Even if they aren't explosive, Carl's gains have been rock-steady. In fact, in the three years he's been training, he has truly transformed himself: He's added 45 pounds of solid muscle to
his frame, which helps explain why his arms have gone up about four inches and his chest has gone up more than 10. Probably because he always trains hard on basic exercises, his strength
has also increased enormously, and while he was benching a mighty 60 pounds when he started training, he's now doing reps with more than 300. And he's not just a one-lift specialist either:
From power cleans to curls Carl can move some decent iron.
Carl isn't likely to be mistaken for Shawn Ray, and his lifts aren't keeping Ed Coan or Alexander Kurlovich awake at night, but he is living and breathing proof of just what sort of miraculous changes result from sound training. And the way he's going, the best is yet to come: Al-though he might not win the IRON-MAN Invitational next year or break any world records at the Goodwill Games, and although he's not getting celebrity endorsement contracts for his progress, based on all the evidence, next year will find him an even better man than he is now.
Carl is a 100 percent real success story. So what's his secret weapon?
It isn't banned substances, because Carl is a lifetime natural. It sure doesn't seem to be a mystery supplement either, because even though he uses a fair amount of food supplements, Carl's core products have been around for decades. And his routine, well, it isn't exactly the stuff that makes publishers or equipment manufacturers smell money: You can usually write it on the back of an envelope, and it relies on the most basic of equipment. So the question still remains: What is it that allows Carl to keep making progress?
If a secret observer were to follow Carl around the gym, he would notice that Carl always seems focused on his workouts, and while just about everyone in the gym is at least going through the motions of training, Carl appears to be a man on a mission.
For starters, he sweats heavily, while a lot of others are dry as a bone. And the sweat is the natural result of the fact that his sets are intense and his rest periods are brief. So the sweat tells a story: Carl is knocking off sets with a 2-to-1 advantage over most of the people in the gym, and each of his sets represents real quality work.
Since he does many times the work in the same amount of time, his industrial-strength intensity makes him sweat like crazy compared to most. And, funny thing, his gains come at about the same rate as the one at which he sweats.
The next thing the secret observer would notice is that when Carl's in the gym, his mouth has but one primary purpose: to suck in air. Thus, while others are busy talking about the Raiders' latest plans to move, Carl is just pumping and breathing, breathing and pumping. Not that he can't talk the sports page as well as the next guy, but when training he rarely utters more than a sentence to anyone, and sometimes he makes it through his entire workout saying no more than, "Could I get a spot on this set?" Carl may not know that some Eastern mystics used days of silence to boost their spiritual powers, but what he does know is that talking leaks energy and breaks his concentration. On the flip side, Carl knows that the less his mouth works in the gym, the more his muscles do and the better he gains.
This thing about psychic energy really seems to be a factor because more than one person in the gym has noticed that he or she has better workouts when Carl is around. Part of it, the others understand, is that they can't help but be a little inspired when Carl is in the gym-when he's toasting his muscles set after set, it awakens a sense of self-pride that makes you push a littler harder on your own training. Even so, it goes a little deeper. They've noticed that when Carl moves over next to you, you can almost feel a force field in that part of the gym. It's as if he uses his energy to create more energy, and some of it spills over for you to soak up. There is a lesson in this about how hard training can fuel even harder training and how intensity is not just learned by observation; it can be absorbed from the environment.
Stepping back a little from Carl's actual sets and reps, the secret observer would notice something else: Carl has an attitude about him. It isn't that he is a rose-colored-glasses kind of person, because he sees the cracks in the sidewalk as well as the next guy. Instead of dwelling on them, tripping over them or even falling in, however, Carl focuses on using the sidewalk to reach goals that are important to him. And it isn't as if Carl is a trust fund baby with nothing to do but train: His day begins at 4 a.m. with his extra job, and then he's in the gym by eight every morning. Even though the next thing on his schedule is his full-time job, he always seems more energetic and more cheerful than the guys who are unemployed and spend most of the day hanging around the gym, working crossword puzzles in between desultory sets of benches and curls. Carl does have an attitude about him, and it's pretty simple: He believes that if he tries hard and tries smart, he'll get what he wants. History is proving Carl right.
What Carl might not consciously realize is that he has a few inner qualities that make this whole process tick. What you may not realize is that you can cultivate these same things in yourself-and thus you can make progress like Carl. The following are the secret ingredients:
Goal orientation: At every moment Carl knows where he wants to go, and that not only puts him on track, but also helps him arrive. For example, while he began his training with the general goal of getting bigger and stronger, the process of goal-setting became increasingly specific as he later included a target date for winning the state title, etc. Carl is so goal-oriented that he doesn't just go to the gym for "a good workout," he' s there to hit 180 kilos for five reps in the squat and so forth, with specific targets for every workout. Every time Carl picks up the bar for a set, he knows what he's shooting for.
Self-discipline: Thinking great thoughts is nice, but there's a world of difference between concept and reality. Because the bridge between these two is usually an awful lot of hard work, having the self-discipline to do the required work is what separates the dreamers from the achievers. Having self-discipline is what gets Carl to the gym and through his high-quality workouts. Having first set important goals that require these workouts, Carl is able to gain the motivation to maintain his self-discipline. Actually, he had already learned this trick about maintaining a high level of self-discipline before he began pumping iron. Because he largely did things that were truly important and valuable to him, the required self-discipline came pretty naturally.
Basic satisfaction: There will always be ups and downs, good days and bad, but you need to hit a rhythm that is right most of the time. And you need to spend your time doing things that you think are worthwhile, things that leave you with a sense of satisfaction. Dissatisfaction creates the restlessness that destroys the focus needed for championship results, and it brings on the constant stress that erodes your energy. A quick test of your basic satisfaction level is to see whether you are primarily running away from or toward something. Our friend Carl paid some dues along the way, but after some work he had put his house in pretty good order and was satisfied with his basic life and his future plans; when he hit the gym, he was armed with the fully committed feeling necessary to grind through the painful reps.
If you're not getting the results you want from your training, maybe it's time to look beyond the externals and peer inside. Maybe it's time to do a little mental house cleaning in order to bring out the inner qualities that are required for outer results.