Following on from a business post I wrote on another blog, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at some of the crazy shit I’ve done so far in my own training and working with people who have very different goals and ask the question…
“What do I wish I had known when I started out?”
I’ve always said, 99% of my learning has occurred not by doing courses (although these have often been a great catalyst) but from being attached to a prowler, under a heavy barbell, on a bike somewhere in the Rockies or half way up a mountain.
So here’s a quick guide to stuff I wish I had been taught from the start and which you should consider EVERY time you get your training head on:
1) Do as much mobility and flexibility work as you possibly can.
If you don’t, this will come back to bite you in the arse, knee or shoulder at some point.
Doing full range movements goes a long way to ticking this one off.
2) Isolation exercises are a long way down the list when building muscle.
If you are naturally long and skinny like me, these are even further down the list and you will benefit more from hitting the big movements with more intensity.
If you are more of a mesomorphic type, you’ll put on muscle more easily and so can spend more time on the isolations exercises for greater definition when you hit your weight targets.
3) Training is the only thing in life that won’t lie to you.
The bar, the stopwatch and the power meter will not bullshit you to save face. It will give you the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.
4) The feelings you have 5 minutes before training are crucial to development.
If you have a feeling of fear, this is good. It means you’re in for a rough ride which yo can get through and come out stronger.
If you have no desire to train and don’t know why, you need to look closely at the rest of your life.
If you are feeling pain, you need to think about adjusting your session to avoid making this worse.
Listen to your mind and body but more importantly, learn to understand what it means.
5) Don’t train if you can’t gain.
If you are in a state that doesn’t allow improvement, you are just compounding some mental or physical imbalance.
Have a plan as part of a program but be willing to change it based on genuine reasons, not just being a pussy.
6) Train, don’t workout
Training is about improving and moving closer to a target which makes you better at (INSERT SPORTING OR BODY COMPOSITION GOAL)
Working out is about filling time with some exercise regardless of the effect.
7) Use randomness
You should have a progressive plan in order to make gains.
However, every so often, throw in something totally different and random to stimulate your body and mind.
Get outside, lift some logs, chop some logs, push your car with some friends – make it fun and exciting.
Some of the best discoveries are made here.
8) Don’t do it on your own unless you have to.
Ideally work with someone better / stronger / bigger than you.
You may not keep up with them, but you will be pulled to a higher plane.
9) Use rest breaks wisely.
Leave the phone in the locker.
Use rest breaks to do mobility or activation exercises.
Every minute should count for something in the gym.
10) Do conditioning whatever your goal.
Brutal muscle building workouts require a good CV system to keep nutrients flowing.
Even if you are not interested in having a powerful heart or lungs, adding 10 minutes of intense conditioning at the end of a session will develop work capacity which carries over to your ‘proper lifting’.
Also, you might just want to be ‘hoooge’ but if you get ill because your heart is in a mess, you won’t have a long lifting ‘career’.
Or anything else for that matter.
11) If you’re going to do ‘it’…do ‘it’.
Do one thing at a time.
Sometimes there will be a crossover but trying to be a champion bodybuilder, run a 5k for charity and train as a fighter, just won’t work.
12) What you ignore is just as important as what you learn.
There is an abundance of every kind of knowledge you could possibly want but most people get nowhere because they keep reading more and more and more.
Put the books down, leave your mouse alone and get in the gym.
13) Train at the right tempo.
Different lifting tempo’s have different effects.
Lifting at a furious pace is the way forward for conditioning but to build muscle you’ll need slow, controlled eccentrics.
Olympic lifting should be explosive with a focus on speed rather than weight at first.
14) Different body types react to different kinds of training.
An ectomorph usually has a lower muscle mass and burns calories furiously due to a high metabolic rate.
Mammoth lifting sessions in the 10-12 rep range therefore usually won’t work as well as going hard for less time with lower reps simply because you run out of fuel quicker.
These guys should take some sugars in half way through a session.
Someone who builds muscle but also fat stores easily will do well to work in the 8-12 range most of the time and add 4-5 cardio sessions a week to deal with the body fat. Guys like me who are trying to gain muscle don’t need this extra cardio and will simply deplete already scarce and valuable calories further.
15) Food is 80% of the battle in fat loss and about 50:50 in muscle building.
You will never lose noticeable body fat eating crap.
Similarly when gaining muscle, just eating more isn’t enough. You need to do the right training to really tear up the muscles and force rebuilding.
16) You don’t get fit living vicariously.
If you spent as much time training as you do posting photos of your bodybuilding and MMA idols on Facebook you might actually start looking like them.
17) During the journey, most people won’t give a shit.
They won’t understand why you don’t want a beer or why you are in bed at 10.30pm on a Friday (you have your big leg session on Saturday morning before the gym gets busy).
When the results are published they will be the first people to get jealous and click ‘Like’ on your own FB photo.
18) There are two types of pain
Pain as in ‘Shit my muscles are burning and my lungs are about to burst’ is fine.
Pain as in ‘My shoulder has a stabbing pain’ is not.
Know the difference and act accordingly.
19) Understand the individual
Whether you are in this for yourself or training others, get to know the person being trained in great detail.
Everyone has different stresses and reacts to different training and coaching styles.
One size rarely fits anyone.
20) Don’t ruin conditioning sessions with technical difficulty.
Conditioning on the whole is about energy systems training.
If you are trying to incorporate that ultra twisting 4D crunching leg explosion, into your conditioning, you will spend so much time worrying about the choreography than getting your heart rate through the roof and your anaerobic system firing on all cylinders.
Don’t become a Zumba dancer and stop yourself reaching lactate threshold!
21) Write everything down.
People who train, write things down in a notepad.
People who work out, write text messages.
22) Know which measurements are relevant.
You must test yourself but you must know which ones are relevant.
Scale weight on it’s own is more relevant for fighters than housewives.
Even then, the fighter wants to hit weight at maximum muscle and minimum body fat.
Heart rates can be used as a test for recovery between bouts of intensity.
1RM’s never lie when it comes to strength tests.
The list is endless, just know your goal and what tests are relevant to that.
Your 10km time is irrelevant to your performance in the ring or in team sports.
23) Do front squats and back squats.
Two different beasts which both have benefits.
Back squats involve more of your body under tension and a greater load which leads to larger hormonal reactions.
For most people it is also easier to do higher reps with back squats because there is less involvement of the scapula retractors which tire in front squats often before the legs.
Front squats often allow for greater depth and lead to improvements in Olympic lifts.
Get good at both and your leg size and power will rocket.
24) Activate muscles before training.
We all sit down to much.
Turn your warm up from being just a pulse raiser to activating whatever muscles you most need in this session.
Focus on glutes and scapula retractors in particular.
25) Tall people might be better deadlifting from a raised position.
Sometimes due to long levers and mechanics a tall person will get more benefits and put less pressure on their lower back by deadlifting from boxes or the rack.
26) Running 400’s is awesome.
But it sucks.
Great for anaerobic conditioning, aerobic endurance and fat loss.
Learn to sprint but build up to going full tilt so you don’t twang a hamstring.
Do it up hills.
28) Everyone should do power training.
If you can learn Olympic lifting, perfect.
If you are a beginner, first learn to be explosive with bodyweight, dumbbells and kettle bells no matter how old you are.
29) The tools aren’t the most important part.
Use a variety of tools and be able to improvise depending on joint issues and location.
30) Two a day is best for fat loss.
Short, sharp and intense twice a day improves fat loss rates compared to one longer session.
31) Understand hormones to make training, nutrition and supplementation more powerful.
Get hormones right and everything else falls into place.
Get them wrong and it’s a long, frustrating, expensive battle.
32) Recovery, fat loss and muscle gain is much better with pre-training and during-training amino acid supplementation.
Keep the energy pathways flowing and start the rebuilding process as early as possible to avoid muscle breakdown and poor recovery and ultra sore muscles.
What things do you wish YOU had known?
Post them below!