Hard to believe, but it’s not only possible, it’s the only way.
The idea of beating yourself up with your training every time you walk into the gym seems to be an entirely new one as far as I can tell. Not because people never did it before, but because so many “professionals” in the fitness industry seem to be telling their clients/followers that only by giving it everything they’ve got, by pouring out every ounce and every drop, could they ever hope to achieve the muscular development and fitness they crave.
(Now, that’s not ENTIRELY untrue. If that’s all your life is dedicated to, then go all out. But the reality is that if you’re like most people, your training revolves around your life and what it demands of you – your life does NOT revolve around your training.)
Let’s look back to look forward.
Look back at the iron greats of days past – and not just the iron greats, but the ones whose names AND records still stand as a testament to what the human body is capable of. Did they lift until their calloused hands bled and begged for mercy? Did they lift until they had to crawl out of the gym? Did they lift so hard they had to take a week off? Did they lift so hard they snapped tendons, broke bones, tore muscles, and ruined joints? Some were known to war against the weights (the legendary Louis Cyr is a good example), but for all the differences in their training methods, pet lifts, and teachings, as if with one voice they all said almost exactly the same thing:
“Practice the exercises, and do not ‘work yourself out’.”
This philosophy produced unmatchable, Greek statue physiques such as that of George Jowett and Maxick – physiques that were both as supple as a chamois cloth yet hard as the marble statues they resembled. It birthed the mind-bending feats of strength that stand to this day, among them are Arthur Saxon’s 370 lb bent press (a move in which he put that weight over his head with one hand), Paul Anderson’s 6,270 lb back lift, and Hermann Goerner’s 727 lb one-hand deadlift. All these men took their time between sets and always gave a strong effort, but rarely overexerted themselves. They also prioritized recovery, because as co-founder of Original Strength Geoff Neupert has succinctly pointed out, “It doesn’t matter how much work you can do; it matters how much work you can recover from.”
Your strength is a bank account. You’re either adding to it or withdrawing from it. This coming week, make a deposit by lifting heavy, but not “hard”; by dominating the exercises you’re practicing and not letting them dominate you; and by resting more rather than pushing ever harder.
If you start your week as a pauper, you can still end it as a king. Remember that.
Looked at another way, if you spend every penny you make each week, are you surprised when your account is a barren wasteland of Insufficient Funds notices and overdraft fees at the end of each week?
If you put the pedal to the metal every time you get behind the wheel of your car, take sharp turns at high speeds, and let your car run until it’s really low on oil and other fluids, are you surprised when your car transforms into a barely functioning, duct-taped-together bucket of bolts and mismatched spare parts?
So then why are you surprised when you “give it 110%” and “leave it all in the gym” each and every time you train…and have only aches, pains, and frustrations to show for it instead of PRs and gains?
Like with anything good in life, the more you force it, the more it gleefully eludes you. Training is no different. Any attempt to force your body to do something it’s not ready for will end in your body working against you. As it’s been said before, in order to control nature, you must obey nature. The obedience required to consistently lift heavier, do more work, and crush more weakness is as follows:
* Consistency and frequency over balls-out intensity.
* Prioritizing recovery over mindlessly pushing forward.
* Training in the 50%-80% range most of the time, and testing yourself only every once in a while.
* Knowing how to interpret the signs your body gives you and come back again another day when necessary.
* Don’t change exercises once the gains stop rolling in – change your approach (i.e. a different variation of the same exercise, etc.)
The list could go on, but you get the idea.
Seeing how sore you get is a job more easily accomplished by getting hit with a baseball bat.
Seeing how much of a burn you can feel is a job better done by sticking your hand in a fire.
Seeing how much you can puke is a job more appropriate for a spoonful of syrup of ipecac.
But getting better consistently and measurably is a job better done by patience, consistency, and nudging your body forward rather than trying to drag it kicking and screaming. Try this approach out for the next few months and you’ll be amazed at the kick start in your strength and conditioning gains. You might even learn to like being patient.