A 10 Point Checklist for Progress in the Gym

Gym Progress

Continued Success with your Weight Training

fitFLEX Articles - Learn, Share and Discover

I had someone come up to me the other day in Gold's Gym, where I train my clients, and ask me why do some people seem to progress faster than others as bodybuilders. Like most people, my gut response was to launch into the age-old explanation that some people had greater access to the kinds of pharmaceutical supplements that make progress much greater. But unlike most people this guy kept pursuing me for a legitimate answer.

So, I asked him, "You mean, why does progress differ so much, if everyone is doing the same things to enhance their performance?" He said, "Yeah, exactly! If the playing field is level in terms of supplementation, why does one guy get bigger than another, or cultivate a better quality of muscle within a shorter period of time?"

So, I sat and thought about it some more, and came up with about 19 different elements that contribute to this phenomenon. Since some of them overlapped others, I fine-tuned my list and pared it down to about 10 things that can contribute to early returns of progress in the gym.

Many things on the list, if not all of them, are obvious in one way or another. In fact, each is so basic on its own, they might be rendered completely useless and ineffective if carried out separately. But then, when you think about it, synergy (individual parts working together as a whole) is the whole essence of weight training. Including one element without including another, may very well upset the entire result.

It would be like doing 1000 crunches daily, failing to diet, and then being puzzled as to why you don't have a washboard stomach! You have a beautiful set of well-developed ab muscles beneath the layer of fat, but you didn't bother to diet it off, so your efforts appear to be fruitless.

So, other than looking at the actual content and checklist of elements that contribute to a person's success, one could also surmise that success has a great deal to do with maintaining the integrity of the entire list of contributing elements. Failing to include one or two in the mix is a waste of time and the only reason, I conclude, that people aren't successful. And trust me, even pro athletes fall short of that goal on certain occasions. If that were not true, every single bodybuilder on a stage would look his or her best at ALL TIMES!


Before you ever begin a workout program, you should have some sort of plan before proceeding. In fact, most successful people in any field will recommend a good plan. But let's face it, it doesn't even have to be a good plan to start off. It just has to be a plan! Keep in mind that plans can always be tweaked and changed along the way to suit what's happening at any given time. However, start with some goal or idea of where it is you want to end up and how you think you want to get there. Wandering in the gym will leave you disillusioned because your expectation of progress will be there, but your ability to make it happen won't be in place. Hey, you don't have to plan your entire life in one session! Just plan out your workout splits, cardio schedule and diet for the next month. It will be much easier to follow your plan if it's actually written down.


Most people who have done well at something will tell you focus is 50 percent of any success. Focus simply means that you're keeping your eye on the ball no matter what. With focus on your side, you know what your plan is, and you're bound to carry it out without faltering. Focus is a part of planning, but it also means that you're truly committed to your goals. Without focus, it's easy to convince yourself that you don't need to go the extra mile. To me, focus is about prioritizing your goals and then acting accordingly. And while you can't be focused on everything equally, you can choose to narrow or broaden your focus based on the importance of that element of your life. If getting fit or packing on size is your goal, you'd better shift your focus to match it!


Technique in the sport of bodybuilding, or weight training in general, is crucial to actually building muscle. But technique isn't style in this case, technique is actually knowing how to execute a movement correctly. Developing your arsenal of techniques happens naturally, provided you've placed yourself in a learning. Some people prefer to use a workout partner to keep their technique in check. We often learn from just being exposed to others and their personal understanding of the subject. That's why it's good to change workout partners occasionally and open yourself up to other thought processes. The most important aspect of technique, however, is learning correctly in the first place. It's tougher, as they say, to correct bad habits than to learn sound ones in the first place. Try to learn from the best and then hone your skills over time


It happens every week of every month of every year at Gold's Gym. You see someone for six months, they make a ton of progress, and then you never see them again. Poof! All of the effort and strides made are down the drain. Nothing could be more important than consistency. Take all of the elements on this list and put them together and they still won't carry as much weight as maintaining consistency in your workouts. I mean, think about it: You put together an incredible workout, your level of technical expertise is excellent, and then you just stop going to the gym. That's got to be the most asinine thing anyone can do. All of the elements were there, but for some reason, dedication falters and a great routine, and a lot of knowledge just goes down the drain. To keep that from happening, try to keep your workouts infused with creativity, change and enough planned time off that your mental outlook will always be fresh!


This is one of the most underrated of all elements on this list. Number one, you never hear anyone mention studying as part of a bodybuilder's regimen. Instead, you hear people talking about how much protein to eat, how best to tackle the squat or how to get over your sex drive failing you! You see, in my opinion, knowledge is the best weapon you could ever add to your arsenal of fire power in the gym. Why? Because no matter what the topic, there is an infinite amount of information to process. In fact, you couldn't possibly process all of this stuff in an entire lifetime, let alone within a year of your next contest! But there's a lot of knowledge that we can assimilate in order to improve our view of the job of progressing to the next level in the gym. Keep current on nutrition, training techniques, workout splits, whether certain chemicals can affect your health or how you can improve your contest prep plan. None of us have all the answers. We just know what we know and it serves us for the time we know it. Expanding our knowledge is the key to progressing to the next level.


The word creativity is usually never spoken in the same sentence as the words "bodybuilding" or "bodybuilder." In fact, the gym is one of the best places in which to employ creativity, and your physique belongs every bit as much to your own creative abilities as it does to your parents' DNA! Don't forget, it's a choice to include certain exercises in your routine. It's a choice to place more of a priority on one muscle group over another. It's a choice to do both shaping exercises and power movements. And your physique is everything you've made it. But since you have so much choice in what you create, why not get creative and really think about what you're doing even more than you do now. Find new variations that tax other parts of the muscle you're working, and creative ways to do the same things you currently do. Think of bodybuilding as creating and your physique will reap the rewards!


Mind-muscle connection is everything. You can do much more than just get inside your muscles each time you perform a repetition. You can actually take time each morning and each evening, to sit and visualize what it is you want to look like. It may seem farfetched to look in the mirror and see a 165-pound man and then close your eyes and see a ripped, rock-hard 230-pound man staring back-both with the same face-but the power of visualization is highly underrated. Strong visions of what you want to achieve are the first step to actually cementing it in your mind. It's the first step in the long process of making progress and finally realizing your goals. Don't underestimate what it can do for you. Just keep that visual with you whenever you lift a weight and you may wake up a year or two from now in the image of your mind's eye!


Practically every male bodybuilder I know has a big problem - they think they eat enough, but they don't get nearly enough calories to support their goals of packing on mass! What ends up happening is that the bodybuilder pays the price at contest time when all of the apparently hard-earned muscle he packed on throughout the year, suddenly disappears and he weighs just one pound more than he did the year prior! This is tragic, but very preventable. Eating is important. Protein and carbs are super important to progress. But you must work through trial and error within the first couple of years you spend in the gym, finding the correct ratio of proteins to carbs to fats in order to get it right. What works for your buddy won't necessarily work for you. Rest is another issue. And the reason I put these two together is that they are the two single most important things you do away from the gym. They work hand-in-hand to fortify all that you've done in your workouts. Take time off, rest, eat, relax. Much of success in the iron game happens outside the gym, not inside.


What you think as you drive to the gym, comes inside the gym with you. Whatever is weighing on your mind is pressing on your forehead, chest, and abdomen during your workout. Do you need that kind of pressure as you attempt to keep your mind focused on your muscles and the vision of who you want to be indelibly etched on your conscious? Probably not. Keeping a positive mental attitude is difficult. But, just as a bad attitude pervades the performance of any other athlete, the attitude you keep inside of you as you work out pervades your ability to progress. No one says that dieting is easy, or that holding a bar loaded with five plates on either side at the squat rack inspires giggles. But the extent to which you maintain an even keel is the extent to which you will keep your mind fresh and focused, and your body free of excess chemical secretions that alter your body's balance and chemistry. You think that furry creatures in the wild kingdom are the only ones to secrete toxic chemicals in the face of fear, danger, lack of food, etc.? Guess what? We do too. Keep those to a minimum and your mood and performance will shine!


Need I say more? Loving what you do is a huge part of progress and success. And trust me, if you don't love bodybuilding, you should turn around and go home now, or down-size both your workouts and expectations. Bodybuilding requires too much love for those who can't or won't go the distance.

Related Articles