I have been in this industry for going on 15 years now, and have been lifting weights of some sort for close 24 years….. Wow just typing that really freaked me out.. Yep, started when I was 14 years old and about to turn 38. The saddest thing is I spent so much of my life bouncing around. I guess in retrospect it really has helped mold who I am today, but man there are a ton of “what if’s” that go through my head. If I just had the guidance and direction in my 20′s that I had today………. Man the that is an awesome fantasy… I faced what many people struggle with. I can’t say it has all been bad. I remember in my early 20′s I wanted to get ripped and get huge and have a big bench.. So I benched 3 x week to failure, cut carbs and wondered why I got ripped and weak. Really with all of the years of lifting weights I have underneath me, I really should be an elite lifter. The truth is I have made more gains in my strength and conditioning in the past 4 years than I have made in my entire life, and the last 2 years have been unprecedented in gains of strength for me.
The best thing I ever did for myself is to just stop the BS of exercising and really focus on strength training. It isn’t an exercising session, or a workout, it is a training session.. Strength has lots of definitions nowadays, but the definition for me is, am I lifting heavier things. period. Just for the record I do care how I am moving and yes I am moving well and have stayed injury free in this process.
Dan John has coined the term keeping the goal the goal, and that means until you reach the goal, you stay on path to hit the goal. It doesn’t mean you stay on path till you get bored. I had a pretty big awakening a couple years ago that I was seriously underpowered for the years I have had underneath me training. Much of it had to do with exercising too much, as well as pushing too hard and injuring myself more times than I would like to admit. FYI, doing a million thrusters with light weight then running 400m for time is a great way to not get any stronger and injure yourself. So, for the last 2 years I have done programs by Jim Wendler, Pavel, Dan John, and others and have finished each one stronger than when I started. Sometimes stronger means my 1 rep max increased, other times it meant increased the reps I did at the beginning of the program. After each program I would do a week or so of fun conditioning stuff , then focus on strength programming continued.
A few months ago Chris Falkner my head personal trainer and strength coach at Evolution Fitness Tucson put me on a strength and hypertrophy program. An 18 week program. Yes, that is over 4 months long. The best and worst part of the program is that it started me out with weight that was rather light and it always had me leave A LOT in the tank. Meaning when I was at my heaviest lift I got to lift it once and it felt light. Every part of me wanted to rep the weight out and go for rep out or just add on weight and go for a 1 rep max on certain sessions. The thing is, following the program means when it says do 1 rep at X amount of weight, it means do 1 Rep at X amount of weight, not 2 reps or anything else. If I chose to do an extra rep, I am no longer following the program, I have now made my own program. The best part of this is, each week that 1 rep has felt just as light as it did on the first week, the difference is the weight has gone up significantly over the past 3 months. Strength is a gradual process and so many times people want to put on 50lbs of strength in One month and forget that Strength is a Journey. Another huge benefit is that I have not had so much as a pinchy shoulder or tweaked back.
Leaving room to grow and not killing yourself every workout is truly a great key to getting stronger. Strength is very different than conditioning. Conditioning can improve rather quickly and can disappear just as quickly . Strength increases happen over longer periods of time especially for an experienced lifter. So to the person that has a few crappy workouts and thinks that getting strong is too hard you have 2 choices, get over it and understand that strength is a journey or take Zumba.