Last updated on November 23rd, 2018
This article is about avoiding common workout mistakes and why you can never seem to achieve what you want to achieve. It will be in two parts.
I’m not going to give you some complicated tips on diet. Actually I’m not even going to talk about food in this article.
This won’t be a training article either, not really, not in a do this weird stuff and you’ll grow a huge neck kind of way.
This is about you, and the things you’re doing (and not doing) in your daily life.
Things that stall your gains.
We all do stuff to gains-block ourselves because none of us our perfect, but it comes down to how much of that we do.
The guys that make get up on the Mr. Olympia stage, or the strongest powerlifters on the scene, are the ones who are closing in on perfection, and cutting out all the stuff that attenuates their progress.
This article will cover some common self-imposed obstacles that stall our progress or prevent it from getting going at all.
After that we’ll look at a simple and hugely effective way of getting past them and on the track of consistent progress.
Social Media Is The Worst
Ironically, it’s those near perfect specimens you idolize on social media that might be throwing you off your game.
Every one of these people look phenomenal, and they all have their methods, advice, tips, diets, training styles, supplements, signature equipment, clothes and pets (always with the pets).
And all of them want your like or follow or comment or whatever the digital expression of love and adoration is on the social media platform you’re on.
They’ve all got every social media platform covered too. The same twerking chick has Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat, YouTube, Vimeo and probably more.
Guess what: they are only showing you precisely what they want you to see. None of it is real life. Take a truly objective look at what you post on social media yourself and then tell me it 100% reflects who you are.
Point is, that shredded dude isn’t showing you all the sacrifices he makes, and has made, to get that physique. He’s not showing you the morning steroid injections (assuming he’s not natty), or the dirty bulks he’s done to put mass on fast as hell.
That Instafamous sports model might’ve gone without water for a day, then done a beast workout with a thumping headache so they could look ripped for that photo.
Social media is the absolute worst. It’s all just snapshots of people looking at their best. It’s not real life.
Before and After Photos. The transformation selfie that’s all the rage.
Hey, look, on the left is me 3 months ago, and on the right is me this morning. I’ve worked so hard to be successful ya de ya de ya…
How many of those have you looked at and felt equal parts hatred, jealousy, admiration and longing.
Well, if it helps, most of them are big piles of steaming bullshit.
Take a closer look at the guy’s photo on the left. Does he really look like he’s overweight with low muscle mass?
Look at his shoulders, that’s key. Are they stacked or weak looking? What about his upper traps – do they come a third of the way up his neck?
If they are showing leg then you can spot it straight away – big-ass quads are hard to hide.
What I’m saying is this: that dude already built the muscle mass, he just has to adjust his diet, and maybe add a little cardio to his program. A couple weeks later he’ll look like the shredded version of himself on the right.
Hell, some of these before and after photos are taken on the same day, and even more ridiculous; the after photo is taken before the before photo.
Yeah. Wake up, do a fasted workout, get a hella swole pump on and then take the “after” photo.
Then, eat a bunch of donuts, drink a few beers, watch telly for 6 hours while scratching your nuts, and hey presto, you’ve got a bloated “before” photo.
So, what’s my mistake, you ask?
Social media is good for some stuff, don’t get me wrong. There are some decent folks out there offering real, useful advice that will eventually help you.
However, if 90% of a person’s social media feed is duckface infused mirror selfies and booty pics GTFO fast. Goals are achieved from graft and you’re doing yourself no favours lusting after bodies on the digital verse that is social media.
Put the phone down and get to work.
Looking Anywhere and Everywhere for Motivation
Do you read wannabe meaningful quotes dreamt up by some ‘roid crushing meathead on Instagram to get you to the gym?
What about deep, soul-moving videos of some modern-age Rocky Balboa giving it the eye of the tiger on YouTube for some motivation?
I know, I know, I’ve already crushed social media in the previous section but this is more about the time you spend trying to dig up the drive to go to the gym in the first place.
Personally, I want to barf every time I read a motivational quote, especially the ones that’ve clearly been self-composed, where the spelling is almost as tragic as the fluffy feels they are trying to provoke.
Seriously, stick your headphones on, skip to that song that makes you feel like you can tear through the wall, pack your gym bag and leave the house.
When you feel crap, and there is little you can do about it, just put one foot in front of another.
My guess is by the time you are changed in the locker room and your pre-workout is kicking in, you’ll have forgotten about everything but the iron you’re about to lift and the sweat you’re about to drop in the process.
I’m not one for extolling the virtues of giant corporations, but Nike have nailed it with their tagline.
Just Do It.
Truth is, successful athletes, bodybuilders and models don’t always want to be training and dieting but it’s part of the package if they want to excel at their profession.
The difference between most people and them is that they are ultra consistent, whether they are feeling motivated or not.
What’s the moral of this story?
Motivation is overrated. Action is the only thing that matters.
Don’t look for some reason to put the work in, because it won’t always be there. Sometimes you’ve got to just grind it out.
Doing Nothing Because You Can’t Do Everything
The internet contains so much information about exercise and nutrition that it may as well be infinite.
A lot of the information however is really just opinion dressed up as fact. Actually, most of it is that. Even scientific study literature has to be thought of as opinion because it’s data being interpreted by humans, and humans have different opinions.
That’s a problem for people looking for advice on what exercises to do and what food to eat, especially those who can’t spend a lot of their time filtering through the noise to find what works well and what doesn’t.
This onslaught of do this, no don’t do that, do this can often lead to a sort of deadlock, where enthusiasm gets slowly (or rapidly) worn down by caustic procrastination.
Back in the day, before the internet ruled our lives, the non-scholars of the field read the available books on the associated subjects, went to conventions, watched TV, videos and live shows, and generally learned things through gradual accretion of knowledge and good old trial and error.
Guys used to eat a lot and lift heavy weights because they knew this combination of activities grew muscle. And it’s not like that strategy was a failure. Some of the best groundwork for bodybuilding as a competition sport was laid in the first decades of the century.
Time has yielded better techniques, augmented the tried and tested methods, developed healthier diets and products, and it’s provided more efficient results. And it will inexorably continue to do so.
Some experts clash with one another on what they think is the right way to build muscle, or the best ratio of macronutrients to eat.
What’s really confusing is when two people have gained equal success when they have followed different training programs and different diets.
However, instead of all of that melting your brain, think of it as a good thing. It means there is more than one way to get the results you desire.
The Common Denominator
The common denominator amongst all of the most successful athletes, bodybuilders, coaches, models, professionals and amateurs is that they make consistent, positive progress.
If you’re doing nothing because there’s too much out there and you can’t decide what to do, then pick something that’s worked for someone else, and just follow the same path with consistency.
Alternatively, and this only a suggestion, you can take some time and learn how to discover for yourself the educators in the worlds of physical, athletic and nutritional health who can help you succeed.
That involved digging into the work of scientists, athletes, bodybuilders and nutritional experts alike. By doing this you will at least start to see for yourself the difference between the information that has some substance and that which is based on misinformed opinion.
Perhaps one of the best educational defence mechanisms I have learned is that appearances, titles, attitudes, and yes, social media followers, are not necessarily synonymous with sound knowledge.
Trying to Cheat the Grind
Can’t get around it, through it, or sneak up on it and squash it.
You just can’t.
Real talk – each and every person has their own maximum rate of progress. It’s true. There are factors that dictate this which are completely, or mostly, out of your control.
Genetics have a lot to do with it, as does your financial situation (for example, it’s easier to get jacked if you’re rich, don’t need to work, and can train/sleep whenever you want), your work schedule, the number of kids you have, and so on.
The good thing is that everyone can make progress. It’s impossible to get zero results from consistent progression.
That’s all the grind is. It’s positive consistency combined with patience. And it leads to the achievement of your goals.
How simple is that?
But a lot of people don’t like the idea of the grind. For many of them, it’s about the effort. They don’t like effort.
For others, workload isn’t the issue. It’s the time factor. It means they don’t get the results that they are looking for immediately.
So, they look for the cheat codes, like when we used to play Alex the Kidd on the Sega Master System.
Those people don’t understand something fundamental to the workings of their own minds:
- It’s the process that’s fulfilling. The physical results are just transient by-products.
Look at what the grind can give you
- Consistency builds self-discipline
- Self-discipline is a universal skill, applicable to every other thing we do
- It also strengthens self-control
- Self-control is the foundation for composure
- Composure is Mindfulness is Serenity is Poise
- It’s being able to handle anything and everything, calmly
- It’s being able to focus on a singular target; or
- Adapt and react to multiple developments
- It’s fulfillment
- Ultimately, it’s happiness
Shortcut the process and all that potential character improvement is null and void.
The point’s kind of moot anyway, because as I said, you can’t cheat the grind.
So, what does this lead to?
Well, it often leads to a on-again-off-again relationship with the gym, activity, healthy nutrition and all the other aspects involved.
The day in, day out relentlessness of the fit and healthy lifestyle can be daunting, and it’s extremely easy to slip away from it. Burgers, pizza, cake and beer are nice, after all. That might happen for a while until you realize you’ve let it go and you need to do something about it.
How often have you seen someone you know go through this cycle? You know it’s a lot. “This is it” they say. “I’m gonna stick at it this time”.
A couple of weeks of ‘sticking at it’ go by, before they’re online wondering where those cheat codes are at.
And, almost inevitably, the daily siren call of cake and laziness draws them in.
There’re no shortcuts.
Now, you might be wondering: what about those highly respected coaches who write programs called something like Shortcut to Mass, or Six Pack in 6 Weeks?
The answer is that if those programs get results, then it’s because those professionals understand the most efficient processes to achieve the given goals.
A more accurate way to describe their programs would be something like: The Most Efficient Way, In My Experience, to Grow Muscle Mass…or…How To Make Your Abdominal Muscle Definition Visible Through Your Sub-Cutaneous Fat Within One to Two Months, Assuming You’re Not Too Overweight and You Already Train Your Core…
…but those don’t roll off the tongue quite as well, so they use words like ‘shortcut’.
WAIT! – Some people who put in the work and have amazing bodies are douchebags. What happened to all of their character development?
I hear you.
Look, it comes down to why you want all of this, why you go to the gym five days a week, and why you choose the chicken salad over the burger and fries (most of the time ;).
Those that do it so they can post mirror selfies on Instabutt and bask in the glory of all the likes they receive are in for some disappointment, because it just feeds into a downward spiral of shallow obsession. Especially when those perky body parts become looser, floppy parts. What happens then?
Don’t get me wrong, posting selfies is a cool extra. If it helps you and you feel empowered by it, then have at it, but social appraisal should never be the principal fuel of your main engine (Boy! Social media picked the short straw today, huh!).
Sadly, I can’t convince the people who have long been lost to the ironic struggle between their own vanity and low self-esteem.
However, I can try and recruit anyone who still has a foot in the door to reality, so that’s what I’ll always try to do.