Physical training and strength development are very similar to an intellectual education in that every person is unique and the ideal educational process is an individualistic one. A key reason
why the slovenly incompetents who so often make up the rank and file of the teaching staffs in public schools fail is because they are utterly incapable-thanks to curriculum demands as well as
their own helpless ineptitude-of acknowledging and adapting the teaching process to the unique requirements of each student. Far too many children are labeled "problem" or "special case" or
"underachiever"-not because they are, in fact, any of those things, but rather because the hopelessly inept overseers who have been licensed to teach them just can't measure up.
As any psychologist worth his or her asking fee can tell you, every child wants to learn; every child has the capability to learn; every child will learn if and when he or she is properly taught.
The licensed bums who write off curious, intelligent, wonderful young lives because of their own shortcomings ought to be given work cleaning out toilets, not teaching children.
I hope I may be forgiven for my rather strong convictions about our system of miseducation. They are derived from my own experience as a child, a nightmare I can never forget-or forgive.
As for the subject at hand, too many people who come to barbell physical training do so in the belief that they must conform to the schedules, routines, dietary regimens and programs of those
whom they read about in the magazines. What folly! In the few cases where the reported program of a champion is actually the program that champion used, there's no reason to think that anyone
else should attempt the routine-whether or not that person is championship material. No two champions train the same; and for the love of sweet sanity, no average or below-average trainee should
ever attempt a program that approaches what weightlifting or bodybuilding champions do.
Incompetent physical trainers often write books or courses that suggest special programs or routines that everyone can follow with certain success and absolutely predictable results. This is
balderdash! There are no magic routines, and although good, basic training programs are certainly adaptable to most people's needs, the key word is "adaptable." Everyone who aspires to success in
training must know this and proceed accordingly.
I cannot emphasize this point too strongly: To a large extent you must be your own trainer. Despite considerable expertise and experience, all that the most knowledgeable instructor can do is help
you to help yourself. A good teacher or book can help you lay the foundation for your development, but it's the fundamental information and training advice that you get from the instruction
combined with your own experience that guides your ongoing progress over a life-time.
In my articles over the past couple of decades I have repeated and emphasized certain key factors and truths about training that apply to everyone. I have not, however, recommended specific
training programs and schedules. Each individual must formulate his or her own personal-and productive-regimen by properly adapting the key factors and truths of effective training.
You Must Train Hard
There is no doubt whatsoever that those who attain their physical goals do so through hard work. While all trainees must select the approach that best suits their personal requirements, as discussed
above, it is an immutable principle that everyone must work hard. You don't think so? Try taking it easy for the next year or so-on any program you wish to try-and see how strong and muscular it
You must also be persistent. This is where the majority of people who begin working out completely fall down. They start with enthusiasm, but they collapse into lethargy once they realize that they
must train for more than several weeks before they'll begin to see really solid gains.
Even if you do have the ideal program set up for you, don't expect it to work if you don't. You'll need to keep on and on and on because that's how it is and because without persistence success is
just a dream.
Use the basic, proven exercises and lifts. You don't have to tell me that I've said this before. I have, and I intend to say it again and again and again! If trainees would forget about the absolutely
ridiculous gimmicks, gadgets and paraphernalia that manufacturers keep dreaming up and just stick with heavy barbells and dumbbells and work hard on a regular basis using the proven, basic exercise
movements, their success would be assured. But how often is that the case? When it is, we see success; when it isn't, we observe bewilder-ment, disappointment, lack of progress, disgust and-sadly-people
giving up on training.
But Don't Overtrain
This is another point I've made again and again and that I intend to keep on making. The really serious trainees, with the best of intentions, often tell themselves, "If x amount of training is
effective, then Ax will quadruple my gains; so I'll do four times as much." We are not working at algebra here; we're building muscle. And muscle growth is produced by effectively following certain
core rules, one of which is, Train hard, but don't train too much.
If you use weights properly, you'll be able to get all the training you could ever benefit from in three to eight hours a week-and that takes into account beginners through world-class physique and
lifting competitors. It seems as if no one believes this anymore, but it's true. Anyone who spends more than eight hours a week in the gym is overtrain-ing-with the exception of those who take a lot
of time between sets or waste time talking to others.
Eat Right and Rest Well
Follow a good, balanced diet. This doesn't mean the idiotic fad regimens of the gym freaks who want to "cut up" so they'll look like an anatomy chart or the so-called diets of the fools who spend $200
a month on supplements while swilling down candy bars and soda thinking that the supplements will correct their nutritional deficiencies. Both of these extremes are crazy. Plenty of simple, good food
and a sensible plan of dietary supplementation are really all you need to build up, stay built and maintain superb health.
Make sure you get enough rest and sleep for the muscles to grow. I often get strange glances when at a seminar I tell students, "Weights don't and can't build muscle. "Then I explain that "they don't
and can't build muscle because they actually tear down muscle. What builds the muscles is nutrition and rest, which must follow hard training. You build your muscles, in essence, when you're fast
asleep, not during a workout."
Watch Your Attitude
It's also important to maintain a healthy positive attitude. This is not easy-not at all. We live in difficult, irrational times. People and economic conditions have become harder to deal with in
recent years, and things do not promise to get any better. Nevertheless, there is a challenge here that must be met because a person's entire success in life-not merely in training-hinges on his or her
philosophy of life more than anything else.
Learn to focus on what you want instead of what you don't want; learn to not take others seriously when they behave in negative, rude, stupid and unfair ways (as, alas, they most often do); and realize
that as you have only a limited number of years to live, your best bet is to live them in the pursuit of your goals and values, focusing your care, love, energy and concern on the things and people that
matter most to you. This is easier said than done, but so are squats. And you're squatting, aren't you?
Your Ideal Routine
Assuming that you understand and have digested the basics, you'll need to adapt them to your own unique self. Set up your program to suit you. Never, ever quarrel with success-no matter what any so-called
expert says. If you know that you gain best on four-rep sets, do that. If you find that two sets per exercise is perfect for you but that three wears you down, never do more than two sets. If you know
that it always feels right to work arms first in your routine, then to hell with what Mr. Universe may say about proper exercise order!
Follow your exercise order.
If you are a complete beginner, you'll need a period to get acquainted with yourself and with how your unique physique and emotional self react to weight training. Follow a basic, all- around, sensible
routine for six months to a year and pay attention to how you respond to the work you do. Pay more attention to that than you do to the latest nonsense being vomited out by the entrepreneurs in the field,
whose motives include lining their own pockets and aggrandizing their own egos. No one knows-or cares-about your personal progress as much as you do.
Every championship physique and every lifting great has been the product of self-directed training based on that athlete's self-understanding. That's one thing that you can copy from the champions that will
benefit you greatly.
Weight training is not really all that complicated or difficult. Not everyone can be world class, but everyone-yes, everyone-can make outstanding progress and achieve results that are permanently gratifying.
That means you. To do it, you must know yourself and follow a training program that fits you.