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Training Philosophy: shortcut to strength and muscle

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by Yuan

I basically had no success when I first started working out. As a beginner, I did too much work and didn’t eat enough, it’s a winning combo for anyone that wants to grow bigger and stronger (when I say winning combo, I actually mean the perfect recipe for failure and disappointment).

After a couple of months of working out, I would stop from the lack of results and try again when the next wave of motivation hit me. It wasn’t until I internalized the right beliefs and attitudes that I achieved consistent growth. There is no doubt in my mind I could have shaved years off my training if I acted according to these attitudes and beliefs from the beginning.

Beginners don’t know how things actually work

It doesn’t take much for a beginner to grow quickly and consistently. Any reasonable program will work well. The problem comes up when you don’t actually follow the program. Beginners don’t know what works and changing a bunch of variables will probably backfire on you.

Beginners are like frogs at the bottom of the well looking up at the sky, thinking the sky is only as big as the well’s opening. You can only appreciate the true vastness of the sky once you rise above the well. In the case of lifting weights, it’s growing past the beginner phase and looking back at all the stupid things you did.

If you’re stuck in the beginner phase, you can’t see all of the things you’re doing wrong. My problem was that I never paid enough attention to the diet and I modified the routines to include exercises I liked. I was the self-inflicted hardgainer. Then I had a crazy idea that changed everything:

Training Philosophy - shortcut to strength and muscles 2

I had my first breakthrough when I decided to follow a program to the letter without changing anything. To reach the dietary requirement, I weighed my food religiously, carefully calculated the total calories/macros, and planned out every meal. Instead of wasting time on changing the exercise selection, I did everything I could to improve my technique of the prescribed exercises.

The growth that followed was absolutely incredible. It may sound like common sense, but any beginner that is ‘stuck’ has these bad habits. Sometimes, people will take on these bad habits after reaching the intermediate stage and fail to make any more respectable progress. Snap out of it as fast as you can.

Greed slows you down

It was smooth sailing for a couple of months, then I got greedy. During my newbie gains, I was progressing linearly (increasing the weight every session). I made the foolish mistake of creating future projections of my major exercises and then getting attached to those numbers. “If I keep progressing at this rate, I’ll be able to squat, bench and deadlift x in no time!”

This caused me to stall a bunch of times and then I had to stop working out because I was in too much pain, it was a humbling experience. After a long break, I continued to workout and grow. Every time I got a little greedy, it resulted in a lot of wasted time. As a casual or recreational lifter, it’s always better to be on the conservative side as opposed to the over-ambitious side of making progress. Over the long term, you will grow much more successfully.

Don’t be set in your ways as an intermediate and beyond

If you take a look at how champions train, none of them share identical training routines or diets. Everyone has different strengths and weakness and the training has to support these individual differences. While the main elements of training will be very similar, it’s not uncommon to find unconventional elements in their training.

Certain things that you frown upon could turn out to be very effective. For example, I always thought that bodyweight exercises were inferior and that was a big mistake. Now I wish that I incorporated more bodyweight exercises in my earlier training because they make my joints and tendons feel amazing. Just avoid trying everything at the same time because you will overwork yourself.

If you’re trying out a new style of training like high frequency or low volume training, follow it closely for one training cycle. Don’t program hop and give it an honest effort. If you keep an open mind as an intermediate and beyond, you will make some great discoveries for more effective training.

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