So, you want to be strong? Like…. really strong? Stronger than you were yesterday? Well, there’s absolutely nothingstopping you. You can totally do it, BUT, believe it or not, you’re going to have to work for it (and I don’t just mean while you’re in the gym!)
Getting strong, doesn’t happen over night, and it doesn’t happen for the people who make excuses. To keep seeing progress under the barbell, you need to take not only your lifting sessions, but your sleep, hydration, nutrition, mental health, and overall stress levels VERY seriously. Just because you make it to the gym two or three days a week, does not mean you’re going to be an elite lifter. You need to take care of yourself outside of the gym, make the most of your recovery time, and have your priorities in line. You will undoubtedly be forced to make a few sacrifices, but if you’re dedicated to getting strong, you can’t hesitate to make them. Once you set your heart to it, no one can stop you, so focus up and get your game face on.
Get Your Training Right
Be there, physically.
Seriously. This is a given. If you are really interested in getting strong, you know you need to lift consistantly, so just do it. You are in control of your life — not your friends, not your boss, not your clients, YOU. So, get your priorities straight, and then make your schedule work for you. If you want to get strong, go to the gym on a consistant and regular basis, no excuses. Tell your friends you’d love to go out on another evening when you DON’T have to lift in the morning, work out your lifting schedule with your job, explain to your family that this is your “you time”. Make it work. People do it every day. So can you.
Be there, mentally.
Don’t bring your problems to the gym with you. If you are having a hard day, leave it at the door and clear your head. You can’t have all that floating around in your mind when you’re lifting. When you are lifting, your head needs to be completely clear of outside distractions.
Get Your Recovery Right.
Eat well, consistently.
What does that mean?
- Get enough calories — Don’t skip meals. You’re a lifter now, YOU NEED TO EAT.
- Get enough protein every day — 1g of protein for every pound of bodyweight for women. 1.5g/# for men!
- Eat a post-lifting recovery meal — lots of protein and carbs please!
- Eat as clean as you can — Here, read more about what it means to eat well on my “Getting Started” page.
- Stay hydrated, drink a lot of water — About 3 liters/day for women. 5 liters/day for men.
Regardless of your specific diet, you need to make eating a serious priority, especially in the 24 hours following a heavy lifting session — you need food to recover your muscles. You don’t need to eat a paleo diet to be a good lifter by any means. But, I personally find it pretty helpful in making sure I get enough protein, vitamins, minerals, and healthy fats from my meals.
Sleep well, consistently.
Again with the priorities: Sleep is a big one. Your body needs to recover from your lifting sessions and a HUGE part of that recovery process takes place while you are asleep. Lots of hormones are released into your system and a huge amount of muscle repair/growth go on all night long. It’s absolutely crucial to your lifting career that you get a solid 8 hours of sleep every night. So do it. Don’t procrastinate going to bed, it just leads to getting less sleep. I know it’s hard, but make a commitment to getting to bed on time and stick to it. It gets easier as you go. In addition to getting enough sleep, try your best to get GOOD sleep.
- Keep your caffein intake limited to the mornings.
- Don’t use alcohol to help you fall asleep, it leads to terrible terrible sleep.
- Consider supplementing with ZMA and Melatonin.
- Close the blinds or get black out shades to make your bedroom dark.
- Turn off the TV and Computer a few hours before bed.
If you aren’t seeing progress with your lifts — the first thing to check out your sleeping and eating habits. Make sure you are doing everything you can to recover properly and to keep your body happy and healthy.
Stop fucking around on your off days
This might sound obvious, but … don’t go on a 30 mile bike ride on your rest day if you are seriously hoping to see strength gains in the gym. Your rest days are supposed to be for muscle recovery — make sure that’s what’s actually happening. Plan your marathons during a period of your life when your not trying to get strong.
Get Your Head Right
Be honest with yourself (and your coach) about what it is you hope to do with your training. What your goals are in regard to your lifting, your body composition, your social life, and level of interest/dedication. There is no better way to fuck up hitting your goals than to have hidden agendas, insecurities, and guilt lurking in the background. So, be honest and open about what it is you’re looking to do. Don’t say all you want is to qualify for nationals, when really, allyou want is to come to the gym and socialize. Don’t say you’re only interested in seeing gains if you are also interested in cutting body fat. All of these factors will come into play when setting up a good program and getting yourself moving in the right direction. Getting past sticking points and mastering lifting technique requires strong focus, dedication, and perseverance… more than just coming to the gym. Be honest about what you want. Figure out what you need to do to get there. Then, be happy and confident in your decisions so you can push past the hard spots. If you aren’t honest with yourself about what you want, you will be facing a lot of disappointment at the gym.
Major goals, such as becoming an elite powerlifter or a nationally ranked olympic lifter may seem far away in the beginning — break your goals down into bite size chunks so you aren’t overwhelmed. Set goals that you are confident you will be able to achieve in a certain amount of time, and then slowly chip away at the puzzle.
Once you’ve set your goals and you’ve dedicated yourself to achieving them, you need to start working. Get on it… today! Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today. Take every day as an opportunity to better your training, your recovery, and your passion for lifting.
One of the hardest parts of achieving your goals is staying focused on them for as long as it takes to push past them. Ambitious goals often sound really nice when you set them, and then totally not worth the effort three weeks later when it sounds like more fun to go out drinking with friends. Try to remind yourself regularly what you’re working toward and ensure yourself that hitting your goals is still important to you. Determination, discipline, and focus will need to become your best friends in order to hit your goals. Don’t give up just because it’s hard.