Sometimes the reason why one person experiences gains and another doesn't is a mystery. A lot of components go into succeeding at anything. Nothing
convinced me of this truth more than watching a TV infomercial. Yeah, I know, watching infomercials on late-night TV isn't exactly a pastime many
guys would admit to, but when I couldn't sleep one night I tuned in.
It was very late, and practically all I could find on the tube was people selling things. Since I can't bear to watch them demonstrating cheap ab
wheels and rickety ski machines, I bypassed all the exercise-based products and flipped over to one of the "make millions from nothing" pitches.
Hang in with me because this is going somewhere ...
The program I watched featured a motivational, over-the-top guy you've probably all seen. He sells a get-rich-quick course that tells you how to place
ads all over the country and make a lot of money. The details aren't important, but what I figured out about it is.
I remembered the next day that I knew of a guy in the gym who had actually purchased this program and had been using it for about 18 months. He was
making money and had just quit his job to start doing it full time. When I told him I'd watched the infomercial, he was shocked I had tuned in long
enough to learn details. I asked him how he was making money since I know there are no shortcuts to getting rich. He said he knew that better than
anyone because he didn't make money at first. Rather than quit, however, he eliminated all he could that was possibly making him fail. To succeed,
he had to fail enough times to understand how to succeed.
He said about ten different features go into making an ad successful and if just one element is implemented incorrectly, the whole enterprise can
fail. The only problem he had along the way was figuring out what he was doing incorrectly. He said he often changed one detail, only to discover
it didn't make any difference or made the ad worse. His experience was like going through a maze, trying to find the way to connect all J the twists
and turns to get out the other side.
Eventually he discovered the key and started to make a lot of money. As I walked away from him, the fact suddenly hit me: This is just what working
out is for most people - a process of trial and error that can I lead a person down the wrong path again ? and again. In fact, for some people, finding
the keys that unlock the right doors seems I all but impossible.
Often people give up before the results can occur. Although successes vary in degree from normal to extraordinary, success of some degree is always
possible if one eliminates all the obstacles that keep them stuck. Finding which elements are not working well is the challenge. What's more, it's
not just one isolated element. The challenge is to determine how each element works individually and with other elements.
Though over the years I have suggested changing some or all of the elements in a person's workout or outlook, I never really saw the problem from this
perspective. Now I have compiled a checklist by which I can determine, with individual components, which factors are working for a person and which
ones are not working well individually or within the set of elements operating together.
Lack of Goals
This is a big issue for a lot of people and could be an entire article in itself. You need realism, vision and structure to turn an initial thought into
reality. Unfortunately some people think they can survive without setting any goals at all, that they will naturally become what they are to become by
virtue of talent and hard work unaccompanied by an actual plan. But being free of direction isn't the way to reach goals. Even an act as simple as
writing your intention down on paper can be powerful. Football great Marcus Allen once said that at an early age he saw himself winning the Heisman
Trophy. He eventually did win it when he was 22, so the mock acceptance speech he gave in the street 12 years earlier was just a powerful vision of the
future. Don't make the mistake of a lot of bodybuilders who neglect to set goals out of a fear of failing to achieve them. Maybe if you don't set a goal
or participate actively in a quest for success, you'll have less overall failure in your life. Goals are, after all, the surest way to experience
failure. But failure is the only way to ensure success. Without it you don't know what you're doing that is right or wrong. Remember that and you'll be
closer to winning all the time.
Quantity over Quality
Being overzealous is a part of the process of being new to the gym and to bodybuilding, but it's an unproductive approach. More is not better when it
comes to bodybuilding. It's just more! Overtraining can be one of the worst crimes a person commits in the gym. Not knowing or understanding you're
over-training your body is even worse. Just remember, when in doubt, do less. While you're doing less, make sure your workout is high quality and packed
full of intensity and commitment.
Excessive Focus on "No Pain No Gain"
Many believe pain must be a part of the gain of any workout, that results come only from giving blood every time you train. In principle and spirit
this is true, but not in terms of real physical injury. "No pain, no gain" is more a state of mind than an actual practice. Those who feel this way
should reassess their beliefs and begin thinking differently. Seeking fatigue and soreness as a way to become effective is a sure way toward injury
and many weeks of layoff. Learning to identify the fine line between discomfort and pain can take a lot of months - even years -but learn it as rapidly
Focus on Weight and Strength over Result
Many bodybuilders are so hung up on how much weight they're lifting, and how impressive it seems to others in the gym, that they overlook the real reasons
for being in the gym in the first place. These are often the same people who don't set definite goals because of wanting to avoid failure. They are
motivated only by avoiding embarrassment and humiliation, rather than by learning what is required to make them successful. Although bodybuilding focuses
on external features, it's really much more of an internal game than one usually imagines. Quit focusing on how much and start focusing on how well.
Remember this and you'll be less concerned with strength gains and the number of plates you pack on a leg press. Some of today's best bodybuilders aren't
the strongest humans, but they are the most aesthetic. Isn't this what the goal should be?
Lack of Diversity of Training
Diversity in any area of athletic training is important. It creates a well-rounded competitor and a better machine. By diversity, I mean variety. Create
workouts that are full of ingenuity, not redundancy. This is clearly the best way to keep your muscles guessing at what you want from them, and keeping
them guessing will spur I growth. Many athletes make the mistake of I adopting the "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" credo. While it works with some bodyparts,
I find the least complex bodyparts benefit I most from that philosophy. Legs, chest, back and arms require a lot more from you than the same two or three
Lack of Continuity - Too Much Change
Just as using the same two or three exercises all the time doesn't provide enough variety for muscles to fully develop to their potential, changing too
much and failing to preserve continuity and consistency is a big mistake as well. Most people err in one of two ways: They either do the same exercises
over and over without change, or they continually skip all over the gym looking for new exercises. The worst part about the latter practice is the fact
you can't chart progress with any one exercise. Some exercises do work better than others, so you have to be able to determine which ones are best for
you. Make changes, but keep continuity in your workouts so that you know what's working and what isn't.
Poor Form and Biomechanics
So many people suffer from poor form that this is almost always the first place I look when analyzing a problem. Even if a person lacks goals, at least
his ability to work out properly will show up in the first training assessment. Poor biomechanics during exercise means optimal development will not occur.
Often it will create weaknesses that can open the muscle group up to injury. This is the real reason to invest time and effort in learning how to do
exercises properly. Most men have a harder time with this scenario than do women, as they often see asking for help as a sign of weakness. Ask early on
in your training career and no one will pay any attention. Good advice will pay you back in many ways you won't appreciate until you're up on a stage one
Too Much Aerobic Exercise
Huge mistake! You may qualify as someone who needs to do cardio exercise often, based on how much bodyfat you carry, but believe me, focusing too much on
aerobic work - particularly approaching contest time - is the wrong way to build and preserve muscle. Watch your diet more all year long and not only will
you not have to put in those 1 to 1.5-hour cardio sessions, but you'll also look fuller and bigger at all times. Think of the situation this way: You put
in 100 percent of your effort to building mass - you eat lots of good calories, you train heavy, you recuperate right, you take the right supplements and
spend a lot of money doing it - and then you piss it all away on the treadmill. Doesn't make much sense, does it? Do light cardio in the off-season and
eat plenty of good-food calories, and you'll like the result better than playing catch-up with hours of cardio.
Lack of Proper Supplementation
A lot of people don't take advantage of all the elements they can when they are training to pack on mass. Many still think supplements are useless and they
can get away with taking none because their "talent" and "genetics" will make up for their lack of supplementation. (Yeah, everyone thinks he's the next Mr.
O.) The problem with that approach is that these guys aren't utilizing certain categories of supplements that could give them an extra push into heavier
training, better recovery or enhanced fat loss. That's a problem. If you want to be spare in what you take, use only the following and forgo the rest. Take
one form of prohormone, take creatine, take glutamine, and include a good meal replacement in the off-season. In a precon-test phase take glutamine and
include a good whey protein with no or low carbs, plus a prohormone that doesn't induce water gain.
Too Strict a Diet
If you're trying to pack on mass, you'll want to loosen the reins just a bit. Reserve eating strictly for precontest periods. One of the biggest reasons
for this advice is that there has to be a difference between one phase and another for the body to want to change. If you eat clean and light all year long,
not only will you not pack on mass during the year, but you'll also fail to lose whatever little is left over without having to dip into dangerously low
portions and calories. In the offseason think about eating all the foods you would on a diet, but instead of white-meat chicken, have dark also, include
beef (no matter the cut), and eat more starch and carbohydrates. You can still eat clean without sacrificing calories.