreasing the risk of injury by eliminating imbalances and dysfunctions within the system. In my programs crawling, rolling, hanging, and carrying weight is just as important as the big compound lifts. Combine the compound lifts with these other movement exercises, throw in some needed corrective exercises and you got yourself a program with very few holes.

Strength (Squat, Deadlift, OH Press, Bench)

After learning to move efficiently and effectively my main focus is to have my athletes build raw strength. I do this by making the compound movements the center of my program. The compound movements are the squat, deadlift, overhead press, and bench press. Yes, these movements still involve technique aspects and not everyone is going to be proficient at them right away. But they are much easier to teach and thus allow the athletes become stronger faster. Not to mention, even if your goal was to include the Olympic lifts, your athletes should be strong in the basic compound lifts first.

Even if I wanted to take the time to teach the Olympic lifts and was successful at doing so, what’s the benefit if the athlete doesn’t have the raw strength to move sufficient weight in the Olympic lifts to justify the time spent teaching them? I would much rather utilize our precious time to allow them to become strong and powerful at the basic compound lifts.

There You Have It

I know there will be a good number of well-respected strength coaches that disagree with the idea of avoiding the Olympic lifts at the high school level. In my opinion, what it comes down to is knowing your environment and ultimately your athletes. If you have had success with the Olympic lifts don’t stop. But if you are spending an enormous amount of time that you don’t have trying to teach these very difficult exercises just because they are “tradition” you may want to rethink things. If you are interested in any of my techniques and methods for improving movement such as correctives etc. be sure to contact me as I am always happy to help.

 

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Lessons the Gym Has Taught Me

You can call me weird, but I loved being in school. I loved being around my friends, the extracurricular activities, and I enjoyed playing sports and the atmosphere of a Friday during football season. In college I loved meeting new people, living in a different town, and just all the new experiences college brought into my life. I think towards the top of that list of things I loved, if not at the very top, was just being a student. I always loved learning new things and bettering myself. I enjoyed the process that was school. It turns out that it was a good thing I liked school because at twenty-five years old and a graduate from high school, a four year college, and another year to earn my master’s degree, roughly 92% of my life so far has been spent in an academic setting. My experiences and lessons learned in high school led me to what I wanted to study in college.

Earning my bachelor’s and master’s degrees gave me a foundation of knowledge that I use every day. These countless lessons shaped me into the kind of professional I am today and I am proud of that. However, what I am more proud of is the type of person I am and continue to develop into. Besides my parents, who obviously played an enormous part of developing me into the person I am today, I can honestly say next on that list is the gym. The gym is an enormous part of my life but the reasons and benefits extend far beyond the bench and squat rack. Here are a few lessons the gym has taught me over the years.

Discipline and Patience

I went back and forth about which word to put first in the heading because both are important and you can’t have one without the other. If you aren’t disciplined or you lack patience you will not succeed in the gym. Heck, I guess you can say that about almost any goal in life. You learn fast that you better have the discipline to consistently go to the gym. Especially the days when you have other offers on the table or you didn’t get a good night sleep the night before. The thing most people forget is the discipline you need outside the gym to help reach your goals. The discipline to go to bed earlier, meal prep for the week, to stay in on Friday night when you are supposed to work out Saturday morning. This discipline will also come in handy when your patience is starting to waver and you become discouraged. And trust me it will happen at some point! When you are at the gym you better possess patience because nothing happens overnight, or in a week.

Depending on the situation you might not approach your goals for months or years at a time! I truly believe that the success I have had in the gym is because I honestly love the process. I am a nerd when it comes to winning the little battles. I love it when I improve on a lift by five or ten pounds even if it takes a month or more.! Learn to love the process and be patient and results will follow, guaranteed.

The Skill to Adjust

This one is definitely the one that I naturally struggle with the most. I love routines. I love knowing what I am going to do well in advance. This is actually a good thing regarding the gym because routines, or programs, are how you progress. However, the gym, like life, is not always perfect with impeccable conditions. Things happen and you must adjust. Unfortunately, I had many injuries during my football career that ultimately ended my playing days. While trying to combine preparing for the upcoming season and still rehabbing an injury I was forced to learn how to adjust and work around things. Even now that my playing days are over I still struggle with the inconvenient injuries that come with training. Anyone that works out regularly can attest that you are not always going to be 100% all the time. So you have to adjust so that you still get your work done. Bodybuilders are great at this because not being able to train a certain body part because of injury is just not acceptable. So they become masters at finding different ways of working around an injury. I have also had to adjust my routines when certain equipment is not available for whatever reason.

The third reason you may have to adjust is because something is just not working. In training almost everything will work when you first try it. Then your body adapts and you must adapt with it. You must adjust what you are doing to continue down the path to success. This realizing that something must be adjusted leads me to my next and last point, self-awareness.

Self-Awareness

Okay, maybe I lied. Honestly, I’m not sure what I naturally struggle with more, adjusting or being self-aware. But I am aware that self-awareness is not a strong point so does that mean I am actually self-aware? Ironic, but I digress. I believe that self-awareness is one of the most underrated skill sets not just in the gym but in life in general. I hold it in such high regard that it is probably the one skill I would choose if I only had one choice. If you are self-aware you know exactly what you are good at and what you aren’t good at. Sounds like common sense right? Not so much. I see it all the time in the gym. People have an inflated idea about what they are good at and completely ignore what they suck at. In the gym that is a recipe for disaster. You need to attack what you are bad at. See my article about training weak points Weak Point Training – Training With a “Why?”

I am continuously trying to improve my self-awareness not just in the gym but in all other aspects of my life. The gym is a great way to practice this. Being self-aware about what body parts are my strong points, which ones are lagging behind. What movements am I good at? Which ones need some extra attention? This a skill set that will not only improve your performance in the gym but in everyday life. Self-awareness and being honest with yourself can become uncomfortable at times because no one wants to admit that they are bad at something. Maybe ask a family member or close friend to help you figure out what your strong points and weak points are. But remain open minded and remind yourself it will lead to growth in more ways than one.

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Weak Point Training

Weak point training is something that a moderate to advanced lifter pays attention to, or should pay attention to. A beginner shouldn’t, at least at the very beginning. The reason a newbie shouldn’t be worrying about weak point training is that everything is a weak point. I can’t tell you how many times someone has come up to me in the gym and has asked me how to develop a very specific area of a body part or muscle group, yet they look like this is their first time in the gym. This is when I like to respond with one of my favorite lines, “Build the house first bro, worry about the paint later.”

A person who is new to the gym and wants to get bigger, stronger, or whatever should worry about getting good at the big compound movements like the squat, bench, and deadlift. They should learn and try as many accessory lifts as possible and don’t stress about developing a specific muscle until significant mass and strength is built. Then you can start to be aware of what body parts or muscle groups are falling behind and take action to make your weak points your new strong points. Weak point training is not only for bodybuilding or aesthetics, but for strength. The following are tips on how to train weak points to improve both aesthetics and strength.

Nutrition

Most of us have heard the saying “Eat big to get big.” Please be aware that this is not just a catchy line. This is the most effective way of gaining size. Without eating and eating a lot you will not gain the size most of us are after. Again, this is another question I get asked often “well how much should I eat to get bigger?” I’m good at what I do. But I don’t know if anyone is so good that they can simply look at you and give you the exact calories and ratio of macronutrients you need to gain two inches on your arms. Yet, I get the feeling that is exactly the answer people expect when they ask me how much they should eat. Instead, I ask them a question in return, “Have you gotten bigger and stronger eating what you are currently eating?” When they says no I simply reply “Eat more.” Yes, it’s that simple.

Train it More Often

Yes, yet another obvious solution. When you want to improve a lacking muscle or body part simply train it more often. I know exactly what most of you will say. “But won’t training a muscle too often lead to overtraining?” Enter shocked face emoji here. I always laugh to myself because it seems the people that are overly panicked about overtraining and the dangers that come with it are the same people that are bound to end up on one of those gym fails videos on the internet for attempting some idiotic exercise they saw on YouTube. Is overtraining bad? Yes. Is it dangerous? Yes. Will doing arms two or three times a weak lead to overtraining? No. Also, if you follow the first tip and eat enough plus get enough sleep it is much harder to over-train than people think.

Hit Different Angles/Exercises

By attacking the targeted muscle from different angles you will ensure that every muscle fiber in that specific muscle is being stimulated causing it to grow. This can be done by changing the angles of the exercise being done. For example, change your body angle from standing upright to leaning forward and downwards while doing standing cable fly’s to hit your chest in a different way. Another example would be to do dumbbell chest fly’s lying on an inclined bench to hit the upper chest instead of lying on a flat bench that hits more of the entire chest.

You can also change angles by changing the exercise completely. For example, A dumbbell hammer curl across your body is going to hit your bicep in a different way than a preacher curl will. The combination of different curls will not only help improve your bicep size but it will also help add aesthetically pleasing shape to the bicep. This is true for any and every muscle group. Trying different exercises can also help improve strength on an exercise where strength is lacking.

Lower the Weight

Targeting a specific muscle or muscle group is more challenging than one might think. Everyone has muscle groups that are more dominant than others. Those muscles will grow the fastest, will always be able to get a pump easily, and thus are usually the muscles you love training the most.

These dominant muscle groups want to take over and do all of the work which can lead to problems when you are targeting a different muscle group that is nearby. For example, my shoulders have always been more dominant than my chest. It was always super easy for me to get a pump and feel the contraction in my shoulders and they became my favorite body part to train. It wasn’t until recently, maybe a little over a year ago, I noticed my chest size lagging. This made sense because every time I tried to isolate my chest I had a hard time taking my shoulders out of the equation.

My solution to this was to lighten the weight on my accessory chest exercises such as fly’s, dips, chest press machines, etc. and really concentrate on my chest doing the work instead of my shoulders. When you go as heavy as you can the dominant muscle group will always take over and with heavy weight it’s difficult to slow things down and concentrate on a specific muscle group.

So, my advice to you is that when working on a muscle group or body part that is difficult for you to feel, lighten the weight on the exercises, slow it down, and really concentrate on making that muscle do the work. Remember, lightening the weight to isolate a lagging body part is purely a bodybuilding technique and not a strength technique.

Attack It

When you have a weak point you need to attack it. It needs to be a top priority until it is no longer a weak point. When you have built it into a strength move on to the next thing that is lagging behind. Bringing weak points up into strengths will make your entire physique look better and likewise bringing a lift up that is falling behind in strength compared to other lifts will make everything else stronger as well.

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Supersets, Drop Sets, and Forced Reps Oh My

We are all guilty of it. It being the routine we fall in at the gym. This can be a routine of multiple things including the same exercises, reps, sets, exercise order, etc. Everyone has their favorite way of doing things because it worked, at first. Routines are necessary in training, it’s how programs are built. An effective training regimen should follow some type of routine or plan. Each workout should build off the previous one. Dramatically changing things up every few weeks does not give your body time to experience and adjust to the stress training places on it. However, it is important to understand how muscle strength and growth takes place. Weight training is a stressor on the body, it literally tears the muscle fibers causing those fibers to grow back bigger and stronger. Those fibers grow back bigger and stronger so that the body can handle the stress that is placed upon it, in this case the weights being lifted. Well, if the body feels that the stress placed upon it is not significant enough to stimulate change it simply won’t change, in our case grow bigger and stronger. This is why people make beginner gains, where everything the body is experiencing is new and thus it needs to grow. After a period of time the body is strong and big enough to handle that stress and doesn’t need to change anymore. This is where you have to be aware and again start putting new stress on your body. These following methods are a great way to put different stress on your muscles and can be done with almost every type of exercise and body part.

Supersets

Supersets are probably the most common of the methods I will discuss in this article. Supersets combine two exercises back to back with no rest in between. This is purely a bodybuilding technique and is a great way to keep the blood in the muscle instead of resting for an extended period of time. This is also a great technique to use if you are short on time. They can be done a couple different ways.

  • Antagonist and Agonist Supersets (A true superset)

o   Works opposing muscle groups (i.e. chest and back, biceps and triceps, etc.)

  • Compound sets

o   Works same muscle with both exercises (hammer curls and preacher curls, etc.)

o   When executing compound sets it is usually a good idea to start with the harder exercise.

o   I like to pick two exercises that hit the same muscle but from two different angles.

Drop Sets

Drop sets are used so that you can continue the set even after you reach muscular fatigue. This is a great technique to ensure that every last muscle fiber of the area being worked is stimulated which is what we want and need to induce change. There are two different ways you can perform drop sets.

  • Conventional Drop Set

o   You lighten the weight once you reach muscular fatigue in order to continue the set.

o   This is usually performed on the last set of the exercise. For example, on your last set of dumbbell lateral raises you complete 15 reps, you immediately drop weight in order to complete another 12 reps. If you choose you can even go further and do a second drop set of about 10 reps.

o   You can also do drop sets after each set of the exercise you are doing instead of just the last one but be prepared to be exhausted afterwards.

  • Mechanical Drop Set

o   You change your hand placement from most difficult to less difficult in order to continue the set.

o   An example of this that I love to do is with EZ bar curls. Start with a wider grip because it’s the harder grip. Execute the set until you can’t get another rep. Then immediately change your hand placement to the easier inside grip and continue the set.

Forced Reps

Forced reps are probably the least common and most difficult to do of these three methods. If you train with a workout buddy they are easier to add into your program than if you lift by yourself. The reason being is that you need a spotter to help you. As with drop sets, forced reps allow us to continue the set once we hit muscular fatigue. The difference is that you don’t have to lighten the weight with forced reps since your buddy is physically helping you move the weight. An example of this would be if you put 185 pounds on the bench press and pressed it 6 times by yourself and another 4 times with your spotter helping you press the weight up to finish the set. Note: this is not the same thing as walking into the gym like a hard ass and constantly putting weight on the bar that is 50 pounds too much and having your spotter save your life over and over again. I caution that these are another great way to stimulate every muscle fiber in the area being used but this is also the method that I would use less often than the previous two mentioned. The reason I say that is because of two reasons; one, they are very taxing on the body and two, I worry that people will start using them too often. The goal should still be for you to physically get stronger and use heavier and heavier weights instead of your buddy constantly lifting the weight for you. But like the previous mentioned methods this is a great technique to change things up.

Experiment

All three of these methods work to create a stimulus for change. If you are continuously doing conventional sets and have seen your progress slow or stop I highly suggest adding one of all of these methods in your routine. Try at least one a workout. Keep at it for a few weeks, step back and evaluate the results and then try something else if you need to. What I like about suggesting these methods to people that have never tried something like this before is that it forces them to go hard, maybe harder than there used to and forces them to experience what muscular fatigue actually feels like. Be sure to let me know how these work for you!

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Consistency

By now, I hope that I have written enough of these articles to convey my passion for this field. I can discuss different training philosophies for days, go over cues for teaching techniques with anyone, and I’m a nerd when it comes to programming. I absolutely love the tangible part of training,. Equally interesting to me are the intangibles of training. The things that aren’t always evident from across the gym. I think that my love for the intangible aspects of training can be traced back to my athletic career where I believed from an early age that I could gain a competitive advantage by mastering the intangibles.

This has carried over to my own training experiences, where I firmly believe that what has helped me the most are taking the intangible parts of training seriously. When talking about intangibles there are different aspects that all fall under one larger idea; mindset. I believe that mindset is the single biggest factor that sets people apart that are after the same goal. Regardless if that mindset is deemed positive or negative there are different traits that arise from it. A few of those traits are consistency, or lack thereof, resiliency, intensity, and accountability to name a few. I plan on writing articles on these different traits but I will start with one that I believe has helped me the most; consistency.

I find it interesting that people ask me all the time what I eat, or what program I am doing. I get asked, “how much do you bench?” almost weekly. But no one has ever asked me what is the one greatest thing that I attribute to my success in training. If they did, my answer would be a boring one, consistency. I’m sure people would expect me to go into detail about a complex training program and talking about an extreme diet that I am currently trying. I doubt that anyone would expect my answer to be a single word.

I don’t believe I was genetically gifted or predestined to be good at training. I was a decent athlete growing up, by no means anything to brag about, and am more athletic now than at any point in my life thanks to training. What sets me apart from people struggling to see improvement in the gym is consistency. I do what I am supposed to do more often than most people. Yes, I read and I experiment and I talk to my mentors. Yes, some programs and techniques work better than others and it is important to learn them. But you can gain all the knowledge you want and if you don’t apply it consistently you will never reach your full potential. This is why consistency is a trait of mindset. You must possess a certain mindset to realize the importance of consistency. When I wake up in the morning I know I am training that day. I don’t even think about what if this or that happens. I’ll get those outside factors taken care of without letting it affect my training. I think the reason consistency comes so easy to me is because of my, Why.

Yes, let’s not forget the first question I asked of you all. I know my Why, it may change from time to time, but I always have a clear understanding of why I am doing what I am doing. By knowing my Why I have a reason for consistently going to the gym, for consistently eating the way I do. Without having a Why, a purpose, failing to be consistent is an easy thing to do. Where I see most people fail in the gym is when adversity hits them. I guess this can be life in general. It is easy to be consistent when everything is going great. I see it all the time. People are consistent when their schedule works out and no outside stress is affecting their training. They have no nagging injuries that make certain exercises impossible to do. Everything is running smoothly so of course they look forward to going to the gym and to eating right. However, as soon as something goes wrong, as soon as an injury pops up, or a new responsibility takes away some of their free time, things begin to unravel. It doesn’t even have to be that extreme. It can be as simple as they aren’t seeing results as fast as they first did and they become frustrated. It’s difficult to be consistent when it’s not as fun, when you aren’t seeing the results. But that is exactly the time you must keep consistent because it always comes back around and you will start seeing improvement again, your injuries will heal, and your schedule will lighten or you will simply get better at time management. Knowing your Why will help you possess a mindset that will allow you to push through these adversities. It will be that driving force that keeps you consistent.

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A Bodybuilder’s Worst Enemy

A bodybuilder’s worst enemy isn’t anything tangible. It’s not genetics or even a bad diet. No, a bodybuilder’s worst enemy is having an inflated ego. Sometimes, having an ego is not necessarily a bad thing. The problem with having an ego starts when it gets in the way of smart, efficient, goal-orientated training. Bodybuilding is a very specific style of training with a very specific goal in mind. The goal of bodybuilding is to build the best possible physique. When bodybuilding, the goal cannot be to lift as much weight as possible, to set new personal records, or to perform mind-blowing athletic feats in the gym. The goal must always be to achieve the best physique that you can. The weights being lifted are just a means to an end, the tool used to achieve the ultimate goal. An ego can cause the amount of weight being lifted to become the priority and make it the final goal instead image1of just a tool.  It’s common for the final goal to become blurred if a person loses focus of their why. I have discussed the importance of keeping your why focused and clear in my other posts on this blog.  You must know why you are training in the first place. If the answer is anything other than to attain the best possible physique that you can, then bodybuilding may not be what is best for achieving your goals. However, if your answer does lead you to bodybuilding, then you have to train like a bodybuilder, always keeping your focus clear and your ego under control.  This may sound simple, but you would be surprised how many people lose this focus and let their ego get the best of them.

Again, I cannot stress enough how important it is to fully understand that training like a bodybuilder means that the weight being used is just a means to an end.  This means that you cannot be overly worried with the amount of weight being lifted because your goal needs to be the appearance of your physique.  Instead, you need to be focused on the quality of the reps of your lifts. We have all seen people in the gym obviously using too much weight, doing fast, uncontrolled, or not full reps and therefore, not achieving much of anything. When you use a weight that is too heavy, you are forced to use either momentum, muscles not intended to be used, or both. With a few exceptions, bodybuilding is about isolating a single muscle or muscle group. Using controlled and slow movements allow for this isolation to happen without the use of momentum or other bigger muscles in the lift. It may sound a little far-fetched at first, but the mind-body connection is real. The mind body connection is the ability to know what muscle should be working and being able to feel that targeted muscle work throughout the range of motion. If you can’t feel this, chances are you’re going too heavy and a more dominant muscle is taking over. The tough part of fixing this problem is to leave your ego outside of the gym and avoid going too heavy. Now, of course you have to challenge yourself because that’s how muscles grow. The trick is to find the balance of going as heavy as you can while keeping quality reps. Quality should always be the top priority with weight being a close second. It may help to realize that any bodybuilder who actually knows what they are talking about will never notice how much weight you use on the lat pull-down, but they will notice your wide back created from doing the reps properly with as heavy a weight as you can handle.

Another major problem with having an enlarged ego is that it can stop us from asking for help. It is important to be open to learning from others. When I was first starting out with my training, my eyes were always wide open in the gym. I was always watching other people, trying to learn as much as I could from them. A lot of people demonstrated the wrong way to do lifts and reps, but I also learned from a ton from people who had good form and knew what they were doing. Learning from watching both the wrong way and the correct way really helped me when I was starting out. I understood early on that if I was too proud to ask for help from others that I would be missing out on a lot of great advice. The bigger guys are big for a reason. They may not know everything there is to know, but chances are they know at least something that could help you out. So forget about your pride and don’t be afraid to find someone bigger than you and pick their brain a little bit.

Remember, if the reason you are in the weight room is bodybuilding, it is crucial that you keep your ego under control.  Forget about going for the maximum amount of weight you can lift and focus on controlled reps using weight that you can control but still challenges you.  If you remember this as well as not to be too proud to learn from others, you will be on the way to achieving your ultimate goal of the perfect physique.