If you’re looking to improve your squat total, then this 3-part series isn’t for you.
I could not care less about my “one-rep-maxes” when it comes to health and fitness.
I do have my own goals, as I’m assuming you do as well.
The are, as stated:
- I want to look sexy as hell.
- You can call that superficial if you want, but if you DO call it superficial, it’s likely because you’re not a sexy beast just yet.
- Once you become a sexy beast, you’ll realize that it’s the shit, and you’ll be on #teamnoshirt before you know it.
- We ALL want to look great; it’s a primal urge of all humanity.
- I want to feel fantastic.
- I want to have energy and pep in my step.
- I want to be able to stay on my feet, all day long, and not be tired.
- Well…..I guess I want to stay on my feet until it’s time to………..
- I want to fuck like a champion.
- Yep, this is vulgar.
- If cusswords offend you, I’m really fucking sorry.
- I’m a man who is dedicated to marriage/monogamy (wife of 11 years), traditional values (cradle Catholic here), childraising (2 daughters!), and suburban life (blech).
- But this is real life here, pal.
- If you don’t want to fuck like a champion, you have problems.
So how do we look great, feel fantastic, and keep the sex drive alive, well into middle age?
We train hard at the right things.
This is Part 1 of our 3-part series on how to make the most of your training program.
Your “boulders” should be your #1 priority from the start.
They are the most important pieces to keep in line during your training career.
Failure to take care of a boulder will result in actual progress being lost.
The smaller rocks, while still important, can be skimped over during difficult situations with your personal life. When you’re stressed from work, you’re moving, you’re changing jobs, or you’re dealing with new additions to the family, keeping tabs on your boulders will ensure that progress isn’t lost.
If you master your boulders, you will maintain your progress at the least. Chances are you can even improve your progress if you absolutely crush your boulders.
Boulder 1: Adherence
Showing up regularly to train is the biggest boulder you have.
Admittedly, this is a tough boulder to master for the beginner.
The physical changes you desire are likely going to take a long time. Mastering the habit of going to the gym “forever” can be daunting. This change seems “big” when you try to wrap your mind around it.
Attending a brick and mortar gym might seem like an annoying inconvenience. Training at home can certainly provide you with a bit of a time savings.
It can be argued that the act of packing your gym bag and going to the gym is more powerful than any other act. If you can solidify this habit into your routine, you will find a psychological shift in your view of your training.
Even if your training is sub-par at first, if you simply force yourself to keep on going, eventually, you will grow in your ability to apply the remaining boulders (and smaller rocks) as you mature as a lifter.
Do you know what the primary driver of your sexual desires is?
Yep, that’s correct – testosterone.
For both males and females, free testosterone increases your sex drive dramatically.
Men have it on “auto-flow”, but even for women, testosterone is crucial for proper sexual function.
Consistent strength training increases testosterone, so be sure you get your ass into the gym.
Suggestions for improving adherence:
- Carve out time in your schedule to train.
- Make it non-negotiable.
- If you are training after work, pack your gym bag and take it with you to work.
- Go directly to the gym after work, no exceptions.
- If you are training before work, put your alarm clock in a place so that you’ll have to put your feet on the ground and walk to turn it off.
- Set it at its loudest setting, and force yourself to not get back in bed.
- Cycle your macronutrients.
- Doing this puts in your head that you are “eating as if you are training”, which will improve your adherence.
- Minimize the change.
- Re-frame your situation.
- Instead of thinking “this is forever”, think, “can I train for 45 minutes today?”
Nobody has made long-term, sustainable progress without mastering the art of showing up.
Boulder 2: Intensity
After you’ve mastered “showing up”, it’s time to get down to business and start doing some serious work.
When you show up, it’s time to go hard.
If you can learn to master your first two boulders – show up and go hard – the rest of the rocks will magically fall into place in time.
Intensity is a learned skill. It’s not easy to find the “next level” required to learn how to push yourself to the max.
You’re gonna need to learn how to show people your “O-face” here.
I usually train alone.
But on the rare times I have a training partner, I often get my “intensity” confused with my “arrival face”.
Bluntly stated: My training partners have commented it looks like I’m busting a nut when I’m lifting.
THAT’S how hard you need to go. No pun intended.
A beginner shouldn’t be training all the way to true muscular failure. There is no need to, as your relative strength will be on the lower side. Pushing yourself too far before your central nervous system is ready to handle it is a sure-fire way to injure yourself.
However, there is a bit of a Catch-22 here.
Since a beginner doesn’t really know what true “failure” is, they often will think they can’t go any further, when that isn’t the case.
How do you learn how to “go hard”?
Suggestions for improving intensity:
- To start, follow a basic, linear progression.
- This means to pick a program with the basics, start light, and add 5 pounds per session.
- When it begins to get “hard and heavy”, ensure adequate form, and start to test your limits.
- Be sure to have a spotter if necessary.
- For a free, minimalist training program that covers these basics, pick up our free fat-loss course here.
- Occasionally, pick a safe exercise with a weight you can perform at least 8 reps of, and train to failure.
- Machines are a great choices for this, as they allow you to train all the way to failure while minimizing your injury risk.
- Show perfect form, and focus on taxing your muscles to your fullest capabilities.
- Tense your entire body for the move – not just the muscles you are working.
- The increased tension in your entire body will make you much stronger than only working your targeted muscles.
After the months pass, you will find yourself being able to reach new levels of intensity. You will be amazed at how powerful you truly are.
Boulder 3: Number of intense work sets you get in.
The better you get at training at high intensity levels, the more comfortable you will feel with pushing your body to its limits.
Once you gain the confidence to train closer to failure, you can begin to incorporate these sets into your training regularly.
You should never skip the first two boulders and begin training directly to failure until you’re well versed with the concept.
But once you understand what failure is – and how to truly reach it, you can train more lifts in this manner, which will force your body to make the adaptations necessary to make drastic changes over time.
Suggestions for increasing your number of intense work sets:
- First, develop the skill of understanding what is “muscular failure” is.
- Use the recommendations given in Boulder 2 to do this.
- After this skill has been honed, start training at or close to failure more regularly.
- Each exercise you perform, have 1 or 2 sets where you complete repetitions until you form breaks down or you cannot continue the lift any further.
- Always use a spotter for barbell bench pressing, and possibly squatting if you don’t have a power rack.
- Dumbbells can be helpful, as they allow you to train to failure with less of a chance for injury.
- At this point, aim for 6-8 sets to muscular failure at each training session.
- 1-2 sets to failure for each exercise move is an excellent recommendation.
- Training squats, deadlifts, or Olympic lifts to true muscular failure can be dangerous.
- It’s best to leave a rep or two in the tank with these movements.
Once you’re at this point, the next boulder becomes crucial to continue to make progress.
Boulder 4: Recovery
If you’re training to failure, your body will be forced to change.
But those changes will be difficult to make if you’re not recovering properly.
This is where your nutrition and sleep need to be dialed in as best you can.
We recommend counting macronutrients for our online training clients.
Suggestions for improving your recovery:
- Fit your macronutrients to your lifestyle, not the other way around.
- Here our our macronutrient recommendations for our male trainees based on body fat percentage.
- Here are some excellent recommendations for females, as this article has become one of the most popular on our site.
- If counting macronutrients is too daunting of a task, create a habit-based diet plan.
- Create a “sleeping plan”.
These four boulders make up the base of every athletic, trained individual on the planet.
They are 100% essential to meet your long term goals.
Before you begin to think about anything else – frequency, volume, rep ranges, 1-rep maximums, macronutrient ratios – be sure these “boulders” are taken care of religiously.
The next article in this series will highlight some excellent questions many have with their training, including:
- How many times per week should you hit each muscle group?
- How strong is “strong enough” when it comes to your maximum strength levels?
- What repetition range should you train in to maximize your muscular gains?
- How many carbs and/or fats should you eat to reach your goals?
While these items aren’t as paramount as the “boulders”, they can still make a huge difference in your gains over time.
To get the answers to these questions in your inbox, join our community here.
Yours in lifting,