weight training

I'll Be There

A couple of weeks back, a local HS football player contacted me for help with getting on an eating regimen. After a few days of corresponding back and forth via email, I got to work on designing his meals and eating schedule. After finalizing it, I sent it over to him and also invited him to lift alongside me sometime if he was ever interested.

He did express interest, so we began to coordinate our schedules.

This was on Tuesday.

He told me that on Wednesdays, he is done with school around 2pm. I told him I would be lifting tomorrow from around 2:30-4:30pm and that he was welcome to join me.

To paraphrase his response, he said “I’ll be there.”

I was impressed.

He didn’t ask me what we would be doing. He didn’t remind me that he already does offseason lifting on M-W-F mornings. He didn’t tell me that he needed to check on a few things to make sure he could make that work. He didn’t tell me he’d think about it.

He accepted my invitation without making any stipulations.

Then it became Wednesday afternoon.

Even though he seemed serious the night before, I know from too many experiences that a person saying they’re going do something is not the same as a person actually doing what they say. I was optimistic that he would be joining me but I wasn’t going to count on it, so I carried out my day like I normally would as I kept an eye out for him.

At about 2:45pm, the door to the gym opened and in he walks.

I greeted him and we chatted for a couple minutes before getting to work.

He was a strong kid, and a respectful one, too. He did everything I asked of him without having any reservations about anything we did.

^This is the attitude we must have when working with a professional.

Forget what you think you know. Forget what you have heard. Forget what you did this morning, or what you’ll be doing tomorrow. Use the opportunity to fully trust and learn from the person you have sought out.

Before he left, I told him he could continue to lift with me for a while.

We’ll see if he shows up again.

My guess is that he will.

Training Yourself

At one point, you were taught how to do every single thing you know how to do.

Once you were taught something, you had to train yourself to become better at it.

You trained yourself to brush your teeth.

You trained yourself to tie your shoes.

You know that you must train to get stronger. To build muscle. To lose body fat.

To be able to lift 100 pounds, you have to train yourself to do it.

At first, it might be challenging to lift 50 pounds. But you know you’ll never get to 100 if you don’t keep training.

So you keep training, and eventually you are able to lift 100 pounds.

Whatever it is that you start but always have trouble sticking to, happens because you are not approaching it as training.

On day one, two, and three of your diet you may have no trouble staying on track. But at the end of week one, and into week two is when things begin getting difficult.

You think to yourself that this just “sucks,” but it is really that you are right in the heat of training.

This is how it should feel. And it should feel like this for a while. For a lot longer than you think it should.

You have to train yourself to be disciplined.

You have to train yourself to eat right.

You have to train yourself to drink more water.

You have to train yourself to get enough sleep.

It will never be easy to lift heavier and heavier weight.

It will never be easy to run faster or to jump higher.

Don’t expect being able to eat the right things or being able to avoid eating the wrong things to be easy.

That is training.

More On Maxing-Out

Yesterday I wrote a post about working up to your 1-rep max. I had some more thoughts and suggestions to add to the procedure, so I recorded a podcast on the subject.

Look for Eat-Nap-Lift on all major podcasting platforms. Subscribe on your favorite podcast app so you never miss an episode!

Listen to “Thoughts on Maxing-Out”

Listen to “Thoughts on Maxing-Out”

Testing Your 1-Rep Max

When it comes to weight training, nothing is more exhilarating than maxing out.

And although the basis of maxing out is simple, there is more to it than just loading up with a bunch of weight and going at it. There is some strategy that should go into a max-out session.

The purpose of testing your 1-rep max (1RM) is to determine the maximum amount of weight that you can lift for one repetition of a given exercise.

Below is the typical protocol I like to follow for working up to a 1RM…

  1. Ideally, you should begin with a 5-10 minute light-paced general warm-up.

    Then you should start to drill the lift you are testing, beginning at a light intensity, and gradually ramping up to a higher intensity.

  2. Start with 1-3 sets of 5 (using a weight you could actually do 20+ times).

    The purpose of these sets is only to groove the movement and to get some blood flowing through the system. You don’t want to be expending much energy on any of these sets.

  3. Then move on to 1-3 sets of 3 (using a weight you could actually do 10-15 times).

    You should start to feel the weight, just a little bit, on these sets. At no point should you have to grind out reps. Each 3 reps of every set should feel crisp and relatively easy.

  4. Finally, start taking singles the rest of the way up.

    Your first couple of single attempts should still feel pretty smooth. If I must choose a number, you should actually be able to do 5(ish) reps with your first single. If you’re barely making your first attempt(s), you have over-estimated an appropriate first attempt, or you have wasted too much energy on your work-up sets (or even a combination of both).

  5. Once you start taking singles, it is pretty straightforward from there. If you successfully lift the weight, add weight, repeat, and continue to do this until you cannot add any more weight. Whatever the heaviest weight you have lifted one time is, is your 1-rep max.

This is only general layout for how to go about maxing out. I have more detailed suggestions that I would share if anyone is interested. Let me know in the comments!

You Won't Get Big On Accident

In my experience as a personal trainer, it has always been difficult to convince some people to train with weights.

Many people have come to me over the years believing that lifting weights is dangerous and that it is sure to make them look like The Incredible Hulk within 2-weeks time.

Actually, it’s far more dangerous to go through life not lifting weights than it is to lift weights.

And it is extraordinarily difficult to look anything like The Incredible Hulk.

The fact is that most people that ARE TRYING to get big, can’t even get big.

It’s very audacious of anyone to think that they might start to look “too bulky” by accident.

***It takes years and years of frequent, consistent, and sufficiently intense weight training to build muscle***

The majority of people who are concerned with getting too bulky will never train for enough years, will never train frequently or consistently enough, and because of their misinformed belief that they’ll probably get too big from this stuff, will never train at high enough intensities to risk getting anywhere near the dysmorphic size they fear they’ll become. So there’s one more reason not to worry.

I don’t encourage weight training to firmly impose my training style and goals onto others. It really doesn’t matter what your goal is. I already know you should train with weights.

Properly utilizing the weights will support any training goal.

If you want to slim down, you should lift weights.

The weights won’t make you bigger, it’s other things you’re doing that may.

By the way, not all exercise that includes weights is “weight training”. If you’re using a weight for a set of 8 that you could really do 15 times, you aren’t lifting weights, you are quite literally wasting your time (go back and find the ***).

More Frequency

I think one of the best ways to force an adaptation in the body is to use higher frequency. 

Want to get better at running long distances? Run a mile every day.

Want to get your legs stronger? Squat every day.

Want your chest to get bigger? Do push-ups every day.

The only way your body will change (whether it be performance-based or aesthetic-based) is to do enough work to elicit the necessary training response. You might as well be accumulating work as often as you can.

If the typical recommendation to never train a muscle two days in a row comes to mind, know that your body is highly resilient. It will figure out how to function under whatever environment you put it into.

More isn't always better, but sometimes more is better! 

Heavy Weight and Dangerous Exercises

Many people are reluctant to lift heavy weights or to do certain exercises because they think they will get injured. 

Considering a weight to be "too heavy" or fearing it will hurt you is the wrong approach.

Avoiding a certain exercise because you think it is dangerous is the wrong approach.

A weight is too heavy only if you are not prepared to lift it and an exercise is only dangerous if you are willing to perform it incorrectly. 

Weight training is simple, really. All you are doing is training your body to move against a load. The load you are trying to move constantly resists your efforts to move it. If you are strong enough to apply more force to the object than it exerts upon you, then you will move it. Overcoming the load is what builds strength, coordination, better-looking muscles, stronger bones, and much more.

As simple as weight training is, it is not, and should not be easy. If you are training with a weight that is easy to move, you really are wasting your time. The weight should be fighting against you. If it feels like you are just taking the weight along for a ride, you need to use a heavier weight.

You should at times feel like the weight is barely moving.

You should at times feel like you are beginning to break form.

When these things happen is about the time many people think they're on the verge of getting hurt. In actuality, this indicates they are beginning to work with sufficient weight. This is the kind of weight required to elicit the positive adaptations associated with weight training.

In order to lift weights safely, your body must get into and hold the correct positions, brace, and engage different muscles at certain times. Do these things effectively and there should be no limit to the amount of weight you can lift or the types of funky looking exercises you can do. Fail to do these things and yes, you will likely get hurt. 

Lifting 200 pounds isn't going to hurt you. Your unpreparedness to lift 200 pounds is what is going to hurt you.